Wednesday, February 29, 2012

...with a little help from my friends...

Pam's Comfort Cables
I have been, it seems, forever crocheting chemo caps for my local hospital, for my friends, family and my co-workers who needed them.  If you are a long-time reader of my blog, then you know of the family members I've lost, and of my own scares with the big C.   Crocheting chemo caps is my way of offering a little TLC when it is needed most.

Recently, when a beloved crochet designer was diagnosed with breast cancer we decided we would show her some support from her friends! As a group working on this labor-of-love we wanted to create an afghan -- something she could wrap around herself, much like a big group hug from all of us.  When deciding the theme for the project we knew she'd love it more if it featured her favorite crochet stitch: cables!  The crochet cables represented our love, prayers, and thoughts of her.

I contributed two of my favorite crochet cable designs: "Hugs and Kisses," where the cables create X's and O's on both faces of the square; and "Arms of Strength," featuring half-double crochet cables that seem to lock together - much like when friends lock arms together to help a friend when they stumble.  (They can be seen on Ravelry)

Along with myself, friends/ designer contributors for Pam's Comfort Cables Afghan include (in alphabetical order):
Pattern is available at and at
Tracie Barrett, Angela Best, Vashti Braha, Robyn Chachula, Doris Chan, Bendy Carter, Drew Emborsky, Lisa Gentry, Ellen Gormley, Mary Jane Hall, Tammy Hildebrand, Jill Hanratty, Margaret Hubert, Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Kim Kotary, Annie Modesitt, Marty Miller, Diane Moyer, Kristin Omdahl, Amy O’Neill Houck,  Mary Beth Temple and Karen Ratto-Whooley
Pam loves her afghan, and posted about it here:

Do you know of someone having a rough time and could use some hugs and kisses with arms of strength, such as this afghan wrapped around them?  The pattern is available at KnitPicks, and also on Ravelry.

It is a wonderful feeling to get by with a little help from your friends:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

And now, the end is near ...

Just how do we know, as we come to the end of our crochet projects, that the end is actually near?  Crochet and knit designer, author, host of  the former Getting Loopy show on Blog Talk Radio, Mary Beth Temple, inquired with her followers on Twitter yesterday: "I am curious, crocheters.  Do you end off, or do you fasten off?  :-)"

I  replied I like using "Ending Off" if the project is complete, meaning you can safely cut the yarn, pull it through the last loop and then begin weaving in the tail.  And more recently, I seem to like using "Fasten Off" if the project is done with the stitch work, but a long tail reserve is needed (for use in joining pieces, or adding finishing touches.)   This was really hard to state in 140 characters or less:

Mary Beth & I continued to exchange tweets yesterday, and that got me to wondering what do the publications from the 1800s, 1900s, and more recent publications state?

I'm still researching the 1800s, but in looking through my private stash of antique patterns from 1900 - 1970s, it seems "Break Off" -- or stating absolutely nothing were the norm.  Those patterns that did not indicate if you were at the end of a pattern put the responsibility of knowing the end is near solely on the crocheter.  Many of my pattern books published since 2000 state to "Fasten Off."

Other terms I've seen used are: "Bind off" (usually associated with the Tunisian technique; Tunisian is a hybrid because it blends the world of crochet & knit together thus the use of the knitting term of 'Bind off'); and then there is "Finish Off" (usually associated with independent patterns I've collected).

Based upon workshops I've taken on Irish crochet, the term "Break Off" refers to the double knotting at the conclusion of crocheting a motif, such as a rose, and then breaking off the thread near the double knot eliminating the need to later weave in ends.

While I continue to research this, readers, do tell, when the end is near, do you ...
  • Bind Off
  • Break Off
  • End Off
  • Fasten Off
  • Finish Off
  • Other (of course, if you select this, you should consider singing along with Frank Sinatra ♫ "...I did it my way!"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Pattern Release: Wizardly Scarf

First, let me say that without my support team here at home, this new crochet pattern would still be sitting in limbo.  It took a lot of arm twisting (and promises of iTunes gift cards) to get Dee Jr to model as Harry Potter for me (which I think he did a fantastic job of!), and it took Mr Dee to get my old software running again (bravo!).  Mini~Dee also had her hand in the project by lending me her magical wizard crochet hook/wand to be inspired with ... and her incredible vast knowledge of the entire Harry Potter book AND movie series!

The pattern retails for $2.99 and is available as a PDF download on Ravelry.  (I'll post an update if I decide to reopen the store on my website.)

Second, let me share a tip about adding iron-on patches to your crochet workuse a mini-iron!  If you ever blocked your crochet work with steam from your everyday-iron -- and you used acrylic blend yarn -- then you know first hand the acrylic melts! 

If you want to add an iron-on patch (or two, or three ... get the picture?) and you use a normal iron to press it on, it will damage the crochet work AROUND (and under) the patch.  By using a mini-iron you can control where the heat is applied, only damaging the stitches UNDER the patch rather than also around it.  This will make the project look much neater, less "home-made" and more "hand-made."

Mini-irons retail for about $30, but if you wait for a store coupon, such as from Joanns or AC Moore, you can sometimes get it for 30%, 40%, even 50% off.  It is well worth the investment!

Now that you know this handy little tip, what little touches will you be embelishing your crochet projects?  :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Best Reaction Caught on Camera?

The day after returning home from Stitches East this past fall, we had a family member go in for life-saving surgery.  To say all were on pins and needles is understated.  It was during that time I brought my crochet supplies to the hospital so those looking for a distraction during the waiting of the-not-knowing-if-all -will-be-OK-time had something to focus on.

As we sat in the waiting room my sister-in-law  said to me she wished she had a black shawl that was short, that held it's shape, and was comfortable to wear.  "Maybe I'll commission you to make it for me, Dee.  But after the holidays; things are so crazy right now."  There were a lot of things said in that waiting room.  But this little nugget I silently held onto.

I went home that night, turned on the laptop and checked my Twitter.  The first thing I saw on Twitter was Webs announcing a sale on Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Silk yarn.  I ordered 10 balls.  In black.  Within the week my yummy yarn order arrived and I set to work using Doris Chan's "All Shawl" pattern (found on Ravelry).  From hook to blocking the project took three days.  I had my daughter wrap it, and then we waited. (For the record, the shawl didn't require 10 balls of the silk yarn; I ordered extra so I could have some for future use/playing with.)

At the traditional family holiday gathering the kids presented her with my secret gift; Mr. Dee had camera in hand and caught her reaction:

This picture brings a smile to my face each time I see it because I know she not only appreciated the hours I put into hand-crocheting her a customized shawl (it also had beaded trim & button closure), but that she appreciated my being with her -- listening to her, offering her my support. I had provided her with a spell of relief & distraction when she needed it. That is what family is about. 

As for our patient, he is well on the road to recovery.  And we couldn't be happier!

Have you caught a fantastic reaction to your hand-crocheted gifts on film?  If so, please, share your story -- AND the picture!  :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

One Giant Leap Forward ...

February.  One of my favorite-ist months of the year.  Yes, one of the reasons is because I have a Birthday Week Extravaganza coming up.  But aside from that, I love the month because I am a fan of winter.  There is something about the nippy Connecticut air (and snow - although this winter we are not yet seeing much of  it) that inspires more crochet projects.  And then there is the shopping for new yarns.  And hooks.  And toys for crocheters...

I've been holding back on blog posts here because I had a long (technical) To Do list.  Fortunately in the past two weeks I've been able to seriously work on some of bribe Mr. Dee to help me with the technical computer issues preventing me from scratching things off that growing list!  It seriously feels like one giant leap forward!  A great example of this is being able to write up - and photograph - instructions for this month's Chapter meeting in a single day, something that in the past would have taken me a week to do.   I have two more major items on the To Do list to accomplish and from there I see clear sailing postings in my future.  And yes, one of those things is to finally take down the Christmas Tree ...