Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Yarn Tales Tuesday



Time to unwind...

  This week's subject will be short and to the point: Right now, I'm buried in unfinished projects, falling behind, and I'm tired! I'm still getting caught up after having a cold recently, and I just don't want to wear myself down. So, forgive me for not having a more interesting topic, but under the circumstances, I felt it was a good one.


  This week is a reminder to take a break sometimes!


  Find a few moments to do whatever it is you do to unwind. If crochet is how you relax, then find time to pick up a project. If crochet is your work, then put it down, even if only for a moment. Summer is at its end in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are getting shorter, and for a few days I'm going to take some tea or coffee outside to enjoy more of these:




  Since it's been raining almost every afternoon, maybe I'll at least get lucky enough to see more of these:




  When I have a chance, I like to get out and walk my property with my dog (along with a cat that follows me like a dog), check out what Mother Nature is doing, and maybe get a little gardening done. It's nice to take my crochet work outside too, if I don't get carried away by mosquitoes!

  Do you prefer to relax with nature, or do you crave the city life? When you need to unwind, is your crochet part of the process, or do you leave it behind?  



Friday, September 5, 2014

Free Pattern: Fmelted Plarn Toothbrush Holder




  If you missed the original tutorial, "fmelting" is a combination of meting + felting.

  With this pattern, you can recycle some grocery bags while creating a simple household item. You probably wouldn't think to crochet a bathroom item such as this, but using plarn and some heat from an iron, a floppy crochet piece turns into a useful toothbrush holder!


  The pattern is quite easy to work, but some caution is needed during the fmelting process. I've mentioned this before in my other fmelted projects, and again I accidentally laid the iron on my hand, resulting in a minor burn. Perhaps I should take my own advice! Pay attention, work in a well ventilated area, and especially: Keep kids safe! Little ones interested in watching the process are often eager to see the results before the piece has cooled.


  If you need extra information about the procedure, you're welcome to check out my original fmelting tutorial, or for step-by-step close up photos with my first three-dimensional project, click here. This project is a bit different, being round, but the process is the same.


Finished size is 4" (10 cm) tall by 12" (30.5 cm) circumference.



Skill level:







Materials:
Crochet hook size G/6 - 4.25 MM or size needed to obtain gauge
Plarn cut 1 1/2" wide, single strand - see notes (about 10 bags)
Smaller hook or needle to weave in ends
15 oz. soup can
Waxed paper
Iron
Aluminum foil, optional


Gauge:
Rounds 1-4 of pattern = 1 3/4" (4.5 cm) in diameter with single strand 1 1/2" (3.8 cm) wide plarn


Notes:
Although plarn is often forgiving, consistency in width is important to the finished results of this project. Pay close attention while preparing your bags. The width of the strip should be within 1/4" (0.5 cm) of the specified size.

Click for help making plarn.

Save a few scraps in case of mistakes while fmelting. See end for example.


Stitches:
Slip stitch - sl st
Chain - ch
Single crochet - sc
Double crochet - dc


Directions:

Begin with a magic circle.

Round 1:
Sl st in magic circle, ch 1 (counts as 1 sc). 5 sc in circle. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (6 sc) Tighten circle.

Round 2:
Ch 1 (counts as 1 sc), 1 sc in same st. 2 sc in each of remaining 5 sts. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (12 sc)

Round 3:
Ch 1 (counts as 1 sc), 1 sc in same st and in next st. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in the following st) 11 times. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (18 sc)

Round 4:
Ch 1 (counts as 1 sc), 1 sc in same st and in each of the following 2 sts. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in each of the following 2 sts) 5 times. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (24 sc)

Round 5:
Ch 3 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc in each of the next 3 sts. (Ch 4, sk 2, 1 dc in each of the next 4 sts) 3 times. Ch 4, sk 2, join with a sl st to beg ch-3.

Round 6:
Ch 1 (counts as 1 sc), 1 sc in same st. 1 sc in next st, 2 sc in the following st. *5 sc in ch-4 sp. 2 sc in first available st, 1 sc in next, 2 sc in the following st.* Repeat from * to * 3 more times. 5 sc in ch-4 sp, join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (40 sc)

Round 7:
Sl st directly below current st, into previous row 5. Ch 1 (counts as 1 sc), 1 sc in same sp. Working all sts into row 5: 1 sc in next, 2 sc in following st. *6 sc in ch-5 sp. 2 sc in first available st, 1 sc in next, 2 sc in following.* Repeat from * to * 2 more times. 6 sc in ch-5 sp, join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (44 sc)

Round 8:
Ch 1 (counts as 1 sc), 1 sc in each of remaining 43 sts. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (44 sc)

Round 9:
Skipping last row, sl st directly below st into previous row. Ch 1 (counts as 1 sc), 1 sc in each of remaining 43 sts in same row. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (44 sc)

For rows 10 - 23:
(Repeat Row 8 [5] times, repeat Row 9 once) two times.

Repeat Row 8 once.

End with Row 9. Bind off, weave in ends.

Your piece before fmelting will look slightly out of round. Fitting it over the form and the melting process will round it out nicely. However, if you like this square-ish shape, I suppose you could use a square form to make it stay this way.






Fmelting:

I recommend using a spare (crafting) iron if you have one. This process may leave some residue on your iron. If you don't have a spare, and residue is left over, remove with a bit of vegetable or baby oil, then clean with a mild detergent. Dry, then preheat and use on an old piece of cloth (cotton cleaning towels work great) to ensure no residue is left.

Irons may vary, turn up your heat gradually if you need to.

If you haven't fmelted anything before, make a gauge swatch to practice on.

Preheat the iron on the synthetic (lowest) setting.

1. For your form, wrap an empty soup can (label removed) with waxed paper. If your project is slightly larger than the form, you can use extra layers of waxed paper or aluminum foil to make up the difference. You may also want to line the inside of the can with aluminum foil; this will prevent some of the heat from penetrating the inside of the form for better handling.



2. Place the project on the form wrong side out.



3. Cover with waxed paper, apply heat to the top and sides for 30 seconds to one minute. Do not heat the the thicker ridge between top and sides. It should be "crispy", but not completely hardened.

4. Once cool, remove from the form, turn right side out. The top will most likely pop up like the following photo shows. You may be able to push it down now, but don't worry, it will be flat when done.




5. Place on the form again, cover with waxed paper.



6. Repeat the process, applying heat for about 2 minutes for each area, until hardened.



Once finished, it will support itself and up to four toothbrushes.



Oops...
You might think this one finished without a problem, but look closer:


The plarn was too thin in a couple of places, and I applied heat for a bit too long, breaking the material. Could you tell where the holes were if I didn't point them out? (Unnecessary hint: I wrapped too much material around the top one!)

If you break a stitch during the fmelting process, wrap around it with some scrap plarn. Cover with wax paper, apply heat for a few seconds at a time. You may need to repeat the process a few times. The scrap material will bond to the project, fixing the hole.


If your first attempt fails to harden completely, turn on it's side. Play indoor golf!


But seriously, if it doesn't harden all the way, this most likely means your wrong side (or maybe both sides) didn't get melted enough. If you have a mini iron, you could still save the project by using it on the inside. Lacking a mini iron, turning the project inside out again after both sides have been heated is nearly impossible.

Good luck and happy recycling!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Yarn Tales Tuesday



Crocheting with a Disability


  Many things might stop you from crocheting in your lifetime. Have you ever experienced a total lack of time? With changes in scheduling and life, you'll (hopefully) be able to make time someday. Quick, easily portable projects are a great way to get some craft time during short breaks.

  Low budget? Make plarn or fabric scrap yarn, they're the lowest cost materials you could ask for. Recycling is rewarding, too. Perhaps you can use your creativity to supplement your income in the process.

  Maybe you put your hook down because of a loss of inspiration. Sometimes the desire to create overrides the need for a project. If it ever happens to you, consider creating for charity. Search out an organization like Halos of Hope,  Project Linus,  The Pink Slipper Project, or  the Snuggles Project, which all offer free patterns for knitting, sewing and crochet.

  All of these problems can put a temporary stop to leisure activity, but what do you do if an injury or disability is holding you back from your favorite hobby? This seems like the hardest hurdle to overcome. Having rheumatoid arthritis, I struggle every day with my work, and fear the day I won't be able to pick up my hook and yarn. Ice, rest, and knowing when not to overdo it help me accomplish my tasks, but I still compete with stiffness, swelling, and pain. It's complicated to keep even tension or pick up small objects, and I often drop my hook.

  There are quite a few tricks I've personally learned to help me through a project. For example, I've learned to sit in an area where I can easily pick up my hook when I drop it. Instinct makes me want to sit in a nice comfy recliner, but it's no fun digging my hook out from inside or under the chair when it falls. As a result, I began working at a table, where I can also prop my hands on an ice pack while I work. This helps me avoid the swelling which will inevitably occur when I get buried in a project. To battle tension issues, I will eventually purchase a tension tool (a ring device under $10 with an adjustable tension spring), but for now I've learned different ways to hold my yarn, depending on how I'm working that day. And using hooks with large handles, or wrapping small ones with clay to better fit my hand is a lifesaver for me.


Important points to remember to avoid causing injury:


  • Rest when you need to. Stress is a major cause of injury.
  • While you're taking a break, do some stretching exercises. This can help maintain dexterity in your hands and wrists.
  • Use ergonomic tools to better fit your hands.
  • Pay attention to posture. Slumping, slouching, or leaning over your work, as well as holding your work up can cause injury to more than just your hands.

  There are many tools available to make crochet more comfortable for those with arthritis and other afflictions, such as ergonomic hooks, hook cushions, wrist braces, stress relief gloves and other aids. A quick internet search can inform you of exercises which can be helpful, but talking with your doctor to find the best options for you is a good idea.

  Recently, my thoughts started wandering in a different direction after meeting an amputee. Knowing I require the use of both hands for some things, I watched him complete the same tasks with only one hand. It made me think: Could I crochet if I lost the use of a hand? What other kinds of daily tasks would become difficult? Simply getting dressed in the morning would suddenly become a battle with armholes, zippers and buttons.

  Perhaps in a way, my wandering imagination made me appreciate having both of my hands, even with a disability. Among other tasks, I decided to try crocheting with one hand. Impossible! I couldn't complete a single stitch. Short of using my feet, I couldn't figure out a way to hold the yarn and the hook with one hand. This problem led me to an internet search for crochet tools.

  I found a few different tools useful to knitters and crocheters. A knitting loom is the best solution for knitters, and readily available at most craft retailers. For crochet, two helpful tools are the Clamp-It (under $40) and a holder by Maddak useful for both crochet and embroidery. For help with either hobby, I found this useful article about knitting and crocheting with one hand. Through these resources, I've learned how the technique changes when working with a crochet aid. The usual concept is to move your hook, but with one-handed crochet, a tool holds your hook while you move your work around it. These are great resources and can be useful to stroke victims, amputees, and people with general injuries or disabilities.

  If you have an injury, crochet could be a healing or a hurting hobby, depending on the type of affliction you have. Crochet is already being used to help some sufferers of strokes re-learn coordination and use of their hands. But crochet could cause more injury to someone with an ailment such as carpal tunnel syndrome, where repetitive motion can be damaging. A discussion with your doctor or physical therapist would quickly determine whether or not you should pick up a hook.

  Even if you're not personally affected, have you ever thought what it would be like to live daily life with a handicap? I challenge you to try your favorite hobby with one hand. It may leave you wondering what you could do to help others overcome their impairments.

  Do you or someone you know knit or crochet with a disability? What do you struggle to overcome, and what are some ways you know to help others with this problem? Are there other tools available to assist with crochet?

  The most important thing to remember is: Know you limits! Stop when you need to, don't take on projects that are too difficult for your abilities, but don't get discouraged, either. There is help for many disabilities, whether it be tools or tips. And if all else fails, you can always put your knowledge to good use with helping others learn your skill. Seeing a beginners "ah-ha" moment or the successful completion of somebody's first big project is a great mood booster even when you can't use your own skill. In my opinion, finishing a project of my own isn't always as rewarding as watching someone else gain confidence and skill with the information I have given them.


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