Changes Are Coming!

Dear Crochet,

When I first started this blog, I had absolutely no idea how to knit, and no hope of ever learning. You were it for me, and we were happy together. While I still have a fondness in my heart for hooks and cheap yarn, I have to admit it’s time to move on.

From the moment I learned how to balance two needles wrapped in superfine alpaca and do a long-tail cast on, I’ve been in love. Mad, passionate, ridiculous love. I not only knit, I am a knitter. It is in evidence in every room of my house (there are needles in the kitchen and various projects in the laundry room), from the moment one walks in the front door. I feel like I need to embrace my new identity in order to be the person I’m truly meant to be.

Doesn't everyone keep yarn by their front door?

Doesn’t everyone keep yarn, patterns, and stitch markers by their front door?

Please don’t feel used, although you are still the most efficient way to pop out a baby blanket before the kid graduates from high school. I will always remember the nights we spent huddled together in front of the fireplace, the plane flights to not so exotic locations, the long hours spent in waiting rooms on the other side of security gateways. You took me places that needles may never get to go, but it’s just not enough anymore.

I know there are others out there who will appreciate you the way I once did. You still make beautiful lace…doilies. Your afghans are warm, comfortable, and fast. You look fabulous in bargain bin acrylic. But I have needs. NEEDS.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to leave right away. I mean, we do need time to tell our friends that my address will be changing to knitpurltink.com.

My hooks will still be kept in a vase in my craft room, although they may be a bit dusty from disuse. I won’t forget you. And remember, it’s not you, it’s me.

Love,

Carolyn

Sunday Lexicon – Weight

At today’s knitting group, someone asked what “DK” meant. Although she’s a long time yarnaholic like the rest of us, she’s never really learned about the differences in yarn and how they can affect a project. That inspired me to start a weekly lexicon for those who may not necessarily be new to the craft, but are new to the terminology. This week, let’s talk about weight.

Weight is another way to refer to a yarn’s thickness. It is highly variable, depending on the manufacturer. The most standardized way to determine a yarn’s thickness is WPI, or Wraps Per Inch. To determine the WPI, take a ruler, or anything you can make a one inch measurement on, and wrap your yarn around it. Count how many lines of yarn you see between one inch. Easy, right? Now it doesn’t matter who makes the yarn, you can easily ensure you’re using the same weight of yarn called for in a particular pattern.

This WPI sheep is adorable!

This WPI sheep is adorable! Sold on etsy by MoonsongFiberworks. Click the pic to go to their listing.

 

Starting with the lightest weight:

Cobweb: 40 or more WPI, about 1200 yards per 50 gram skein

Cobweb is often used for shawls and other lace projects. It is super-fine, sometimes thinner than sewing thread. NEVER try to wind cobweb weight yarn without a yarn swift, trust me.

Lace: 36 to 40 WPI, about 440 yards per 50 gram skein

Lace is also used for shawls and other lace projects, but can also be used for colorwork if you want to keep the thickness of your final project manageable.

Fingering: 24 to 30 WPI, around 220 yards per 50 gram skein

Fingering, also known as sock yarn, is most often used for…socks! It’s also popular for baby items, fingerless mittens, and gloves. It’s easy to work cables in fingering, too.

Sport: 18 to 24 WPI, around 120 yards per 50 gram skein

Sport is popular for socks, baby items, hats, gloves, and colorwork. It’s also great for summer weight tops and sweaters.

Double Knitting, or DK: 12 to 18 WPI, about 120 yards per 50 gram skein

DK is perfect for, well, double knitting! DK and Sport are often interchanged, so be sure to compare the WPI of your chosen yarn with the WPI of the yarn recommended for your project.

Worsted: 10 to 12 WPI, around 110 yards per 50 gram skein

You may hear the term “worsted weight” a lot, as that is what most big box store acrylic yarn is, particularly Caron Simply Soft, Red Heart Super Saver, Lily Sugar ‘N Cream, and much of the Lion Brand line. Worsted is the go-to yarn for many items, particularly sweaters, slippers, and bags. It is the workhorse of yarn craft. Anything from slippers to afghans, hats, gloves, baby items, bags, scarves…anything you can knit, you can knit with worsted (and yes, I do mean lace!).

Bulky: Less than 8 WPI, around 60 yards per 50 gram skein (although most often sold in 100 gram skeins)

Bulky is great for rugs, heavy jackets, and bags. It’s also great for felting, as with felting, projects need to be knitted larger so that when it shrinks, it is the right size. Larger yarn means fewer stitches, and since you’re felting it anyway, who cares?

Chunky: Less than 6 WPI, around 50 yards per 50 gram skein

Chunky is also known as super-bulky, and is also good for rugs, heavy jackets, and bags.

Don’t think that this will save you from making a gauge swatch, though! If you’re making a fitted item, swatch, swatch, swatch. But if you are making a blanket and don’t mind if it’s a bit off, or like the pattern but want your product to be much larger (or smaller), knowing the weight of your yarn vs. the recommended yarn weight will help. Personally, I love shawls, but spending a month or more to make a lace shawl isn’t always do-able, particularly if it’s a gift. Switch over to worsted weight and a larger needle or hook, make fewer repetitions, and finish a whole lot faster!

Weight isn’t the only factor in determining how your finished fabric will look and feel, but it is definitely important. Hook/needle size, tension, and the yarn itself will all play a role, but weight is the first thing to consider when trying to figure out how your chosen yarn will compare to the recommended yarn.

Enjoy and remember, “Knit through everything!”

All Yarn And No Needle

Down here, when someone is either a complete idiot or they arrogantly brag about how awesome they are but have nothing to back up their claims, we say they are, “all brand and no cattle.” In Texas, anyone can register a brand, as in what’s burned into animal flesh to identify which ranch they belong to. It is not a requirement that one own a ranch nor cattle of any kind. In order to sound rich or important, people would register brands even though they had no reason for it. All brand and no cattle.

Over the shopping frenzy weekend, I bought several skeins of different yarns from vendors on both eBay and Etsy. O.M.G. I came home yesterday (after buying these things on Friday night and Saturday morning, mind you!) and found three bags on my porch. I essentially got most of my stuff in less than one business day! Unfortunately, I couldn’t play with any of it because I still haven’t purchased my needles. In our family, we go into self-purchase lockdown on November 1. No one is allowed the buy anything for themselves until after Christmas. This does not apply to yarn, however. Yarn may be purchased at any time for any (or no) reason. I’m pretty sure that’s chiseled in as the 11th Commandment. Thanks to lockdown, I can’t just buy my needles. I have to wait till Christmas to see if they turn up under the tree. All yarn and no needle.

Although I lacked the proper needles, I very carefully cut open each bag and was in pure heaven when I saw and felt my ICE Artic Merino.

$T2eC16R,!zcE9s4g3Ic)BRPosRtK-!~~60_57

SOOOOO soft, which a hint of a shiny glimmer. I chose the midnight blue color and it is deep and rich and perfect. I quickly decided that this is MY yarn, and I will make something for myself with it. I found the Kuura Shawl on Ravelry and I heard a choir of angels all sing “Aaaahhhhh” and knew this was the pattern I would use.

kuura5_medium2

kuura6_medium2

I have had a soft spot for Finland in my heart after spending a month of summer in Helsinki, so the fact that this shawl is Finnish just made it more perfect. I can just imagine casually wrapping it around my shoulders as the night starts to chill while walking along the Esplanadi, window shopping at all the quirky stores. In typical Finnish design, Kuura has clean and simple lines, nothing overly complicated, yet manages to look intricate and delicate.

In addition to the ICE Artic, I bought a few skeins of other ICE yarn, two skeins of handpainted yarn from my_special_tea, and two skeins of JL Mira from onlinebargainsgalore. If you’ve never tried JL yarn, I highly recommend it. You can find it on eBay and Etsy, or can order directly from Julia’s Yarn. I’ve used several different collections and have always been very happy with it. The bamboo and wool Zania is one of my favorites. Mira is a fingering/sock wool and is decadently soft for a pure wool.

Those weren’t my only yarn purchases, but they were my faves from the day. I am still waiting on a skein of cashmere fingering, some alpaca wool, and more Mira. It’s killing me to see this yarn sitting here feeling lonely and neglected. I can almost hear it crying. I’m trying to look at the bright side; this forces me to continue to work on the Afternoon Tea shawl that I’m making for a friend.

31_medium2

I can’t put it down and go play with other yarn until I have some needles. C’mon Christmas!!!!

Singing The Blues

I’ve been on a fruitless quest to find a coastal themed quilt that isn’t so literal. I don’t want anchors in the corner, or various seashells all over. I don’t want plain strips, but it can’t be too flowery. In no case would I consider one with lighthouses on it. So you can see my dilemma.

While I haven’t completely given up this quest, I decided to check out ravelry for any crochet afghans that might work, and came across one by DROPS. The pattern is unnamed, so I’ve decided to call it Coastal Cool. Click HERE for the link.

While the pattern is throw sized, I want one that is big enough for a queen sized bed. That means instead of making 5 each of 6 different squares, I’m going to make 12 each of 12 different squares for a total of 144 squares, which will be approximately 86 inches by 86 inches.

What I love about this pattern is that in spite of it looking like different patterns for each square, it is actually the EXACT same pattern! The only thing that changes is the color combinations. It took me about six squares before I finally had the pattern memorized, but now that I have, I’m moving pretty quickly. I don’t think it will be done in time for use this winter, but it will be ready and waiting for next winter. Maybe if I’m lucky, we’ll get our usual freezing cold March, so it will get some use this spring.

After working on this for a week or so, I’ve finished 18 squares. Only 126 more to go! This is a great project to take on the go, or to work on when it’s hot outside, because each square is about 7 inches. There’s no giant bundle of blanket on my lap, nor do I have to whip out an 86 inch long ripple while sitting at the doctor’s office. This is actually great to work on while standing in line, like at the DMV or the bank.

The only changes I made to the pattern are to use Simply Soft yarn and an I hook instead of an H. I am a tight stitcher, so I have to use the next size up hook in order to get the right gauge, although gauge isn’t really that important for this pattern. I will need to figure out how to block all 144 of these things before I sew them together, just to make sure they are uniform, but I’ll worry about that later.

I would not usually attempt a granny square ANYTHING, mainly because of all the ends that need to be woven, however my daughter doesn’t mind weaving in the ends, and it gives her something mindless to do while we watch TV. Sewing them all together will be a pain, but it uses a loose zigzag rather than a tight seam.

I think this will be quite pretty when it is done, but I’m not sure I’d ever make a second one! Here are the first two block combinations:

coastalcoolsquare  IMG413

Easy Going – Cheri McEwen

There’s nothing like sleet and a sick child to make us hookers run for our yarn. When it’s cold and rainy outside, I want nothing more than to bundle up next to my fireplace and lose myself in yarn and a good tv show (currently, I’m working my way through the X-Files…so maybe I should take out that modifier “good”). On top of the weather, I have a child who is under the weather. My poor daughter, who is rarely ill, has succumbed to this year’s flu, and has been coughing, shivering, and whimpering next to me since last year. Ok, yes, I know that was just Sunday, but it sounds so much more dramatic, don’t you think?

While she’s sick, I have to be ready to jump up at a moment’s notice. I’ve been running for the thermometer, tylenol, hot tea, chicken soup, pudding, popsicles, apple juice, cough syrup, mucinex, and kleenex, and that’s just been the last four hours. Having to drop my crochet every few minutes makes it difficult to track a complicated pattern. As much as I love a good, complex Doris Chan, it’s these drop everything days when I appreciate the simple repetition of a Cheri McEwen pattern.

What I love about Cheri’s patterns is that they look complicated, and while the first few rows might be a little iffy and require some attention, once you have the repeat down, they become wonderfully mindless, easy to drop and pick up again with little thought required as to, “Where was I?” I’ve made three of her Butterflies Shawl, and they whip up super fast. Today’s project (and likely the rest of the week) is her Small Talk Shawl. While it looks like a ridiculously intense pineapple pattern, it’s actually so simple! What’s really nice is that the pattern doesn’t call for a particular yarn or hook. If you use something proportionate, it will turn out like the picture. A slightly larger hook or finer yarn will make for a lacier look, while a smaller hook or chunkier yarn can give a tightly woven feel.

I first came across Cheri’s work on Crochetvolution and again on Ravelry.com while looking for shawl patterns. She’s quickly become one of my favorite designers, and I usually have one of her patterns working in a to-go bag for when I’m headed to the doctor’s or anywhere I may have to wait a while. She does an excellent job of explaining any pattern specific details, and always has a chart to go along with the printed pattern. I’ve found that a quick glance at the chart is enough to remind me where I am if it’s been a while since I’ve put down that WIP.

Great for a last minute gift because of the easy repetition, her stuff is fun to work on all year long. So while I’m trapped in my house nursing my sick child, I will finish whipping up this lovely Small Talk Shawl. I’m using some ancient baby yarn called Softer Than Angels. I know it’s ancient because the price sticker is from Winn’s, an old fashioned five and dime that closed down in the eighties, which makes this around 25 years old. However, a good acrylic never goes bad, and the lavender and green 3 ply is light and perfect for spring.

IMG370

That is not a pineapple!

 

Another Year, Another Project List!

Now that the holidays are just about over, I have a bit of time to catch up on blogging. I know I owe y’all pics of the All Tied Up In Knots shawl, so here it is…modeled by its new owner, my friend J.

Jennifer1

The front of the shawl. There is a nice amount of overlap, so it can be held close with a shawl pin if needed.

edging

Closeup of the edging. The back filler and the edging are all one piece. For the back, I used three columns. I stopped at the center and continued the split with the two separate columns. This is just a simple twist cable, but the seam itself adds some texture and interest.

seamfiller

A closeup of the back. Three simple twist cables and an easy over/under seam stitch to connect the two panels with the middle.

Jennifer2

Here you can see the filler with the three columns. It also adds a little stretch, and the loose stitching allows it to breath so she won’t get too hot.

Jennifer3

Here is the front right panel. As you can see above, there are two repeats on each side, one front and one back. The Celtic Knot was designed by Becleigh Durham of Australia.

The Celtic Knot pattern is available on Ravelry or on Becleigh’s blog, The Thick Plottens. As you can probably tell, it took FOREVER to finish it! It is essentially four baby blankets and a scarf all sewn together, just to give you an idea of the time factor. However, I can truly say that I am now a post stitch MASTER!

With that out of the way, I can move on to new (and old) projects! Last night, I started on the “Plum’s the Word Shawlette” from Crochet! magazine. It’s only available to subscribers or CGOA members, as it is a web extra and is not published in the magazine.

Plum's the Word Shawlette

Plum’s the Word Shawlette as featured on the Crochet! magazine website.

I’m also working on a couple of original designs, so you’ll be seeing those later on this year.

I still have a few old projects to either finish or frog. I’m working on my son’s afghan that will likely be ready next Christmas. I’m also going to try to get some wedding wear done to post on Etsy. Most importantly, I need to take photos of all the other completed projects that I found lying around in my craft closet!

In between crochet work, I am organizing my craft studio, so you’ll be seeing pictures of before and after (prepare to be horrified!). I have a few chain maille projects lined up, and I need to create room for my daughter to work on her sewing projects. She received two sewing classes for Christmas, so she’ll actually know what she’s doing! Besides her sewing, I will be working on a simple strip quilt made from jelly rolls that I found at Big Lots, of all places! They were only $7.50 for each roll! This will be my first attempt at quilting, so wish me luck.

As we start the new year, I wish everyone joy and prosperity, and the energy and will to finish all of your UFOs (unfinished objects)!

 

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?