Friday, September 16, 2016

Wrinkles, Sprinkles and Rip van Winkle

  I'm sorry that I'm writing another post about my project with Caron Cakes... I can't help it! Each time I return to work on the shawl, I feel like a little kid with a new toy. But I promise this is more than just a look-at-my-pretty-yarn post: It has substance.

  There is a bit of unfairness in bragging about Cakes. This yarn isn't available everywhere internationally, or even locally. It can only be found in Michael's stores, unless you want to pay a ridiculous markup being charged on some auction sites. Thanks to an article shared by a friend, I learned that the company has hopes to fix that... Eventually. And the best news of all: The production of Caron Cakes will continue! So I hope if you haven't, then you will get a chance to work with Cakes. Eventually.

yarn, Caron Cakes, crochet, shawl, WIP

  Until then, there are plenty of other color-changing yarns out there that can amuse us all. I think that watching colors unfold from a skein can be just as appealing to the senses as the many possibilities of texture available in crochet and knitting. When you get a happy surprise in those colors, it can make a little piece of your work feel extra-special. I was loving these colors, but my first attempts at a design failed... Trying to increase the multiple from a formerly successful pattern became a wrinkled, ruffled, increased-too-quickly mess:

yarn, Caron Cakes, crochet, shawl, WIP

  Working the original pattern had caused a puckered failure, so I was lost. My disappointment became determination, and I eventually figured out a design that worked with the same stitches, but it changed the shape of the shawl. I was happy to create a successful flat design, though I felt like I had settled for less. I wanted to keep that same shape, however, my brain just can't make it happen right now. Oh well. Work on with what works. I tried it on and asked Rip van Winkle what he thought. "Yup" was the response. I felt like my design just wasn't exciting enough. And that's when I found it...

yarn, Caron Cakes, crochet, shawl, WIP

  You'll know it when you find it: It's in that skein that has every perfect color. You'll still pick a favorite color out of them. And when you find it, you'll get a little jolt of sensation as that color unfolds from the skein. Even if you don't like the shape/stitch/feel of your project, that one color will make you feel a little better about it. And if already love your work, then you might even experience a feeling known as a yarn high.

  I was undecided about which color in my Caron Cake was my favorite, but it was a toss-up between the lightest pastel and the darkest jewel tone. I felt that jolt of sensation when I found the sprinkles on the Cake... Little dots of the darker shade mixed into the pastel. Since I can't decide which one I like more, gimme more of those sprinkles! That's my favorite: Both.

yarn, Caron Cakes, crochet, shawl, WIP

  Of course, a thunderstorm had to roll through and I couldn't find a good light setting to continue capturing the true colors. As I worked those sprinkles into my project, some disappeared and left me further disappointed. But others shone through the design, so you can still see the sprinkles on the Cake.

yarn, Caron Cakes, crochet, shawl, WIP

  As the simple striping continued to leave me unimpressed, I tried it on again. With the project growing, I was able to drape it fully over my shoulders and find a cool effect that happened with the striping... I asked Rip van Winkle if he noticed it. "Nope". He faded off into another nap as my excitement faded again.

yarn, Caron Cakes, crochet, shawl, WIP

  In the end, the sprinkles melted into a new color. I came down from my yarn high, and realized that there's no reason to be unhappy with the design. A beautiful, lacy stitch became repetitive to me, and the simple triangle shape wasn't amusing me enough. Rip van Winkle's critiquing... Well, let's face it: He's not critiquing at all; he's a truck driver and he really doesn't care about a shawl. I should stop asking his opinion. Finding the sprinkles on the Cake helped to reawaken my senses, and I sorted out the differences between dislike, disinterest, and boredom.

yarn, Caron Cakes, crochet, shawl, WIP

  C'mon, what's wrong with me? How could you get bored with a beauty like that? I'm sure this a pattern that the crochet world is going to love. And I know exactly what's wrong with me: I'm going stir-crazy. Rip van Winkle is still driving my car, and we haven't fixed his truck or mine yet. Every day I'm stuck here, with more and more thunderstorms every afternoon. And he's the only one I can ask "how does it look" and receive an immediate response.

yarn, Caron Cakes, crochet, shawl, WIP

  His feedback is as muddy as our yard. I'm not blaming him or expecting any different. He's not a yarn junkie, a fashionista, or anywhere near fashionable. I'm asking the wrong person. It's one of those lessons you have to learn as a crafter: Not everybody will appreciate your craft. It doesn't always mean they don't like what you made. It's just that they have no opinion, so you shouldn't look for their approval. Look for the sprinkles on the Cake instead, and you might find a sweeter ending.

Happy Crocheting!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Say No to Knots

  It's an inevitable event that all yarn crafters will have to face: A knot in your beautiful skein of yarn. If you've purchased a hank or bobbin that needs to be wound into a ball, then you'll find it before you begin working your project. But if you're working from a center-pull skein, it can put an ugly stop to your work. I'm here to help you learn to never fear another knot; not even with a color-changing yarn.

  Yarn companies tell us it's just something we have to deal with; a knot happens when there has been a break in the yarn, and we are expected to fix it. It has been tied back together so that we can fix it. Honestly, it always makes me a little mad, because I'm like "what, you ran out of yarn while winding that skein, or an accident happened? You're the yarn company, you fix it"... But, it's still inevitable. We are expected to fix it.

  And we ARE going to fix it, not just keep working with a knot in our beautiful crochet/knit/etc. Working with natural animal fibers gives you the option of spit-splicing, but for synthetic blends or cotton, there are only two choices: Either way, you will cut that knot out. You could join new yarn and weave in the tails, but supposing you leave a six-inch tail to weave on both ends... You lose a foot of yarn! I'm here to show you a better way. I know I've made tutorials for the Russian Join before, but none have come out as good as the pictures I took while repairing a break in my Caron Cake. Plus, I don't think I can teach this method enough. So for you newer readers who may have missed an old lesson, let's learn  how to repair or join yarn with a Russian Join!

-This method sure is easier with more slack in the yarn, but I'm not ripping out my stitches. I'm grabbing my scissors and a yarn needle, and we're going to fix this little problem:

-Unless the yarn is damaged near the knot, cut as close as possible to save the most material:

-Thread one end of the yarn on the needle; it doesn't matter which end you start with. Leave a tail about the length of the needle:

-You will thread the yarn into itself. Beginning about a needle's length away, split the yarn and pick up one ply onto the needle:


-Skip a ply, pick up the next ply, and so on... The yarn can tighten up as you pick up loops on the needle. I find it helps to untwist the plies a bit as you pick up loops.
-A needle's length of plies is enough. Before continuing, check to make sure the length of the tail is longer than the length of plies:

-Push the loops of the plies up towards the eye of the needle. They will try to tighten up on the needle as you push them up, so it will help to untwist them as you go. Leave a loop at the top of the yarn as shown:

-Don't pull the yarn all the way through itself! Grab that loop as you pull the needle through the plies:

-Gently remove the yarn from the needle, leaving a piece of tail sticking out of the yarn. Thread the opposite strand on the needle. Bring the new strand through the loop created in the other piece of yarn:

-With the new strand pulled through the loop: Repeat the previous steps to weave the new strand back into itself, again holding back a loop as you pull the needle through the plies:

-When you have both strands woven through themselves, gently pull the tails to tighten the loops. Don't pull too tight! Stop when you can still see a tiny bit of the loops:

-Now, don't freak out if your yarn looks all messy like this:

(Or worse... I've had some yarns come out looking SO much worse.)

-It's cool, we'll fix it! Grab each strand of yarn close to the loops. Untwist the plies, running your fingers towards the tails as you go:

-And it will still be a little messy... Until now. Re-twist the plies tightly back together - tightly enough to make it twist on itself a bit, but not tightly enough to break the yarn:

-And then let it relax. Ta-da! If you're not happy with it, repeat the twist-untwist process a few more times, and it will straighten out. You can continue to weave the tails into the yarn, if you want to hide them in there:

-But as long as I have more than 2" (5 cm) woven in on each side, then I trim the rest to save time:

-You, as the yarn crafter, will probably feel a difference in the yarn where it has been joined. But especially in a lacy design like the one I'm working, this joining method sure beats weaving in more ends:

PS: If you can't find it, the chain section directly under the knot is the bit of yarn I joined using the Russian Join. Maybe you can spot it, maybe you can't; but I know that if I had woven in ends there, you would definitely notice a difference.

Happy Crocheting!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Frogged Cake

  Yesterday I put all the projects I'm supposed to be working on aside, and dove into my first ball of Caron Cakes. It was delicious. At first I started playing around with the recommended hook size on the label, but my stitches were too tight and I kept splitting the yarn. I changed to a bigger hook, and the only way I can describe what happened is that this yarn became butter on my hook. After a few trials and errors, I'm pleased to bring you a successful WIP that will (hopefully) soon be a free pattern:

crochet, shawl, yarn, Caron Cakes

  At first, I tried recreating my "fairy" shawl pattern using Cakes. Even though both yarns are worsted weight (4), the original yarn I used was 100% acrylic. Caron Cakes is 80% acrylic / 20% wool, and gets a little stretchy once worked up. With the same weight yarn and the same size hook, my beautiful shawl pattern became a puckered mess when I worked it up in Cakes:

crochet, design, fail, Caron Cakes

    This is where I got a little discouraged and started thinking about cheesy titles for a blog post revolving around "having your cake but not eating it". But since dinner was keeping warm in the oven while Rip van Winkle (formerly known as The Other Half) snored away in his chair, I got down to business, frogged what I had created, and worked up a gauge swatch:

crochet, yarn, Caron Cakes, gauge swatch

  I was able to adapt the pattern to something that didn't pucker by changing some stitches, but I tried to follow the same number of multiples and increases. What was supposed to be a crescent shawl quickly became a lacy bib:

crochet, fails, design

  I frogged again, with Rip van Winkle now snoring through a raging thunderstorm. Maybe I should have went ahead and fed myself instead of waiting for him, because my brain power seemed to be getting low along with the light. I tried to tweak the pattern again, but failed to notice the design was lopsided. One side curled too much, while the other side remained flat with no increases:

crochet, fails, design

  Maybe I'll try that again sometime to see if it would make a nice asymmetrical design, but that's not what I'm going for with this one. The rain stopped and Rip van Winkle awoke from his slumber just as I finished frogging again. I had to move a pile of ripped-back yarn so we could finally eat, but thankfully it remained untangled.

  The mysterious man-creature disappeared to shave 100 hours of stubble off his face after dinner, and I began another design. What a disappointment; it was going so well for the first five or six rows... I even got the treat of hitting a color change in the yarn. Then suddenly, a perfect design started curling around too quickly again:

crochet, fails, design

  But there is good news to be found in all my failures! Once again I ripped back my work, knowing what I needed to do to fix the problem. It's going to change the shaping just a bit, but it also makes the pattern even easier to follow (and write). There's another thunderstorm coming again, and Rip van Winkle should be due home for his daily slumber soon. I hope to work up the majority of the shawl tonight, if the noise isn't too distracting.

  I have to praise Caron Cakes for taking so much abuse. Frogged again and again, it's a bit kinked up but not much worse for the wear. In the following picture, you can see the lighter purple bit that has been ripped back about 15 times, compared to a fresh part of the yarn just pulled from the ball.  Although the part that is looped around looks fuzzy because my camera refused to focus on it, the frogged yarn isn't really any fuzzier than the part I haven't worked with:

crochet, fails, design, yarn, Caron Cakes

    And I'm still happy to report that the low wool content isn't causing me any reaction! After suffering terrible itching and rashes from 100% wool yarns, I've been afraid to touch any of it at all. Knowing that I'm not allergic to lanolin, which is what causes a true wool allergy, I'm thinking this could be a way for my sensitive skin to build up a resistance.

  I'm still new to working with Caron Cakes, but so far I give it a five-star, two-thumbs-up review. I had to wait a while to find it in the local Michaels, maybe because this is a smaller town. Now that they have it in stock, it will be hard to keep me from going back for more. Somebody should probably try to stop me, because I'm not supposed to buy any more yarn! But since this is a new yarn that many people are eager to work with, I've decided to publish all the patterns I design with it for free. So, you don't want to stop me, do you?

Happy Crocheting!

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