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

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 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:

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, 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:

     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, and for other crochet related topics, visit Dee’s website at

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.  :)