Thursday, February 4, 2016

Popcorn Heart Garland

  I love crocheting the popcorn stitch! There's lots of variations of the "basic", or classic popcorn.The stitch is usually worked in double crochet, but you can make a popcorn using any of the basic stitches to create a different shape or texture. Then there's other styles of the stitch, such as the milk glass popcorn. And now, there's the "Popcorn Heart" stitch!

free crochet pattern, heart, popcorn stitch, garland, Valentine's Day

  Okay, maybe it's more of a pattern than a stitch... I've been trying to work it into rows, but I still can't get it to come out right. But there's only like, what... Less than two weeks until Valentine's Day! So, who wants to get into some big project right now? Let's make this cute and quick chain garland, and you'll still have time to decorate with it before the celebration is over. I'm going to continue to play around with turning the "popcorn heart" into something more than just a decoration, but why waste this for now?

free crochet pattern, hearts, garland, Valentine's Day,

  Also, that's why you're going to get this as more of a tutorial than a pattern. (Which is where I should warn you that there's about 20 pictures ahead.) I'm still in the experimental stage of this stitch. I haven't tested the gauge, and there's a few variations I couldn't decide on.  But you'll see below some examples that will give you an idea of what hook size(s) you'll want, and you can choose whichever variations you prefer. I haven't even thought about what difficulty it should be, so maybe you guys could give me some opinions!

  • If you want to give it a try, then you'll need to know the chain (ch), slip stitch (sl st), single crochet (sc) and double crochet (dc) stitches.

  • You'll also need to remove your hook and pick up a different loop, so you might want to grab a stitch marker (or two)! 

  • Gather an assortment of hooks that are close to the size of your yarn manufacturer's recommended size. You can use any size yarn you want!

crochet hooks, supplies, free crochet pattern, hearts

*Want the written directions first? Sure! Chain your desired number of stitches, plus three or four (your choice). Slip stitch in the second or third chain from the hook, chain 1 (counts as sc). Now, all in that same stitch: 1 single crochet, 1 chain, 2 double crochet, 2 chain, 2 double crochet, 1 chain, 2 sc. Take the hook out of the working loop, put it back into the first single crochet (ch-1), pick the working loop back up and pull the loop through. Go from back to front, then front to back around the middle slip stitch (in and out of the ch-2 spaces), and slip stitch. Anchor with a slip stitch to the last chain made before heart, or skip one and go into the stitch before it (easier!).

Now do you want that tutorial to make more sense of those variations?

First, you'll need to decide how far apart you want your hearts to be on the chain. (For the tutorial version, I'll be working them 15 chains apart.) Chain the desired number of chains, plus three or four. (Three chains in example, with first chain marked - you'll see why I mark that later!)

Decide how you want to work the point of your heart. You can begin in the second or third chain from the hook. (Red/white examples worked in second chain, burgundy worked in third.)

Make a slip stitch, but do it loosely! If your tension is too tight, the point of your heart will turn into a tiny nub that will disappear under the popcorn.

Chain one (to count as the first single crochet), and make a single crochet in the same space. Hint: If you think you'll have trouble finding that beginning chain-one again, mark it now! You'll need to work into it again later.

Chain one, and make two double crochet in the same space.

Chain two, slip stitch in the same space. (Half of the heart is complete!)

Now, you'll make (almost) all those stitches in reverse order, in the same space. Chain two, two double crochet, chain one, two single crochet. Now, let's turn it into a popcorn heart!

You're going to remove your hook from the working loop. Don't be afraid to pull up a bunch of slack in that working loop before you take the hook out! It will prevent the stitch from pulling out, and it will help you in the end. Trust me.

Insert your hook into the beginning chain-one.

Place the working loop back on the hook, pulling any slack back out of it. Beginner tip: Don't twist that stitch when you put it back on the hook! When you pull your working yarn, it should slide over the front of the hook. If it goes to the back, your loop is backwards.

You're not making a stitch here, so don't yarn over for anything! Just pull that working loop right through the beginning chain. This is the part where you can pull your stitch as tight as you want. The tighter you pull this stitch, the more your popcorn will "pop" out and stand out on the chain.

And to make the heart "pop" the most, let's turn it into a popcorn "ball"! What I mean is turn it into a ball stitch of sorts, which you can see by following this link. Insert the hook from back to front in the first chain-2 space.

Now, insert it from front to back in the next chain-2.

Slip stitch through the chain spaces, and pull the stitch tight.

Finally, here's where you get to make another choice, and I'll explain why I mark that previous chain: You need to anchor the heart to the chain with a slip stitch, or it just flops around. I like making things the difficult way to go into the very next chain, but working all those stitches into the previous chain makes this one tighten up, and it can be nearly impossible to insert your hook in the stitch. I mark this stitch so I can use the marker to pull slack back in the chain, but it's still really difficult to twist your hook around the popcorn and make it into the stitch. It's a lot easier to just skip this tight chain, and slip stitch in the next one.

free crochet pattern, popcorn heart garland

Now you can chain your desired number of stitches again, and repeat the steps for more hearts.

I began working the hearts with a size K - 6.50 MM, and continued working the chain with the same size. When I got to the next heart, I switched to a size I - 5.50 MM. The heart is only a tiny bit smaller, and although it feels thicker, the appearance doesn't change much.

crochet, gauge, hearts

And I worked the next heart with a size H - 5.00 hook. Again, it's only a bit smaller than the last one, but this time the shape changed some, too. This third heart is almost as thick as it is wide!

crochet, free pattern, hearts, popcorn stitch

For the white garland, I worked the anchoring slip stitch into the second chain from the popcorn. It doesn't pull the heart as tight against the chain, but it makes it so much easier to work the stitch!

crochet, heart, garland, free pattern,

At first glance, the pattern seems to remain the same. But if you skip a stitch to make your anchoring slip stitch, then you'll need to think about how and where you'll be using your garland. If it's wrapped around something, the hearts will stick out pretty easily. If you try to hang it freely - let's say, like across an open doorway, the hearts will tend to flop downwards. Which is cool, if you're hanging it up high! But, honestly, it looks kinda dumb if you hang it that way at eye level.

crochet, free pattern, heart, garland

The burgundy garland was made by beginning in the third chain from the hook, for a pointier point. ("Pointier" is a word... Wouldn't you think it should be "more pointy"? Grammar aside, I tried working into the fourth chain for the pointiest point, but I didn't like it.) I also skipped to the second chain for the anchoring slip stitch.

crochet, tassels, heart garland

Since the hearts on my red garland stay put pretty nicely, I decided to add a tassel of all the colors to one end, so I could hang it vertically. I think you could do this too, or add it to both ends, or even attach more tassels on the chain between the hearts... I just don't like it. I like sleek and simple, and don't want a bunch of tasseled decorations around my house. I think I'm gonna take that back off.

thread crochet, hearts, free pattern, garland

And for the Grande Finale, I started working the pattern in thread. You can, too, if you're crazy enough. (LOL) No, I think you really could, if you enjoy working with thread! I started out with a hook that was too big, so I experimented with making three double crochet where you should make two (left). But, it made the heart a bit too wide, so I went back to the original pattern (right). I think I just need to switch to a smaller hook, but my hands are getting tired! I'm setting this one aside for another day.

free crochet pattern, hearts, popcorn stitch, garland

Before we end, let me give you one last warning about skipping that chain... I know the lighting is horrible, but hopefully you can get a good idea of this example by the silhouettes of the hearts: The garland at the right is the red one, made by anchoring in the very next chain. See how the hearts hang at a cute angle? Now, can you see at the bottom and top of the branch where the burgundy and white garlands (skipped a chain) aren't wrapped all the way around? FLOP.

Happy Crocheting!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mittens Monday!

  (To those of you reading this today [Sunday], no, I didn't forget what day it is. The hubby and I are still trying to fix a leaking shower drain, so I'm grabbing the opportunity to publish this while he's at the hardware store again. If we get it fixed tonight, I'm taking the day off tomorrow - and a shower, lol. Pretend it's Monday for me, okay? On the bright side, I'm learning all about P-traps, plumber's putty and "pipe dope".) (And why is it called a P-trap, when it's shaped like an "S"?)

  I am the weird one. Something I always heard when growing up, but not something that ever bothered me. Because I wasn't "weird" as in picking your nose in the class photo weird (okay, wait, I used to be able to bend my thumb backwards); I was always into something that nobody else was interested in. To me, I wasn't "the weird one"... I just had different hobbies and talents than everybody else, and they were weird for not understanding - I mean, after all, I can't understand why anybody likes basketball, but I don't go around calling people weird for it, do I? I like challenges. And after all these years of hearing everybody say it's too hard to crochet mittens, I'm wondering why I would ever listen to anybody's opinion.

mittens, crochet, crochet for charity, donate

(Ya'll know I don't mean any offense by that, right? I'm highlighting the fact that I'm different here.)

  In the last post, I was showing you all my finished pieces intended for donation, and shared my mittens in progress. And... Oh, no...(lol) I think I've found my niche. Through all the projects I start and struggle to complete, or don't finish at all, I am now enthralled with making (and completing!) mittens. A simple scarf that should only take a day to complete may become a work in progress for a month, but mittens seems to fly off my hook effortlessly.

mittens, crochet, free pattern, charity

  And, I've become a little obsessed with browsing the Bridge and Beyond blog. I came across this post where Sandy says "you and I clap and dance in the streets when we receive mittens". In my previous post, I was saying a bit jokingly that I should rededicate the Scarf of the Month to making mittens... But I'm not kidding so much anymore. After writing that, I found some inspiration in another post on their blog. Yes, every little bit helps. But if I have this special passion and ability to hook up a ton of mittens in no time, why not use it to do even more?

  I am just one person... One person that finds it difficult to make 12 scarves in a year, like I planned. But I'm one person that finds it easy to work up one of the most needed items - mittens. If I can complete two pairs of mittens in one week, then let's see how many I can make in a year! (Not bragging, but I also completed another scarf, a hat, started a Valentine's Day project, too... Maybe I'm just running more efficiently than usual.)

  Disregard that thought in parenthesis... It's negative. No, I'm going to look at it this way: My ability to finish mittens is inspiring a feeling of accomplishment, which is fueling more productivity. So, against my better judgement, I'm going to start a new theme, and see if I can stick to it. "Mittens Monday" is going to be my challenge to keep making mittens, and hopefully not get bored with it.

mittens, crochet, yarn, charity

  am just one person. One person with a voice that's heard not only here in my own country, but all across the globe - about 10,000 times a month. (I know you hear me... Mwa, ha ha ha ha!.. Sorry. Told'ya I'm weird.) So, maybe you can't make two pairs of mittens in a week... I doubt I'll keep up with that speed, either. But even if you make one pair in a year... Or maybe a scarf, a hat, or even a cotton washcloth... Just one person making one item to help another, you're still one person helping another. It's something we could use more of in this world.

  The fun thing about the mittens I'm making right now is: I'm cleaning out my yarn stash. I found some random skeins of bulky with no labels, presumably for some forgotten project. I thought they were all the same yarn, until I started working with it. So, what was going to be one of my next free patterns is going to be one of many free patterns. Each pair I work up with a different yarn needs just a little bit of change, so I'm going to stick with the same basic form and see what happens. Instead of publishing one pattern with a bunch of variations, it seems easier to write a different one for each kind of yarn.

bulky, yarn, crochet, mittens

  The not-so-fun part for me: If only I had the foresight to not loose my yarn labels back when I was a beginner! I know some of it is from way back then, because one skein is the stuff I bought to knit a blanket with. I wasn't even crocheting yet! Some of it's newer, and I can backtrack what it is by going through my saved labels... Or maybe just searching the blog. But for the oldest skein, I get the "fun" job of tracking down a yarn that not only is label-less; I have no clue where I bought it, what brand it is, or if they even still make it. Hey, I said I like a challenge, right?

Country Loom, yarn, bulky, crochet

  The (maybe-not-so) fun part for you is: Maybe you'll get to experiment, too! Once I get the patterns posted, consider looking in your own stash for some bulky yarn. Try creating your own pair of mittens using the pattern. But... A warning to beginners, or anybody that has trouble working with textured yarn: Check out the last photo, and you'll see this yarn isn't the easiest to work with! Search your stash and see what you find! If your mittens turn out to big or small, think about sending them for a donation. After all, there's people of all shapes and sizes out there needing a helping hand. The gloves I was designing to fit myself came out too long, but now I know where I need to fix them. Someone else out there can enjoy the "mistake" that's only sized wrong for me, and I get to learn from my mistakes. It's not wasted time; it's just earned experience.

crochet, mittens, bulky, yarn

...And you'll need a bit of experience to work with this yarn! It's bumpy, fuzzy, and splits like crazy. I wouldn't recommend it for a newbie, or anybody with vision problems, or for those with anger issues. So if you have some trouble with finding the stitches in all that fluff, you might want to wait for an easier pattern - then you can see how simple making mittens can be! Can you work in the round? Can you increase and decrease? Can you crochet through two stitches at one time? If yes to all three, then you can make mittens, too! Now, how many of you are willing to lend a helping hand?

Happy Crocheting!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Helping Hands

  Will I ramble today? Probably, but I'd like to explain that later for my faithful readers... (I'll put it at the end, so you can skip it if you don't care.) Let's get to the main problem: I'm a little stuck in a situation right now, so I'm trying to make the best of it. Honestly? I know I told you guys I'd be taking care of it over the holidays, but only some of my Scarves of the Month have been sent off for donations. The remainder that were supposed to go to Bridge and Beyond in Ohio... Well, they're still sitting here, just like me.

scarf, crochet, free pattern, charity, donation

  The Other Half is still driving my car. After the surprise-potential-buyer fiasco, he took the tag off his truck, and there it sits. I made him a deal that if he sold his truck and let me use the money to fix my truck, I'll give him my car. Pretty good deal for him, right? The car is worth more than the value of both our trucks put together, but I just don't want my car. I hate driving it so much, that I don't. I'm a confident driver in most vehicles, but for some reason I'm full of anxiety when driving the car. And I keep stomping the floor where the clutch should be and grabbing for a stick that doesn't exist, which adds to my anxiety. Even if he wasn't driving it to work every day, I'd probably still sit here, waiting for the weekend to come so he can drive me to town.

I hate that. (But at least I get to crochet while he's driving!)

  So, if it had power steering, I'd drive the hubby's truck and go mail my scarves. Since I can't turn the wheel, it's a little hard to drive, lol. (Ah, ha! Maybe that's why he's still driving the car - He hurt his hand, and I bet he just doesn't want to admit that it hurts to drive! Men...) We were supposed to go to the post office last weekend, but an emergency repair got in the way. Instead of sitting here grumbling about it, I'm doing something better with the extra time. I hopped on the Bridge and Beyond blog to get in contact with them, and I realized that I could provide an extra helping hand... Or two.

crochet, gloves, charity, donation

  *Side note to self: Remember to contact them again! I've been having computer/internet trouble like CRAZY! It's been a week since I used the contact form on their blog, and I haven't heard back. Something tells me they didn't get my message. From what I've seen in her posts, this lady is on top of stuff. I've sent countless emails and written comments over the past weeks that just disappear (everywhere, not just on their blog), while other stuff still works fine.

  Anyway, some of the things I want to donate are a little off of their specifications, so I need to know what they do and don't want. I've also read before that Sandy has pet allergies, so I'd like to make sure she's aware I do have pets, even though I'm going to launder everything one more time prior to sending. I always clean my donations with non-allergenic detergent, and my laundry "room" (shed) is outside, so stuff goes from the laundry to the car - No contact with pets after washing. But still, I had one lady that knew I have cats, and had a "reaction" to a gift... Nobody else (some with allergies) has ever had a problem. I still let people know, just in case.

  While I wait for the opportunity to get to the post office, I'm trying to finish an extra small item each day. Okay, so I'm really finishing an item every other day, because it took me a day to make each of those gloves... But the gloves started the mission! To tell the truth, I was designing them for me. But I messed up a little. Not accounting for the stretch of the stitch, the fingers of the gloves are way too long for my little hands. I'm really hoping that Sandy will accept them as a donation, because they're a perfect color, nice and warm, and would surely fit a man with longer hands.

crochet, hat,

  I made a hat after that, with the remainder of the yarn from a scarf. I missed a stitch in one round that didn't cause a problem until three rounds later, so I had to rip it out. Another one-day project sat overnight and became a two-day affair. I'm still thinking of ripping it back to make it a little smaller and longer... Just like the gloves, I didn't consider how stretchy it would be.

  After finishing the hat, I started some mittens. I've never crocheted mittens before, so I think they could be better. I've never worn mittens, either, so I really have no clue. The Other Half hails from a snowy place, and he says they're fine. Which, of course, makes me think that they probably couldn't be more wrong. (You should see the monstrosity of a ski mask I made him while following his requests!) Still, they fit over a thumb, and stay on a hand, so I guess they work as mittens, right?

crochet, mittens, charity, donation

  I'm still working a little at a time on the pile of WIP's I cleaned out of the chair. Mostly, I stuffed them in a plastic bin. At least they're off the chair! No, seriously... At least I'm getting these smaller items for donation finished, and they're not just becoming more UFO's. And the bigger, more labor-intensive projects, well... They'll get done, a little at a time. I'm a bit overwhelmed right now, so I'm finding it difficult to finish large projects.

  Being able to add some extra items to my donation seems to be more important right now. Not only am I more motivated about the smaller projects, I'm also cleaning out more of that yarn stash. After reading on their blog that gloves and mittens are severely needed, I have an idea to re-dedicate the Scarf of the Month program to making gloves this year. I can finish a pair of gloves faster than a scarf, it takes less yarn, and if they're needed more, then I shall provide. I just need to get it right this time. I'm off to crochet more!

...But will I make it to the post office? We might not be able to drive out by this weekend! (I have a friend that lives close by, and happens to work practically-right-next-to the post office. If I can't get there on Saturday, then hopefully I can get him to help!)

flooding, cold weather, crochet

  *Hey, what about that explanation for those that care?! (Lol) Please pardon my disorganized writing/thoughts right now! I'm still running on coffee and three hours of sleep a day or less, and it's taking a toll on my concentration - I've noticed, so I'm sure you do, too. It's not insomnia, it's insufficient time. If only there was a drug that added about 4 hours to a day - I think I'd take it.

  And then there's the weather... After the last post where I shared our morning of frost and an afternoon in the 80's, it has rained.

flooding, cold weather, crochet

And rained.

flooding, cold weather, pets, dog, crochet

 And... Rained.

plarn, flooding, cold weather, crochet

  Trying to work while exhausted in this gloom; the constant sound of the rain on the metal roof further dulling the senses... And missing my music since my stereo's acting up (I think we got zapped by lightning)... It's hard not to go into a daze, stare out the window, and wish for sunshine. Or a boat. Or ice skates, since there's a chance that it will freeze again this weekend, and the water hasn't gone down... I'll need an extra scarf!

Happy Crocheting!

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