Saturday, January 31, 2009

Love Affair with Crochet

Breibeest on flickr, for her goddaughter.

I fell asleep last night pondering the things that I am loving about my new hobby, crochet. Oddly enough, I did not have crochet-related dreams. This morning's Dream Journal Entry was quite hilarious actually, involving Obama, a pot of giant jelly beans, my elderly Grandmother looking oddly pregnant, a lengthy discussion on the construction of bunk beds, and some bear figurines.

Back to the topic, I have been trying to spend more time thinking about positive things, and try to think about the highlights of my day when I'm trying to drift off.

I waited until this year to take up a craft like crochet for several reasons, despite the fact that my Mother could have taught me long ago. From afar, it looks frustrating, or even boring, and as my Dad says, you'd think you'd make a few rows and think "okay, I did it, I'm done."

In actuality, there is a lot to love. The feel of the yarn wrapped around your hand, the feel of the project, and even just squeezing the skeins in the store, touches something deep inside. Like the beginning of a lifelong feeling that will grow over time. I've known some people who feel the same about wood and tools.

I enjoy the idea of taking shapeless "string" and creating something with shape, structure, and beauty. Functionality is good too, I suppose.

I was never one of those girls who liked to blog about the contents of her purse, although I do carry one with me constantly. Now that I seem to have this bag containing all of these little useful tools and such, I'm starting to identify.

For some reason, the box of yarn in my bedroom that is hiding from the cats is a comfort. It will always be there for me, if I feel like being fidgety.

I love to stare at my stitches.

Things are now available in turquoise, if I have some time to make them!

I feel like I have something in common now with almost every woman in my family, dating back across the years, as well as so many people around the world.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Crochet Project Two: Fingerless Gloves

Tonight, I am looking forward to some much-needed downtime. I'm hoping to finish up the second panel of my January bag, as I've taken to calling it. I doubt I'll have time to attach the panels to each other tonight, but maybe by the end of the weekend.

Last night, I wanted to crochet so badly, but it was after 11:00 p.m. before I had the time, which ruled out working on the bag. Because I did not count my rows, and varied from the pattern some, I will need a block of time to wrap up the panel, matching it to the first.

I decided to snag some yarn from my stash and try my hand at the third pattern in the book I've been reading, The Chicks With Sticks Guide to Crochet, for a pair of fingerless gloves.

My love of such gloves knows no bounds.

Because I did not have the right type of yarn, I ended up doing and redoing my foundation chain so many times that I finally settled on a size 9.00mm hook (rather than the 5.00mm recommended).

I have to say, half double crochet is much harder than single crochet. Or rather, it is more awkward. You actually yarn over before you dip into the stitch, and I find myself using my left index finger to keep the yarn from slipping off before I make that move.

I also have some sneaking suspicions that I occasionally revert to sc, or some interesting variation thereof, although I'm not certain. The stitches aren't as pretty as the ones on my bag, but the yarn seems to be a bit fuzzier anyway, so once I've worn them a few times, no one should notice. Besides, that's what first projects are for, right?

My main worry is the measurement. I've been doing 27 stitches across, and it seems like it will be a perfectly loose fit before they ever stretch out. I'll totally rock 'em though.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

HSJ Giveaway

There's nothing I love more than a good giveaway, so when I heard that Hand Sculpted Jewelry is sponsoring one this week, I knew I had to post about it.

If you don't remember, this is the shop from which I purchased that gorgeous Golden Topaz handmade ring!

Now, Tammy is giving away a beautiful French Scroll Bangle Bracelet via Cafe Handmade. You have the whole week to enter. She also currently has a booth at Cafe Handmade's Virtual Craft Show, which includes a similar bracelet to that being given away, with gold tones worked into it.

Why are you still here? Enter already!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hand Sculpted Jewelry

Last night, I made my second Etsy purchase, and I cannot wait until it arrives! Just like the beautiful fingerless gloves that we ordered for my birthday, I wanted something equally special and unique for Valentine's Day. It is very important to me to support the handmade community.

Let me tell you, the wonderful artisans at Etsy do not make it easy to choose just one gift. After much deliberation, I narrowed it down to one shop: Hand Sculpted Jewelry.

I felt an instant connection with the artist, Tammy's, rings, and two in particular stood out. The above photo of the Golden Topaz ring is the one that I selected in the end.

It might seem an odd choice, given that this isn't my birthstone. To that I say, I am a liberated being, and I can choose whichever stone speaks to me! The yellow just popped. It's such a happy ring. These days, yellow seems to be my new spirit-lifting colour of choice.

I'm grateful that I have met Tammy, the artist. She's just delightful, and very accommodating. All of her pieces are unique, and she'll work with you to create a custom size and colour scheme if you're looking for something in particular.

She also happens to have a Valentine's sale going on. It lasts from now until the 14th of February, Valentine's Day itself. A $50 purchase will net you free shipping, $75 will grant you a $10 gift certificate, and $100 gets you a $20 gift certificate.

She even throws in a complimentary gift box, and you only pay the cost of shipping one item, even if you purchase multiples. Again, I cannot wait until my ring arrives!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Panel One, Done

Ahh, the sweet sensation of success. Last night, I parked myself down in front of my television set for a few hours and finished off the first panel of my bag. I haven't sewn in any of the ends yet, but it looks gorgeous.

Of course, this means that I still have one full panel to go. My measurements are a bit off, at 13.4 inches across and 19.6 tall, off from 14 inches by 19. This is mainly due to one dropped stitch at the beginning, and my inability to count rows. Replicating it should be easy enough though.

I did run into some trouble shaping the handle. Because this is my first time reading a pattern, and I've been doing it alone, I made one mistake when beginning the shaping. Instead of attaching a second ball, as is recommended, I decided to use only one, and simply cut it off when I was done the first side.

This would have gone fine, if not for one small oversight on my part. You work toward the middle, back, toward the middle, and back, and so on. Ideally, I would have done this for one side, cut it off at the corner of the panel, repeated this for the other side, and then beginning at that corner, made one more row, chained 13, and then continued on the one side.

Alas, I ended up having to cut and attach the ball of yarn three or four times because I ended the row in the middle rather than the corner, which would have resulted in one handle having one more row than the other! Oh well, that was easy enough.

The chaining didn't go as well. I thank my lucky stars that when I crocheted back over it, I did not drop a stitch, because each was very difficult to determine, and nearly impossible to shove my hook into, despite my best efforts to make a loose chain. Simply crocheting over that 13-chain probably took me well over half an hour. Now, to repeat the process!

In other news, I finally got my ravelry invitation today! I've spent all afternoon cataloguing my yarn, hooks, this project in-progress, adding the pattern to the database, joining groups, and much more! Find me as starlitafternoon.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tips for Starting a Project

I have to say that so far, starting up a crochet project has been the most difficult thing about the learning process. The work tends to curl, the stitches look uneven, and crocheting into your chain is no small feat. Even recognizing the stitches at first can be hard, leaving you with the task of ripping out your rows and trying again.

The piece of advice that got me started on my soon-to-be lovely bag came from my Mom. There is no rule that says that you need to do the chain or the first row onto it using the size of hook that the pattern dictates.

The pattern for my bag has asked me to use an 8.00mm size hook, which was a bit awkward for me, because I had practiced chaining and single crochet using a smaller hook.

In order to get the bag off the ground, I chained using the 8.00mm hook, but did my first row of single crochet using a 6.00mm hook. I also crocheted into the back loop, rather than both loops. Then, I continued the project using the 8.00mm hook and crocheting through both loops.

This allowed me to bypass some of the tightness, and helped me with the frustrating task of digging into a thin little chain with the monstrous hook!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Beginner Tricks: The Hook, and Such

Being a beginner myself, I'm hardly in any spot to be giving tips to other would-be crocheters. Still, in the short time that I've been doing this, I've realized how personal the craft is, and so I'm going to document some of the tricks that have been working for me.

The Hook
My own research taught me that there are basically two ways to hold your crochet hook. The first is the Pencil Hold, which means that you hold it like you would a pencil. The flat part goes between your thumb and fingers, and the meat of it rests on your hand.

The second is the Knife Hold. This is the hold that I chose, because, and I quote, "I feel like I have a lot of control with this method and can really 'dig in'...It allows me to crochet faster than using the pencil hold." - Nancy Queen, The Chicks With Sticks Guide to Crochet.

Now that I've become used to it, I completely agree. Because you stitch into other stitches, you really are "digging." It did take me some time to get used to though. After all, I hold pencils more often than I hold knives.

The trick? You don't have to face the hook in any particular direction. You can aim it up, at you, down, or all around. This will not affect your yarn over. In fact, "yarn over" sounds more complicated than it is. 99% of the time, as long as you are hooking the yarn, you've yo'd.

Stringing the Yarn and Holding the Project
My other main problems involved holding the yarn. Everything was so tight, and I'd end up stretching my stitches trying to loosen the new ones and make room. Funnily enough, the problem rests almost entirely on what you're doing with your left hand (or right, if you're a leftie).

Why is it so tight? Because you're holding it tightly, silly! You just don't notice because you're paying attention to the hand with the hook. Once you've wrapped the yarn around your hand in a way that works for you, don't let it go. This is now a permanent condition until you have to put the entire piece down.

Remember that you have to shift the yarn a little through your hand. You also have to tug on the ball. Just move your entire left hand to pull a little yarn. If you're having trouble, check out your ball. If it is resting on the way it is wrapped, or caught on something, you might do well to turn it or move it entirely.

I like to keep it nestled between the back of my keyboard and my books, in the tote bag I carry, or in my lap with my legs crossed.

Trust me, treating your left hand (or whichever holds your yarn) as one solid unit did wonders for me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Amazing Fingerless Gloves

Yesterday, my birthday present from Sam finally arrived! I had asked for some fingerless gloves, and I had my eye on a few listed on After some thought, I chose this pair from Lola and Emilin.

The gorgeous turquoise section comes from a sweater that happened to make its way into the dryer one fine day. I love that element, as well as the pairing of the grey crocheted hand pieces.

They're very warm, and allow for a lot of movement. I can even slip them on over a watch or my Medic Alert bracelet in a pinch if I'm cold.

They came thoughtfully packaged, and included two free handmade gift tags with owl imprints. I'm so happy with this purchase. I can't wait until I'm able to crochet my own gloves, although it will be quite some time before I'm able to do anything close to this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My First Crochet Project

This is a snapshot of my first work in progress. Soon, this will be a gorgeous felted bag in my fave colour, teal.

The pattern can be found on page 33 of The Chicks with Sticks Guide to Crochet by Nancy Queen and Mary Ellen O'Connell, and is entitled, "Chicks' Slit-Top Felted Bag."

I have chosen Lion Brand 100% wool that is "perfect for felting." The weight is medium (four), and the colour is "Dark Teal." I was so pleased when my Mom found a stack of it on sale, because teal and turquoise are my favourite colours.

Because this will be my first project, I wasn't going to spend too much money on it. I kept joking that I'll be walking around with a homely little craft bag as my badge of honour as a beginner.

I've actually spent some time playing around with chaining and the single crochet, although my first "piece" was just a chain with a few rows on top of it using some leftover acrylic yarn from my Mother's stash. It looked all right, although I later found out that I was doing it, well, not wrong, but I was crocheting into the back (?) loop only, rather than through both.

I also had a habit of losing stitches.

After some extremely unsuccessful attempts at playing around with the 8.00mm hook that I am using for this project, I thought, why not just start? It'll sort itself out.

I'm so pleased that I did! My stitches are prettier than I could have imagined, and I feel like a pro. All of the things that I had been practicing that hadn't quite clicked yet, such as stringing the yarn along through my left hand, just fell into place. I can't wait to get more of it done.

I am also finding myself quite addicted already! I'm anxious to start connecting with other crocheters, and developing my skills so that I can try different patterns. First, of course, I have to finish this bag!