Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Guinness, A Rematch, please .. re: World's Largest Crochet Hook

For quite some time I have been interested in which crochet hook should be crowned the World's Largest. I've actually been accumulating links on my Hooks and Stitches blog to the various articles and videos  could find after exhaustive searches so that my decision stays as fact driven as possible.

Today I received the latest Talking Crochet enews with an article on this very topic. It states that "Jeanette Huisinga of the Yarn Studio in Casey, Ill., who teamed up with Jim Bolin, also a resident in this small, central Illinois town, to compete for the Guinness World Records for the largest crochet hook." They won the title and I do wish them the most sincerest Crochet-ulations.  But did Guinness get it right? Their finished hook measured 6 feet, 1.5 inches long and 3 inches in diameter.

Ah, but what about Jimbo's hook? I mentioned his "Diplohookticus Jimbosei" hook in my article, "CrochetingWithDee.com: Magic Wands, Part II." Jimbo states here that his hook measured 57.87 inches long and 6 inches in diameter.

... and what about the other contender?  Let's not forget about that lady in the 1955 film, crocheting with a whoppingly long crochet hook who needed an assistant to ensure her hook wouldn't be hit by passing cars ...

To help me visualize these hooks, I drew out some basic rectangles and then called my son over to help me with a bit of math.  Here is what we compiled (if you right-click onto the image and select "open in new window or tab, the image should be much larger):

Based upon what we compiled, Jimbo is still the front runner.  Jimbo had stated that "The wise folk at Guinness informed us that the largest crochet hook in the world wasn't "unusual" enough to merit recognition."

I say lets ask Guinness to a rematch.  Wouldn't that be fun to watch?  :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pom Poms on the Fly!

The conclusion of the Tenth Annual "60 Scarves in 60 Days" Challenge took place on November 30th.  This year, I crocheted a total of 12 scarves with matching hats that were donated locally at the beginning of this month.
Why is there a credit card in this picture???
(one of the scarves & hats I crocheted for the 60/60 Challenge.)

Mr Dee, being observant as I worked on my last set, asked me why I don't share my little "time saver" tip...  I replied, "I plan too, I just need to find the time."

What he observed was me creating a pom pom utilizing fake credit cards various companies sent out in hopes of me opening an account with them.  Gift cards, the plastic kind, also work equally well during those times you cannot locate your Clover Pom Pom maker (which I absolutely LOVE!).

Here is how I use fake credit cards and used gift cards to make pom poms on the fly:

Recycle those fake credit cards and used gift cards as a Pom Pom maker!

Quick, easy, and from recycled materials.  Easy, right?  :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The 2014 Hello Doily Challenge Chronicles: Chapter Three

In the last Chapter of this on-going project, my homework was to:
  • decide which pattern I wanted to use.
  • collect enough comics and then spin them into paper yarn.
  • crochet it up.
I've been doing well with my self-imposed homework assignements: I decided to use the "Irish Rose" doily pattern by Dorothy Drake that is featured in the "Doilies in Color" book by Annie's Crochet.

Thanks to my Crochet group and my husband who have been collecting them for me, I've collected nine comics thus far, each consisting of three pages.  Of those I have already spun a total of 18 pages. I know I'm going to be needing more!

Spinning the comics: This has not been an easy task as I am still relatively inexperienced in the art of spinning, and with this being my first time to actually spin paper into "yarn" it has been an interesting learning experience.  Yes, it is true, I do demonstrations on how to crochet with unspun roving, but that is a different skill-set.  To say I have been feeling a bit like Rumpelstiltskin trying to spin gold is an understatement; dragon slaying might have been an easier job!{grins}  There were some spinning sessions that went smooth as honey, and others, well ... more like my homemade gravy (a bit lumpy).

... but, I pushed on ... slowly honing my spinning technique to the point where my paper "yarn" pops less (when it breaks it actually makes a "popping" noise!), and is more evenly spun.  I have even cut down on the amount of time it takes me to spin one set of comics: from four hours to about two and a half.  This time includes the cutting of the paper, and the time it takes to join all the pieces as I am spinning it.

Crocheted Newspaper/ Sunday Comics
About the tension:  Controlling, or rather, not controlling the stitch tension as much as I normally do has been an interesting lesson.  I've learned if I put too much tension on the comic yarn that it will break -- making that "popping" noise I mentioned just moments ago.  Since the paper yarn is stiff, I cannot just let the "yarn" be as I draft from the drop-spindle. If I let it roam, it will wrap and twist about itself causing a big mess.  And we can't have that!  LOL 

In actually creating the crochet stitches, no problem there.  Except for picot stitches.  Oh, those are a bear to create with stiff yarn!  OY!

So the project continues.  And as it does, I now ponder about how I am going to block the project once it is complete.  And about how I will display it... 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The 2014 Hello Doily Challenge Chronicles: Chapter Two

After looking at hundreds and hundreds of doily patterns, I am delighted to say I have found two contenders for the 2014 Hello Doily Challenge put out by my local Crochet Group -- both doilies are featured in the "Doilies in Color" book by Annie's Crochet.  The first doily pattern being the "Marigolds" pattern by Josie Rabier, and the second being the "Irish Rose" by Dorothy Drake.  I think both would look fantastic crocheted with paper yarn.  Actually, I think they'd both look a-may-zing crocheted with paper yarn spun from the color comics featured in the Sunday paper.  I just need to decide which one!

Unable to locate my drop spindle, I invested in a new one, procured from the recent Stitches East event that was held in Hartford, CT.  I purchased it from the lilivestock.com booth, and the shop owner said she is looking forward to seeing the paper I plan on spinning with it.  ((I too, am looking forward to seeing the paper I spin from it! LOL)) 
"Acorn" drop spindle ready to go!

I did practice spinning regular newspaper a little (see my first chapter posting) and I noticed I was more comfortable spinning the make-shift drop spindle "clockwise."  This gave me an "S" twist.  Since I create the majority of my crochet stitches with the hook in my right hand, this simply won't do.  I will need to be careful to spin my "funny" paper counter-clockwise so that I get a "Z" twist, making the paper yarn a wee bit softer once I work it up.

My next step is to ensure I have enough raw material, in this case, the comics from the local newspaper.  Thankfully Mr Dee put up a "WANTED" sign at his work in hopes of helping me collect enough.  This still puts me well in line with the February 2014 deadline.

My homework:
  • decide between the two patterns which one I'd like to use.
  • collect enough comics and then spin them into paper yarn.
  • crochet it up.
Question: do we block completed paper projects?  And if so, how is that done?????  I'm going to have to research this too.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hey, not sew bad!

I don't have a crafting room, so most of my crochet projects are created in the living room.  Last year for Christmas my son gifted to me one of those "C Tables" that can slide over sofa cushions; this has come in real handy for when working on crochet patterns ... my only problem has been my new habit of leaving my prized crochet hooks that I'm currently working with on the laptop.  Not a good idea - I could damage a hook -- or my laptop that way!

I was over at Twitter a few days back when Joanns Fabric posted a link to an "Oval Needle Holder."  I don't have a lot of sewing experience, so I thought this project would be a good way to help me improve my sewing skills so I could eventually give making a zipbag a try. I also thought this would be a great way to store my "while in use" crochet hooks.

First, let me state it took longer than the single hour the project called for.  One must add in the time it takes to collect all the needed materials, including driving to the store to get what isn't already in our stashes: I needed to buy the hoop and the Phoomph bonding paper. [[If you are a CGOA member, be sure to sign up for Joann's VIP program to save 10% off your purchases!]]  I had a quilter's fabric kit in my fabric stash that I had already used the "giraffe theme" panels from (no surprise there).  My problem with the remaining panels was the time investing in trying this panel with that, and that panel with this, until finally settling on this combination:

I think just doing that took well over an hour! And I think it increased my appreciation in what quilters go through!! 

The next step was cutting all the pieces and pressing/ironing them.  I was really happy I didn't burn myself with the iron.  :)

Like I said, I don't have a lot of sewing experience so I was pretty nervous about sewing a straight line...but I think I did OK.  Next was putting the project on the hoop and tightening it.  Then cutting the edges off ...

Am I concerned about cutting those edges off?  Yes.  Should something come undone I won't be able to put it back on the hoop.  If I make this again I think I'll use some sort of glue to help the fabric bond to the hoop.

My local Joanns didn't have the hoop size needed for the project, so I went with one slightly smaller.  But I think it still looks good!  :)

Ta-Da!!  Look how happy my crochet hooks are all nice and snug in their new holder!  If you're wondering what is in my "tiny pocket," (the pattern says it is for scissors) that's my pocket-sized Ott-lite -- it clips onto just about anything and is a life-saver in the event of a power outage!  So what do you think?  Not sew bad, right?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The 2014 Hello Doily Challenge Chronicles: Chapter One

My CGOA Chapter has laid down the "Hello Doily Challenge" for 2014 in honor of the 45th Anniversary of the classic movie, "Hello Dolly."  Every member has been challenged to crochet a doily that will go on display at various libraries and go to various juried events.  Ever since the doily gauntlet was thrown down, I have been searching for inspiration.

We are not obligated to use an established pattern.  We can create our own if we want.  Thinking I might want to go that route, this has led me to investing in the charting software by stitchworkssoftware.com

Sampling my first chart made with StitchWorksSoftware.
This software has a learning curve, and there are limitations.  However, it can chart circles and for me that is a time-saving element I can appreciate since it will save me from having to do it freehand.  Fortunately there is a support group over at Ravelry, so I have been picking up some tips there.  While I still don't know if I'll use someone else's pattern or not, I think this software will be fun to learn.

The other element to the Challenge is we are not confined to using thread.  We can use any medium we'd like -- yarn, fabric, wire, toilet paper, rope... -- our only limitation is our own imagination.  Thinking of using an alternative fiber, naturaly this Youtube video grabbed my attention:

Yes, I am intrigued.  Yarn made of newspaper!! And it looks easy enough to do. The problem is, it seems I've misplaced my drop spindle.  I know what you're thinking: How could that have happened?? I know, right!!  Geesh.  Wanting to try this. right. now.   I again turned to Youtube for a possible solution and found this:

I called upon my son to aid me in finding items in the house that we could use, and within minutes we were able to construct one that actually worked, sorta:
Dee's 1st attempt at spinning newspaper yarn
with a homemade drop spindle.
It needs more weight, I think, to be more effective in spinning the newspaper.  I am tempted to take this to the next level -- only I want to use the comics section from the Sunday paper since I think the comic ink colors would make the "yarn" more interesting.  The coolest part of this spinning experiment thus far, is that I took this with me last night when I went to pick up my daughter & her friend.  Yes, I was spinning newspaper yarn in the car while I was waiting for them; this shouldn't be shocking news. {grins}   My daughter's friend got so excited when she saw what I was attempting.  She exclaimed, "Ohhhh, you sooooooooooo have to tell me if this works because I want to try it too!!!"  Most excellent!! A way-cool side effect from this experiment is that I got a teenager interested in giving it a try!! 

My homework assignment:
  • collect the Sunday funnies
  • locate my drop spindle, or buy a new one
  • design or find "the perfect" doily pattern for this Challenge
  • have the project completed by February 2014
Visit http://www.crochet.org/?page=Chapters to see if there is a CGOA Chapter near you, or to learn how to start your own group.  Crocheting with others is so much fun!  :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Magic Wands, Part II

For Part I of this article, visit: http://crochetqueen-royalramblings.blogspot.com/2013/10/guest-blogger-dee-stanziano-magic-wands.html

Magic Wands, Part II
     I love the warmth that wooden crochet hooks provide and I have quite a few in my collection. Unlike metal or glass hooks, wooden crochet hooks do not rob your hand of warmth which can cause early fatigue when crocheting. In addition, the hooks can be carved to provide individualized comfort, which can involve variations in hook length, handle style, balance, and coloring. In other words, crochet hooks can be just as innovative and inspiring as the crochet work they produce!

     When I first met Jimbo’s crochet hooks over at http://jimbosfrontporch.blogspot.com, it was love at first sight and I fall in love again each and every time I view his latest carved creation! Each hook is crafted by hand. He uses the wood from branches that he collects on his ranch. His goal was to raise funds to build a porch on the front of his cabin, hence the blog name "Jimbo's Front Porch".

Selection of Jimbo's beautiful handcrafted hooks.

     I love chatting it up with Jimbo, and recently I got the opportunity to ask him some questions about where he draws his inspiration from and about how he got his start:

Q. You carve crochet hooks from some of the most amazing wood, including from fallen branches from an apple tree that was on your family property dating back to when you were a young boy. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

A. Trees. There's much in a tree to inspire. Inspiration to make hooks from branches came from whittling and sentimentality. I used to whittle away at a branch just to see what was under the bark. And while it's gratifying making nice long curly shavings, it always seemed a shame and dishonor to the tree who worked so patiently and hard to create such beauty only to have its branches become kindling. They're all much too pretty to simply provide some warmth; such a waste of beauty. Then it hit me. I thought gee, my sister crochets and what a special thing it would be to make her a hook from a branch of the old apple tree from the ranch where we spent such great times together so many years ago. That old tree gave us apples for mom's pies when we were tykes. So I carefully whittled Sandy a couple hooks, sent them to her in California and hoped she would find them useful and maybe think of the old place when she crocheted. She wrote me back, telling me the hooks made her cry, thinking of the ranch and the old tree. See how a tree can be so inspirational? But more than that, they worked! She's been crocheting with those hooks ever since, and every time she picks up her hooks, she's holding a piece of the old place in her hand. Even little pieces of the old tree inspire.
Jimbo enjoying whittling.

Q. It is amazing the finer details you put into your work, including crafting beautiful handles for the Bates Interchangeable thread set. When did you start working with wood, and what inspired you to focus on crochet hooks?

A. Aw thanks, Dee. Welp, I started working with wood the day my Dad let me have his old Case pocket knife. I expect it was a good knife to give a 6 year old because it only had one blade and the tip was broken. Ah but that blade would make shavings, and anyone who whittles knows its all about shavings. I've been whittling ever since, but it wasn't until about 10 years back that I began making crochet hooks. Sandy (my sis) was my inspiration to continue. She took the hooks I whittled to her yarn shop in Ventura and the owner was impressed enough to order a few and it all began; a good excuse to whittle with the bonus of having something other than kindling come out the other end.

Jimbo's handcrafted handle for Boye Interchangeable hooks.

Q. I am sure {ahem} you received some "interesting" requests from your customers. Can you share with us some details the craziest, whimsical, and zaniest hooks you've designed? Have there been any requests that you've said "no" to?

A. One "interesting" request came from this really good looking and amazingly talented crochet maven who asked if I could make her daughter a crochet hook that looked a bit like Harry Potter's magic wand. That was a really fun project and I'm told the hook actually works. I made it especially so that when pointed at a crochet pattern and the spell " Confundus" is pronounced, the pattern will immediately become confusing.

Harry Potter theme hook Jimbo crafted for Mini~Dee

There's been heart felt requests. I made hooks from a Pecan tree (below) that was damaged by the Oklahoma Tornado and others from trees as special to the customer as the old apple tree is to me. I like doing that. I even made a hook from a piece of a 45,000 year old tree that was discovered in a mud bog in New Zealand.

Hook crafted from a Pecan tree fallen by the Oklahoma Tornado.

No crazy requests other than designs I seem to hatch about once a year. You can see several in the archives of my blog. It's pure coincidence that they seem to appear on the first of April.

Jimbo is very technosavvy with this hook design.

The only requests I have to say no to are those who ask to have a hook made from wood that just can't be cajoled into becoming a hook.

Q. You talk about your childhood on your blog, having whittled a sling shot. Have you ever thought of designing a crochet hook that looked like a sling shot?? Maybe with slightly different sized heads?

A. No, but I have now. Let’s talk slinghook….

Q. You crafted the Diplohookticus Jimbosei; has it been officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest hook in the world? And do you have plans on carving even larger crochet hooks?

A. Aw that's one of very few heartbreaks in my hook making career. Dippy as he's called by his fans, was destined to be recognized by the folks at Guinness. In fact there was an event in Portland Oregon where the record was to be consummated. Famous people gathered to actually use Dippy to crochet. Dear friends and wonderful crochet artists gathered for the event. Inga Hamilton came from Ireland, Bonnie Pierce came down from Seattle, as did our Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front, Laurie Wheeler and they all crocheted with Dippy to make a huge spider web. All for naught. The wise folk at Guinness informed us that the largest crochet hook in the world wasn't "unusual" enough to merit recognition. Dippy has since made cameo appearances at CLF retreats but largely languishes under Laurie's care, nursing his wounded pride.

Guinness World Record Attempt:
World's Largest Crochet Hook?

Plans for carving an even larger hook? Dippy weighs 28 lbs, stands almost 5 feet tall and is somewhere near 8 inches in diameter. He's an armful to say the least. I've not thought of looking for his big sister. But you never know.

Q. What other designs/products do you see yourself possibly offering in the future?

A. Lately I've been toying with some ideas dealing with a double ended hook designed for different weight yarns. Imagine working with bulky at one end and fine at the other? Oh and yeah, I'm considering doing a slinghook. Otherwise we'll see what comes up this next April.

Illuminating into the holiday spirit; another original concept by Jimbo.

     Thank you Jimbo. And for those interested in learning how to craft their own wooden crochet hook, Jimbo has outlined the process here: http://jimbosfrontporch.blogspot.com/2006/08/hook-in-progress-gone-to-crick-be-back.html

     If you have ever run your fingers over a crocheted project and wondered about what kind of hook helped craft this, then you are well on your way towards discovering the true magic every crochet hook possesses. You may even be ready to start your own crochet hook collection! They may vary in length, material, shape, color and design -- just as any magic wand would -- but their true power is only realized once in the human hand. Conjure up something wonderful with your favorite hook and yarn in hand; pixie dust optional.

For more information on Dee’s growing Crochet Hook Collection, and their crafters, visit http://hooksnstitches.blogspot.com, and for other crochet related topics, visit Dee’s website at www.CrochetWithDee.com

All photos used for this article are used with permission.

Friday, October 18, 2013


While at my CGOA Chapter's monthly meeting last week I started to doodle with my yarn and hook.  Doodling to me is a great way to explore the "what if," taking what I know about a stitch and then trying to create it an entirely different way to see what happens.

And that is how I came up with this:

Then, when I got home, I tried it with mohair and absolutely fell in love with the stitch:

Cool looking, right?  Yes, it is 100% Tunisian.  I'm still going through books trying to identify the stitch.

Have you ever doodled with yarn and been pleased with the outcome?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Early Start: I Love Yarn Day

The Craft Yarn Council of America's "I Love Yarn Day" is officially Friday, October 11th.  Unfortunately due to rain in my weather forecast for Friday, I had to bump up my plans for celebrating it a few days early.

I had decided, as part of my celebrating, to recycle a crochet project: a pillow cover using "designer" yarns, that I had created a long while ago.  It was starting to show a lot of wear and I felt it was time for it to go.  After I removed it from the pillow I discovered the reverse side still "had some life to it" and would look cool as a mailbox cozy. 

2nd life given to old crochet project, becoming a mailbox cozy.

I think the project came out pretty neat looking, sprucing up my weathered mailbox.  Even Mr Dee likes it.  The crocheted flower is actually a pin that the mail carrier is welcome to take/keep.  :)

If you are interested in learning more about I Love Yarn day, just click here.  They also have really cool gear you can order from CafePress; I got the reusable bag, so I'm always toting a project around, technically celebrating "I Love Yarn Day" throughout the entire year.  How will you be celebrating?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Crochet Lessons

Teaching Crochet is one
of my greatest joys!
I have received inquiries about teaching crochet:  Is it true I am not offering national/local crochet classes right now?  Sadly, yes.  And it may remain that way for the next two years as my kids finish out their high school years.  (I'm still in shock that we've already begun looking at colleges for them!!!!)

Does this mean I am not offering any crochet lessons?  No.  If you're interested in learning how to crochet, improving your skill; or learning a new technique such as hairpin lace or Tunisian; you're in the Danbury, Connecticut, area; and would like a private or semi-private lesson, please feel free to contact me and we can set something up.

Teaching crochet is one of my greatest joys!  And I enjoy passing on that passion to all of my students.  :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Helpful Advice? Well, that depends...

Helpful Advice. We seem to get it everywhere: from our family, from our friends, from our bosses, and even from strangers.  But what happens when the helpful advice is neither helpful, nor requested?

Last week I posted on my CrochetWithDee facebook page a stern warning while I was out playing with yarn at a public venue:  Anyone who attempts to approach me and give me advice on my knitting will be poked!  I've since deleted the post because I really don't want to be an advocate for violence; I was just completely frustrated when I posted that: I was struggling with understanding why so many people felt compelled to tell me that my knitting technique is "wrong."  And I still don't.  My method is not "wrong," it is "different."
Knitting at the Peabody Museum, 2008

Personally, I don't like using the word "wrong" when talking about someone else's stitch work technique UNLESS they have asked me for my help  -- after all, maybe the technique they're using is one they are quite content with.  Or perhaps it is the only method they currently know that gets them the results they want.  Or maybe it isn't really about the style, but more about the process that is making them happy.  

Admittedly, with the recent cancer diagnosis for my father (found out today Dr is optimistic he can be cured), I am a wee bit stressed.  So am I just a little bit more sensitive  right now?  Perhaps.

But -- maybe I'm touching a  raw nerve here for other yarnsters too.  In talking about this subject with a others who enjoy both the crochet and knit world, the negative-vibe intrusions are not just happening to me!  They confide they get the "wrong" comments too.

I totally get that we want to help others; I think that is part of our nature.  However, I also think it is important to examine HOW we're going about it.  If I see something that looks different from what I am accustomed to, I'll ask if it is OK to interrupt and ask questions about the project, about their technique. If they're willing, maybe I'll ask for a demonstration. If that crafter should inquire me for help, that is when I will offer it.  And I do so by building upon the experience they already have.  The last thing I'd ever want someone to do is to put the hooks or needles down because they feel they'll never grasp it based upon someone else's unsolicited "helpful advice." 

I have been tracking my knit adventures since 2008, and in that time, although my knit projects have been few, I have received only ONE compliment on my technique.  And it was an AMAZing experience!!  In 2008 I was practicing my stitching at the Peabody Museum when this woman stopped and watched me for a few minutes.  She asked if she could interrupt me for a moment and I said yes.  Then she asked me where I learned to knit... I held my breath because I thought another "wrong" comment was going to follow ... then I heard music to my ears!  She said she had traveled the world studying all the knit techniques she could find, and the way I was creating my stitches she had seen practiced in only one other place -- in a small remote village known for their extraordinary lace making.  I've since forgotten the name of the village she mentioned, but her comments to this day still ring of encouragement to my ears:  My technique wasn't "wrong!"  It was "rare," and it was"beautiful." How about you?  What are the most beautiful words a stranger has told you about your crochet or knit work?

Regardless if we crochet or knit, and regardless of how we hold our tool(s), our yarn, or make our stitches, I ask, let us make the experience for all yarn lovers a positive one.  Unless we are solicited for it, lets hold off on the advice intrusion and focus more on the beauty of the moment, focus on the yarn poetry in motion.  Encouragement is what bonds us together and enriches our experience. And as a perk to our efforts, no one will be poked with a knitting needle or a crochet hook.  :)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Catching Up, Part 2

Missouri.  Land of endless farms, cattle, and Walmarts?

Shopping at YarnsOfItaly's warehouse
During my visit to Missouri this summer I enjoyed time with my cousins, getting to know the new neighbors, and, going back to visit the Yarns Of Italy warehouse.  I even began offering driving lessons to my Mini~Dee!

As I stated yesterday, I am a non-supporter of Walmart.  Because the nearest town, Springfield, had no more local yarn shops, I was forced to make a choice between Hobby Lobby and Walmart to get my yarn fix.  Fortunately, I did a little leg work prior to my visit -- I contacted YarnsOfItaly.com and arranged for them to let me visit them again!!
New yarn love, Lunare, pictured with one of my
Graydog crochet hooks.

Oh the yummy yarns that came home with me!!  Last year I discovered their Lunare cotton and came home with some to try. I had, prior to that time, to find a cotton yarn that I couldn't resist.  This past December I sampled it by crocheting up some potholders  (using the tapestry crochet method) to gift to my favorite chef, Mr Dee. By the time I was done with that project I knew I found a cotton yarn worthy of adding to my list of "yarn loves."  So this year, I bought more. Much more. LOL

I also ventured into trying a new-to-me-yarn they had:  Urubu' by Mofil.  This is a multi-colored yarn, wool/acrylic blend, that sorta self-stripes.  There were no swatches of this yarn at the warehouse, so I bought it on pure impulse.  My thought at the time is that if it looked good balled up, it will look good worked up.  Boy! Was I in for a lesson!

 When I got back to the farm I grabbed one of my crochet hooks and worked up a crochet swatch.  I did not like what I was seeing. I tried again, and again, and again, changing the stitches, changing the hooks. No matter what I did I did not like the swatches.  I thought, and I don't state this lightly, that the work looked dirty, and the chunky color pools just did not look good at all.  For the record, I have never stated such a thing about a yarn before!  So what to do?

It took me a few months of looking at the yarn and wondering that very question.  Ultimately I decided to try knitting with it.  The yarn was just too yummy (in feel) to pass up on working with!   Currently this is what I have worked up on the needles...  while I no longer feel that the work still looks "dirty," it still has that chunky color change which I'm not so fond of.  I'm hoping by the time I'm done with this project that I will change my mind and like the yarn over all.  After all, the yarn does have an incredible feel to it.

The lesson I learned is just because a yarn looks good raw, doesn't mean it will when it's finished.  Asking to see a swatch is a good habit to have. ;)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Catching Up...

So where did we last leave off?  July, I believe.  What has happened since that time?  Quite a bit actually.

Crocheting a Vacation Souvenir
For the remainder of the month of July I took the kids out west to spend time at my father's farm in Missouri.  We were there for three weeks.  In that time I discovered every.yarn.shop in Springfield had sadly closed its doors.  Yarn lovers in the area had two choices (that I knew of): Hobby Lobby and Walmart.  As a non-supporter of Walmart, I decided to check out the local Hobby Lobby.  They actually have two!! locations in Springfield.  Admittedly I was jealous because back home the nearest one to me is a 45+ minute drive away. 

I wanted a project "exclusive to Missouri" -- kinda like a souvineer project.  After roaming the store for (from my kids perspective) forever, I was saddened to find that they really didn't offer much in books for crochet.  Or knit.  But I did find the latest issue of Interweave Crochet magazine, and while flipping through the pages I found the pictures of Vashti Braha's "Electra Wrap" to be inspiring.  I went to the yarn department and found a skein of Paton's "Lace" mohair/acrylic/wool yarn that self stripes.  I also treated myself to a new crochet hook by Yarnology (a line exclusive to the Hobby Lobby franchise).

Mini~Dee modeling my finished Electra Wrap
I didn't finish the project until just a few weeks ago when I decided to enter it into the Eastern States Exposition for judging.  The main reason was because I had misplaced the magazine when I was unpacking. Oy!  Although I did not follow Vashti's pattern *exactly*, I did fall in love with the loftiness of the finished project.  Will I make another?  Yes.  And maybe next time I'll follow her pattern to get the softer edging look rather than the straight edging I went with.

Electra Wrap is awarded a
Blue Ribbon at The Big E

And how did my project fair at The Big E?  Quite well, actually.  First, because someone else entered a knitted project using the same yarn, in the same colorway, it gave a great representation of what one could do with the yarn in crochet.  And second, it seems the judges liked it too.  They gave it a Blue Ribbon. 

What else happened while in Missouri?  You'll need to come back tomorrow to find out.  :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Finding Gems in Stash

One of the unfortunate side effects of living in a small house with a large stash is that eventually, no matter how creative you get in storing your stash, you run out of space.  I decided I would pull out one of my bags of "one skein wonders" I had left over from various projects and utilize those that were acrylic based and crochet up some hats to be donated locally come winter.  I was amazed at what I found in the bag: 

* Not one, but TWO long-thought lost "Graydog" crochet hooks.
* One barnd nee Shirret crochet hook, Shirret yarn holder, and Shirret thread.
* Four stunningly beautiful hanks of multi-colored silk yarn.
* An Anny Blatt scarf kit (valued at $66)
* A beautiful hank of Starry Dream gilttery-green sock yarn.

I haven't a clue how they got mixed in with the leftovers, but I was amazed at finding these gems. And I was able to work up some 10 hats that will warm someone in need in just a few short months!

I also re-visited some of my swatches and found some from a workshop I attended a good while ago.  Since the yarn had never been abused (something I usually advocate for swatches so we can learn more about the wear & tear of various yarns), and since I don't need the swatches, I decided to reclaim the yarn and crochet up two more hats for donation. 
Recycling yarn from swatches.

What has this experience tought me?  It taught me I need to go stash diving more often because we all benefit when I do!  LOL

Saturday, June 29, 2013

New Pattern Release: Kookie Komali Kap

Last summer I took the kids to Florida to visit with family.  They got to spend time with their youngest cousin (on my mother's side), Lilybean.  One hot afternoon they went to the arcade and one of the prizes they collectively won was the Obbie Eye puppet ring.  Somehow the puppet came to be in my possession, and not wanting to toss it due to the fun memories associated with it, I decided to hang onto it and somehow incorporate it into a crochet project.

The first Kookie Komali Kap, pictured on the right, I had created with no mouth or hands.  These attributes came after my kids started playing with the hat as if it were a puppet.  I showed it at one of the "Coffee, Crochet & Chat" sessions I attend locally; the girls loved it.

Armed with the girls encouragement and with my kids requesting I add more features to increase its personality -- and nearly two months later -- the final version was ready to be unveiled.

It is available for download at Ravelry for just $3.99; the eyes can be won at various arcades, or purchased at online sites such as eBay, or at party supply stores.  Do note the eyes come with a safety warning -- not for ages 5 and under.  And that the hat will require hand washing because the eyes do not like to be dunked in water (yes, my kids put them to the test!). 

I am told the name Komali means "tender monster," which clearly this kookie critter hat is!  :)

I do highly suggest making more than just one Komali, because as my kids discovered, they are quite a lot of fun.  "They can 'high-5' each other!" my son exclaimed.  "And they'd be great for 'Spirit Week' at school," added my daughter.  The pattern includes sizes for a medium and a large.  So go ahead and let your inner monster out. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Family & OK-lahoma

What a heart-breaking two weeks! 

Don't Bully This Crocheter!
RIP Uncle Teddy
Uncle Teddy.  He loved to tell his childhood stories and having us roar with laughter.  Usually at our gatherings I would have a crochet project with me and he would watch me create my stitches with interest.  As we talked he would slowly reach out touching the growing fabric and start this childhood story: "You know, when I was kid, I crocheted...."  Only he didn't do it for pleasure. "... Oh! When I got into trouble, and usually that was very often, I would be punished with crochet!  While my friends played ball, I had to sit on the front stoop -- crocheting -- where they could all SEE me doing it!!"  I'd watch his face as he recalled these "punishing" sessions; he didn't look angry at the 'shame' of publicly looping yarn around a hook, rather he looked kinda peaceful.  "...and they would tease me," he'd add while reflecting.  "And you know what I said to them?" he'd ask all serious like, "I told them if they didn't stop that I'd kick all their ___!!"  And then he'd laugh and laugh.  "And I did too!  I kicked everyone of them that teased me!!"  Naturally I would always ask him if he'd like to do a stitch or two on my project, "What? So you could tease me too?" Clearly, he did not like to be teased, and no, I wouldn't have teased him.   I am so going to miss him!

Just one of the estimated 12,000 homes destroyed by the
Oklahoma Tornado. This house belongs to my cousins.
Oklahoma Tornado.  In 1995 the company I worked for sent me to Texas for two weeks of training. During the weekend I rented a car and drove to Oklahoma to spend a weekend with my Uncle John (Uncle Teddy's brother); the last time I had seen him I was just a young girl.  Uncle John served in the Army for both the Korean and Vietnam Wars earning the rank of Command Sergeant Major; and Uncle Teddy served in the  U.S. Air Force as a firefighting paratrooper during the Korean War.

While I was visiting with my uncle I met my 2nd cousin Alexis. She was just a young girl at the time; one of those sweet-things that you just want to bottle up and keep forever!  Although she doesn't know it (maybe if she reads this blog post she will now!), I really credit her sweetness for changing my mind about having kids; yes, she was THAT sweet! For years I had the crayon picture she drew for me hanging on my fridge, eventually replaced by pictures my own kids crafted. 

This week the home her mother and brother live lived in was destroyed by a huge tornado. We are absolutely delighted they are OK.  To help them during this difficult time, through Memorial Day, I am giving them all the proceeds from pattern sales through my Ravely store.  To those who already have, or would like to help me help them, I thank you!

And to all those, who served like my two wonderful uncles did, thank you!  Although you are gone, your dedication, service, and sacrifices for our Country is very much appreciated!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened Along The Way ...

Ever get distracted while working on a project?  Did you do a *facepalm* once you discovered what happened to your project while you were distracted?  Be honest now, you've experienced this too?  Yes?  You are not alone!

Oops??  (Reading my crochet work)
Yes, even though I consider myself a well-seasoned crocheter, I do get distracted while working on a project now and then.  Sometimes it is a bad thing -- like tension going wonky.  Other times it could be the thinking, "I got this," and continuing the pattern (or rather what you think is the pattern) while getting absorbed in the movie you had on as "background noise" without stopping to ensure you're still following the proper instructions.

This is exactly what happened to me while working on Mia's Collar.  Hooboy.  In the image on the left is the comparison of my work vs the image from the pattern.  Do you see what I did? How did this happen??  If you follow me on my new Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CrochetingWithDee) then you already know.  For those that don't follow me there yet, I stated that fully intend to blame this on the scary 2012 movie "The Woman in Black."  Admittedly, I'm still a little freaked out over that movie!

wet-blocking my version of Mia's Collar
I did the math (number of rows x number of increases I should have had), and decided to let the pattern deviation stand. Otherwise I'd curl up in the corner with my bottle of Tylenol and repeat "Rip it" a million times over...

Would this approach work for all patterns?  The answer is no.  Especially if you were creating a fitted garment.  And, let me be very clear about this -- usually errors/pattern deviations eat yarn!   In my case, this is a "collar" which could also be considered a short shawl or wrap, and I had plenty of yarn to play with.  So for me, this time, my booboo didn't make as big of an impact on my project as it could have.  Whew!

Now that my project is in the wet-blocking stage I am already thinking of giving the Mia pattern another try.  If I do, I think I'll stick to playing one of the Star Trek series in the background.  ;)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Question From Reader: "Pre-made Crochet?"

Dee, I love your site! It is informative, detailed, easy to navigate and so creative with lots of fun things. My question is : Is there fabric that is already crocheted that can be bought and just sewed onto a dress? I hope this makes sense? I tried to google this and nothing comes up? I would love to purchase pre-made crochet fabric to attach to a skirt or dress?
Thanks, Jade

Hi Jade,
You have a great question: is there pre-made crochet available for purchase?
"Pre-made" vintage crochet trim

The answer is yes.

I have purchased both vintage and modern "pre-made" crochet pieces in the recent past, so my thinking on this is that there should be some available, although the search may need to be a bit more creative...

True crochet is created by human hands, not by machines. Therefore finding "large" pieces could require purchasing an entire project and possibly dismantling it (combing yard/garage sales, or goodwill stores is a good way to find some tablecloths you could utilize). Otherwise, crochet trims are sometimes found at craft stores (I found some at Michaels Arts & Crafts some 6+ years ago), and vintage pieces on auction sites like ebay. You may want to use words like "crochet lace trim" but be careful -- some of what is labeled as crochet is not TRUE crochet -- it merely mimics the look and IS machine made.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: "Crochet Book 1"

Queen Anne's Shawl
Alium Ascot

I met Rebecca Velasquez several years ago at one of the Crochet Guild of America's conferences, and we've been keeping in touch ever since.  I knew she wanted to design crochet patterns that would include projects tween girls to adults would love to wear, and I'm delighted that she has accomplished this through her new ebook through Quince & Co, called "Crochet Book 1."
Pauline Hat
Waterlily Mitts
Marigold Sweater

In her new book, retailing for $13 (US), five lovely patterns are included: Queen Anne's Shawl, Waterlily Mitts, Marigold Sweater, Alium Ascot, and Pauline Hat.  Not only is the photography inspiring, but in looking at her pattern for the Waterlily Mitts (which I am itching to get started on!), her patterns are typed in easy-to-read fonts, and includes International Symbol diagrams.  Another cool bonus -- if you only want one pattern rather than the entire book, you can purchase just the patterns you want!

Interested in trying to win a copy of her new ebook?  Leave a comment below, including a way on how Rebecca can contact you.  One random winner will be announced soon!  Increase your chance of winning by visiting & leaving comments at the other blogs reviewing Rebecca's new book:  http://rebeccavelasquez.com/wordpress/

Monday, April 29, 2013

The 104th Connecticut Sheep & Wool Festival

Beautiful day at the 104th Connecticut Sheep & Wool Festival
Waking up early is always a battle for this self-proclaimed night owl, but with the aroma of coffee in the air I managed to get up early, and got out the door fairly early this past Saturday morning.  We were off to the 104th Connecticut Sheep & Wool Festival that turned out to be a beaut-i-ful spring day!

TuckerWoodsYarn I couldn't resist adopting.

Joining up with other members of my CGOA Chapter, we set up our booth displaying a wide variety of crochet projects we created out of natural fibers; wool, alpaca, cotton, and so on.  The crocheted projects that seemed to be a hit this year were felted crochet (a purse), and a scarf (crocheted with the "seed" stitch) that had a woven look to it.  Our demonstrations on Tunisian crochet and crocheting with unspun roving were also a hit.  In fact, I just received this compliment via email from one of the visitors to our booth:
Heavenly roving by SheepShed
"Saw you at the CT Sheep and Wool festival yesterday. You showed my Mother and I how to crochet with unspun fiber. Bought some [roving] while we were there and tried it today....what fun; you were right. Thanks, Melissa
Thanks Melissa!  I love when we hear back from visitors from our booth!  :)

When I wasn't in the booth, I was out enjoying seeing all the animals (there was even a bunny on a leash out for a stroll!), and looking at all the eye-candy at the various vendor booths.  I treated myself to two three new goodies:
Giraffe bag by StitchedbyJessa
1. Beautiful "blue" merino/teucel roving from www.SheepShed.net that I used for demonstrating with throughout the day (in fact, many of my Chapter members went & bought some for themselves too!)

2. A skein of hand-painted sock yarn by www.TuckerWoodsyarn.com -- perhaps to be worked into the collar from the "Heros, Hooks & Heirloom" book I mentioned the other day.

3. A project bag by http://stitchedbyjessalu.bigcartel.com/ -- naturally I went with the giraffe theme bag (how could I not? lol).  It was the perfect size to hold my roving, my project, and my crochet hook!

This was a great kickoff for the 2013 Sheep & Wool Festival/Fair season and I'm looking forward to attending more!  :)