Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm Still Here

I know it's been a while, suffice it to say life got the best of me over the past few weeks, but I pinned it down, twisted its arm and forced it to say "uncle".  So for now, we have agreed on a truce and things are manageable, again.  But life is tricky, so I'm keeping my eye on it just in case it asks for a rematch...bring it on!

I was able to complete a rush project just in time for my sister's birthday.  I will post about that here shortly along with pictures.

I am also working on a new afghan for my mom, that one is a bear because it is worked in pieces, 162 octogon shaped pieces, along with 120 decorative pieces...phew!  I'm commited!  I will keep you all posted on this one.

See you all in a bit.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Very Own Creation

Ending my last post with the words, "next challenge" turned out to be a self-prophecy.  Right after I completed the throw for my husband, and one for my son, in a different color, of course; my daughter asked me to make one for her.

However, she did not want it like the ones I had already made she wanted one especially made with a specific set of colors.  I didn't know whether to take this as a compliment and her belief in my crochet abilities or as her way of challenging my skills to see if I really had it in me.  My daughter is a bit of a...well, how do I say this...challenge herself, she can put you to the test just to see what you're made of without blinking an eye.  If you pass, then you've earned her respect and admiration, if you fail, well, let's just say I didn't want to go there.  It took me a couple of weeks to think about how I was going to conquer this quest. 

A few weeks back I had considered taking a crochet class and had looked up a yarn store in my area that offered crochet lessons.  In speaking with the owner of the shop she explained that it was a six-week session, two nights a week for about an hour for, I believe she said, $120, total.  It didn't sound too bad, so I asked what she taught in the class and she showed me the pattern book that she used, 63 Easy-To-Crochet Pattern Stitches.  I took one look at that book and thought, "Heck, I should just buy the book and learn on my own, and save myself $120," which is exactly what I did.

So, in planning out the afghan for my daughter I used 63 Easy-To-Crochet Pattern Stitches to help me design it.  This was my first attempt at crocheting several smaller crocheted pieces and joining them together to create a larger finished product.  Following the instructions for the stitches I selected was pretty easy, I only chose to use the less intrinsic patterns, so making the foundational pieces went pretty quick with little problems.

However, the challenge came once I joined the foundational pieces and started to work on the afghan as a whole with the different colored borders to complete the item.  I noticed that one end of the project was a lot tighter than the other and instead of turning out in a nice rectangular shaped it kind of formed something like an isosceles triangle, only not so pointy at the end.  It wasn't too bad, if I pulled and tugged it, it could be reshaped into somewhat of a rectangle, so I knew I would have to block it once I was done.

I made pretty good time with this one.  Once it was completed, I stuck it in the washing machine, laid it out on my bedroom floor, "pinned" it down with lots of large cans from my pantry and let it dry.  The end result was as close to a rectangular afghan shape as I could have hoped for, the only thing that kind of "bugged" me about it was the center squares, they sort of bubbled up or had quite a bit of slack.

If I had to do this over, I would have used the same type of yarn consistently throughout the entire project.  I used an acrylic/rayon blend for the red, green and yellow patches and borders and then an acrylic yarn for the black patchwork and borders.  My only reason for doing it this way was because I had a couple of large skeins of the black yarn and figured what was the harm.  Next time in know.

So, anyway, here is the finished product, my daughter loved it, and so did her cats, and I'm very proud of my very own crochet design, thank you very much.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Treading Lightly

After the baby blanket and the wire crochet bracelet, I worked on a capelet and a lapghan with the intended purpose of providing them as gifts to a local retirement home.  Unfortunately, I haven't followed through with that because I feel a little silly showing up with only two items.  This is a project that is constantly in the back of my mind, and as I create a few more items I am looking to follow through with my original plan around Christmas time.  Between now and then I am honing my skills in crocheting throws and afghans to add to my list of items.

So, on a recent trip back to the craft store I came across a free project leaflet for a camouflage throw, I thought, "Hmm, interesting."  The first person that came to mind when I saw the pattern was my husband, over the past few months he had been challenging me to make him a "blanket".  Here was my opportunity; it couldn't be easier, purchase the camouflage colored yarn, use the right hook and follow the instructions (mostly double crochet stitch), a cinch!  Yeah, right.

Eagerly I arrived home and announced that I was ready to make him his "blanket" and went to work.  That stinkin' throw fought me the entire time, arghhhh!  I'd get a couple of rows done and then I would review it only to find that five rows back I missed a stitch or didn't place the stitch in the right spot!  This went on for about a week; for some reason, I think it was the size of the project, I would lose my place on the darn thing.

Once, I conquered that challange and I was two-thirds of the way through I realized my gauge was too tight, so what should have been a nice 36" x 60" sized throw was ending up more like a 32" x 54", way too small, and I used the exact number of skeins the pattern called for.

Well, I wasn't going to let that derail me.  I finished the throw using all the camouflage yarn, then I went back to the craft store and purchased two more large skeins of a brown yarn and used it to make a large enough border around the throw to compensate for my screw up.  The original pattern called for a thin border (two rows of single crochets) all the way around, but I ended up making it 18 rows of single crochet with one row of double crochet to break it up a little bit.
In the end I actually liked the way this looked better than what the original pattern called for, and as for hubby, he couldn't be happier.  He has been using his little "blanket" every night since the weather turned cold.

Next challenge!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Confessions of a Yarn Shopaholic

I've never been much of a clothes horse, and the idea of spending a saturday afternoon at my local mall trying on outfits and finding the perfect pair of jeans just about makes me hurl.  BUT ask me if I want to go to Michael's (our local craft store) and I'm in the car before you finish your sentence.

Anyone who knew me 20 years ago has a hard time believing this about me.  In my 20's the furthest thing on my mind was being a stay-at-home mom and anything that had to do with a "domesticated" lifestyle.  Ha! What the heck did I know.  The things I fought the hardest to avoid then are the ones I love, value and appreciate now.  So, yes, I am a practictioner of the domestic arts.  I am a stay-at-home mom and I love it.  I like taking care of my family.  I love to cook.  I like to see the joy and satisfaction a delicious and well cooked meal brings to my family.  I enjoy simple pleasures like reading and working with my hands, thus crochet, so shoot me.

Planning and shopping for a new crochet project is just as much fun, for me, as finding the perfect outfit is for others.  Walking into my local craft store searching for just the right yarn is total therapy.  Scanning the book isle for new ideas and patterns, picking up the "free project' leaflets and envisioning the right person to gift with my handy work, ah, there's nothing like it.

Where I would second guess spending $50 on a new blouse, it is totally reasonable and justifiable to me to spend that much on yarn and not blink an eye.  Is it crazy?  Some may say yes, but when you're hooked and need that next project fix nothing else feels as rewarding.

So, I say, "Hi, my name is Anita, and I am a yarn shopaholic."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Let's Try Something Different

On my maiden scout for books on crochet I purchased Stitch'N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker.  This book is filled with lots of information and "how-tos", and includes mini bios of others who discovered their passion in crochet, as well as, project patterns.  One of the projects in this book that caught my attention was for wire crochet jewelry.  I had never heard of such a thing but was intrigued by the concept and thought, "What the heck, I'll give it a try!"

My niece's 21st birthday was coming up and she was planning a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate, so I thought a cute bracelet with the colors of a roulette table would be appropriate.  I purchased my wire, picked out the right crystal beads, a jewelry making starter kit and took on the new challenge.

I'll admit crocheting with wire is TOTALLY different from crocheting with yarn!  Working the wire with a hook was challenging, my hands took a beating and this project required a lot more focused and determined attention; however, after much trial and error I had my finished product!  My niece loved it and my sisters asked me to make bracelets for them.

I have since completed four different bracelets and four necklaces using the same pattern.  I really liked the extra creativity provided by this form of crochet/jewelry making, so I researched books solely on wire crocheting and I found Crochet with Wire, which I really liked, but there weren't many others that appealed to me.

For the moment I have focused solely on crocheting with yarn, but I'm still on the look out for an interesting pattern or book that will help me create other interesting wire crochet pieces.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Baby Blanket for Jayden

After deciding that I wanted to rediscover crocheting I headed straight for my local crafts store where I purchased a crochet starter kit.  The kit came complete with 3 hooks and a how-to book.  My very first project was a scarf for my daughter using one of the stitches I learned as a child, the double crochet.  Oh my gosh, was I ever so proud of myself when I completed it, handed to my daughter, and she liked it!  That was all I needed to progess, I was hooked, and soon I was on to my next project.

One of my cousins was pregnant with her first baby, so I decided a baby blanket would be a good one to tackle.  I scoured the Internet and headed to my local Barnes and Noble where I spent four hours one saturday scanning almost every book they had on crocheting.  I found a simple shell stitch pattern on the Internet, purchased my yarn and got to work.

I kid you not, I must have taken that thing apart about 15 times before I not only got the stitch, but the gauge, and the size just right.  My husband thought I was crazy because he would see my working away for hours making progress only to walk back into the room a find a pile of unravled yarn and me back to square one.  The funny think is I never felt aggravated or like giving up, my focus was on the finished product.

I believe I worked on that baby blanket for about four months and completed it a couple of weeks before my cousin's baby shower.  It was a nice blanket but I wanted to add some detail, so I researched and found a simple rose pattern and added a few to the blanket.  Heck, I was so proud of myself!

I remember showing the blanket to my aunt who also crochets and receiving kudos from her, which built up my confidence and fueled me to continue on my crocheting journey.

At her baby shower, my cousin opened up the gift box that contained the baby blanket I made and was so surprised to know that I had  made that for her and proudly showed it off to everyone there.  It was very rewarding to know that something I made with my own two little hands was well received and appreciated by others.

I have attached a couple of pics of the blanket, and although not perfect, I consider it a masterpiece.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rediscovering a childhood passion

As a young child, I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents.  While my grandfather read stories to me and taught me how to write my name, my grandmother taught me how to bake and crochet.  I was always fascinated by the many things she was able to create using yarn and a crochet hook, so I wanted to learn to do the same.  Sadly, my crochet abilities remained limited to single crochets, half double crochets and double crochets; I became really good at making pot holders and round mats for my dolls' house.

As the years passed, and I grew up, other interests captured my attention leaving my attempts at mastering crocheting on the back burner.  However, my grandmother's legacy of crocheting various items for family and friends did not die out, my maternal aunt began crocheting and carrying on the tradition.

Each time she gifted us with an afghan, scarf or decor item meticulously created by her I fantasized about doing the same.  So two years ago, in my early forties, I decided to venture out and relearn my childhood skill.  This blog is dedicated to the many pieces I have and will create in my attempt to become an experienced crocheter.

I hope to post about the items I have completed, as well as, items in progress and detail the challenges with each project.  My goal is to have this blog inspire those who are new to crocheting and let them know they are not alone, as well as, provide encouragement to follow your dreams and passions at any age.

So, stay tuned.