Thursday, October 1, 2020

United Yarn Fails

  Is it possible to be extremely proud of finishing a project while at the same time being immensely disappointed in the final results? Yes... Yes, it is, and you'll soon see why. Caron United yarn is now a discontinued product, so I won't have to warn you to not buy it. But for those of us with leftovers in the yarn stash, here's a warning on what not to make with United:

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  Isn't that such a lovely afghan? I started and finished it while we were still living at Dad's, but never got around to sharing it here. Being there with the Big Huge Afghan on the couch made me think I'd need my own version of a big blanket for my house. I knew there was a whole lot of the same kind of yarn in complimentary colors in my stash, but I doubted I could make the same pattern work with so many of the United scraps I had leftover from making blankets. So I got to work on something new and...

  Oh. Oh no. Forget about my afghan... The blankets that were made to help create the World's Biggest Stocking... Which was assembled and then disassembled back into blankets... Which were supposed to be donated to the families of veterans... OH NO. It wasn't required that we use United yarn for the blankets, but it was recommended because part of the purchase price of the yarn was donated to the Children of Fallen Patriots foundation. 

  So that's what I used, and ordered way more than I needed for the four blankets I managed to donate. I originally planned to make twelve, which is how I was left with so much United in my stash. It inspired me to make my own blanket, and that led me to discover what an absolute disaster this yarn is. Well, I might as well show you already... 

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  I'm having trouble getting my camera to focus, but can we all still see the problem well enough? I was confident using this yarn because it seemed to be just like Caron One Pound. I've used One Pound in countless projects and have never had a complaint with the results. (A complaint about the number of knots in a skein, yes, but no problems with finished projects.) One Pound washes and dries like a dream, and I stupidly assumed that United would be the same.

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  Delicate cycle, gentle detergent, and low-heat drying: It's what I do for most of my crochet projects when the yarn label says "machine wash and dry". (I do like to skip the dryer the first time because if it doesn't look great coming out of the wash, then the dryer will surely destroy it.) I noticed quite a few yarn tails popping out after the first wash, so I hung it over a laundry rack and worked on weaving them back in. Because of the size and weight of the afghan, I was worried that it would get stretched out of shape from hanging or at least not dry and get stinky... Oh, I wish that could have been the worst of the problems!

  In fact, I was impressed that this huge, heavy afghan air dried while I was working on it. If only I could have had the foresight to always air dry it! After the next wash, it went in the dryer. And now it's really bad. There are big balls of United Fluff in most of the laundry. I'm still pulling it out of the dryer. I find it in my socks. Occasionally I spot tufts rolling across the floor like tumbleweeds. It got worse after the blanket required another washing. 

  Despite it looking like... (Insert your own description; mine's NSFW) Rip van Winkle still likes this afghan and wants it on his bed. Rip also has a history of destroying nice things. In my mind, this blanket was already ruined after that first use of the dryer, so I was fine with letting him keep it until it's final end. I thought it would just keep shedding until... I don't know, until one day it would disintegrate in the washing machine and disappear down the drain as if it never existed? Anyway, I'm not sure if this damage was caused by a snag while it was on the bed or if the yarn broke in the wash, but now my awesome creation also has a gaping hole in it:

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  It can't be proven whether Rip or the yarn is at fault for the unraveling, so I won't focus on that part of the damage. I could easily repair the hole if I thought it would be worth my time to do so. The main problem is that I don't think it's worth the effort because of the amount of... Pilling? I know that's the term we would normally use, but these are not pills. Instead of the small lumps that I know as "pilling", this long, stringy fuzz is twisting so much in spots that I think it might spin a new yarn from itself!

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  Now, I will admit to wondering if I had done something wrong. And I found my answer: Yes. Yes, I did do something very wrong. My mistake was in using Caron United to create something that will actually be used, laundered, and used again. In the following picture I've tried to focus on the black yarn to the right of the white stripe. It looks so much nicer than the rest of the yarn around it, right? Right. And that's because it's the Caron One Pound that I bought to finish the blanket when I started running low on yarn. It does have some fuzz from the rest of the yarns stuck to it, but you can see such a major difference in the fibers up close. One Pound is still soft and smooth, while United looks and feels like a mangy cat.

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, One Pound, afghan, review

  This makes me sad. This makes me angry! But I'm not mad about my own afghan. I'm upset because I used this yarn for a charity project! Did they not test the yarn before they recommended we use it? Did they not care that these blankets were supposed to be a symbol of sympathy and appreciation extended to families who had lost loved ones to the service of their country? I'm sorry to be so blunt, but I just don't think "Hey little Jimmy, sorry your mom/dad is dead, but here's a blanket to make up for it" is enough. "No little Susie, you can't actually wrap up in it for comfort because it was only made to be looked at. But don't worry! The ten skeins of crappy yarn used to make it means a whole $1.50 was donated to a college fund you might never see!" I want to beat my head on the desk. Repeatedly.

F- words.
More f- words.
F-ing f- words yelled about how these f-ing f- words made us look like a bunch of f-ing f- words by encouraging the use of this f-ed up yarn.

  I think I used United for some of my Scarf of the Month donations. I know I used this yarn to make Mom's Afghan. They were all special projects that were important to me, and it took an afghan I don't give a care about to show that it only takes a few washes to turn "thanks for the gesture" into "thanks for nothing". So was the price (about $3.50 a skein) worth the 15 cent donation that went to charity? 

  NO. Many of us still have and cherish a mom/grandma/great grandma's afghan that was made 30+ years ago with Red Heart Super Saver yarn that has held up for decades. At the time I purchased the 230-yd skeins of United, the price for 350-yd skeins of Super Saver (at Walmart) was $1.50. But I didn't want to use "cheap" yarn to make blankets for charity, I wanted to use something nice. And this was my lesson that price does not always equal quality! 

  I could have made more blankets for less price and donated the $2 difference to the foundation. And if that's all I donated was the $2 savings from just one skein of yarn, more money would have went to charity than from all 10 skeins of United used in one blanket. Their donation of 15 cents looks more like an afterthought than a heartfelt gesture when I put it in that perspective.  

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  I can only hope that the little blankets which were meant to be a big "thank you" don't look like a big "f- you" instead. I feel like the knitters and crocheters who used United had the wool acrylic pulled over their eyes. We did help set a world record for the World's Biggest Stocking and our purchases did contribute something to charity. But... I can't shake the thought that this "charity" project was created just to promote a new yarn. We were led on with the promise of "doing good" when in reality we were just test dummies. And I sure feel like a dummy for trusting them.

  Maybe that's just a paranoid thought in my angry brain, but I know for sure that I expect much better from of Caron yarns. I have used Simply Soft since I started crocheting... Yes, it does split and I really recommend hand washing it... Okay, so I've accidentally thrown some Simply Soft projects in the wash. GASP! Although they fuzzed up a bit, that yarn still didn't look as bad as United. And as for One Pound?

crochet, yarn, Caron, One Pound, United, afghan, review

  Here's some current-day pictures of the "baby blanket" I made for The Kid. I published the pattern for the Bobble and Chain blanket in 2012. It has been used and washed (and used, and washed) many times and it still looks fine. That's after being used by a kid. And sometimes a cat. Supposing I had only washed The Kid's blanket once per year (and eww, it was much more than that), then this baby blanket made with One Pound has held up for more washes than the afghan made with United. Plus, it was used by a kid... And sometimes a cat. 

crochet, yarn, Caron, one Pound, United, afghan, review

  If I could, I would glare with teary eyes and point a shaky finger at Caron United while yelling "I TRUSTED YOU". Getting involved in this project made me spend more money than I could really afford. Promoting support for the cause threw me into some drama I didn't need: It started with angry messages from multiple people, and by the time I had moved onto another military-themed quest I was getting death threats including a violent, graphic description of how he would sexually assault me first. (If I recall correctly, it was just one guy that took it that far.) Because I made some blankets? I no longer support anything military-related because of this.

  In hindsight, working on the World's Biggest Stocking project is one of the biggest regrets I have. When one of my harassers (I have a theory that "they" were really just one person with fake accounts) sent a message with my home address... My actual, correct home address... It got way more personal than I could handle. I kept a pistol and/or a rifle loaded and within arm's reach for over a month.  What kept me going through that (besides stubbornness) was knowing I was doing something good

  I caved to the pressure anyway. I got scared; they won. But more than fear, there was disgust. It was absolutely sickening for this situation to play out; a "tough guy" taking his anger and hatred for the military out on a 100 lb. woman for crocheting some blankets... What has this world come to? Again, the one thing that kept me positive through that was knowing that I was doing something GOOD.

  But what is left of that feeling now that I know my blankets probably won't last? Nothing. I'm so disappointed. I trusted the idea that a company wouldn't recommend a bad yarn for a charity project. Right? Maybe they didn't know how poor the quality of their yarn was at the time... Maybe they just didn't test it enough? That's still not a good enough excuse for me. Caron United was a cheap yarn sold at a not-so-cheap price and I think the company thought they could pull it off by calling it " for charity". The only thing more disappointing than that is the fact that I still have at least ten skeins of this junk taking up room in my stash. 

  I still don't care much about the afghan I made for myself... I can remake that any time with any yarn I want. But how can I make up for the projects that have already been donated to random people? I can't. If ever I decide to take on another charity project, I'll make extra sure that I test that yarn and test it again. And I'm sorry to repeat myself but I just can't fully express how disappointed I am in the quality of this yarn. Okay, rant over! There's not much more I can say, so I'll just end here with the usual closing of

Happy Crocheting?
...With better yarn? 
Yup... Happy crocheting with better yarn.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Working on Working

  Hi! Crazy Lady here, back with more problems again... Insomnia has been hitting me harder than ever, so I should apologize ahead of time for... Well, most of this, I suppose. When I do sleep, it never lasts more than two hours. It's been this way for over a month (two; three?) now. My brain is in a constant fog, and I find it harder to concentrate with each day that passes. Which is NOT going to help me with any of the mess I've uncovered: 

crochet, pattern, writing, notebook

  Yay, my pattern notebooks have been found! They were misplaced in the move, and I've been hoping to find them so I could get back to work on some completed patterns that have yet to make it here. Since I had some things to do on the blog anyway, I thought I'd start typing them up. (Maybe a bad idea to do any work... Anybody remember the time I deleted the blog's background?) What I thought would be a simple task turned out to be a bad idea, indeed.

  The patterns in one of my lost notebooks were created while living at Dad's. Writing in the dim light from the TV with my book balanced on the couch, I didn't have the best penmanship. Well, I never do consider my handwriting to be good but this chicken scratch looks unfamiliar to my eyes. The letters of many abbreviations are smashed together, the writing fades to almost unreadable towards the bottom of the page, and I have sticky notes stuck to the pages which are fortunately more readable, however, I have no clue what they are for.

  What. A. Mess. And here I was thinking this would be a mindless task! Nope, this is not a job for tired brain and eyes. BUT... It's not like this is a total disaster, because at least I've found the notebooks. There's a chance I could decipher all of it someday, I just need to be able to find the time that I never seem to have.

  Hmm. Time. Like the time I wasted while searching for the link above? I got a little too distracted while searching for that post, and I ended up browsing my own blog for awhile. There are so many broken links! SO. MANY. And all of them are my own fault for creating my tutorials with Guidecentral instead of publishing my own content.

  They said it would be a great opportunity. I would get so much EXPOSURE (good god, I hate that word) and my own blog would benefit. They said I would make money, which I did for a time. First it was $7 per tutorial, then it got dropped to $4. I became suspicious when I was nearing my last payment threshold and they wouldn't let me publish any more tutorials. Dollars short of receiving payment, they shut the monetary side of the program down. But it's okay, they said we were more than welcome to keep creating tutorials for FREE, because well, you know, it's great exposure.

  Guidecentral didn't last long after that. (Aw, I wonder why?) We had the opportunity to download our own materials before they shut the site down, but I suffered another setback when my PC crossed over the great Fiber Optic Rainbow in the sky. I never recovered any of my work and I was left with a ton of broken links that were eventually forgotten among the bigger stresses in life.

  So... More good news! I now have another PC that's about to get hurled over that stupid rainbow. It used to work for at least 20 minutes before freezing, but it's getting worse. (No joke, it has frozen on almost every paragraph of this post.) After going through all the brains (OS, drivers, troubleshooting, etc), I opened the case up to check out its guts. Looky what I found:

HP, PC, desktop,

  Could that be it? Well I'll just plug that wire all the way back in, then... Push; falls. Push harder; falls. Entangle wire with another wire so it will stay put; FALLS. Grrrr. If this is the problem, I'm not fixing it by simply plugging it back in. Use gruff mechanic-voice here: I'm gonna go get the duct tape and a hammer. If one don't fix it, the other will.

  This became motivation for me to hook up the previous desktop to see what I could do. I had worked on that machine for hours after it failed, trying to resurrect it from a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) just to get a Black Screen of No Return. (That's when I made the mistake of going to Walmart to buy the only piece of HP I could find.) So yesterday I set the old machine up on the floor, not expecting much from it. After three-ish years of being unplugged, the booger started up without a single problem! Then it crashed as soon as I started trying to pull my files.

  This is good news though, because it means not all was a total loss. My files are there! I just have to get them so I can load them onto... Oh... Yeah, there's no point in putting them on this piece of HP, is there? (LOL I suppose it didn't like me insulting it, so it froze again as I finished that sentence.) Since I still have the case open on this thing, I took another look and found the hard drive to be as warm as a freshly poured cup of coffee (mmm, coffee), so I'm guessing this won't be solved by some Windows updates or wiggling wires.

  The harsh reality? This is a simple issue that's pretty easy for me to fix: By a new PC. Pull the files from this and the old one. Load them onto new computer; begin working again. So, what's the problem? What I can't fix is the rest of my life where everything is always falling apart and I can't seem to stop it from affecting my work. And "it" just keeps piling up. What would be nice if I had a husband that wanted to lift a finger with any of those other things.

  I understand that Rip van Winkle can't help me with technology problems, but it would mean so much if he just made his own sandwich for lunch, or unpacked that lunchbox when he gets home, or do some of his dishes or laundry... You know, take care of yourself kind of stuff. Clean your own truck? It would have been even better to get a hug after my cats died. Something... Anything. I am so tired of this life that I would be happy to just walk away from everything and get a job at Walmart or a gas station or something so that I could leave this (unfinished) house and forget that I'm basically a maid that works to the tune of someone else's snoring.

  *Sigh* Gee, that feels good to say to people who might listen. He can't see the problem when he's almost always staring at the back of his eyelids. When he's awake, it's the TV he stares at... But that's after asking me to put something on to watch because he "can't figure out how to use the remote". He can't make his own food because he "can't find the dishes" and "can't get the directions right" for how to cook a Hot Pocket. And I can't see myself dealing with this much longer, but leaving my marriage will only result in another major upset in a life that has been derailed so many times that it's an official train wreck. Until I make a decision to stay or go, I'm just going to keep working on working.

  This post sure jumped the tracks as well, huh? My point is that I've had trouble finding the motivation to get back to work when I'm always faced with another issue to solve (or work around). And I'm starting to see that it's not all my fault... Things need to change. It's going to start with him microwaving some leftovers or going hungry. (Update: That resulted in him not eating until after 9pm when I finally set food in front of him because apparently I have no spine.) I have 50+ broken links to fix and most require the creation of a new tutorial. Forget that lack of inspiration! I already have a list of tasks ahead of me and it's time to get to work... As soon as I'm done spot-treating the concrete out of his work clothes.

  You may guess by my rambling that my mental state isn't at its strongest, but I'll be okay. Writing about it often helps me to work out my problems. And the more I reread my own pathetic words, I get mad instead of sad. When I'm sad, I'm only able to do the bare minimum of work. My "duties as housekeeper" burn up all the energy I have. When I get mad, I do things. Sometimes those "things" are me throwing half his stuff out the door while yelling "I can't take any more of your crap piling up!", but hey... It's doing something, right? *Disclaimer: He has at least refrained from bringing anything that came from a dumpster into the new house. He puts it in the shed instead.

  The more I think about it, the extra work of fixing those links might pull me out of this funk. Maybe going through those tutorials will help inspire me to get back to creating patterns. If I can't fix all the broken things in my house or my broken relationship, then I can at least fix the broken links on my blog. I can't wait to get to work! I'll start as soon as I'm done picking up the paper towels he's been throwing on the floor behind the trash can.

Thanks for listening, or at least pretending to. It doesn't matter if anybody reads this, it just helps to vent sometimes.

Happy Crocheting!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Floor Pouf WIP

  A hoard of plastic grocery bags has already started piling up in the new house. I absolutely refuse to let an entire closet get packed full of bags again! (Well, it was only the bottom-half of the closet...) A sane person would probably go dump them in the recycling container at the grocery store. But of course, I chose to punish myself by beginning a massive plarn project:

plarn, plastic yarn, recycle, crochet, home decor, floor pouf

  It doesn't look so daunting sitting there all by itself in a picture, but this one has turned out to be a monster. A long-envisioned project, I always knew this plarn floor pouf was going to be a big job. That's why it had always been a "long-envisioned" project instead of an "already-started" or "finally finished" project! Why, oh why do I do these things to myself? I should have known better.

plarn, plastic yarn, recycle, crochet, home decor, floor pouf

  I'm creating a bit of a color pattern by using 15 grey bags, then one black bag. And I'm being serious about it, replacing broken pieces along the way so I can keep the color repeating the same all the way around. This is partly so I'll be able to go back and count exactly how many bags were used in the project, and also so that it doesn't look too bad and I'll be proud to display it as part of my home decor. (If I EVER finish it!)

  I began with a flat circle in half-double crochet until it measured around 20" in diameter. The splashes of black were random during the increases. The color pattern began repeating evenly once I started working even to create the sides. Each group of 16 bags works into one round, plus about 5 stitches. I'm currently on what I thought was round 32... After counting the bags by color changes, I think I'm off on my count. There's 8 dashes on the flat bottom (128 bags) and about 20 vertical rounds (320 bags), so no matter what round I'm on, I'm getting close to 500 bags in the project!

plarn, plastic yarn, recycle, crochet, home decor, floor pouf

  Oh, and there's the stuffing: Any pieces of the loops that break while joining, bags that aren't fit to cut up for material, and all the tops and bottoms that get cut off to create the plarn. With the extras thrown into the filling, I'm probably over 500 bags already. And I've still got a few more vertical rounds to work for the sides, plus the top will probably use the same amount as the bottom. I'll need some extra bags to make up the stuffing, so I wonder if I can end up with 1,000 bags in one project? (Side note: It's time to make some reusable bags.)

  My original hope was for the pouf to be stuffed only with bags, but as it grows I'm thinking I might have to use some stiff foam around the edges to help it keep shape. I'm afraid the smaller pieces of scraps will work through the stitches, so I'm tying them up in more bags to keep the mess contained. Unfortunately at this point it looks like those bags of scrap material are going to make some bumpy filling. No matter how much I squish or smash them around, the bags of bags just won't settle into a perfectly round shape to fill out the edges.

  Once I get closer to finishing, I'll try stuffing the edges with loose bags and keep the bags of scraps in the center. Maybe that will squish out in a smoother shape while the scrap bags can give more density to the middle. And if that doesn't work, then there's an old yoga mat out in the shed that would probably make a great lining, and I could still consider this project 100% recycled material.

plarn, plastic yarn, recycle, crochet, home decor, floor pouf

  Those minor problems aside, the big issue I'm having with the project is my choice in material. I'm using "giant plarn" again (check out the Giant Plarn Rug pattern), but this time I'm using a hook instead of finger crochet. It's really hard work! The plarn is cut 4-5" wide and I'm using the loop method, so the material is double-thick. I'm working with a size P/10mm hook to keep my stitches tight, and there's a lot of resistance using a plastic hook with plastic yarn.

  The hook digs into all the wrong places of my hand and my arms get tired from moving the project as I work. The bigger it gets, the worse it is to work on. Just think: This is only a floor pouf. Originally, I wanted to make a full-size bean bag chair of plarn. NO WAY! I'm glad I settled for the smaller version since my sanity is already close to the edge... I know that to be a fact, because I'm considering making a second floor pouf to match. Wouldn't it be cool to have one for each end of the couch we still don't have yet?

Happy Crocheting!

PS Dear friends, I began this project and this post before "the news" came out... I can't stand listening to the news right now... If I hear the "C-word" one more time I'm gonna jump out the window. And that would do me no good because it's only about a 12-foot jump and I'd probably just end up in the hospital with a broken leg and then I'd get the corona - oops, I mean the C-word .

  Jokes aside: I don't want to say "it" because I'm tired of hearing the C-word. I really didn't want to write about it, but we all need to vent sometimes, right? Feel free to click off if you're sick of hearing about it, too. I'm sick of people acting like morons and hoarding toilet paper. I went shopping yesterday and couldn't even get a simple bottle of dish soap because our local Walmart isn't enforcing limits on items and people have hoarded the store empty of everything (sparing anything in the health food section). Last week they were allowing people to purchase entire carts full of gallons of milk, this week they have signs up stating there is a limit of one, but they're letting people go through self-checkout with however much they want. 

  But don't worry, they do have an employee at the front of the store rationing out sanitizing wipes for your cart!... The lady dropped ours on the floor, then picked it up and tried to hand it to Rip while making direct eye contact, like "you didn't see that, did you?" And he just stands there looking at it in her outstretched hand as if it's the plague itself. She says "this is to wipe down your cart" in the way one might speak to a child, and he just stood there looking at it for another good 30 seconds before she threw it away and got another one. She knew what she did.

  Also, there is no cat food. Please... Please tell me people are just hoarding for their pets as well and some folks aren't choosing drastic measures over what's left in the health food section!

  Towards the end of my shopping trip, I had a brief conversion with a little dude's mom over the lack of bread. Little dude jumped in and said "It's so stupid! Everybody should only take what they need and leave the rest for people that need it. People just need to isolate for like TWO WEEKS, it's not like it's the end of the world or something!". Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to nominate this 9-year old for president... If that kid can get it right, what's wrong with the adults? (Also, I hate the fact that "isolate" and "quarantine" are now part of an average 9-year old's daily vocabulary.)

  Be smart. Stay safe. As crafters, I think we have an advantage at keeping ourselves entertained. A creative mind can take you to all kinds of places. I can't personally relate to the people that are going nuts from boredom while in isolation. (I already live my life that way and I think I prefer it.) But I can understand the stress of your whole life changing and you having no control over it; I sympathize with the people leaving stores empty-handed; I can relate to everyone's fear of catching this virus.

  Maybe we're not all on the same page, but the world is united in a fight right now. Let's all try to stay level-headed and get through this the best that we can. It's really hard for me to put into words something like "my heart goes out to anyone affected by this", because it's like the whole world affected by this in one way or another and that seems like such a shallow blanket statement compared to the depth of the situation. So whatever it is I'm trying to say... I mean it. 

Remember that it is important to stand together in times like these. Just remember to stand together while remaining at least six feet apart.

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