Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Moment of Silence

  Hey, everybody - Bad news... The crochet community has lost a bright star that shone its light on many of us. Although she tried to fight her illness with colorful yarn and beautiful stitches, Wink from A Creative Being lost her battle with depression.

  Wink was a brilliant designer, an accomplished author, and one of my favorite bloggers. Please follow the link to her blog or to Wink's memorial site to offer your condolences to her little sister Tinc and the many other loved ones she leaves behind.

  I'll be leaving this post up for the rest of the week as a "moment of silence" to honor Wink. Please keep her memory alive with her patterns and continued inspiration... And may she rest in peace.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Yarn Review: Peaches & Creme

  I used this Peaches & Creme cotton yarn to make my Scallop Seashell Washcloths, and now I'm working on another pattern with it again. (I'm also finally working on that tutorial for the washcloths!) I figured it's time to get my review done for this yarn, since my opinion is now set. To put it simply: It gets my top rating!

  I will say that I had one slight problem, but I think it falls on my decision and has nothing to do with the quality of Peaches & Creme. It was a color-thing. Follow along and I'll explain:

These are the colors I picked out - from the internet - for a project. The one thing I hate about internet yarn-shopping is that you can't see the product for yourself before you buy. I scrapped the original project I had planned because of this color combination, but the Scallop Seashell Washcloths were created instead.

You can find Peaches & Creme from under $2 to over $3 per ball. Prices vary across sites, but I think it's a good deal per yard as long as you get it under $3. 

You'll get more yards per ball if you stick to solid colors, but I couldn't pass up the Pastel Delight Ombre you see here. Unfortunately, these colors are now unavailable - I purchased them on clearance at the end of the season - But that's not the color problem I was talking about...

This is the color-thing I was talking about. I had to play with a few light settings to get this right - but this is what the Orchid color really looks like. In person, the purple isn't so bright, and it has a dusty-grey appearance. In photos, it looks nice paired with the Pastel Delight. In natural light, it makes you say "yuck" when they're combined.

The Pastel Delight, however, stays pretty in any light. Although my original project got scrapped because of Orchid's appearance, the Pastel Delight's beach-y pastels inspired my Scallop Seashell Washcloths. (And that means I still have the Orchid to design something else!)

Anyways, let's cover the technical stuff now: Peaches & Creme is worsted weight (4) cotton, machine washable, and dryer safe. The label warns that "some colors may run", and it's right! I had no problem with Pastel Delight running, but the Orchid did. I imagine this could be a problem with the darker colors. 

And I'm sorry that I don't know of a term to properly describe the texture of Peaches & Creme, so I'll try explain what I mean: This yarn contradicts itself - in a good way. It has a firm twist with an almost coarse texture, until you work it up. Then, it becomes soft and drape-y, with a minimal amount of fuzz. And holds up well to open, lacy designs, while making textured stitches pop like crazy.  

  So in conclusion, color was my only disappointment after working with Peaches & Creme - but it will only lead to another pattern for me. It's a good deal, it's durable, and makes great washcloths, as well as accessories. I like a yarn that's versatile like that. Now, if only they had more colors available!

Have you used Peaches & Creme before? Tell us what you think!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Yarn Tales Tuesday

Working from Home with Pets
A few tips, no matter what your job or hobby is...

  Every crocheter/knitter has cats, right? Well, that's what some people say... But we all know it's not always true. Maybe your pet is a dog or a bird; maybe it's a possum or a rock. Or, maybe you don't knit or crochet, and you found yourself here on accident while searching "work from home". And, I suppose you could be a human that hasn't been adopted by a pet. No matter who you are, you may find this post helpful.

  Feel free to replace the distractions here to fit your own situation, as needed: For you, it might be kids instead of cats. That's pretty close, since both think they require the same amount of attention. Perhaps you have a needy boyfriend instead of a dog - close enough - Either way, you might find yourself listening to lots of whining and often giving back scratches. If you have a needy boyfriend along with a dog, you may find it easier to crate train them at the same time... 

  And even if you don't work from home, you might still relate to some of this. It could be bill paying, cleaning out the fridge, or trying to share your latest project on social media - We all know we love them, but let's admit it: Pets/kids/needy boyfriends can get in the way of what you're trying to do. That's life as an adult human. Here's some ways you can deal with it: 

Before we begin, let me introduce you to the star of today's post, in case you haven't met her before: Lucky is my daughter's cat, aka the Queen of the Cats, aka the Spoiled Brat, aka Mama. But for me, she only answers to "treats".  

Specifically, if you're a cat owner, you know this look: "This is mine!"
"No, that's not yours. That's a charity donation, and you need to get your butt off of it."
Having someone or something to distract your pet, or a separate area to remove them to while taking photos is a must! Unless you have a weird cat that doesn't stick it's nose into all your business. If so: What's wrong with your cat? Doesn't it know it's supposed to be messing up what you're doing?

And we know this look, too: "You're not paying attention to me".
"Never mind the 20 minutes I spent brushing you this morning, and the treats, and the catnip..."
Know when to choose your battles. If kitty decides that a foot is all she wants, then give kitty a foot. You'll get more work done this way than if you're fighting with the distraction.

"Hey... Hey... Yo, human! Why aren't you paying attention to me?"
"Because it's computer time. I'm writing and I don't need your claws in my leg while you knead."
If you have a choice, make your office in a place that is removed from pets or other distractions. My "office" is my living room, right next to the dog's bed and the other half's television. It makes for some pretty unproductive time.

"It doesn't matter if you try your new fish-eye lens while I stick my tongue out. I'm still not getting off of you."
Make an opportunity of distractions, if possible. Your boss at your corporate job probably wouldn't appreciate cute cat pictures along with your next quarterly report. But if your work is artistic, and especially if you're a fellow blogger, never underestimate the power of silly pet pictures. It doesn't matter if you write the most detailed, informative article about the most popular subject: You'll probably get more comments over the post with the adorable kitten in it.

"Okay, now you're just using me to promote your business."
"Sorry. I promise I'll give you 5 extra minutes of brushing in return."
If your distraction wants to be part of what you're doing, try to work them into it! Let's say that I wanted to create an ad that has the phrase "Learn crochet with Crochet is the Way!" over a display photo. Which would grab more attention - A plain motif on a white background, or a cat wearing the motif as a hat? The cat ad WINS.

"Oh, you dropped this paper... Let me hold it down for you!"
I really have no solution for this problem. Cats like paper. Some dogs and needy boyfriends do, too. Just give them their own piece of paper and hope that it distracts them long enough.

"Please can I go chase the turtle? Please, please, please?"
"Okay, I'm gonna go chase the turtle anyways!"
Don't let planned breaks become a day off. The dog gets three 15 minute outside breaks during my workday - But he can't tell time! I can let him run loose on my fenced five acres, but he often gets into trouble. A 15 minute walk can turn into half an hour of getting him away from the tortoise hole, or an emergency bath, or even worse: A neighbor that doesn't understand that working from home means working, and wants to talk. Sometimes, putting the dog on a leash and walking him where I want to go is easier. 

"I may or may not be plotting your death because you included the dog in this post. I'm at least planning on taking over the world. And you'll find me in your clean laundry later today. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!"
"Just remember where your dinner comes from."
(Try to) teach them some respect, but at the same time, make sure they're well taken care of. If you know your distraction is going to bother you for breakfast when you sit down to check your email, then get feeding time out of the way before you think about starting. Changing your schedule a little can save you more time in the end.

  In conclusion: If you work from home and you have pets, there's really no hope for you - Animals don't understand what "work" is! When you need to work and they distract you, remember that they have needs, too. Besides food, water, and shelter, your pet wants mental stimulation and love. Unless your pet is a rock - then you might get away with moving it once in a while to keep it happy. 

To keep your sanity: 

  • Use your spare time to share cute cat pictures on social media. 

  • Dress your pets up in your creations to promote your business.  

  • Try to get your pet on a schedule - And by that, I mean completely adjust your schedule to comply with the pets demands.

  On a serious note: If you're a fiber artist and you sell your work, make sure your customers know that you have pets! I treat my creations with an anti-allergen cleaner, then follow up with a dye-free, fragrance-free detergent, but I still make sure people know that my household isn't pet-free. Pet fur and dander can still get onto your work, even if you keep it away from their areas. People with allergies or asthma need to know of the possible exposure.

  We all have work to get done. But please, don't ignore your pet. An extensive study has shown that neglecting your cat can result in disappearance of crochet tools and attempts at world domination. Other studies have shown that neglecting your dog may cause mysterious holes to appear in your yard or make area rugs flip over. A recent experiment even proved that neglecting your pet rock can result in severe dust collection.

...And by "studies" and "experiment", I mean that's what happens at my house, but I'm pretty confident that my studies could have similar results elsewhere.

Friday, June 19, 2015

WBS Progress: Four Blankets Shipped!

And the rest of the stuff I missed... Like a tutorial!
Join me in my journey to become part of a world record - Let's help make the squares that will create the World's Biggest Stocking!

To learn more about the project from its creators, click on the World's Biggest Stocking button in the right sidebar.

To find out what drove me to make more than one blanket for the project, see this Yarn Tales Tuesday post.

  Since I was in a rush to finish the Granny Square Blanket and get my donations mailed to the World's Biggest Stocking Project, I didn't cover the final assembly of the squares in the last post. So in this post, you'll get a bunch more "blah, blah, blah", along with a great tutorial!

  Even though the $5,000 contest is coming to a close, more blankets are still needed for the Stocking! I plan on making eight more before the project is over, but I'll be taking a break for a bit. Yesterday was the first day I didn't pick up any crochet in... Um... In a really long time! I'd love to tell you that I used my crochet-free day to do something awesome, but in reality, I cleaned my house. Yay. Actually, I could count some of it as crochet work, because a lot of my time was spent organizing my WIP's (work in progress). I also spent some time putting together a tutorial for you, so let's move along!

It was almost a disaster, but I was able to save it! One Granny Square Blanket completed, and already shipped to the World's Biggest Stocking.

Here are the squares that I messed up. The border of the Red Squares and the centers of the Navy squares were worked with a smaller size I/9 hook. Everything else was worked with a size J/10 hook. At this point, I had only worked up to the last row of double crochet for each square.

When I first stacked them up and took a look, I thought I'd be able to go back to one hook size for the last round of single crochet. They look pretty close, don't they?

Nope, wrong! I worked the border of a Red and a Navy Square with the same size J/10 hook. It threw it off even more! I frogged the round I had made on the Red square and worked it with the smaller size I/9 hook. Perfect! I made the remaining Royal square all with a J/10 hook.

As for how I assembled the squares, I worked through both loops of both pieces to pull the whole thing together a bit. I began by working in the back loops, but that caused the pieces to (unexpectedly) ripple. 

Working through both loops solved the problem! I really expected to have better results by using the back loops, but I was wrong. Thankfully, I had only joined four squares before I noticed the problem. To avoid the extra thickness of the seam, I used a single crochet-two-together to join them.

Which leads to that tutorial! First, let me be clear that I would never claim this pattern as my own - but since I strayed from the pattern and used my own method for joining the squares, I took the opportunity to make a Guidecentral guide for the stitch!

  Call me a sell-out if you want to. But for picture-heavy tutorials like this one, it's less work for me, and works better for you on Guidecentral. Plus, I have more due in bills this month than money in the bank right now, and that's because of the yarn for this charity project! So, you don't mind clicking a link for that tutorial, do you?
  You'll also get a bonus learning how to begin the row with a standing single crochet (which is actually a standing-single-crochet-two-together), and I'll show you how to work over the tail, too! This stitch makes one flat side and one textured side, which can be adjusted by working into the front, back, or both loops of the stitch.

  Are you back? Now, let's see how I shipped those blankets!

Vacuum-sealed bags, yay! I picked up a box of these at a discount store for less than $5. I figured I could let go of one of them to ship these blankets. The plan was to stuff them into one of those "If it fits, it ships" boxes to save some money, but even mushed down like this, they didn't fit.

I had to buy a regular shipping box for them to fit. And had to pay regular shipping. And (ouch!) that came to almost $20. I arrived at the post office excited and happy to be shipping the blankets, and left feeling a little... Broke (lol), but still happy! So, remember to give that Guide a "like" for me, so I can make a few cents back, okay?

Yarn to make four blankets for the World's Biggest Stocking: $75.
Cost to ship the blankets to the Project: $20.
Amount I could possibly win thanks to the Stitch for the Stocking contest: $5,000.
That feeling that you get when you donate to those in need:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WBS Blanket Progress: Time to Go!

It's shipping day!
Join me in my journey to become part of a world record - Let's help make the squares that will create the World's Biggest Stocking!

To learn more about the project from its creators, click on the World's Biggest Stocking button in the right sidebar.

To find out what drove me to make more than one blanket for the project, see this Yarn Tales Tuesday post.

  To make a long story short, I finally finished the Granny Square Blanket for the World's Biggest Stocking. I'll have some assembly photos for you soon, but we're going to skip ahead a little for a fun day today. My other half is coming home early today so he can take me up to the post office, and I'm so happy to finally be shipping some blankets to the project! If I could drive right now, I'd already be on my way. But...

Here's me putting the final touches on the Granny Square Blanket this morning. Me, with my stupid leg with the stupid busted knee propped up. And the cat that thinks she's helping. No driving for me!

(And ya'll don't have to feel bad and do the whole sympathy thing because of it. It's my own fault for trying to pick up more weight than I should.)

Have sympathy for this, instead. Who knew cats could go from sleeping in a chair to flying onto a blanket in a split second? (Cat owners. All cat owners surely understand this.) I think Lucky's trying to tell me she's been feeling neglected through this project. She gets some treats, and I get to go wash this blanket... Like I needed more to do. 

Another pile of treats, and here's all the blankets ready to go! I wish I had more ready before the contest deadline, but hey... That's four chances at the $5,000 prize!

One last thing before I pack them up: Don't forget the form - My entries in the contest won't count without it! I finally got the printer working, and printed out an extra one in case I have any problems when I get to the post office. This is going to be a big package, but I have a plan...

  I'm waiting on the other half to come home to help. I was going to pack these babies into a vacuum sealed bag to save space when shipping, but my stupid vacuum quit along with my stupid knee. I think it's just clogged, but I can't carry it outside to clean it out. Arg! The black cloud hanging over this project continues to rain...

But at least we finally had a rain-free afternoon! Looks like some people on the coast saw a pretty good storm, but skies were clear for the mosquitoes to fly yesterday evening. Best wishes to those who aren't so lucky to be facing Tropical Storm/Depression Bill right now.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

WBS Blanket Progress: Uh Oh!

What happens when you rush a project... And a lesson in "fudging"
Join me in my journey to become part of a world record - Let's help make the squares that will create the World's Biggest Stocking!

To learn more about the project from its creators, click on the World's Biggest Stocking button in the right sidebar.

To find out what drove me to make more than one blanket for the project, see this Yarn Tales Tuesday post.

  With only days left to finish this blanket, I messed up again. I swear, if you follow all the posts about my work on the blankets for the World's Biggest Stocking, you'd think I was a beginner. The truth is, when Yarnspirations announced the contest to win $5,000, I started rushing my work to get as many done as possible before the deadline. And this is what can happen if you rush a project, even if you're a master crocheter:

What this looks like is a great stack of squares that are ready for the fourth round of contrasting color, right?

Wrong! If you go back to the last post, you can see that I started out using a smaller size I/9-5.50MM hook to show you how to weave in the tail before working over it. And what I did next was begin working the Navy squares with the same size hook.

My 'J' and 'I' hooks are very similar colors. In the low light of more (and more... and more) thunderstorms, I never noticed the difference. If only I wasn't rushing, I probably would have noticed a difference in the size of the squares. I had them in separate stacks, and never bothered to put them together.

The good news is, I didn't finish the final round of the Red squares yet. And I noticed that I worked the contrasting color round of the Red squares with the incorrect hook, too. Here, you can see that there's a very small difference in size between the centers of the Red and Navy squares.

So, I switched back to the bigger hook to work the contrasting color for the Navy squares. They came out almost the same! Almost.

Because the white border washes out in the photos, and because, y'know... There's another square on top of it, you might not have noticed the Red square underneath in the last photo. Pretty close, huh? 

  I'm going to finish working them this way, then go back and finish the final round of single crochet later. There's a tiny difference in size between the squares, which I think won't matter. But just in case, I'm going to see if I can make up that difference by working the final round in different hook sizes. We'll see... "Fudging" to fix my mistake sure beats frogging them all!

Friday, June 12, 2015

WBS Blanket Progress: A Contrasting Color

The squares continue...
Join me in my journey to become part of a world record - Let's help make the squares that will create the World's Biggest Stocking!

To learn more about the project from its creators, click on the World's Biggest Stocking button in the right sidebar.

To find out what drove me to make more than one blanket for the project, see this Yarn Tales Tuesday post.

  It's getting really, really close to the deadline to mail in the World's Biggest Stocking squares in time for the contest! Not only do I need to work quickly to finish this blanket to add to my donations, I also have to spend time trying to fix my printer, or just go buy a new one. For each blanket to count as an entry to win the $5,000 prize, I have to print and fill out the form provided by Yarnspirations... But, my printer is inhabited by the spirit of an alien spaceship right now, and it's doing whatever it wants instead of printing my form for me. I'm half expecting it to start hovering and fly away.

  Anyways, I started making these blankets to donate before the $5,000 contest was announced, and I'll still continue to make them after the contest is over. But, I mean, c'mon... I want to win that money, don't you? I'm trying to get as many done before the June 22nd deadline, but I think this will be the last one I'll be able to finish before I need to mail them in for my entries.

  One last thing before we get to work: I had a plan. I wanted to take photos of the process of shipping the blankets, right up to when they get handed over at the post office... Uh oh. Apparently, people have actually been arrested for taking pictures in a USPS office. Yikes! I'm working to contact the proper person to make sure I don't go to jail or get put on the national terrorist list over a blog post. I may have finaly found the right person to contact, so hopefully I'll hear back soon. If anybody has faced the same problem, I would greatly appreciate some advice on what to do.

  Okay, let's get back on track. Remember that the pattern for the Granny Square Blanket isn't my design: It's provided for free by Yarnspirations for the World's Biggest Stocking project! You can download the patterns here. Just like me, you only have a short time left to donate your stocking squares to enter in the contest for $5,000. But, more squares will still be needed! Please help make the blankets that will be used to create a world-record setting stocking! The stocking will later be disassembled, and the blankets will be donated to charities.

Let's get started!

We left off last time where I had finished the centers of all the red squares. I've worked ahead to finish the next round of white on all these squares, so let's take a look at the last square left to work on, and how I'm joining the contrasting color.

I've decided to stray from the pattern. I hate how no matter which way you pull the new color through, there's a little tiny jog in the beginning of the round. I'm weaving in my ending tails, and I'll work over them with the contrasting color. Here, I'm pulling the tail through the front loop of every other stitch.

And here, I found a quicker way. I turned the square over and started working in the opposite direction. I'm still working into the same loops of the stitches, but now the front loops are at the back of the stitches. Working this way lets me pull the tail through more easily, instead of having to insert the hook over the working yarn. You could pull the tail through the back loops of the stitches, but I tend to catch the strand with the hook and pull the tail out when I work the next round. Do whatever works for you!

Even though it's only worked through one round of stitches, this is an unbelievably secure way to weave in the tail. Once the next round is worked over these stitches, the tail will be trapped forever! I don't worry about trimming the end now, because it usually gets pulled back into the stitches. I can trim it later, if needed.

This definitely makes the stitches look funny... for now. Once I work into them, you won't be able to see the difference! Beginners: You might need to mark your ending stitch if you want to keep following the pattern as written. I have no problem finding my ending stitch and turning chain, but for those who are new, you might lose it when you work around.

I'm beginning the new color without a slip knot, just like I showed you when I changed colors on the Big Granny Square Blanket. I yarn over with the tail for the first step of the stitch, and this secures it without a knot. 

If you bind off for the color like I'm doing, and you do lose your beginning stitch, don't worry! All you have to do is make a double crochet in each double crochet around - the pattern is simple, so where you begin isn't too important. Making sure you have the correct number of stitches in the round is what really matters.

Every corner is worked the same way, making each side of all the rounds increase by four double crochet. As long as you have 15 double crochet in between the corner chain-3 spaces, it won't matter where you begin.

Because I weaved the tail of the last round in following the stitch direction, I'll leave the beginning tail of this round loose. Later, I'll weave it in the opposite direction to balance the slight change in thickness.

Now, these squares are ready for the last round of single crochet in the beginning color. I'm going to bind off and work over the tail for this round, too. It's the end of the day, and I have a lot of work with a needle to weave in those beginning tails. But do you notice that there's one square missing? (Probably not. I'm sure not many of you are actually counting the stack of squares to make sure all 16 are there!)

I went ahead and completed one square. I had to. The tiny bit of red left over from making the centers of these squares is just floating around, waiting to get tangled. After finishing this round, I still had a bit left!

  I've come to a conclusion: Forget taking it easy; I want my chance at winning that money! I can take a break when it's over. We'll continue with finishing these and starting the rest of the squares soon!