Friday, October 14, 2016

Spiraling out of Control

  Starting work on my coffee-themed afghan, a song began to play in my head... "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong." (Yes, I was a Sesame Street kid, and I still have nightmares about Big Bird.) Okay, why is a song from a popular children's TV show on repeat in my brain while I crochet? No, I haven't gone bonkers... I think.

  It's the colors of my coffee-themed afghan. One of these things definitely is not like the other! And I'm pretty sure you can tell which one doesn't belong. I see it. My dad saw it. Rip van Winkle doesn't see it, though! I wonder if it's one of those things like the blue/black/white/gold dress, or is he just colorblind? So, you tell me: Can you tell which one doesn't belong?

yarn, crochet, afghan, coffee, Caron One Pound, spiral

  In case there's any of you with the same color range as The Chronic Napper, I'll stop with the guessing game. Taupe. Oh, Taupe, what color are you? In the store, it was tan-brown. At home, it was grayish-brown. And then in pictures, it took on a greenish-brown hue. When I saw it at Dad's house, it was totally green. Now, green is all I can see when I look at it:

yarn, crochet, afghan, coffee, Caron One Pound, spiral

  The simple answer for me to move on with this project is: Discard the Taupe. It's not worth this guessing game. But then, doesn't it look brownish again? Maybe it only took on that green tone because of the colors surrounding it. I wasted time not making a decision took some pictures so I could ask opinions before completely condemning the Taupe.

yarn, crochet, afghan, coffee, Caron One Pound, spiral

  I thought of stretching my design idea a bit, and calling that green-y color Green Tea. Hey, you can make a latte with it! But, no. Just no. You would never put the green tea into the coffee - And it is a COFFEE-themed afghan, brain! What was I thinking? Green tea will never do. (Nothing against green tea, though.)

yarn, crochet, afghan, coffee, Caron One Pound, spiral

  Rip van Winkle still insists that the color is brown. "Leave it", he says. "It matches the other colors", he tells me. No. It might match them, but it doesn't fit into a coffee theme. No matter what I do, how many pictures I take, or how insistent he is that it is brown, I'll never see it as brown. And I'll never be happy with my coffee-themed afghan.
yarn, crochet, afghan, coffee, Caron One Pound, spiral

  So, that leaves that simple answer again: Get rid of the Taupe. My four-color spiral design spiraled out of control, but it's not a disaster. Just by eliminating the color I'm unhappy with, the pattern went back to its delicious coffee-inspired goodness. Besides, a three-color spiral means one less ball of yarn to juggle!

yarn, crochet, afghan, coffee, Caron One Pound, spiral

  But... This design wasn't meant to be a circle! It was easy to put four corners on a four-color pattern. As I sat down thinking I could wing it and turn three colors into a four-corner shape, I quickly learned I was wrong. Paper, pencil, and a little more brain power will be required here. I never wanted it to be that complicated. Am I sure I don't want to use that Taupe?

yarn, crochet, afghan, coffee, Caron One Pound, spiral

  Yes! I'm positive that I won't be adding that color back into this project. Now, I have two options: Get that brain exercising and make the pattern work, or buy a different color for the project. Hmm. Loving lattes but preferring black coffee, I think an extra swirl of Espresso is in order here... Anybody with me?

Happy Crocheting!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Finger Crochet Plarn Square

  Although this pattern could be made with a hook and yarn, I have something special for you: Let's do some recycling and get rid of those plastic bags fast with Giant Plarn (finger crochet) Squares! Combining make-your-own plastic yarn with the finger crochet method will make it hard to match the gauge for this project. But if you follow my instructions, hopefully you will be able to create a two-round square that will measure about 10" (25 cm) across.

Ahem, did you hear that? Ten inches in just two rounds - and no hook needed!

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial

  When I started experimenting with plastic yarn and finger crochet, I found it extremely difficult to keep the even tension needed to make neat stitches. The one main answer to solving this is: Practice. With my first few tries, I lost the loops off my finger. So, I won't claim that this will be easy and you're going to be crocheting "in no time", but don't give up!

  There's a picture tutorial to go along with this pattern, if all you need is a little help making the stitch. And I also have a treat for you video lovers: You can watch me crochet this "giant plarn" square from beginning to end! In the video tutorial I'll show you how to join your plarn loops, make the double crochet stitch with finger crochet, and give you tips for continuing more rounds of the pattern.

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial

Skill level:

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial

*See notes for additional materials you may need*
Plastic yarn (plarn) made in the "loop" method
-About 20 bags per square (mine take 18 bags + one extra loop)

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial

In 4" by 4" (10 cm by 10 cm)
2 rows of 6 double crochet

Or in the round, one round of 12 double crochet should measure 5" (12.5 cm) across

Chain 2 at beginning of rounds does not count as a stitch

A hook can be used to create this pattern if you're not comfortable using finger crochet. In the video, I show you the hook that would most likely match the gauge, but I didn't know the size at the time. It is a size Q - 15.75 MM.

If you have trouble finding your beginning stitch, you may want a stitch marker.

See video after written pattern for help.

(American terms)
Double crochet
Slip stitch

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial
 Chain 2 does not count as a stitch.
*See the video for how to start without a slipknot!

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial
 To make a double crochet, yarn over your finger from back to front.

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial
 Insert your finger in the stitch (here being the beginning loop).

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial
 Yarn over and pull a loop through, rotating as you would with a hook. You may find it easier to use your thumb to help bring the material through the stitch.

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial
 Yarn over and pull through two loops. Again, notice how the use of your thumb can help you pull through the loops.

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial
 Also notice that my tight tension has created a short loop here. Pull those loops up to avoid tight stitches! Each loop should be the same height as the loop before it.

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial
 To complete the double crochet, yarn over and pull through the last two loops.

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial
 See that hooking motion? Don't just grab it with your thumb!

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial
And there you go! The double crochet stitch is made the same with finger or hook... But it takes some getting used to, if you've never tried this method. Check out the video for more tips!

Directions for square:

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial

Round 1:
Chain 2, make 12 double crochet in the beginning loop. Join with a slip stitch to the first double crochet.

Round 2:
Chain 2, make 1 double crochet in the first stitch. (3 double crochet in the next stitch, 2 double crochet in the following stitch, 3 double crochet in the stitch after) 3 times. 2 double crochet in the next stitch, 3 double crochet in the following stitch. 2 double crochet in the same as the first stitch, before the beginning chain-2. Join with a slip stitch to the first double crochet.

Bind off, weave in the ends.

Video tutorial:

  I'm still new to making videos, but I gain experience with each one. Things I learned while editing: I say "so" and "quickly" way too often, and I need to learn to keep my work farther from the camera. Also, I didn't realize that I was recording on the wrong setting. Sorry about the quality. I won't apologize for those other minor nit-picky details, because I'm still learning. But I did notice that I speak in an odd rhythm that confuses closed captioning, so I am really sorry if you need it. Despite its flaws, this video tutorial still shows you the project from beginning to end.

-  -  -  -  -  -  -

  I had fun both with this project and making the video. I hope to bring you more uninterrupted-by-cat, Rip-van-Winkle-snoring-free video tutorials in the future. If my plans for these squares work out, then there will be a few different projects I'll be sharing for them. But it does take some time to make the material for the squares! I need to go back to playing with yarn for a day... Just a day! This post will continue to be updated with any projects that result from the squares.

free crochet pattern, square, plarn, finger crochet, tutorial

Happy Crocheting!

Update: There's now a video available for how to create the material used in this square.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pin or Toggle?

  I've gone on one of those "trends" of mine again, if you haven't noticed... There's been a lot of shawl-creating going on around here! And for as much as I have trends of my own, I'm not really trendy or fashionable. I've gotten into the habit of spending work-at-home days in jeans and tank tops, not bothering to accessorize or add to my wardrobe. (At least I make an effort to put pants on.) So now that I have these shawls popping off my hooks, I'm a little lost about what to do with them.

  Well, I've at least discovered that a simple shawlette can and will dress up those plain tanks and jeans! But, there's definitely a right and a wrong way to go about it. First of all: How to wear it? The answer really depends on the shape and size of your shawl. The "fairy" shawl I made is light enough to tie in the front for a casual look. But what about that Love Knot monstrosity that I made? Big enough to be a throw blanket, tying that one only creates a huge, awkward knot. That is when I realized that sometimes you have to accessorize your accessories.

crochet, shawl, pin, toggle

  To the rescue: A tutorial over at Simply Collectible Crochet for how to make a shawl toggle. I immediately knew I had to make one when I saw it. Now, off to the craft store!... Only to find almost no selection of buttons. I had a choice of round, round, or round buttons; wooden or plastic. I thought "oh well, these will have to do" as I picked out the biggest of the wooden ones.

crochet, shawl, pin, toggle, buttons

  I wasn't happy with my choice, so I hit up the craft department on my next trip to Walmart. I was surprised to find more of a variety than the craft store! But still, not the oblong toggle buttons I was looking for. Just one column over from the buttons, something else caught my eye:

crochet, shawl, toggle, pin, kilt pin

  What is a kilt pin? I'm new to this device, but I would guess it must be for pinning a kilt. ;) Can I use it for a shawl? After browsing through some images, I did find quite a few varieties and styles, but I didn't find any being used as a shawl pin. I worried about the sharp point damaging my work, but I (carefully) used the kilt pin to display my Angel Cakes shawl.

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, Caron Cakes

  It worked, but I could see how a real shawl pin or a toggle would be so much better. The kilt pin leaves a gap unless you pin about six rows together, and doing that scrunches up the shawl. Besides, I don't need all those sparkles when I just want a casual wrap! It looks out of place with a tank and jeans. My plain wooden buttons were starting to look a little more interesting, so I finally gathered my supplies and pulled up the tutorial to make my shawl toggle.

  *Warning* This procedure requires a needle and thread (yarn, actually), but just about every person on the face of the earth will be able to handle it... Except for me. (See post "I am a Sewing Dummy" for reference.)

Can anybody spot what the problem will be here?

sewing, crochet, shawl toggle, fails

Yeah, I didn't see the issue before I started. I figured it out soon enough, though:

crochet, sewing, fails

And after switching to a smaller needle that would fit through the buttonhole, I promptly made another mistake by starting in the wrong direction:

crochet, sewing, fails

But in the end, it was pretty easy to create my toggle. Mistakes behind me, it was only a minute before I was weaving the yarn in to finish.

crochet, sewing, shawl toggle

  I'm so glad I found that tutorial! I owe a big thanks to Simply Collectible Crochet for my new shawl toggle, and newfound confidence in wearing my work. The weather is cooling off and it's a perfect time to wear my shawls, but they can be so troublesome to keep on. Although the kilt pin does work, options are limited. I think the toggle gives you so many more ways to wear your shawls.

crochet, shawl, shawl pin, kilt pin

crochet, shawl, shawl toggle

crochet, shawl, shawl toggle

  As for a "real" shawl pin: I've still failed to find one anywhere but online. Even though I can drool over some amazing handmade or vintage pins, I can't fit them into my budget. The kilt pin was two dollars and some change; the buttons to make the toggle were only $1. I used a piece of scrap for the yarn, so I'm not even considering its cost. The laugh I had over more sewing blunders was priceless.

  So, what do you think? Do you prefer a shawl pin or a toggle? Or would you rather have an easy-to-tie shawl that doesn't require an accessory? I used to think the latter, until I made a toggle. Now I think I'm going to have to start scouring craft stores for buttons to make more!

crochet, shawl pin, shawl toggle

Happy Crocheting!
PS: Yay, now I can wear my Grannies in a Love Triangle Shawl! Maybe I'll finally get around to publishing that pattern...

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