Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Her Name was Cornelius

My apologies:

  The latest tutorial/progress report for my World's Biggest Stocking work will be delayed. I'm having some difficulty putting the final touches on it. I'm a mess. I'm a wreck. And I just can't concentrate on crochet right now. Memorial Day is already hard for me because it's the anniversary of my good friend Don's death. And now, it's the anniversary of another death:

  Her name was Corneluis Peanutbutterus, aka Peanut Butter and Nelly, aka Nelly Peanut Butter, aka Peanut Butter and Jelly, aka Nelly Belly, aka Smelly Jelly, aka Sideways. 


  When I found her, or rather, when she found me, she was a half-drowned kitten that wouldn't stop howling outside in a thunderstorm. I bundled up, braved the lightning, and ran out to get her, even though we already had two house cats, and I wasn't looking for another. The plan was to find her a home, but she had already found hers here.

  I dried her off and fed her, and she never left. She grew to tolerate the dog, and she fell in love with Bites, who has been gone now for almost two years. I think it broke her heart a little when we lost him, and now she's broken mine.

  Her favorite game was fetch. Yes, fetch, like a dog. For each time you would throw her little ring of bread tie twists or pipe cleaners, she would bring it back and drop it (almost) at your feet with a howl. And you were expected to throw it again, every time, until she got tired. 

  She was an inside cat, but escaped one day. And that was the day that someone in my neighborhood thought it would be fun to throw antifreeze-infused hot dogs over my fence as a treat for my pets. They killed five of the dozen wild cats I feed, plus Bites. She's the only one that got into it and survived the poisoning. After the first day in a coma, we all thought she wouldn't make it. But with severe neurological damage, and plenty of other problems, too, she pulled through.   

  The brain damage left her walking sideways and often falling over. She became an inside-only cat again, being only a shell of her former self. But she was still my Smelly Jelly with a Belly Full of Jelly. 

  She made a few appearances here on the blog, such as her most recent and last cameo in one of the final posts for the Big Granny Square Blanket. Although you can only see bits of her in photo bombs, she still made her presence known. And what you didn't see is how she has been by my side (or in my lap) for every project here on the blog. 

  And now, she will forever be in my heart. She got out again, and I found her in my driveway last night. She had no obvious injuries, but was too weak to walk after only one day out of the house. I have no idea what happened to her. Before we could get her to a vet, she looked into my eyes and she died in my arms. 

  As much as it breaks my heart, I wasn't able to take her in to find out what happened. If it was to keep her alive, I would have spent my last dime. But now that it's too late, I just can't spend the $500 the vet wanted for an autopsy. I placed her in a box with her favorite toys and her favorite treats, buried her in my backyard well after dark, and cried the rest of the night. It must either say something about me or Nelly, because I've cried more over the death of this cat than I've ever cried over the passing of a human.  

  So again, my apologies. The next post is in the making and will be up, sometime... I'm just finding it hard to concentrate without my Sideways sidekick interrupting my work. You had no idea what a big part of the blog she was behind the scenes. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

WBS Blanket Progress: Nine-Square Second Row

Working the second row and continuing a tutorial

  Soooo... I did it again. I bought more yarn, and I'm waiting for it to be delivered. I'm currently debating whether or not I should continue with the Nine Square Blanket the way I planned when I ran out of yarn, or wait for the yarn and make it exactly like the pattern. But while I make up my mind, you can still enjoy the continuation of the last tutorial for working over the tail, plus I've included a tip for those turning chains, too.

  Remember, this is not my pattern. It's provided for free by Yarnspirations for the World's Biggest Stocking. If you haven't done so already, you can download all the patterns for the project here. Let's crochet these blankets and help to set a world record! We left off in the last post at the end of the first row, where we worked into the slipknot as a chain. Now, we'll continue weaving in the tail. Ready?

Let's get started:

The next row is going to be a simple row of single crochet stitches. To weave in the tail as you work, bring it up and over the working yarn before we make the turning chain.

Chain 1. This will count as the first single crochet of the row. Hey, beginners: Are you having trouble working into your turning chains at the end of rows? Pull up some slack in the loop before you make the chain, then pull up to make slack again after you chain. Your loops should not be tight against the hook.

When you turn your work, make sure the working yarn stays to the back of your hook. Bring the tail around the front of the stitch.

And now, we're going to do something a little different. You're not going to make a stitch yet, we're just going to work on weaving in the tail. You can do this with the chain-1 on the hook, or get a separate hook if needed. Insert the hook in only the front loop of the next stitch.

Yarn over with the tail, and pull through the front loop of the stitch. For the next step, we'll go back to make that single crochet, but first, take a look at the next picture:

This could trick you, so pay attention! In the white box, you see the base of the first stitch (the turning chain). You might also see what looks like the loops of another stitch. Look underneath! In the black box, you can see there is only one post under the turning chain. This extra "loop" is made by crossing over the front with the tail. Look in the red box, and you'll see the post for the next stitch. Above, the arrow points to the top loops of the second stitch (the loop we pulled the tail through).

Insert your hook in the next stitch, making sure the tail is above the hook. Yarn over and pull up a loop for the single crochet. Now the tail is trapped in this stitch. 

Yarn over and pull through both loops to complete the single crochet. Now you have the turning chain and the first single crochet, which together count as two single crochet.

Continuing with the tail, skip the next stitch and insert your hook in only the front loop of the following stitch.

Once you pull the tail through, you can see that the tail blends in with the skipped stitch. Just remember to insert the hook under the tail in the stitch when you work! 

Once you work a single crochet in each of these stitches, you can't see the tail under them! You could keep working across the row this way, but I like to zig-zag the tail through a few rows. We'll move it up in the next step:

In a single crochet row, this is as simple as moving the tail over your working yarn before making the next stitch. Let the tail fall to the back and keep working across.

Okay, newbies: So, if you've reached the end of your row, and you can't even find your turning chain, you made your stitches too tight. (That used to be me... I pulled my chains so tight that they would disappear into my work!) But if you can see that one little bar in the front, and can't get your hook in the stitch, follow along! 

There's two ways you can do this: Either turn your work the wrong direction (which can be confusing to you newbies), or, grab the end of your work and twist it slightly towards you. Hey, look! What's that thing? Oh...We found it! That's your turning chain!

You may find it a bit difficult to learn how to work into this stitch as you twist it around, and that's why it could be easier to turn the work in the wrong direction as you insert the hook. I've developed a habit of just turning my work sideways at the end of the row. After many years of working this way, it's become second nature to flip it one way a bit, make the stitch, flop it back, chain the turning chain, then turn the right direction.

Once you pull up the first loop of the stitch, you can turn your work back to the proper direction. No need to keep working backwards, or sideways, in my case!

And now, we're ready for the next row! Next time, we'll pick up the tail and continue weaving it in, plus learn to find the more elusive single crochet turning chain.

That was a lot of photos again!

That's it for this time...

Happy Crocheting!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

WBS Blanket Progress: Tips for Beginners and Beginning Squares

Let's learn as we begin the squares!

  In this post we'll work the first row of the square as we continue on the Nine Square Blanket for the World's Biggest Stocking. I'll show you how to work into that loose slipknot from the last post as if it's a chain stitch, beginners can learn the double crochet stitch, and we'll begin to weave in the tail as we work. I wanted to include the tutorial for the slipknot because when I was learning to crochet. I always found myself one chain short at the end of my foundation row. The book I learned from stated "The first loop after your slipknot counts as your first chain". I misunderstood, thinking that the actual knot was all they meant, and the loop counted as a chain. Looking back, I can laugh at myself now... But with only one book, no internet access, and no help, I was so frustrated!

  I've learned to properly count my chains since then, but I still have times that I accidentally count a stitch twice or skip one. And then there's always those times where you're making an afghan with a foundation chain of 500, and you reach the end of the first row to realize that you're 11 chains short... (Yes, you can fix that!) But that's another crochet tutorial for another day. The most important reason I work into the knot this way is because there isn't any knot! I love knot-less joins and can't stand knots anywhere in my work; so why not begin without a knot, too? And going hand-in-hand with the knot-less beginning, we'll start to learn how to weave in the tail as we work, which saves time and hides the end with no bumps or knots.

  Ready? Follow along as I begin the first row of one of the squares for the Nine Square Blanket. Please remember, this pattern is not mine; it's provided free by Yarnspirations for the World's Biggest Stocking! What I'm doing is providing help for beginners that may want to join the project. If you haven't already, you can download all the patterns for the World's Biggest Stocking here

Let's begin!

The foundation chain of each square is the same: 41. The first three chains from the hook will count as your first double crochet, so we'll be making the "second" stitch in the fourth chain from the hook. Yarn over from back to front to make a double crochet.

After you yarn over, insert the hook in the fourth chain from the hook. Beginners: Why do we work into the fourth chain, when a double crochet is equal to three chains in height? Because the fourth chain counts as the foundation chain for the base of the stitch!

For the next step of the double crochet: Yarn over, pull a loop through the stitch. You will now have three loops on your hook.

With three loops on the hook, yarn over. Remember to always yarn over from the back to the front during all steps of the stitch!

Pull through the first two loops on the hook. This will leave two loops remaining on the hook. (Beginners: This is known as a "half-closed double crochet", in case you ever read that in a pattern!)

You're almost done! With the two remaining loops on the hook, yarn over from back to front. 

Pull through the two remaining loops on the hook. You will now have only one loop on the hook. One double crochet complete!

Make a double crochet in each chain across, until you reach the slipknot that we will work into. (You will have a total of 39 dc's once the row is finished. You should have 38 when you stop here.)

When you insert the hook into the slipknot, you should see the front and back loops of the previous chain running into the center of this loop. For additional help, see each of these loops highlighted towards the end of last week's post.

Now, let's begin weaving in that tail while we work! If you notice your working yarn over your tail, then let's fix that before we continue.

Move the tail up and over the working yarn, keeping it behind the hook for the next step of the stitch.

Yarn over, pull through two loops. The tail will now be in trapped in the first loops of the stitch.

Before you yarn over to complete the stitch, bring the tail over the working yarn again.  You may sometimes see other crocheters yarn over the hook with the tail, instead of the way I'm doing it here. Go ahead and do that if you like! Both methods work, but I can still see the tail if I yarn over the hook with it. Most people don't notice it. I'm just super-picky like that. 

Yarn over, pull through the remaining two loops on the hook. Now the first row is finished! We'll work over the tail some more as we crochet the returning row, but we've gone through a lot of pictures! That's going to be all for this post!

Happy Crocheting!

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