Monday, January 18, 2016

September Scarf of the Month - Chocolate Pocket Scarf

  The Chocolate Pocket Scarf uses basic stitches worked into front and back loops to create simple texture. This is a great pattern for beginners to practice  the double crochet stitch and working into the front and back loops of stitches! The simple pattern repeat makes this a great project to take with when you're on the go. Directions and photo tips are given for the crab stitch border shown, or beginners can follow the instructions for working an easier basic single crochet border.

crochet, free pattern, scarf, pocket, double crochet, easy

  Make this scarf with the pockets as written, work up an extra long scarf without pockets, or save some yarn and bind off early - This pattern leaves you many choices! The finished length of the version I made with pockets is 78" (195 cm) long. The width as written is 6" (15 cm). You can easily add more stitches for a wider scarf, but this pattern is plenty warm and cozy as-is!

crochet, free pattern, scarf, pocket, beginner, easy, double crochet

Skill level:
crochet, skill level, easy

Worsted weight (4) acrylic yarn
-I used Red Heart Super Saver in Coffee... *In an effort to clean out my stash, I'm using what's left of a jumbo skein, and I still have a ton left over. (See the picture before the border tutorial to see how much is left!) One regular size skein will be fine for this project. 
Crochet hook size K-9.00MM  or size needed to obtain gauge
Yarn needle
Stitch markers (optional, but recommended)

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

free pattern, crochet, scarf, gauge

Chain-3 at beginning of rows always counts as one double crochet.

Use stitch markers to mark pattern repeat. If you choose to not use stitch markers, something like a saftey pin may be desired for creating the pockets.

Tips and pictures included for help with creating the pockets and working the border!


free pattern, scarf, stitch markers

Stitches and abbreviations:
Chain (ch)
Foundation Double crochet (FDC) - optional
Double crochet (dc)
Slip Stitch (sl st)
Single crochet (sc) - for beginner's border
Reverse single crochet/crab stitch (rev sc) - for advanced border

Back loop (b/L)
Front loop (f/L)

Begin/beginning (beg)
Space (sp)
Stitch (st)
Repeat (rep)

free pattern, crochet, scarf, pocket, double crochet, easy, beginner


Row 1:
Chain 4, make 17 FDC. (Or, you can ch 20, and make 1 dc in each chain beginning in the 4th ch from the hook.) (18 dc)

Row 2:
Ch 3, turn. 1 dc in each of the remaining 17 FDC.

Row 3:
Ch 3, turn. 1 dc in b/L of each of the remaining 17 dc.

Row 4:
Repeat Row 3.

Row 5:
Ch 3, turn. 1 dc in the f/L of each of the remaining 17 dc.

Row 6: 
Repeat Row 5.

Row 7:
Ch 3, turn. 1 dc in each of the remaining 17 dc.

Row 8:
Repeat Row 7.

Row 9... (122)
Repeat Rows 3 through 8 to the desired length. Do not bind off; continue to work border and create pockets.

Example repeats pattern 19 times.

free pattern, crochet, scarf, easy, double crochet

If creating pockets, you may want to count your rows and fold them over now, pinning in place with a locking stitch marker of safety pin.

If not creating pockets but you wish to add a border, you can follow these directions without folding the ends over. 

(Advanced border)
To create first pocket - Fold the last 10 rows of the pattern over the next 10 rows. Slip stitch to the 20th side post.
Ch 1 (does not count as stitch). *Make 2 rev sc in each side post, working through both thicknesses to corner of pocket. Make an additional st in the corner sp. Rev sc in the space between each post across. Make 2 more rev sc in corner sp.* 2 rev sc in each post sp up length of scarf, stopping to fold scarf over for pocket at the 20th space from end.  Repeat from * to *, then work 2 rev sc in each sp to beginning ch-1. Join with a sl st to beg rev sc. (See pictures for tips!)

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*I removed the stitch marker from the joining space of the pocket, but here you can see the other marker still in the corner space. Holding the sides together while creating the pockets will save you the headache of missing a space!

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*Once you join the spaces to create the pocket, you will chain one before working the reverse single crochet border, working into the same space. The chain-1 does not count as a stitch, unlike in the beginner's border.   

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*You may still want to mark the chain-1! Once you work the first reverse single crochet, it will twist around. And working into the beginning stitch to join can be difficult! Mark the chain-1 before the beginning stitch so the marker won't be in the way when you join.

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*Work an extra stitch in the corner space before working across.

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*After working across, work an extra stitch in the corner space.

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*An extra tip for beginners working the basic single crochet border: You will be working in reverse order of these directions. The second pocket for the advanced border will be the first pocket for you.

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*Here's where you can cheat at joining the reverse single crochet. Remember, we're going to skip that difficult-to-find beginning chain, and join in the first rev sc made.

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*Remove the hook from the stitch, and flip the pattern over to the reverse side. Place the working loop back on the hook, and insert the hook in the beginning reverse single crochet as for a basic single crochet. Slip stitch to join, and you're done!

...Well, almost. You still have to bind off and weave in those ends!   

(Beginner's border)
Ch 1 (counts as fist sc). *Make 2 sc in each post space up to the 20th space from the end. To create pocket: Fold over end, work 2 sc through both thicknesses to corner. Make additional sc in corner sp. Make 1 sc in sp between each post across. Make additional sc in corner sp.* Repeat from * to *. Make 2 sc in each remaining space before beginning ch-1. Make 1 sc in same sp as beg ch-1, join with a sl st to ch-1.

Bind off, weave in ends.

**The directions for the border made sense while I was creating the scarf, but after writing it out, I saw room for confusion. Just to be clear: Each pocket will not be 20 rows long - Just 10 rows for the front side of the pocket, and the ten rows that create the back side of the pocket will remain on the body side of the scarf . 

***One last tip!! I find this yarn to be too scratchy for scarves! So, why am I using it for scarves? Because I've found the miracle cure! It's a well-known tip that you can soften scratchy acrylics by using some hair conditioner, but I may have found the best one out there! After running out of the usual cheap stuff, I grabbed my own conditioner to soften some yarn... And the result is: Amazing! It's still cheap to buy, too! And unlike the other cheap stuff I've been using, the yarn stays soft, even after washing it in the laundry without it. Or, you can just keep washing it with this conditioner, so it will be forever scented with its wonderful coconut-y tropical scent... Either way, it will be awesomely soft!
(And no, they're not paying me to say that. It just works!)

crochet, free pattern, scarf, pocket, easy, beginner, double crochet, simple texture

Happy Crocheting!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Crochet Hooks and Knitting

  I told everybody I'd get back to knitting some day, and it's finally happened! Well... I should say it's happening. Maybe - It's starting to happen? I seem to be accomplishing the craft of knitting, although it appears to need much improvement. Once upon a time, I could produce a finished knitted project that didn't look like a kindergartner's first attempt, but my tension and technique is pretty rusty.

crochet, knitting, crochet cast on

  Still, I'm excited to be knitting again! I have all these vintage needles and all this yarn, and the only thing I ever do is crochet. It's nice to sit down with a different craft for a change. I've got a lot of practicing to do before I'm back to making anything other than dishcloths, but you have to (re)start somewhere! I think one of the biggest mistakes I made was picking up these newer plastic needles. They don't glide so well with this Red Heart Super Saver, and I can tell it's throwing my tension off.

crochet, knitting, crochet cast on, tension, plastic needles

  So, the biggest thing that's been holding me back from knitting again was casting on. Not only did I forget how to do it by hand, I always hated trying to measure out the correct amount of yarn. I would either run out of yarn before I cast on all my stitches, or I would end up with an extra foot of a tail. Plus, I'll admit that my casting on never looked very nice... Some loops too big, others too tight, and once in a while there'd be a twisted one... Yeah, not casting on is the part I love about crochet.

  Ta-da! Thanks to Jenn over at Roving Crafters, now I can cast on with crochet! It's perfect for me! There's actually a whole series of tutorials in the post for how to knit with your crochet hooks, which I tried, but it's not for me. No offense to Jenn... The tutorials are awesome, and they helped me remember which way is "knit" and which is "purl". But, I tried to knit with one knitting needle and a crochet hook, then I tried with two crochet hooks. Jenn makes it look so easy! Maybe it's because I was once a knitter? Or just because I'm such an inexperienced knitter? The whole experience was very awkward for me. I found that I prefer to keep knitting with two needles, but I LOVE being able to cast on with a crochet hook.

crochet, knitting, crochet cast on, Roving Crafters

  So, if you're a crocheter that isn't a knitter... Yet... Then stop looking at my horrid attempt at becoming a knitter again, and go check out the tutorials! (And don't even try to say something nice about my knitting like "It doesn't look that bad", because I'm stretching it into a better shape for the photos, and cutting out the worst of it to try to keep a little of my dignity... Oops, there it went... Oh well. The best thing about that swatch is the crochet cast-on!) I'm going to have a go at fixing these stitches that I dropped, but I bet I'll be ripping the whole thing out soon. My purls are too tight and my edges are wonky, but at least I'm doing it again!

Oh, wait... Does this mean my pile of WIP's will be growing some more? Darn it, Jenn, I'm supposed to be downsizing! (LOL)

crochet, knitting, crochet cast on, dropped stitches

Happy Knitting!    
(Thanks to Roving Crafters!)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Holidays and Plarn

  The kids and I had a little out-of-the-norm fun over the holiday season. I have a great new pattern that I'm working on for their room, and it's eating up my whole stash of grocery bags for plarn (plastic yarn). Now, the Boy doesn't mind helping me turn the bags into plarn; he actually says he likes it. The Kid on the other hand... I know she hates it, even though she doesn't directly say so. I can't even pay her to help me cut up bags. But even Little-Miss-You-Can't-Pay-Me was willing to put in some work over the holiday, and we managed to turn it into a new, weird family tradition.

plarn, plastic yarn, crochet, finger crochet, recycling plastic bags

  I usually prefer cutting my plarn using the single-strand method, but this time I'm cutting and joining with the "loop" method. It's easier for the kids, and faster for me. Plus, we're making super-thick loops by just cutting the bags in half. (And by "we", I mean "me", because there's no way I'm letting them handle the super-sharp rotary cutter.) Before beginning on the pattern for their room, I had them sit down with some scissors and help me make some material for testing. The resulting multi-colored, ridiculously thick chain of plarn became our special "holiday" decoration.

plarn, plastic yarn, recycling plastic bags

  To dive into a side subject for some explanation: I don't celebrate Christmas, so the kids usually spend it with other parts of the family that do. This year, they were stuck with Mom, so we decided to "celebrate" Festivus, which I also don't really celebrate.

  Many people believe that Festivus came to life from an episode of the T.V. sitcom "Seinfeld", but it only became known because of it. In fact, Festivus was being celebrated long before the show ever existed. It was the father of a writer from the series that first invented Festivus, not something just made up in the show. However, that doesn't change the fact that it's still a completely made up "holiday". From the "Airing of Grievances" to the "Feats of Strength", writer Dan O'Keefe's family celebrated it all a bit differently than what the public saw on TV... And there never was a "Festivus Pole". The "real" Festivus involved a clock being nailed to the wall in a bag... The purpose of which was not to be known by children. (Read all about the original holiday in the book "The Real Festivus: The True Story Behind America's Favorite Made-up Holiday" by Dan J. O'Keefe.)

  I didn't have a suitable clock, and I didn't really want to stick another nail in my wall, so I decided to roll with it and make our own tradition. By the time all was said and done, it wasn't really "Festivus" at all... It was just our own thing, which seems to be more in the spirit of the original holiday. We used the test plarn to crochet a multi-colored chain (and by "we", again, I mean "me", because although they're trying, they don't crochet... Yet), then we decorated a palm tree out front as our "Festivus Tree". The end result of the test material was a 65-foot long plarn atrocity that couldn't be more perfect for our newly-made family tradition... Which may or may not leave a few neighbors wondering what we were thinking, but that's "not for them to know"!

plarn, garland, Festivus Tree

  Now, on to a slight rant: Why I decided to teach them about Festivus, and not put on a fake Christmas just for them. (Also, why I really hate Facebook.) Many people see this made up holiday as a mockery of their own beliefs. The point of Festivus isn't to mock religious holidays; it's to mock the commercialism and greed that has taken over the Holiday Season in some cultures - or at least, to try escaping it. No matter if it's Christmas, Hanukkah, or one of the many other holidays celebrated over the Season and the rest of the year, the purpose of a holiday is usually to remember a sacrifice, hardship, or suffering, and to give back in return for it. To have an unselfish spirit and a giving heart. It seems like more often than not, that purpose is being forgotten.

  Every year, I watch the people that celebrate the Holidays. Some have it right, and that's nice to see. But many others push and shove in the name of a sale; fight over the latest toys their kids want; try to outspend each other on useless doodads and fancy feasts just to look better, while some out there don't have a home or a meal for the holiday. Kids rip open yards of colorful paper just to toss their new thing aside for the next thing... Then fight over it or forget about it later. Stores cry "Shop our sales for the Holidays!", all while doing their best to keep their opinions about which they celebrate neutral, so they don't offend anybody. And it all generates tons upon tons of garbage that overflows trash cans and landfills.

plarn, plastic yarn, recycling grocery bags, crochet

  Why am I ranting about it? Because this year, a few people went so far as to tell me they'll be "un-friending" me on Facebook for not saying "Merry Christmas". It has pushed me over the edge. These same people all shared photos such as: Christmas trees barely recognizable behind piles of presents, lines in Walmart, beer-can Christmas trees, and in one case, their kids strangling each other on a pile of wrapping paper. Some contained comments about being broke or not being able to wait for their tax return. It didn't make me want to wish anyone a Merry Christmas. It sickened me and made me sad, so I stayed off of Facebook. And then they were offended by that.

  Here's my opinion about it: I hope you had a Happy Whatever You Celebrate. And have a Happy New Year, too. I truly mean that. But, you don't need my wishes to make it a good one. If I know you celebrate Christmas, then I'll tell you "Merry Christmas" when I talk to you. Please don't be offended if I didn't think to jump on social media to personally say it to everyone over the holiday season, while I was spending time with my kids. If you celebrate Hanukkah and you wish me a happy one, I won't be offended. I'll be happy that you thought to wish me well, and I'll wish you one back. I honestly don't know much about how Kwanzaa is celebrated, so if I found out that's what you observe, I would ask you to tell me about it. Then I would wish you a joyous one.

  And that's the biggest lesson I'm trying to teach my kids; not just for the Holiday Season, but for every day in life. People are different. Not everybody is trying to offend someone, they just live a different lifestyle than you. So instead of celebrating a fake, meaningless Christmas and spending money I don't have on toys they don't need, we recycled a ton of grocery bags while spending time as a family. We talked about Greek mythology, healthy eating, civics, the President (with side subjects of gun control / safety), rap music, charity and cats; they both sat down with crochet hooks and worked on learning to chain; we had some awesome carbonara pasta for dinner. We had a little fun trying to throw our plarn garland into our "Festivus Tree", but required the previously-missing Other Half's superior strength to succeed before the sun went down.

plarn, Festivus, crochet

  So there we were, all out in the yard admiring our (horrendous) creation, and nobody was complaining about not having toys or a Christmas tree. Nobody was upset that they didn't get wished a Merry Christmas. Nobody (but me) noticed that I haven't trimmed the dead fronds off that palm tree in years... Everyone was proud of the hard work they had done, and the chain reminded them of that every time they went outside. But nobody felt the need to jump on Facebook and start sharing pictures with the world.

  It was a Merry Christmas, whether we "celebrated" it or not. Because we made the most of our day(s). We learned new things, and made new traditions. We made it a Merry Christmas/Festivus/New Year, turning one day of celebration into a week of opportunities. If your holidays weren't happy, then it's not because I didn't wish it for you. If someone else ruined your day, then I'm sorry; that always sucks. But maybe your holidays weren't happy because you're too busy looking for someone to say it to you; give it to you, instead of making the best for yourself and wishing the same for everyone else. Perhaps that's the even bigger lesson that I'm teaching my kids.

Happy Crocheting!
And Happy New Year!

finger crochet, plarn, plastic yarn, crochet without a hook

Speaking of BIG lessons, how about giant plarn and finger crochet? Coming soon... This will be interesting!

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