Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Yarn Review: Bernat Boa

  I don't work with novelty yarn often, but I can't resist a lonely skein on a clearance shelf, either. These were two skeins that were half unraveled, one missing its label, and they were a steal at $1 a piece. I searched the rest of the yarn to identify what color I had, discovered the discount I would be getting, and went back to the clearance to make sure I hadn't missed any! I didn't have a project in mind when I bought it, I just wanted to add a good deal to my stash.

  I've actually had this for over a year...It was intimidating me at first, so I was avoiding picking it up. But when an awesome project came into my head, I knew I had to tackle this yarn at last.

  First, let's discuss the details of Bernat Boa. What is Boa? This is what is called an eyelash yarn, also known as a fashion yarn; AKA a novelty yarn. It's made of 100% polyester, but hand-wash only, being a delicate yarn. It comes in 100 gram, 129-yard balls, and costs about $5 a ball. Being a bulky (5) weight yarn, the recommended hook size is K/10.5 - 6.5MM, which makes a 4" by 4" (10 cm by 10 cm) gauge swatch of 10 rows of 11 sc. If you keep reading, you'll see my attempts at making some gauge swatches with Boa.

  You can achieve amazing results with this yarn. It's fluffy and thick, while at the same time elegant and delicate. Use Boa to add a "fur" collar to a lacy bolero, or make an entire accessory with it. I've already been brainstorming for things like hats and jewelry. I noticed a slight problem while experimenting with some of my ideas, though. Once you have worked Boa up, then take it apart again, your yarn doesn't look so pretty anymore. In the following photo, the color Parrot (purple) hasn't been used, but Cardinal (red and black) has been worked up and unraveled once. You can see how the "hairs" are ragged looking and twisted:

  With that said, the results you get from working with this yarn are still awesome. You get a thick pile of satiny-fluffy-soft fur-like material that makes fun accessories, as well as great trim, lining, and accents. I'd love to have the money and patience to make an entire blanket out of this stuff!

  So, for my opinion about working with Boa: If (and I stress that word IF) you can find your stitches to work with this yarn, the results are beautiful. Although it's synthetic, it's not itchy to wear against the skin. A few skeins of this would make a lovely cardigan or a comfy pair of socks. If you can find the stitches to work into to make anything. With all of Bernat Boa's fluffy soft goodness, the stitches disappear in a halo of fuzziness. See what happened when I made the mistake of trying to work with Boa using a small hook:

  I got to five rows of five single crochet before I got too frustrated to continue. Lots of good light, maybe a relaxing cup of tea, and some soft, calming music are all helpful while working with Boa... Or, if you're me, a nice relaxing cup of coffee and some blaring heavy metal. Keep the good light.

  For now, I gave up on trying to work with Boa and a small hook, before I feel like making that an Irish coffee. I changed over to the recommended hook size, and started working another swatch. I didn't complete it because...Well, can you find the stitches?

  Here, let me provide a close-up for you. Does that make it any easier?

  Maybe if I show you an example of a simple chain of Bernat Boa, you can easily find the stitches:

  The next time I try working with this yarn, I'm going to try switching to an even larger hook size. Maybe that will make finding the stitches easier. I also wonder if working with a lighter color would be better, or if the stitches would still be invisible. I would love to hear a comparison from someone who has knit and crocheted with Boa, because I think that knitting with this yarn would be less difficult.

  There's also a small problem other than the lost stitches while working: You're going to want a lint brush and a broom, or something, to clean up all the fuzz that's left over. Tiny bits of Boa's "hair" get left behind with every few stitches. After an hour of working with this yarn, it's like you've had a shedding synthetic cat in your lap.

  I'm totally not bashing Bernat Boa, though. Although there aren't a ton of colors to be found, there's still quite a selection to suit your taste. I love all the deep jewel tones available. And even though I didn't see many, there are a few lighter and brighter colors to chose from, if that's your thing. If you visit their site, check out the color Fa La La, which is red, green and white. It would make an interesting Christmas headband, or even a stocking. In case you missed it, the color shown here with the label is Parrot, and the red and black ball is Cardinal:

  And for the final conclusion of this rambling back-and-forth review: I'm undecided! I like the results. I love the softness and the colors. I don't like the mess, and I wish the stitches were easier to find. It's one of those yarns that I really want to make a project from, but I just don't want to work with it.

  I'm not defeated, though! I still have that super-cool idea in my head, and I really want to make it. It is possible: I can find the stitches. I will find the stitches...I just have to be positive, get another cup of coffee, and crank up the stereo.

  In case you missed the link in the beginning, you can learn more about Bernat Boa by clicking here to visit the Yarnspirations website. Explore all the colors available and browse free patterns. While I was there, I discovered 44 free project ideas using this yarn and a variety of crafts. I love the flip flops!

If you have used Bernat Boa, feel free to use the comments section below. What is your favorite color? What did you make? Was it frustrating to work with? Do you have any helpful tips for others?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Free Pattern: Magnolia Bloom

  The magnolia is often seen as a symbol of Mother Nature's southern charm, though many varieties can be found across the globe. Did you know there are over eighty different species of this tree? An interesting flower to behold, the blooms can be anywhere from three to twelve inches in diameter! The cone shape of the bud gradually opens its waxy "petals" to reveal a fragrant, intricate blossom.

  Here's an interesting fact: Magnolia flowers don't have petals! That green thing you see at the base of most flowers is called the sepal. The petal and sepal of a flower are two separate parts. But magnolias lack a sepal and a petal. Instead, they have what are called "tepals", sort of a combination of the sepal and the petal. Now that you've been educated about their proper name, know that in the pattern they are still referred to as "petals".

  Most varieties of magnolia are quite fragrant. This is even true of the Umbrella Magnolia, though most describe the scent of these blooms to be akin to "wet goat". Yummy...

  Unfortunately lacking the scent and grand size of the large Magnolia Grandiflora, but fortunately missing the odor of the Umbrella breed, this miniature rendition is still an impressive piece of work! This pattern uses mostly simple stitches to complete, but it will keep you thinking the whole time.

  Finished diameter, from petal to petal is 4 1/2" (11.5 cm). Height when blocked and shaped is about 1" (2.5 cm).

Skill Level:

Size 10 crochet thread - white* and a small amount of yellow
*Remember, magnolias can be seen in cream, pink, purple, and even yellow. You can make this flower using one of these colors instead of white.
Steel crochet hook size 7/1.65 MM or size needed to obtain gauge
Needle or smaller hook to weave in ends
Split ring stitch markers, optional
Fabric stiffener, optional

Not very important.
If desired, work a gauge swatch beginning with 20 sc. Work pattern from 2B - 2H. Petal measures 1" (2.5 cm) wide by 2" (5 cm) tall.

It is easy to lose track of what direction your stitches should be going when working back in the round again. Stitch markers may be helpful.

Chain 1 at the beginning of rows counts as one single crochet.

Chain (ch)
Slip stitch (sl st)
Single crochet (sc)
Triple crochet (tr)

Single crochet two together (sc2tog) - Insert hook in next stitch, pull up a loop (2 loops on hook). Insert hook in following st, pull up a loop (3 loops on hook). Yarn over, pull through all 3 loops.

Single crochet three together (sc3tog) - Insert hook, pull up a loop (2 loops on hook). Insert hook in the following stitch, pull up a loop (3 loops on hook). Insert hook in next stitch, pull up a loop (4 loops on hook). Yarn over, pull through all 4 loops.

Other abbreviations:
Begin/Beginning (beg)
Skip (sk)
Stitch/es (st/s)


Center motif:
With one strand of white and one strand of yellow held together, begin a magic circle. Do not work over tail.

Round 1:
In magic circle, ch 1 (counts as 1 sc), 11 sc in circle. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (12 sc)

Round 2:
Ch 1, 1 sc in same st. 1 sc in each of next 3 sts. (2 sc in next st, 1 sc in each of following 3 sts) 2 times. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (15 sc)

Round 3:
Ch 1, 1 sc in each of next 14 sts. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1.

Round 4:
Ch 1, sc2tog. (1 sc in next st, sc2tog) 4 times. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (10 sc)

Round 5:
Ch 4 (counts as 1 tr), 1 tr in each of next 9 sts. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (10 tr)

Round 6:
Flip right side out. Bind off, leaving 6" (15 cm) tail. Weave tail gently back and forth through tops of all 10 tr. Do not pull tightly. End in center of row. Pull tail through center, through middle, and out bottom center. Pull snugly to bring tops of stitches inside center. Secure with a simple knot with beg tail. Make a few knots for some bulk, but keep small enough to push through center hole. Insert hook through outside of motif to pull tails inside. Weave tails through a few stitches, and back out center again. Make a few more knots, repeating as before. Continue doing this until the motif is stuffed, but do not make it bulge. You will need to work into these stitches again later, so you want to leave a bit of slack.

*You will begin by working on top of center motif sts, as for surface crochet. Insert hook from left to right under post of st.

Round 1:
Begin with last row of triple crochet facing away from you. With one strand of white only: Insert hook through post sp of Round 1 of center motif. Pull up a loop, sl st, ch 1 (counts as 1 sc). 1 sc in each post sp of Round 1. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. (12 sc)

*In the next two rounds, you will work in the round, turn, then work in rows. The pattern will then continue in the round. The round is broken into sub-parts to keep track of rows.

Round 2:
A. Ch 8, sk 1 sc, sl st. Turn, (sl st, ch 1) in 1st available ch. 3 sc in each of next 6 chs, 1 sc in last ch. (20 sc)

B. Ch 1, turn. Sc2tog twice, 1 sc in each of next 3 sts. 2 sc in each of next 4 sts, sc2tog twice. 1 sc in last st.

C - H: Repeat B.

I. Ch 1, turn. Sc2tog 3 times. 1 sc in next st. 2 sc in each of next 4 sts. 1 sc in the following st. Sc2tog 3 times, 1 sc in last st. Working down side: 1 sc in each of next 7 post sps. 1 sc in ch-8 sp.

J. Ch 1, turn. 1 sc in each of next 25 sts. Working down side: Sc2tog 4 times. 1 sc in ch-8 sp.

K. Working in the round: Sl st in each of the next 2 sts.

Repeat A - K (2) more times.

Round 3:
A. Ch 8, sl st in the skipped sc in middle of ch-8 sp (middle of petal, sc of Round 1), turn. (Sl st, ch 1) in 1st available ch. 3 sc in each of the next 6 chs. 1 sc in the last ch. (20 sc)

B - I: Repeat 2A - 2I.

J. Insert hook under post of row 2 of center, sl st. Turn, 1 sc in each of the next 26 sts. Sc3tog twice in side post sps. Sc3tog beginning in next st, ending in ch-8 sp. Insert hook under post of Round 2 of center motif, sl st.

K. Turn, ch 6. Sl st in 1st sl st between current and next petal, turn. (Sl st, ch 1, 1 sc) in 1st ch. 2 sc in each of remaining 5 chs.

L. Ch 1, turn. Sc2tog, 1 sc in each of the following 2 sts. 2 sc in each of the next 2 sts. Sc2tog, 1 sc in the last st.

M - O: Repeat L.

P. Insert hook under post sp below tr of center motif, sl st. Turn, sc2tog 6 times. 1 sc in each of the next 4 side post sps. 1 sc in ch-6 sp. Sl st to 1st available sl st between current and next petal.

Repeat A - P (2) more times. Bind off, weave in ends.

-The finished piece needs to be blocked. The stitches pull in multiple directions. If you don't shape it, the finished piece may look like this:

-Block the petals outward first, then run along the inside with your thumb to the tip. If you would like to harden the flower, use fabric stiffener of craft glue diluted with water.

  Do you have a magnolia tree? Is it worth cleaning up after, or do you think it's too much of a hassle? 

  If you have an Umbrella Magnolia, does it really smell like a wet goat?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Yarn Tales Tuesday

Crochet for Charity

  A few week's ago, the subject for Yarn Tales Tuesday covered I Love Yarn Day, which is the second Friday of October. And that means this week! Crafters of all kinds celebrate this day in many different ways, from yarn bombs and putting sweaters on statues, to yarn parties or just wearing a yarn related item. My favorite thing to do is create and inspire others to craft for charity

  Some crafters are short on time or money, or don't know of a charity they could donate to. If there is any reason you don't donate to charity, keep all of these ideas in mind: 

  • If you're short on time, but not money, many organizations have groups of crafters already creating for them, and they can use donations of yarn and yarn accessories instead of handmade items. 

  • If you're on a low budget, seek out charities asking for small items. A few of the organizations listed below are looking for simple keepsakes or ornaments that can be made with scraps.

  • Consider organizing a group of your own. Maybe you can't afford to, or don't have the time to complete a whole blanket for a donation. Do you know other crocheters in the same predicament? Get together to work scraps into squares or motifs for an afghan. If you don't have any crocheting or knitting acquaintances, seek a charity asking for donations of squares. 

  • Sometimes an item doesn't have to be pretty to be useful for someone in need. Maybe you don't have matching yarn scraps, but you have enough to make an afghan. What about that sweater that looked better in the pattern picture than it does on you? Or how about those slippers that are too big because you didn't check your gauge before you made them? A homeless or needy person won't care what color a warm blanket is, they will just be happy that someone cared enough to help them stay warm. And those items that don't fit you well will probably fit someone else, instead of collecting dust and never being worn. Check out the link below for Ugly Quilts for the Homeless.

  This is my way to celebrate I Love Yarn Day: I'm providing you with some suggestions for charity items, where to donate them, and some links to help you get started, too. If you have a charity you already prefer to donate to, don't be shy! Share information or a link in the comments section to let others know about your favorite charity.

  First, here's a few of my own patterns which would be useful as donations: 

  • The Angel Decoration can be used as an ornament, decoration, bookmark, and more. This makes a good donation for religious organizations looking for keepsake items to distribute.

  • The "Bobble and Chain" baby blanket can be made in neutral or boy's colors too! Without the ruffled edge, this pattern still measures large enough for a standard size baby blanket. Made with Caron One Pound, this blanket is machine washable, dryer safe, and so full of texture and softness. One Pound yarn is a great value and is available in a large variety of colors. The "bobbles" in this blanket are actually single crochet clusters.

  • With the pattern for this Sports Team Afghan, you can chose the size of blanket to create. Pattern includes sizes twin through king, plus baby blanket and throw sizes. This blanket would look beautiful in any complementing or contrasting color scheme.

  • Sports Team Scarf 1 and Sports Team Scarf 2 are both great unisex patterns that can be made in any colors. Scarf 1 is a shorter scarf using a single crochet "bobble" (cluster) to create a funky ripple, and Scarf 2 combines a rib stitch block and a basket weave block that can be made in multiple colors with scraps. 

  • The Windowpane scarf, hat and glove set work up quickly and can be made with any worsted yarn. Links are in the pattern for the gloves and hat. For a more challenging pattern, the Pink Lemonade Scarf, using filet crochet and a modified lacet, is a bit fancier and can be worn by women or girls.

  • These Men's Fingerless Mitts can be worn over a regular pair of gloves for extra warmth and are super-simple to make.

  • The Love Knot Earwarmer Headband would make a great donation as a chemo cap, or to a women's shelter. Made with oh-so-super-soft Woolike by Loops and Threads, the pattern uses less than 25% of a skein. You can make quite a few of these for very little cost. 

  Most of these patterns are for warmth or comfort for a certain individual. Even if your favorite organization or charity has no need for crochet donations, you can still sell your projects to raise funds for donation.

  You can also contact your local religious organization, hospital, shelters or community outreach programs to find ways your handmade yarn items could help. 

  As with charities, if you have a link to a free pattern that would make a good charity gift, feel free to share that in the comments section, too.

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  Although many charities are glad to have donations of any kind, there are a few things to remember:

  • Always check with a charity before making a donation. Some will schedule a time for you to make a drop off, and many need your information and/or the details about the donation you are making.

  • Keep in mind the material you are using. Animal fibers and rough acrylics can be irritating to babies' skin, and many people are allergic to natural fibers. Some charities ask you to only use a specific yarn, and many have a list of acceptable materials.

  • Include information about your project with your donation. Does it need to be hand-washed? Is it safe for the dryer? What is it made of? Check your yarn label to copy the details, or even provide the label with the donation.

  • Nobody wants a project to unravel. Never tie your yarn in a knot. Weave in your ends securely, especially for babies, children and animals. If you aren't great at weaving in ends or you just dislike doing it, consider a charity like the one listed below that wants you to leave tails loose for them to assemble. 

  The following is an assortment of charitable organizations in need of your handmade items. Many accept donations of materials or money as well as knitted, crocheted, or sewn projects. Some need knitters, crocheters and quilters to assemble items for them.

  • Afghans for Angels:

  A volunteer organization seeking both supplies and finished blankets. These blankets are donated to parents who have recently suffered the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death.
  I would like to provide the website of the main headquarters for you, but the links didn't work for me. This links to the chapter for my home state. The links for other chapters did work on this site, so you can find a local group.


  • Heartmade Blessings:

  A worldwide group of volunteers providing hand-crafted items to people suffering a loss or tragedy as a reminder that someone cares. Looking for donations of squares to assemble, they ask you follow their guidelines. These guidelines are mostly to assure proper assembly, and as a bonus, they ask that you leave your ends loose. That's great for those of you who don't enjoy weaving in ends or assembling squares.

You can contact them or find more information through links on the site.

  • The Snuggles Project:

  A project of Hugs for Homeless Animals that provides comforting items to shelter animals. 

This link will provide you information about what can be donated and how. The site also offers patterns for Snuggles and items for sale.

  • Knots of Love:

  Seeking monetary donations and knit or crocheted caps, blankets and more for chemo patients and others with life-threatening diseases.

With this link you can get a PDF form for yarn requirements and a submission form for finished items, along with a downloadable shipping label.

  • Miracles Happen:

Provides a variety of baby items for new mothers.

Here is the link for this organization's PDF brochure, which will provide you with the basic information of what they are looking for and some guidelines,

or you can visit the website.

  • Project Linus:

A non-profit organization providing handmade blankets to children in need, from 0-18 years of age. They accept knitted, crocheted, and sewn blankets, as well as monetary donations and materials.

  • Ugly Quilts for the Homeless:

This organization provides you with the pattern for the "Ugly Quilt" pattern, a sleeping bag made of recycled materials. This group is also looking for all kinds of donations to benefit the homeless, from hats, mittens, and scarves to toiletry items.

  • Warm Up America:

This charity works with community organizations and the Red Cross to provide blankets to those in need. Donations are distributed to a variety of shelters, homes, medical facilities and churches.

They also accept any sort of item which will help a person stay warm.

  • Lion Brand Yarn:

This company's website will help you search for a charity based on your location and the type of charity.

  There is a ton of charities out there in need of your help, all over the world! If you have a favorite charity that accepts handmade donations and you would like to help get the word out, don't forget to provide a link or some information in the comments section below.

  And don't forget that you don't have to seek out a specific charity to make someone's life warmer or brighten their day. The struggling single mother you know at work, the elderly couple down the road on a fixed income, or anyone suffering a loss or going through a hard time can benefit from your work.

Have a happy I Love Yarn Day!
Use it to make somebody else's life happier.

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