Friday, March 17, 2017

Fighting the Freeze

  Hey, Mother Nature! Are you feeling alright? Because the last time I checked, I live in Florida. And there was a bunch of beautiful flowers in my yard that say it's springtime. Last weekend was lovely. I was walking around in shorts and a tank top. But now I'm thinking you're off your game. I wore a jacket and a scarf yesterday. This morning, I had to pry the pans off the ground to feed the outside cats. You already got those pretty flowers. And today, Mother Nature, I'm not happy that you're trying to freeze my husband. 

  I made Rip van Winkle a ninja mask (balaclava) to help him fight the freeze. Today... Wait, I haven't been to bed yet, so today-to-me is yesterday in real-time... Anyway, when he came home from work, he told me he had an early morning the next day (which is actually today). Knowing it was already cold and going to get worse, I pulled out a skein of yarn and grabbed a hook.

ninja mask, balaclava, crochet, WIP

  It was 9 p.m. and 46° when I started. I didn't have long to finish. I worked in rounds of half-double crochet as for a hat until it reached eyebrow length. Then I broke the rounds and worked in rows, adding a 2-stitch increase every two rows (one stitch at each end). At 10:30 and 43°, the piece narrowed in just under the nose, so I made a chain across and worked a round again.

  I didn't like how that looked, so I ripped it back. Before chaining across, I worked down the post spaces of the rows, making a decrease between the side posts and the stitches across (which would be the skipped stitches of the hat piece). Worked even across; another decrease between the last stitch and the first side post of the opposite side. Worked even up the side, chained across, and joined.
ninja mask, balaclava, crochet, WIP

  This join left me working in the opposite direction of the hat piece, so I chained and turned to go the right way. This let me chain over and begin in the large chain space across, and then I filled it with more half-double crochet. I made a decrease between the last stitch in the chain space and the first stitch worked into the rows. Worked even across, and made a decrease between the last stitch in the rows and one more stitch worked into the chain space (before the beginning stitch).

  You can see in the picture above that the piece will pucker when flat. I worked most of the stitches of the next round even, but made a 3-stitch decrease in the middle of the stitches in the chain space. This created a little shaping that will allow Rip to pull the mask over his nose while he's out in the elements on the job. (It doesn't fit well on Head, because she doesn't have average human proportions, plus her female features don't work well for modeling a pattern that fits a man.)

ninja mask, balaclava, crochet, WIP

  At 12 a.m. and 39°, I spread a few more decreases across the back side around the neck This tightened it up just a bit to help it stay over the nose, and gives a little comfort room when down over the mouth. It was just two decreases the next round, each even with the opening of the face-hole. The following round, I made each decrease to the outside of the previous round's decreases.

  And that was it. Any tighter and he wouldn't be able to pull it over his head... I wish I had time to work it in the super-stretchy double crochet cross-stitch! I worked even until I ran out of yarn, which left the mask covering his neck just to the collar line. I cut the yarn at 12:30 and in under a minute had the tail woven in. I took a little time to take the rest of the pictures in this post.

ninja mask, balaclava, crochet, finished project

  At 12:45 and 38°, I filled his thermos with hot water to pre-heat it. (Tip alert, btw! I'm surprised how many people don't know you're supposed to do that.) I turned on the coffee maker and went back to dig out the first mask he requested me to make so I could compare them... The one I listened to his opinion about how to make:

ninja mask, balaclava, crochet, finished project, homespun, Lion Brand

  Wait, before you think it's not that bad; I really worked it into place to get it to it look nicer for that photo. Anyway: He saw the yarn; he asked for me to make it. He sat through the process of creation, telling me he thought it should be this way or that... Many times I told him why it probably should be another way. No matter how many times I tried to explain that "how it looks right now isn't how it will be", he couldn't understand the concept of shaping. Let me put it back on the model without working it around, so you can see what it looks like when Rip wears it:

ninja mask, balaclava, crochet, finished project, homespun, Lion Brand

  He kept telling me to make it longer. I told him "for it to be that long, I'll have to flare it out to fit around your shoulders". He didn't want that; it would look like a bib. He wanted to be able to tuck it under his shirt. (Ahem... See previous explanation?) Nope, he wanted it to stay narrow and tuck in. Which is why it fits all bunched up like in the picture above. As a result, he never wears it.

  1 a.m, 37°. His alarm goes off. Repeatedly, for ten minutes. He never moves. I pour the hot water out of the thermos, dry it and fill it with coffee. I pack his lunch, wishing he would stop eating Doritos every single day before he dies of diabetes. That one's a battle I can't win... But I hope my last-minute project helps him fight the battle of the cold out there tonight.
ninja mask, balaclava, crochet, finished project

  1:30, still 37°. I'm sure it will be freezing before the sun comes up. He stumbles out of bed and I pour him a cup of coffee. As he chugs the brown fuel of the working and gets his things together, I explain that his ninja mask is ready. "Really?" he asks... Yes, really. He tried it on before leaving, and remembered to take it with him. I didn't get a thank-you, but he did say it fits good. I can't expect much when he has to be out the door before 2 a.m.

  6:30, 34° according to the thermometer. Ice on the ground, wilted flowers everywhere. He had to be on the job by 3 a.m., so he's been out there for a while now. I hope the mask is helping him stay warm. It will be another hour before sunup and I bet it will get colder until then. 

  Well, Mother Nature, I won my race against Father Time. Now Rip has to fight his battle with you and Jack Frost. I gave him a pretty good weapon. I couldn't save my flowers, but your damage will just make them come back stronger. And I've kinda got you beat on that too, because I've already preserved them forever in photos. Now I'll share them here so they can be remembered by all:

flowers, amaryllis, red, bulb, Florida

flowers, amaryllis, red, bulb, Florida

flowers, amaryllis, red, bulb, Florida

Happy Crocheting!

Thursday, March 16, 2017


  No, that's not the usual use of the WTF acronym, but my WIP's are still works in progress... I'm "waiting to fmelt". It's been a while since I've made a project doing this, so many of you have no clue what I'm talking about. "Fmelting" is a word I came up with to describe the hardening of plarn into solid plastic: Felting + melting = Fmelting!

plarn, plastic yarn, crochet, WIP, fmelting

  That explanation sounds like gibberish. Okay, useless non-words aside... If you've ever worked with Perler/fuse beads, this works the same way. (The same, but with plastic yarn that's been crocheted.) You apply heat to the plastic until it fuses together, but there's a fine line between fused and melted through when it comes to more delicate plarn like I'm using. You can get the original tutorial for how to fmelt plarn here.

  I'm waiting to fmelt because I like to have the windows open when I do it, in case of harmful fumes. There doesn't seem to be any, but, you know... Melting plastic. It doesn't smell pretty, either. It's a very minimal smell, but it's a smell nonetheless. I want my windows open, but it's 40° outside. In Florida. In the springtime. Ugh. At least it's not snowing - Yet. Nature went all "WTF" on us (that's Winter To Florida this time).

plarn, plastic yarn, crochet, WIP, fmelting

  I know, I know, get to the point, right? WTF this project is driving me nuts! (Back to Waiting To Fmelt again.) Can you imagine crocheting paper plate holders? I can't believe I'm doing this, but I am. Recycled plastic paper plate holders, so you can recycle while you use more disposable items that will end up in a landfill. It seems a bit contradictory, but it's an idea I've had for a while and I just want to make it.

plarn, plastic yarn, crochet, WIP, fmelting

  This disgusting floppy mess will become a hardened plastic plate holder if all goes well. I made a not-a-mistake on the first design that I'll fix on the rest, so I want to use this not-a-mistake version to test out the fmelting temperature. And I'm trying to figure out if I can make a video during the process with the future versions, but I have horrible lighting in my kitchen. The kitchen is the only place I have a solid surface next to a power outlet for the iron.

plarn, plastic yarn, crochet, WIP, fmelting

  The not-a-mistake was a result of exhaustion. (I've slept about eight hours in the past week...) I had the wrong hook size for the weight of the plarn, and the work was bunching up with six multiples in the first round. I thought it would be neat to keep the density of the stitches by removing a multiple. And that left me turning a pentagon into a circle, which I did. But the pattern turns out harder to work in the end.

  I think I'll still keep the same hook size, and go back to the multiple of six. The ruffle can be worked out by increasing less in the following rounds. Being tired makes you think harder than you have to sometimes. Wouldn't it be so much easier to work a few rounds the same, with no increases at all? Then you're not stuck with a pattern of "increase here, don't increase there; Do it in a different order the next round". Just simple granny stitch simplicity.

  WTF. (Well, time flies.) I meant to try to go to bed tonight, but I spent too much time working on another project. Here it's three in the morning and Rip will have to be awoken from his slumber soon. I might as well stay up - Two alarm clocks and a phone won't wake him up. On that note - I'll leave you with a story about a Rip-snoring-3a.m. time I really was saying the typical usage of WTF:

  This was years ago and proves he hasn't changed... We had installed new fire alarms in the house prior to the incident. Maybe three or four days afterward, I bolted out of bed at 3 a.m. to the sound of a screeching alarm that also talks: Warning, warning; fire, fire. And Rip just snores away in bed.

Me: There's a fire, get up, get up!


Me: Get up! *shakes him* Get up! *kicks the bed* Get UP!

Him: (As the alarm is still screeching) Huh? WTF?

Me: WTF indeed! There's a fire, now get UP!

Him: What makes you think there's a fire?

Me: The FIRE alarm is going off; the house is on FIRE!

Him: No it's not. *rolls over* *snores*

Me: WTF.

  The house was never on fire. Every time you change the batteries (or install the new alarm), you have to run it through a test. If you don't, the things go off sometime when they decide to self-test themselves. I guess it figures a few days later at 3 a.m. is a great time to test your survival skills. As for me, I've put up with his symphony of alarms for long enough that I no longer bolt out of bed at every single noise. (I just never sleep now.) Rip van Winkle ten years later: Still snoring strong.

Happy Crocheting!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Eye of the Emerald Mini Mandala

  These mini mandalas are so quick to work up. They make great matching coasters for the full-size Eye of the Emerald mandala if you plan to use it as a doily -or- If you plan to use it as an art piece, they could make neat accents to display with or attach to it. Instructions are giving for color changes to create both versions shown, or use up some scrap yarn making your own color combinations!

free pattern, crochet, mandala, mini, coasters, green, St. Patty's Day, St. Patrick's Day

  Regardless of your plans for the pattern, this is a smaller, less ruffly version of its bigger sibling. (Smaller and faster with the same great picot texture!) The large mandala gave plenty of room to work out the ruffles caused by increasing, but this time we need it to stay flat for a short six rounds. So if you are here from working the large mandala, then please take note that this pattern is similar but not the same - The stitch counts for chain spaces and groups of stitches are changed.

free pattern, crochet, mandala, mini, coasters, green, St. Patty's Day, St. Patrick's Day

Finished size: 
6" (15 cm) in diameter from point to point

Skill level:

Worsted weight (4) acrylic yarn
I'm using Red Heart Super Saver in Paddy Green (color A) and White (color B)*
Crochet hook size J/10 - 6.00 MM
Yarn needle
Stitch marker (to mark beginning if needed)

*As noted in the pattern for the larger mandala, there is a chance that the white yarn I'm using is really Caron One Pound. (I'm already using the rest on another pattern, and the more I work with it, I think it is.)

Either way, they both work up in the same gauge.

Not important
Pattern measures 3" (7.5 cm) in diameter at round 3.

Chain stitches at beginning of rounds do not count as stitches.

Most rounds are joined with half-double crochet stitches. When pattern instructs to work into "half-double crochet joining space", you will begin the round by working over the post of the joining stitch.

New colors are joined with standing crochet stitches. If you are unfamiliar with this method, you can join new colors with a slip stitch, chain 1, and make the beginning stitch.

The picot stitch for the final round has been altered to a chain-2 picot. You can work a regular picot if you like, your finished size will be slightly larger.

(American terms)
Slip stitch
Single crochet
Half double crochet
Double crochet

*Picot (worked slightly different than usual - check out the matching pattern for photo examples) - Chain 3, insert hook in the front loop and bottom bar of last stitch (from left to right); slip stitch. (Read note regarding this stitch before working round 6.)


The pattern looks the same for both versions, but the written instructions change just a bit for different color changes. 

Under the number of the round you will find the color changes, and at the end of the round instructions you will find additional instructions in bold. If there are no instructions, continue working with current color.

This is version 1:
free pattern, crochet, mandala, mini, coasters, green, St. Patty's Day, St. Patrick's Day

This is version 2:
free pattern, crochet, mandala, mini, coasters, green, St. Patty's Day, St. Patrick's Day

Round 1:
Both versions: Color B
Begin with a magic circle. Chain 1 (does not count as stitch), single crochet in the ring.
(Chain 2, single crochet) 5x in the ring.
Half-double crochet in the beginning single crochet to join. (Counts as chain-2 space)
Both versions: Bind off and weave in ends for color change.
(6 chain-2 spaces)

Round 2:
Both versions: Color A
Begin with a standing single crochet in the joining space. 
(Chain 2, single crochet in same, chain 1, single crochet in next space) 5x.
Half-double crochet in the beginning single crochet.
(12 chain-2 spaces)

Round 3:
Both versions: Color A
Chain 1, single crochet in the joining space.
(Chain 2, single crochet in the next space) 11x.
Half-double crochet in the beginning single crochet.
Version 1: Bind off, weave in ends for color change.
(12 chain-2 spaces)

Round 4:
Version 1: Begin with color B and a standing single crochet in the joining space.
Version 2: Continuing with color A, chain 1 and single crochet in the joining space.
(Single crochet, picot, 2 single crochet) in each of the next 11 spaces.
(Single crochet, picot, single crochet) in the joining space.
Both versions: Bind off, pull tail through beginning single crochet and back through ending stitch to join.

Round 5:
Version 1: Color A
Version 2: Color B
Begin with a standing half-double crochet in the joining space.
(Half-double crochet, chain 3, half double crochet) in each of the next 11 spaces.
Half-double crochet in the joining space. Chain 1, half-double crochet to join (counts as chain-3 space).
(12 chain-3 spaces)

Round 6:
***The picot stitch in this round should be worked with just chain-2 before closing. You can still work a chain-3 picot for a slightly larger finished size.
Version 1: Color A
Version 2: Color B
Chain 1, (single crochet, slip stitch) in the joining space.
(Slip stitch, chain 1, single crochet, picot, 2 single crochet, slip stitch) in each of the next 11 spaces.
(Slip stitch, chain 1, single crochet, picot, single crochet) in the joining space.
Bind off, pull tail through beginning single crochet and back through ending stitch to join.

free pattern, crochet, mandala, mini, coasters, green, St. Patty's Day, St. Patrick's Day

  The mandala and minis go well as a table set, but I suppose my table is a bit small for them without the extension installed... And I'm currently enjoying the extra space along with not having to lift that leaf. (Am I getting weak, or do they make those things with a lead core?) I played around with different ways it could be used on a smaller table, but just couldn't make them all fit together.

free pattern, crochet, mandala, mini, coasters, green, St. Patty's Day, St. Patrick's Day

  I tried for another hour, rearranging and taking photos until I realized something: I'm Aries and Irish. No wonder I'm so stubborn! (I was doomed from the start.) I still think the whole set would look awesome displayed on the wall as an art piece... But I have to face the facts: It has white in it, which will never stay white in this house. It doesn't fit my table, and the colors don't match my decor. I enjoyed the design, but I think my dad likes it more than I do. He already has the perfect plan of where to use it, too. Well, that was easy! No more rearranging needed.

Happy Crocheting!

PS - Check out that picot texture!

free pattern, crochet, mandala, mini, coasters, green, St. Patty's Day, St. Patrick's Day

Blog Archive