Friday, March 11, 2016

A Drop Just in Time

  Wow... I promise this is a happy post, but it requires a bit of sadness to set up. I don't want to carry on about depressing things... But I have a feeling there will soon be a sad, sad post regarding my dog. I've been spending a lot of late nights and early mornings playing dog-nurse, and I feel like I'm losing my mind more than ever. I'm down in the dumps and I can't concentrate on work. To top it off, I spent an entire night at the beginning of the week getting sick. I dozed for half an hour before I had to be up again, and when the alarm clock went off I (thought I) couldn't have felt worse. No helping that; time to get on with the day anyways.

  First on the agenda every day after taking care of everyone else: Email... *Sigh* Usually... That day it got interrupted when the dog had another seizure. Afterwards, he always needs to go outside, and we spent an hour out there after he collapsed again. After a time of crying like a crazy woman right there in the yard, thinking "this is it, I'm burying my dog today", he jumps up like a pup and runs after a cat, coming back with a wagging tail and a smile on his face. Sometimes I think he's fine and just faking. The vet never has figured out exactly what the seizures are.

  So anyways, it left me at my mental breaking point that morning. One spilled bowl of water, a crunched-up-but-uneaten cookie, and a flipped-over area rug later, not to mention a dog that now seems fine even though I still feel like death, I finally sat down to my email. After all that depressing junk (my life, not the email. Well, some of it)... Jeez.

I WON YARN! Yaaaaaaay!

(This is where I'll tell you that the following pictures of yarn are all from  - I usually do this the right way, but the bugs in Computer-Land said "no way!" today... I'm tired. Find the links to the yarn pictured under the photo... Clicking on the picture will just take you to the URL of the photo. Thank you Silk Drop for the use of your pictures while I entice other people to buy your deliciously yummy yarn!)

Now, let me say that again...

Yay, I won yummy, yummy yarn!

  At first I felt guilty for feeling so happy, but I realized this wonderful gift landed in my inbox just in time to save my sanity. So now it's time to say all my thank-you's and tease you with tell you about this yummy yarn!

  The Silk Drop sponsored a giveaway at last month's Yarn Fanatic Party, a link party that you can find on The Philosopher's Wife and Eye Love Knots. I shared my links at the party as always, not really thinking I'd ever win... Only because... Are you one of those people that never wins anything? I am. I always enter as many giveaways and contests as I can get, but I've never won any of them. You start to get that hopeless "I'm never gonna win anything" attitude, but you keep entering giveaways anyways. Then one day, you get a message in your inbox that makes you do a little happy dance, and all hope is restored!

  Now the problem is, I can't decide what to get with my gift certificate! That first picture above is what I think I might settle on, but I still keep going back and leaving indecisive. See, the Silk Drop has a few "novelty" yarns, meaning beaded silk and sparkle silk. Aaaaand I wasn't really looking for a beaded yarn, but OMG how can you not stop and stare at this?

  *Drooling*! Is yarn-gasm a word? I think I just had one. So, I was dead-set on getting that lace-weight silk from the first photo, but then I started thinking I couldn't pass this up. It's 400 yards of beaded mulberry silk. Oh! I think I need to get this one. Just let me look at what else they have in the Silk Drop store...

  Honestly, I'm not a very big fan of green. Why does this call to me so much? Is it because of the month of March? My sparse Irish roots telling me I need some green in my life? Is it just because yarn this yummy looks good in any color? I also had my eye on the Galaxy colorway, but it's sold out. Aw, a skein of that plus this green would make an awesome project! I really considered Kiss Me, I'm Irish as a choice, but I might have to pass it up without the Galaxy.

  I got into DK weight, and was awfully attracted to the colors. But honestly, there's less yardage in a skein, and I'm trying to get the most bang for my (free) buck. I fell in love with Majestic Mountains, but I think I'll put that one on a wishlist. Although this yarn's color called to me more than any others, I'm trying to use this opportunity to get something I usually wouldn't. I want to think/work outside the box and create something out of my comfort zone... Even if it's just a color I wouldn't normally pick.

  Somebody pulled those colors from my (mental) favorite-color bin. Ooo, it calls to me so much! But then, let's think about my "mental color bin"... Black is number one, tied with Glow-in-the-Dark... Only nobody ever considers that a color, and it's been argued that black is a shade. Blue and purple run neck and neck behind them; one can win over the other with the proper depth of color. I'm not a fan of pink or green, but I'll accept them under the right circumstances... That's why I'm changing my mind about Kiss Me, I'm Irish. I still think it has potential, but I'm afraid to get it then have regrets.

  I soooo love the Autumn Sunset pictured in the first photo, but I'm afraid with that as well... The purple hues in it are close to my very favorite, and I can just imagine that hand-painted yarn unfurling its gently changing shades as I work. But (why is there always a but?), I'm worried about the orange. I don't like orange. Would the beauty (and the purple) of this yarn outshine my dislike for bright colors?

  Or do I play it safe and go with the Silver Lining? I know I like the color (shade; grey is a shade, too), but you can't get further from my "usual" than beaded silk. Although it's not as flashy as the colors of Autumn Sunset, I'm pretty sure I don't have to worry about whether or not grey would fit into my wardrobe.  And after the past week, I kinda feel like I could use a real-life glimpse of that Silver Lining

  Aw, heck... I'm not leaving without both, I bet. The Silk Drop was awesome enough to sponsor the giveaway; I think I'll open my wallet a little and spend more than just that gift certificate. The perfect time to splurge is when you're down in the dumps. And of course, that gives me the opportunity to do a review of the yarn for all of you, too, so you can be confident that your money will be well-spent. Because you know you're putting this on your wishlist for a spurge too, aren't you?

  And that's why I owe a huge THANK YOU to Rachel at The Philosopher's Wife and Alexandra at Eye Love Knots! I love dropping by the Yarn Fanatic Party anyways, but the giveaways make this party even more awesome. I always put the yarns I want on a wishlist, but half the time I never get to buy them before the colorway I want is discontinued! For once, I get the chance to see a yarn, want a yarn, and actually get the yarn. The Silk Drop and the Yarn Fanatic Party dropped a little cheer in my life just at the right time.

(This month's giveaway is sponsored by a TPW reader - You can win four skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepard Sport Yarn along with a pattern! Be sure to stop by the party and enter for a chance to win!)  

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  On a side note, I just had to throw one more thing out there: It's funny how the world works sometimes. So here I am, dying for a chance to work with silk, especially after this extremely interesting post about silk on Roving Crafters. (No, I'm not being sarcastic... It is interesting, and fun, and you will learn about bugs and stuff!) Yup, here I am suffering a bit from the green-eyed monster Jenn awoke with her post(s) about this luxurious fiber, and then a skein practically falls in my lap. If you're interested in learning more about silk, I highly recommend you go check out that post, plus you can find lessons in how to spin your own silk. Just look out for Spider-Goats!

Happy Crocheting! 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Lost Crochet Files - 4

  I'm stewing again after going over these photos... There's only two pictures to share today, but these were so cool! I was happy to find them for the inspiration, but the reminder of the lost patterns kinda hurts. The three projects you'll see came from when my skills were expanding, and I was experimenting with combining textures and materials. I was also going through a jewelry-making phase... Something I'd like to get back into.

  So I can admit that after some wear/use, this first project doesn't look so great anymore. The combination of... Hmm, that's either hemp or jute... Well, the combination of that with cotton crochet thread may have been a bad idea. From years of going between the Kid's toy box and jewelry box after wearing, the cotton is fuzzy and it doesn't have that sleek look anymore.

  Lessons to be learned, and patterns to be improved... But really, did it just get beat up in the Kid's care? I should recreate this choker to find out. And make it in the Kid's favorite colors, because I know she'll end up with it again.

crochet, jewelry, twine, thread, choker, beaded

  These second/third projects leave me double-steaming. It was a cool reminder to see this, because I really liked these pieces. I really, really liked them, but I gave them away to someone else who really, really liked them, too. And to make a long story short, that person didn't respect my work. She wanted to change the length, so she cut the chains. Then when it unraveled, she told me my work was "crap".

  In anger, I must have pushed this project out of my memory. A silly thing to do, since I liked the set so much. I never even got a chance to get a decent display photo with the ends trimmed up! But again, I see room for improvement in my old patterns.

crochet, jewelry, twine, boho, choker, anklet

  Hey, I had completely forgotten about making this choker and anklet. At least now I have a chance at recreating them from this picture! That's the thing I have to keep reminding myself when my attitude gets down because of my lost patterns. Summer will be here soon enough, and I think this set's beachy/boho style would be perfect for sandal and tank top season.

  This time, it's mine. All mine! But I'll share the free crochet pattern with you. And okay, so I'll probably end up surrendering this one to the Kid too, after the first "Ooo, that's so cooool!", but then at least I'm confident that she knows better than to cut crochet.

Happy Crocheting!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Beginning Crochet - Chain Stitch and Tips

  Welcome to the Beginning Crochet lessons from Crochet is the Way! You're either here because you want to learn to crochet, or you're a return reader wondering why I'm now finally getting to my series for beginners... Either way, you'll find I throw a lot of nonsense into a no-nonsense lesson. Whaaaat? ...Exactly. I want you to know more than just how to make a stitch, I want you to know how to use it and how to make it better, all while making it easier. And I try to throw some fun in when I can, because crochet should be fun! But don't think you'll get away with telling this teacher the dog ate your homework... There won't be any, and I've already used that excuse anyway.

  When learning to crochet, the very first stitch you will need to learn is the chain. This is the stitch you will use to begin your project.* It's the stitch that will start your rows or rounds. The motion of making the stitch - yarn over, pull through a loop - can be found in every crochet stitch. The chain is the easiest stitch to make, but the foundation of crochet itself lies in this simple little loop of yarn.

crochet, how to, beginner, chain stitch, crochet a chain,

  That sounds like too much technical stuff, doesn't it? I just wanted to pay homage to this easy little stitch that often gets under-appreciated. Let's see if I can redeem myself with all those extra tips for your beginning adventures in crochet! This tutorial is so much more than just "how to make a chain stitch". First, I'll show you two different methods for beginning. Then, I'll show the way I prefer to begin my crochet. Follow along and you can decide which method you like best:

crochet, chain stitch, slipknot, how to, beginner

-Many choose to begin with a "slip knot on the hook". Here you see the typical tightened slipknot. This will leave a tiny hard lump at the beginning of your work, but its barely noticeable. Tightening the knot will make your first loop more stable, so it's easier to work into. With this method, the loop will not count as a stitch. Start counting when you make the first chain.

crochet, how to, knot-less beginning chain, chain stitch, crochet for beginners

-Here you can see an example of a knot that hasn't been tightened so that it can be used as a stitch. In this case, the loose knot would be counted as a stitch, but you never count the loop on your hook.

At first it can be hard to work into a "free-floating" stitch without tightening it. I used a tightened slipknot for years after I learned to crochet, just because I was afraid my work would unravel without that knot. (It won't, if you weave your ends in right! Learn to trust that.) Although I highly recommend learning this method from the start, use whatever you're most comfortable with

crochet, knot-less beginning, chain, how to, beginner

-I'm beginning with a really short tail here, so you can see the end of it. You should begin with a tail of at least 6" (15 cm). Starting with the tail in front of the hook, yarn over the hook with the working yarn.

crochet, knot-less beginning, how to, beginners, chain stitch

-To secure the stitch, the tail needs to be trapped inside the loop. Bring the working yarn from the back, around in front of the tail, and to the back again. (An easier way to do/say that is: Flip the tail over the working yarn.)

-Notice how I'm holding the "loop" secure on the hook with my index finger. I'll get my hands out of the way for the next step, then show you how to keep the loop from slipping or tightening.

crochet, how to, chain, yarn over

-To make a chain, yarn over the hook from back to front. The tail should cross behind the working yarn. This is where you will hold the stitch while you work.

crochet, chain stitch, how to, knot-less beginning, beginners

-Holding the loop secure, grab the working yarn with the hook. Rotate the throat of the hook slightly downwards as you pull the working yarn through the loop on the hook.

crochet, how to, chain, beginners, front and back loops

-As before, the loop on the hook does not count as a stitch. The loop just made counts as your first chain stitch. Highlighted in the picture you can see the front loop, back loop, and base loop (also known as the bottom bar) of the chain.

-Avoid pulling your tail! If you pull the tail the stitch will tighten, creating the slipknot you saw in the first example. Then the loop on your hook will just be a loop on your hook, and you won't have a chain made.

how to, crochet, chain stitch, beginners, beginning

-To create additional chains, just yarn over, then pull through the loop on the hook. To avoid tightening the first stitch, hold the beginning chain secure as you did when creating the first loop on the hook.

-Now, let's talk tension! Most crocheters think that the way you hold your yarn controls your tension... And it does, to some extent. But what does "tension" mean, really? It's not necessarily how tight the yarn is traveling from your hand to your hook... It's how tight the loop is that you create.

-Holding too much tension on the working yarn can make your stitches too tight, but you can correct that by making sure you pull your loops up higher. Always make sure there is a slight gap between the hook and the "V" (the base) of the stitch before you pull your yarn through. In time, you will find a comfortable medium between your yarn and hook hands.

-I'll never teach you the standard "right" way to hold your yarn or hook, because I don't believe in it. I will teach you to never strain yourself. If your hand tends to cramp or get sore from working a certain way, then find a different method.  

  So, now you know how to make a chain stitch. You'll probably spend some time getting comfortable with how to hold a hook and yarn, correcting your tension, and learning how to count chains... Well, maybe you should, but maybe you're like this crocheter that tried to jump into learning every basic stitch in a day. Anyway, the next step is to learn the slip stitch, then the single crochet. You'll find even more tips and tricks in my next tutorials!

  *I mentioned in the opening that the chain stitch "is the stitch you will use to begin your project", but that's not always true! As a beginner, chances are that you will most likely use the chain stitch as the base of your crochet. But don't forget about alternative methods such as the Magic Circle, also known as the Magic Loop or Ring. You can also begin rows with foundation stitches, a method where an extra loop is pulled up to create the base chain for the next stitch. These can be difficult to work until you're more comfortable with things like tension and finding/counting stitches, but they're great tricks to learn!

Happy Crocheting!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Lost Crochet Files - 3

  Ooo, while I was going through my lost files, I found some heartfelt crochet goodness! I seem to have gone through a heart-making phase at some point. Some of these projects, I remember well. One in particular has left me stumped... But let's see if you think the same thing I thought when I dug up the photo.

  So I'll start with the ones I can explain and save the mystery for last. Since I started crocheting, I've searched for the perfect way to make a heart. In my years of experience, I've learned there isn't one. There just isn't ONE perfect way to crochet a heart. There's a million ways to crochet a heart, and it just depends on what kind you're looking for.

  This is probably one of the first patterns I tried... Sorry, it's some free pattern that I can't credit because it was years ago - So, thanks, random blogger lady! I'm pretty sure I found it on, but I just can't remember. Anyway, I crocheted a ton of these hearts and turned them into a garland that my daughter still has hanging above her bed.

Valentine's, crochet, hearts, rose, garland

  The rose is the classic "crochet, roll, and sew" rose... I was going to add those to the garland between the hearts, but they were too heavy. And it was probably more sewing than my beginner self wanted to do. I still wouldn't want to sew all those roses. That single rose got tied to a basket that I use at my desk, and it still reminds me of my beginning days in crochet - often looking up free patterns on my phone while crocheting at the laundry mat. More-experienced self wouldn't sew them onto a chain at all... Instead, more-experienced self would crochet all the pieces, then attach them as I work a chain. More-experienced self is now thinking of ripping off that garland pattern that beginner-self was too lazy to type up, so maybe it's a good thing that some of my patterns had to wait.

crochet, rose, roll and sew, 3D

  I know this next one, too! I eventually crocheted my own version of a heart for one of my first self-written patterns. It was a cute little purse for my daughter, and I think she still has it somewhere... Let me just look in her room... Ouch! Look out! What in the world? Okay, never mind. I know she has it in there, somewhere...

crochet, heart, purse

  Now that she's older, I bet that would still make a cute cell phone pouch around Valentine's Day. It would make a great makeup pouch too, except for the holes. I wasn't experienced enough to make a liner for this shaped bag, and it's not a sewing project that interests me in present time either. Although my crochet knowledge has greatly increased, I think it's possible that my sewing skills have become even worse. A heart shaped liner? Ha! I can barely sew something square.

crochet, heart, purse, liner

  Now let's get to that mystery... Oh, this should be fun! Obviously, it's keeping with the heart theme, but what in the world was I making here? I laughed when I found this. Like, fall out of the chair, roll on the floor laughed. I think it looks like a pair of thong panties.

No. Nooo. Absolutely no way!

  No, not in double strands of worsted weight acrylic yarn. Nooooooo. I might not remember what I was trying to create, but even this beginner knew better than to try to make that in good ole Red Heart Super Saver. And two strands for the -ahem- middle? Clearly, this has to be something else. Anyway, I know I've never tackled the project of trying to crochet myself some butt floss, so I know that's not what this is. But what in the world was I making?

crochet, thong, panties, heart

I'll probably never know...

Happy Crocheting!

(Psst... Find the answer to the mystery coming up in episode 5!)

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