Saturday, November 19, 2016

Have Anxiety, Must Crochet

  That's it! Call the Funny Farm, I'm ready for them to come get me. (I'm only being sarcastic, please don't call them again.😉) There has been two separate events over the past two weeks that have left me paralyzed with anxiety and unable to sleep more than ever. I am so very thankful that in times like these, I have the gift of crochet to keep me from completely losing my mind.

  When I found myself so shaken that I couldn't hold a hook in my hand, I turned to my plarn granny squares using finger crochet. It's a big, chunky project that's easy to hang on to with trembling fingers. When I realized that I would never get anything done if I kept popping up from the table with every noise, I forced myself into my recliner - Not to relax, but so I could see out the window while I worked.

crochet, plarn, granny square, finger crochet, anxiety

  It took over an hour for my hands to find their strength again. In my nervous state, I kept making silly mistakes that set me back again and again. But ripping and stitching made me focus on something other than my fear, and I finally made some progress in the last square needed to create the bag I have planned.

crochet, plarn, granny square, finger crochet, anxiety

  You might think I'm overreacting, but I'm not kidding when I say I'm glad to have my scissors at hand to make more material. No chop or rotary cutter today - Just a good old-fashioned craft tool that doubles as a weapon. (Kinda makes me want to go back to practicing my knitting so I can have a couple of pointy sticks, too...) Both situations left me genuinely in fear for my life, and I don't think you can blame me for wanting to arm myself.

crochet, plarn, granny square, finger crochet, anxiety

  If you're asking "what's going on?", then you're thankfully not one of the people that have been sending me threats. After showing some military support for Veterans and Remembrance Day, my social media accounts started blowing up with personal messages from unknown profiles - Ones that were conveniently deleted shortly after. Some were religious rants, others called me American scum, but more than one was threatening my life. It was only empty (?) threats made in virtual reality, so again, you might think I'm overreacting... But please excuse me while this gets a bit graphic: I had a man tell me he was going to stab me in the vagina so I could be raped and gutted at the same time.

  How did crocheting get me here? Are they serious that I deserve that for making some flowers and a dagger? The craziness, the cruelty, the senselessness of hearing these things over a crochet project... It has made me lose nearly all my faith in humanity. And it also did exactly what I think they were hoping for - It made me fearful. They might have scared me good for a short time, but I don't and won't back down. When you make me fearful, I'll just grab my crochet to still my shaking hands. So you see, there's a ray of sunshine in this whole cloud of darkness:
crochet, plarn, granny square, finger crochet, anxiety

  And just beyond that ray of sunshine is a loaded rifle, because that makes me feel even better. So just in case they're not kidding, I'm not either. The crochet is just to still my fingers so they're steady on a trigger. After the threats in virtual reality, I faced an even scarier situation... Long story short, Rip van Winkle sold his truck - From our house, because since he works with the buyer, he trusted the guy. A week later, the guy says he wants his money back, "or else". Knowing Rip was still at work, the guy left and showed up here to harass me and wouldn't leave, even after I called the police.

  When a man waits for a woman half his size to get far away from the house before confronting her (knowing she's alone), and refuses to leave the property even while she's on the phone with the cops, you know you're not dealing with a stable person... Right? So this is a buyer- and seller-beware situation: Don't buy a truck for $800 thinking it won't need some work (especially after you're told that it needs work), and don't sell things from your house, even if you think you know the person. People. Are. Crazy.

crochet, plarn, granny square, finger crochet, anxiety

  Through all the stress, I managed to put that bag together. I added some of squares backwards and had to rip back a few times. In the end, I made one of my seams in the wrong direction so the bag twists a bit. Since it's just an experimental pattern, I'm not worried about fixing it. The point wasn't to make a perfect project; the point was to occupy myself with something so I could focus through fear. I still have to make handles for it, but I ran out of material. Darn, I guess I'll have to keep those scissors close by for a little longer...

  But I'm still not kidding. The crazy truck buyer - I now have a trespass warrant against him, and he won't be back if he's smart... If. However, he proved to me how insane people can get over something they believe is right. Although they're most likely hollow attempts to scare me out of amusement, I'm not taking those social media messages lightly. I'll be taking up my hook (or finger) to crochet away my anxiety, and spending some time making my property a little more secure.

Happy Crocheting! 
PS - To my friends who may be missing me on social media, you can guess that this is why. I'll only be sharing my posts from in-browser so I don't have to fully log in, which leaves me missing everything shared by others. I'm not gone from it forever - I just can't take any more threats right now.

Monday, November 14, 2016

For Knitting Only?

  There are some keywords that really matter when you're picking a yarn... If it is listed as a craft yarn, you probably don't want to make a garment with it. If it is called a novelty yarn, it will most likely be something with crazy texture that can be hard to work with. Natural and animal fibers can make beautiful garments, but some can be scratchy, and they usually require special care.

  These are all things that can make an online purchase a scary situation! Not being able to feel a yarn before I buy it often leads me to make the "safe" choice of picking a synthetic, inexpensive acrylic. If it ends up being the scratchiest yarn in the world, then you can always make a bag or some doilies with it, right? I have something that's been sitting in my stash for about a year now, being saved for a special project because it turned out to be a really nice yarn. I finally made a decision to use it, and dug it out to get started. That was when I ran into a slight problem... There's no recommended hook size on the label!

yarn, gauge, knitting, crochet, hook size, Plymouth Dreambaby 4 Ply

  Although there are yarns that are labeled as knitting yarn, it doesn't stop you from crocheting with them. Even though this Plymouth Dreambaby 4-Ply wasn't listed as a knitting yarn, it doesn't include crochet gauge on the label. Yup, sometimes they do that to us. So, what do I do?

yarn, gauge, knitting, crochet, hook size, Plymouth Dreambaby 4 Ply

  There are two simple options. One: Search online! I usually go right to the manufacturer's website to find yarn information. However, it didn't help me this time - There's no crochet gauge listed on their site, either! My second thought was to search for patterns using this yarn and check the gauge for them, but that only led me to a distraction. Searching "Dreambaby 4-Ply" gave me tons of results for "Dreambaby DK", which made me go do a side-check to see if this yarn was discontinued. The answer seems to be "no", although the colors available are very limited. And now I was lost looking at the pretty colors available in the other yarn.

  I get easily distracted that way, and the best thing for me to do is walk away from glowing rectangles. I went back to my yarn, which provided option two: Figure it out by the knitting gauge provided! The label tells me that the recommended needles would be a size 3.

yarn, gauge, knitting, crochet, hook size, Plymouth Dreambaby 4 Ply

  All I have to do is use this chart from the Craft Yarn Council to find the corresponding size hook. Size 3 knitting needles are 3.25 MM, which would be a size D-3 crochet hook. See how complicated these American sizes can be? I think it would be easier for hooks and needles to just be labeled by their measurements.

  However, that's a debate for another time. It was easy to find the corresponding hook size, but I had to do a little extra guesswork before I started my project. This yarn is a nylon blend, nice and soft with a good bit of stretch. Because my tension is always a little too tight, I know my work will pucker if I use the recommended hook (or needle) size. Working with a stretchy yarn makes this problem even worse. Since I want a nice lacy fabric that will get the most out of my yarn, I automatically went up two hook sizes before I began.

yarn, gauge, knitting, crochet, hook size, Plymouth Dreambaby 4 Ply

  And of course, I'm still obsessed with making everything in the Love Knot stitch at the moment, so there's the additional problem of trying to find the perfect length for the loops. I'm glad I went up with the hook size, because the closing single crochet stitches of the Love Knots are pretty tight as-is.

yarn, gauge, knitting, crochet, hook size, Plymouth Dreambaby 4 Ply

  I still don't know what the deal is with yarns that claim to be "for knitting", or why some don't have a crochet gauge available. But I do know that with a little research, it doesn't stop you from using them for crochet. It only took me a few minutes to convert that needle size so I could get to work on my next project. A quick search and the forethought to increase the size for my tension saved me from ripping out a lot of guesswork.

yarn, gauge, knitting, crochet, hook size, Plymouth Dreambaby 4 Ply

  The Craft Yarn Council also has this chart which can tell you the recommended hook size based on your yarn weight. That's great, but none of it will stop me from the perpetual problem of starting more projects! The hard part of beginning the pattern is done and over with, so this one is getting put aside as a "weekend" WIP. Like I really need another one.

Happy Crocheting! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Poppies for Remembrance

  There's something I see in my generation and younger: The importance of history and remembrance has been forgotten. When Stella of Purfylle asked me about crocheting poppies for Australia's Z-Special Unit and the crew of the HMAS HDML 1321, I asked "why poppies?", but I was soon thrown back into memories. A silk flower with a tag on it, remembered from childhood. Something, perhaps, not American? Oh, but it is. This flower has been and still is used as a memorial symbol in America, Canada, Australia, and more. However, it seems to have gone out of style around here... To be as forgotten as the history no one is interested in saving.

  For Veterans Day in America, and Remembrance Day everywhere else... In honor of the HDML 1321's crew and the Z-Special Unit, in remembrance of every fallen soldier, and with respect to a special veteran who has passed - my good friend Don, who taught me the importance of preserving history: Because without recognition of history, we would never have appreciation for the present.

Poppies, for Remembrance.

This pattern creates a flower with a diameter of 3" (7.5 cm) in worsted weight yarn. A lighter weight yarn could be used for a smaller poppy.

Skill level:
crochet, international pattern symbols, easy

Worsted weight (4) acrylic yarn (or any other yarn)
-I used scraps of Caron One Pound in Black and Caron United in Cherry
Hook size H/8 - 5.50 MM
Yarn needle

Not important. One round of 12 single crochet measures 1" (2.5 cm) across.

Yarn weight and hook size could be changed for a smaller flower.

Chains at beginning of rounds do not count as a stitch unless noted.

A standing single crochet is used once. In case you're not familiar with this method, it is noted in the pattern where you can replace this stitch. (Or, follow the example to learn!)

Pattern is worked in two pieces and attached using the tails to save yarn and time. If you do not leave sufficient ends for sewing, you can use a separate piece of yarn to sew the pieces together.

Step by step examples can be found in sections of the written pattern. The numbers in bold parenthesis (1-3) are to mark the corresponding photo, and are not a stitch count or part of the pattern.

Stitches (American terms)
Single crochet
Half-double crochet
Double crochet
Triple crochet

Standing single crochet - Yarn over the hook from back to front, keeping the tail of the yarn to the front of the hook. Insert the hook in the designated stitch, holding the tail securely against your work. Yarn over, pull up a loop (2 loops on hook). Yarn over, pull through both loops.
*In the example below, you see the yarn tail below the hook in step 2. Your tail should be above the hook during this step, not as pictured. (It really requires two hands; without holding the yarn secure during this step, it will just pop off the hook.) You can see in steps 4 and 5 how the tail should be trapped inside the stitch.


Bottom piece -

Round 1:
With red (Cherry), chain 3. Make 12 double crochet in the farthest chain from the hook. Join with a slip stitch to the first double crochet made.
(12 double crochet in round)

Round 2:
Chain 2 (counts as stitch!), half-double crochet in the first available stitch (1).
*(2 double crochet, 2 triple crochet) in the next stitch (2). (2 triple crochet, 2 double crochet) in the following stitch (3).

2 half-double crochet in the next stitch, slip stitch in each of the following 2 stitches (1).* Make 2 half-double crochet in the next stitch. Repeat from * to * to complete the round (2). Join with a slip stitch to the beginning chain-2 (3).

Bind off, only weave ends to outer edge of Round 1.

Top piece -

Round 1:
With black, chain 2. Make 12 single crochet in the farthest chain from the hook. Join with a slip stitch to the first single crochet made.
(12 single crochet)

Bind off and weave in all ends.

Round 2:
*Before you begin, check out the method below for adding extra detail to the center. 
With red, join with a standing single crochet in any stitch of Round 1.
(-Or, slip stitch and chain 1. The chain-1 will then count as the beginning single crochet.)
Make a half-double crochet in the same stitch.

*(2 double crochet, 2 triple crochet) in the next stitch (1). (2 triple crochet, 2 double crochet) in the following stitch (2). (Half-double crochet, single crochet) in the next stitch (3).

Chain 1, skip 2,* (single crochet, half double crochet) (1). Repeat from * to * to complete the round (2). Join with a slip stitch to the standing single crochet (or chain-1). Bind off, weave ends (3).

A quick tip for adding detail:
After making more and more of these, I discovered an out-of-the-ordinary trick that saves time. If you would like to add a little extra detail to the center and work over the tail without having to weave it in, check this out:

 After working over the tail for a few stitches, I dropped my working yarn and put the tail on a yarn needle. Beginning from the back, I brought the yarn through the stitches of round 1. I made a few flowers with the details running vertically over the stitches, but decided I liked the horizontal stitches more.

 Stitch back to the beginning stitches of round 2, and run the yarn through the bottoms of the stitches made. Continue working over the tail for the rest of round 2, and you'll have one less tail to weave in!

Line up centers of top and bottom pieces, with petals perpendicular to each other. Use tails of the bottom piece to sew through the top piece, over the bottom of the stitches of round 2. Sew over chain-1 space of round 2 (top piece) and pull tight. Weave remaining tails through pattern to secure.

 Sew over chain-1 spaces to give the petal extra depth.

Weave in remaining ends on the back side.

Why these poppies are important to me:
  I met my friend Don when I was about 20, and heard his stories almost every day after becoming his neighbor. From tales of how he set the outhouse on fire as a kid to running away at 16 to join the army, I learned his whole life history and so much more. While others rolled their eyes at the ramblings of an old man, I listened to the love he had for his fellow soldiers, his respect for his country, and his appreciation for the chance to learn about other cultures.

  Don spent some years in Japan during World War II, never seeing battle but losing many friends. He never asked for thank-you's for his service, but he did ask for respect to fallen soldiers and for their stories to be retold - so much more than what's found in textbooks. He wanted the people and their sacrifices to be remembered, so we would never forget what they lost so we could live the lives we live today.

free crochet pattern, poppy flower, Remembrance Poppies, #LestWeForget

  Also known to be a bit of a prankster, Don would have loved some of the antics mixed into the history of the Z-Special Unit. I crocheted eight poppies - Seven for each of the crew of the HMDL 1321 who lost their lives during Operation Copper, and one extra to represent every other fallen soldier. Crocheting a flower isn't much in return for a life, but it is a step towards commemorating the sacrifice that was made. Saving the HDML 1321 so it can be appreciated by future generations is an even bigger step.

 Find the free crochet pattern for the Z-Special Unit's dagger here.


Please share and use #saveHDML1321 to help!

Happy Crocheting!

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