Between the Rows

I’ve discovered that the best way to avoid repetitive stress strains are to have multiple projects going at one time. I’m super excited because last night, our new washer and dryer were installed, which means I can now wash all the fabric I got to make rag dolls. Because I believe in diversity, I bought light beige, dark tan, and chocolate brown fabrics for the bodies. I also bought felt for the hair, which I’m going to return for fleece (Aubrey’s idea), since it is much softer, and comes in better colors.

I love this pattern, in spite of the fact that the embroidered faces on the envelope look like psychopathic killers.

I figure this is a great way to practice my sewing skills, teach Aubrey how to pin and cut, and they’re perfect for putting on Etsy for Christmas sales, assuming I can get any done in time. Worst case, they’ll be ready for next Christmas, right?

For the clothes, I have two stacks of fat quarters that Aubrey got for Christmas a few years ago, and I bought half yards of different calicoes and batiks. I’m hoping the sewing will go fast, and since much of the accessories are felt, there isn’t much hemming required. I intend to use Velcro instead of buttons, so that they are toddler safe. The best part is I doubt anyone will be upset if a seam isn’t absolutely perfect on a doll dress, whereas for a kid’s dress, I would personally be much pickier.

That is the problem with growing up with a master seamstress for a mother. I can instantly spot poor seaming and a bad cut, and refuse to pay for shoddy work. Unfortunately, my mom doesn’t sew much anymore, which is a great loss to the local fashionistas. She could whip up a Vogue wedding dress with lace and buttons and sequins, all in a matter of days, and without a dress form. I can’t count how many formal gowns she made me when I was in high school, usually the day before an event. She would show up at school and make me try it on in the bathroom so she’d have the hem done in time. For my wedding dress (which was really a fitted blouse and a British walking skirt), she had three days. We were pretty loopy by the day of the wedding, as we were surviving on just a few hours sleep here and there. In spite of having to tacky glue the pearls to the lace at 4:30 am, just hours before the wedding, my outfit was amazing.

On top of my dress, she also made ribbon roses for all the bridesmaid dresses. We had searched around for summer formals, and managed to find one style that was in different colors and sizes…on sale for $10 each. Although we managed to find a size for each bridesmaid, they ended up in four separate colors. My mom’s solution was to get plaid ribbon that exactly matched the four colors. She made about 40 roses, and sewed ten along each of  the tops of the bodice, which fell in a ruffle under the roses. My bridesmaids were out $23 total, because my mom didn’t charge them for her labor.

Of course, she also did all the flowers, while I crafted bluebonnets for the groomsmen to wear. My first husband and I were married on the Bluebonnet Miniature Train as it rode through the park, so it seemed appropriate. I had bluebonnets in my bouquet, too. My mom is equally an amazing florist as she is a seamstress, and she managed to pull off the entire wedding for $500.

I know that back then, I never showed the appreciation that my mom deserved. I could be an entitled spoiled brat (what do you mean not every teenager had their own couture wardrobe on a dime?), and while I always said thanks, I don’t think it was ever enough. Now that I’m old enough to realize how lucky I was, and I am now the one behind the machine, I really mean it when I say thank you for going above and beyond, not just once or twice, but all the time.


Simple Pleasures

After a several week heat wave (as is customary for fall in Texas), once again it is finally cool enough for a fire. Last night, I put a new, thick comforter on my bed, with my denim quilt on top. This morning, I am cuddled up under my quilt with a pile of warm yarn in my lap and a fire next to my bed. Now that Aubrey is awake, hot tea is on its way. I just need Oreo to come snuggle and my simple pleasures will be complete.

Warm and toasty!

Fall is my favorite season, although New England does it better. Still, I love crocheting in the fall as we barrel towards Christmas. It makes me feel connected to my prairie-inhabitant ancestors, whom I am sure did some kind of needlework. I imagine my grandmother in Colorado sitting in front of a fire, working on a pair of socks, or a quilt, or a cross-stitch sampler. She was a nurse, and considering how much Aubrey looks like that side of the family, I’m sure she was beautiful.

I have my projects in queue; my friends Celtic knot shawl, a butterfly shawl for Aubrey, and I need to finish Matt’s blanket that I started last year. In between, I will be working on rag dolls while Aubrey works on creating new clothes from existing clothes.

After enjoying the experience of having a giant craft room with a fireplace and a bed in it, I don’t think I could ever live without one. At least I’ll know what to look for when we move up north. Yes, my room is always messy, but mess is part of the creative process, right? Of course it is!

So today is a stay in bed, watch tv, and crochet kind of day. Life is good.

Overwhelmed and Under Stress!

Sigh. I know we have six weeks until Christmas, but I feel like I have six days. I blame it on Michael’s. With all their craft stuff everywhere, I desperately want to do one of everything, but there’s just no time. So I just end up feeling stressed.

I didn’t plan to go to Michael’s, but Aubrey is taking the Wilton cake decorating courses, so she needed coloring and piping gel and a cake spinner and…and…and… And I’m so glad that she has a job and paid for all of that stuff herself. Yesterday, she almost killed us all with a super ultra rich chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting and a chocolate ganache filling. For the ganache, she used real, heavy cream, and for the frosting, she used real butter. This thing is a chocolate heart attack. I made the mistake of eating two pieces (because it was SO damned good), and then spent the rest of the night with a stomach ache.

I think another thing contributing to my holiday stress is the mess that is my office. It’s so disorganized, with bags upon bags upon bags of yarn. If they did a show about yarn hoarders, I would be the star. I always comb the clearance sections, or snag yarn when it’s on sale. Then it tends to multiply in the dark, much like clothes hangars. I feel like I’m in the movie, “The Blob,” but instead of being from outer space, it’s a giant ball of yarn, bearing down on me at avalanche speed.

I need a plan. Actually, I need a professional organizer. I have so many craft supplies, and I actually DO all of these crafts (okay, except for the quilting, but the four bins of fabric are a whole other story). I wish I had a fairy craft-mother who could come wave her magic wand and have all my supplies fly into the bins where they belong. I guess she must be using the Apple maps, and is somewhere in South Korea. Sigh.

My office around this time last year. Not too much has changed, other than the items that make up the piles.

I wrote this several hours ago, and did come up with a solution…I took a LONG nap! Now my office is still a mess, but I don’t really care as much. I think I shall try to remind myself to take a nap everyday between now and New Year’s Eve. Besides, the more I sleep, the more yarn I have when I wake up!

Creative Comfort Crafter’s Gloves

My recent marathon crochet sessions have managed to irritate my wrists. I don’t suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, but I do have other nerve issues that cause pain to be referred from my shoulder down to my wrist. While I have painkillers and anti-inflammatories, I prefer to try other avenues before resorting to chemicals.

I’ve tried other wrist wraps in the past, but they are too stiff to use for crocheting, and they’re held closed with velcro, which is something you never want near delicate yarn. I tried wrapping them with ACE bandages, but again, the end result was too stiff. On a recent trip to JoAnn, my daughter pointed out the Creative Comfort gloves. They were $17, but I had a 40% off coupon.

Comfortable, soft, and supportive!

These are essentially fingerless mittens made of a cotton/spandex blend. They are extremely comfortable, and supportive without being stiff. While I did have to adjust the way I hold my hook in order to keep a constant tension, it was easy to get used to. After using them, my wrists felt much less painful, and I was able to work for a longer period of time. Because they are mostly cotton, they breathe well, so my hand does not get excessively hot or sweaty.

While some people do need the full support of a brace or a tight wrap, if you just need moderate support, the Creative Comfort gloves are a great solution. I now keep them with my hooks and scissors, and they are a vital tool in my crochet arsenal.

Do you ever have pain in your wrists? If so, what is your solution?

Knot Anywhere Near Done

After a two day crochet-athon, my wrists are inflamed, and I have a chafed spot on the side of my arm where it rubbed against my shirt while I’m stitching. I gave myself last evening off, but today, I’m back at it.

As you can see, I’ve made quite a bit of progress, but it’s still only about a sixth of the way done. This is the first full repeat, with three more to go. Then I will make four strips of a simple cable stitch, and seam them all together.

I asked my friend at StitchKnit if she had any tips for the chafing problem, and she said she uses a small towel folded up and tucked into her armpit. Sounds bizarre, but it worked!! My arm is able to rest comfortably while maintaining a safe distance from my shirt. I’m really grateful to have a needlework mentor who is happy to share her knowledge.

Today, I’m breaking up the crochet work with other Etsy related business things. You may have noticed I’ve switched up the blog a bit and added an About page. I also plan to add jewelry to my shop, so that means pictures, pictures, and more pictures. Then there is adding the descriptions, measurements, etc. I will be the happiest girl if I ever manage to sell anything! After all this work, I hope it pays off enough to keep me in yarn…

All Tied Up In Knots

After losing an entire day due to sleeping off the anesthesia from a minor surgical procedure, I lost even more time after deciding to frog my four completed rows. I was trying to do it all in one panel, even though one pattern is done in hdc and the main pattern is done in dc. I gave up on that (nightmare) and went with separate panels instead. It’s much faster, as there isn’t as much counting to be done.

I am in love with Becleigh’s design, as it is original and intricate. It’s also a pain to follow, but I broke out the stitch markers and that has helped substantially. When I first learned to crochet, I refused to use markers, trying to act all tough and edgy. Now I can’t imagine stitching without them. I like the rounded plastic ones with a little slit on one side. I bought all the makings for pretty jewelry style ones, but I’ve never gotten around to assembling them. I may put aside a few hours next week and make them to put in my shop.

Meanwhile, here’s the new center panel as opposed to the middle of the one big panel!

1/28th of the way through the middle panels!

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Celtic Knots and Cables

I finally finished the Blue Heart shawl! Unfortunately, my daughter went out clubbing last night and wore the wrong shoes, so she has blisters all over her feet and can’t model for me today. Obviously, it was her first time to ever go to a club, and although she had a blast, she knows what not to wear next time.

Now I am moving on to a cabled split shawl that a friend has asked me to make for her. I love making cables in crochet…I’m sure it’s the Irish side of me that longs for Aran sweaters and shawls, and filet crochet Celtic knots. My friend is going to a Ren Faire in two weeks, so I have to move fast. So a K hook it is (don’t want it too lacy), with Simply Soft in Autumn Red. I love the color and sheen, and it will have a great drape. The problem with cables is they can sometimes make the fabric too stiff, so using a soft yarn should overcome that. Here are the two patterns I’m blending and adapting for my pattern:

Picture and pattern by Becleigh Durham

Picture by GwenAnne, Pattern by Joyce Nordstrom

I’m about to be out of shows to watch while I crochet. I’m almost done with Gossip Girl (I know, I know), and it only got 10 episodes for their series finale. Fringe is also on their series finale, with only 13 episodes. So my question to you is, what do you watch or listen to while you crochet? What’s your favorite tv series? Perhaps it is one I haven’t heard of, and will give me something new to watch!