Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Improvising

  It looked great on the hanger. Not my color, but the kind of style I'd wear... So, I committed to adding it to my wardrobe and welcomed it into my home. Soon after, I realized this (clothing) relationship was going nowhere. 

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  It all started at the outlet store: This looked to be a dressy-casual blouse that could be paired with a jacket or other accessories. A modest V-neck, full back that ran into a short collar, and tank sleeves that sort of flowed into a pleated front. Again, not my color... But for $6, I could wear that! And the shirt has now been stuffed in my drawer for about a year. So, what happened? Where did it all go wrong?

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  Before I'm accused of impulse buying, I should explain what I'm like when I'm not yarn shopping... I really, truly despise having to shop for clothes. 1) They (almost) never have my size. 2) Not everything comes in black. 3) My sense of style is offended by the options available. 4) There are other people in the store. 5) I could be spending money on more yarn instead. 6) My skin crawls at the thought of trying on clothes. 7) Glitter. ✨ 8) Colors.๐ŸŒˆ 9) The music is lame. ๐Ÿ’ฉ 10) And did I mention this is not the yarn store?

  To save my sanity, I have a system of shopping on a $10 per-item limit at outlet stores. It's something other than "impulse" buying. It's more like "please get me out of here" buying. I pick up what looks good within the budget, take it home and wash it first, then I try it on. I'm pretty good at judging things, but occasionally items don't fit and get dumped on The Kid or charity. Then there's this top, which fell into a shapeless mess after the first wash. "Machine wash, lay flat to dry", and FLAT is all I'll ever get out this pillowcase-like disaster of a garment that's a bit too large.

  The pleating (or is that ruching/gathering?) that ran around the underarms washed out somehow, which left the sides hanging loose. To add to the mess, my lack of size "up top" let the cross-over front close up around my neck. It looked more like a kimono. The sleeveless design hung too far out on my shoulders, and it was not flattering to my figure. This top is a disaster

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Or... Is it? I did some digging in the yarn stash and found a suitable color to match...

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Worked up a quick "band" of 8 foundation double crochet...

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And (temporarily) joined it around the too-wide sleeve with a slip stitch to check for fit...

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I then pulled out the slip stitch and joined with a false stitch for a nice smooth join, and wove the tail through the bottom end to close...

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It looked like a mess on the table, so I tried it on before continuing. Not bad! Okay, time to repeat for the next side...

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  I still thought it looked horrible on the table. But then, it looked great on the hanger, didn't it? This is just that kind of garment that doesn't take its true shape until you put it on. The bands served their purpose to tighten up the sleeves, and it brought back some of the pleated look to the front of the shirt.

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As for what was left of the ball of scrap...

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  The Kid was hovering while I worked. I wasn't sure if she was after my shirt or the fuzzy-soft yarn, so I offered up the yarn. She commenced practicing her pom-pom making skills. Having never made them with bulky-weight yarn, she seemed inspired to work with a new material. I was impressed by her idea. The cat... Well... Lucky was about as excited as I am with clothes shopping. I promise I gave her extra treats to make up for this indignity.

Happy Crocheting!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Lovely Lace

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  I love it when experiments work out in my favor! Today I have a little mini-lesson for you that contains a few different tips, like how to work this lovely lace stitch. But first, I'd like to share with you the story behind how I made one of my favorite mesh stitches into an even-more-delicate lace...

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  Rheumatoid arthritis is still doing its best to cripple these hands of mine, and there are days that holding an "average" size hook is difficult. When I can't close my fingers, I lose hold of the narrow hook and drop it continuously. But I crochet with more motion in my wrists than in my fingers, so I'd have no problem working if I could only keep hold of my hook!

  Sure, a set of ergonomic hooks with big handles might solve the issue, but there's no room for that in the budget after the financial hits I've taken lately. While working on a (top-secret) two-strand afghan with a large plastic hook, I noticed that the bigger hook wasn't causing pressure on my joints and it was easier to hold. I started experimenting with large hooks and worsted weight yarn (like for the textured 1-2-3-Beautiful Scarf). I was pleased with the results at first, but now I think I've blown my own mind with this new project...

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An unusual method:

A size "P" hook meets Woolike yarn by Loops & Threads... This is a super-fine (1) weight yarn with a little bit of stretch, perfect for lace. But WAIT! A 10 mm hook with such a light yarn??? YES. It was a minor battle at first as a tried to keep the springy yarn on the large hook without pulling my loops too tight, but with some practice I started producing a pattern. The result is the same lace mesh I love, but even better. The big loops created by the hook add a bit of a Love Knot look to the stitch. The super-fine yarn works up into a fabric that's light as air and stretches to fit.

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The stitch:

Chain 3, then single crochet in the next available chain space.

Worked in the round, I started this pattern with a magic circle, chained 1 (skip that when joining), and began with a single crochet. I worked a total of 8 chain-spaces in the beginning loop.

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But... How to join?

First, back up... Don't chain 3 for the last space! I showed you in the tutorial for the Be Square Top how to join with a single crochet for a chain-1 space. Now, there's a few options you can make for a chain-3 space:

If you want to begin the next round at the left side of your chain space, you can chain 2 and join with that single crochet. 1 single crochet = 1 chain high. So, 1 single crochet + 2 chains = 3 chains across.

(My method) To begin the next round in the middle of the chain space, chain 1 and join with a half-double crochet. (Half double = 2 chains high)

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To move your beginning spot all the way over to the right side of the chain space, just join with a double crochet stitch. (Double crochet = 3 chains high)


What's next?

This project is worked as a square (in the round), so the stitch pattern stays the same for each space across. To create corners, make an additional (chain-3, single crochet) in the corner space. (Joining space shown above is a corner.)

To start each round in a corner space, begin with one single crochet in the chain space. Work across and around the square, back to the beginning space. Make one single crochet in the beginning chain space, then join with your preferred method.

Here's a chart:
(Click to expand if needed.)

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Now, let me ask: Can you find the joining spaces in the pattern?

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BONUS ROUND!!!

With the corner stitch I'm using, you might think it would be better to join with (chain-2, single crochet) to begin at the left side, right? Yup, I started with that, but noticed my square twisting after round 2. I ripped it out and tried (chain-1, half double crochet)...

Keep in mind that I begin the round with a chain-1 that does not count as a stitch, then make a single crochet after it. This moves the beginning stitch back over to the left a bit, so that I'm not actually beginning the round in the middle of the chain space.

If you want to work a fully round (not square) pattern, you'll need to begin in the middle of that chain space. In that case, you can still use (chain-1, half double crochet), because you're not fighting the twist of a square.
-You can also use the double crochet for a join if you're skipping the beginning chain-1, because the first single crochet will be moved over as it is in my square... Try out different stitch combinations and see which you like best.


In closing...

  As for the rest, I'm keeping it top-secret. I want you to take one, two, or all three of these tips and go create what your imagination wants. Don't care to work with the big hook? You can still use the stitch pattern to work up some beautiful lace. Working a different lace stitch? Go ahead and try some of those stitch combinations for a better join.

  I hope you find something new and fun in the stitch, the join, or by using a bigger hook. I had a more-detailed tutorial planned for the joining combinations, but summer thunderstorms have sabotaged my photos once again. So, I found some fun myself by trying to take some pretty pictures of this romantic lace in the moody lighting... Enjoy!

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Happy Crocheting!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Be Square Top - Part 4

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  The previous tutorials showed you most of what you need to create your own Be Square Top. But, what if your creation isn't perfect? If it came out too small, there's not much you can do... Rip it out, or finish it and donate it. But if you followed my previous tip that bigger is better, here's what you can do to make bigger fit better:


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  At first glance, I thought the issue here was in the armhole. But, wait! I tried it on already and it fit, so how is the armhole too big for the dummy? After some measuring and moving, I realized the problem is actually in the neckline. Because I have an extra-small top stretched over a size small form and the granny stitches around the bust aren't as stretchy as the taller V-stitches, there was some resistance. Instead of pulling the top down to where it would actually ride, I stopped pulling it when the neckline was where I thought it should be... So after getting that straightened out:


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  Notice how the shoulder seams are too low? I didn't need to make the armholes tighter; I (mostly) needed to pull the neckline up.


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  I had left my stitch markers in that mark the corner spaces, so it made it easy to keep track of decreases without having to do much counting.

  Although it seems like I needed to take some room out of the sleeves, the decreases are better done along the front and back. Decreasing too much around the shoulder seam will cause the sleeves to pucker.


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  I decreased the multiples of four (the 3-double crochet, 1-chain granny stitch) down to multiples of two (1-single crochet, 1-chain) across the bust and back.


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  The corner space marks the beginning of the sleeve, so that's where I stopped decreasing. Since making a few more variations of this design, I can say that I've discovered a better way: Decreasing less across the front and back then carrying the decreases a bit into the bottoms of the sleeves makes for a better fit that hugs your figure.


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  On this first attempt, the extra shaping still worked. I kept the stitch count the same along the sleeves with four single crochet in each space.

And notice how the stitches made a bit of a scalloped edge?


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  Well, I could have left the sleeves alone... The armhole hung just a bit too low, but I liked it because I don't want wool all the way up to my armpit, anyway. That scalloped edge, though... I liked it! So, I decided to copy it around each armhole:


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  The single crochet stitches aren't stretchy like the rest of the top, so I used that to my advantage. The problem with the fit wasn't so much the size as the stretch... And stiffening up the edge of the sleeves stopped the top from stretching too low.


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  I did throw a tiny decrease into the bottom of the armhole by shortening to three single crochet for the third-to-last stitch, and then just two single crochet in the last two. With that little decrease of five stitches, the armhole pulled up to the perfect place - Not to high, and not too low.


  Although I wish my first attempt had been perfect and not needed adjustments, you can use my fixes if your own first try isn't how you hoped it would be. But, I do hope my mistakes help you get a better-fitting top! With the experience of things I wish I had done differently, I can give you these tips:

-Making the sleeves thinner than you want and working around them later gives you more room to fix the fit if you're a little off on the size. If you get it right the first time, then you can just work around them while keeping the stitch count the same.

-Use stitch markers for more than marking stitches! I use my locking stitch markers to pinch room out of the top as I try it on. They're easy to move to try out different adjustments, and you can leave them in to mark where you want to make a change.

-Switching stitch patterns like I did in this version may not be the best design idea. ๐Ÿ™ Had I used different stitches with similar stretch, then I wouldn't have needed to make so many adjustments along the way. But please, don't let me limit you... If you have an idea for something beautiful, try it! I'm just saying if you want to keep it easy, keep it simple.

-And do remember not to use wool if you live in Florida. ๐Ÿ˜‰

In case you missed the other parts of the tutorial, here's the links you'll need:




  Progress on the tutorials for the other version is going slow... But that's because I'm making a video! It won't be the same exact pattern as this top, but it will be made using the same format. I'll update here when it's ready for those who are interested.

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Happy Crocheting!

Forward Progress

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  Ah, and here we are again after another sleepless night... Done with ripping back an entire skein, and back to an almost-completed panel blanket. Since this round of insomnia is keeping me up again, I'm glad to have a simple project like this to work on. And since I'm always terribly cold in the air conditioning, I'm also happy to have an afghan to work under even though it's the middle of summer.

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  I'm starting to wonder if my current sleeplessness could be work-induced. Rip van Winkle has taken to sometimes sleeping in a chair to stop his snoring, and it leaves me with an empty bedroom and a (sometimes) quiet house at night. Unlike any other time of the day, the middle of the night is when I can just keep working with no interruptions... And it's kind of nice!

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  Once I decide that I've had enough of work for the night, it seems like I'm able to wind down quickly and go to sleep. But if I don't get tired of working, I don't get tired at all and I just keep going. Maybe this current state isn't really insomnia at all, and it's more like... Drive. It's a paradox that I'm not sure I want to try to solve... Am I crocheting because I can't sleep, or am I not sleeping because I'm crocheting? That thought might show you that my quiet time gives me too much time to think.

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  Either way, the schedule is working out for me. I threw together a whole panel blanket in a few nights, didn't I? Using a size N - 9.00 mm hook and worsted weight yarn, the project works up quickly as it is... And using the seamless join method on panels goes super-fast! But without that quiet time free of interruptions, I'd still be trying to finish panel #3. And if not for the decision to rip back and change yarns for the seam, I might have let this project go idle.

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  Instead, I finished the joins well before midnight and continued on to experiment with a border. (That's where I stopped taking pictures, because I want to keep the whole finished project secret for now.) After a few different color and stitch combinations, I made up my mind and worked on. At 3 a.m., I cut my last yarn. To be honest, I can't call it completely finished because there's still some tails to weave in... But wow, does it feel good to finish a project so quickly.

  The pattern is for one of the next GrannySpiration Challenges, but I'm excited to let you in on a few tips and tricks I've been learning from my blanket-making experiences. I still have to finish up the final part of the Be Square Top tutorial, then I'd like to start another project to help clear out my stash... But wait! What about the "no-new-WIP" rule? Oh! Crochet world, you put me between a rock and a hard place sometimes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Happy Crocheting!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Progress in Reverse

  If you read my last post, then you saw my impulse buy of a (yummy) new yarn. Now, here's the story of the project that caused the shopping trip:

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  It's a panel blanket. I'm using the seamless join method to attach the panels together, and it was going really fast... Really, really fast after a sleepless night spent joining the pieces. But there I was at 3 a.m. with two panels left to go, and I reached the end of my yarn:

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  For the panels, I used a mix of yarns from my stash. The white might be Red Heart Super Saver, but... The more I work with the yarn leftover from making the Eye of the Emerald set, the more I'm sure it's Caron One Pound. The other two yarns are definitely Red Heart Super Saver - One is scrap left from making the Josephina Elephant rug; the other is a whole Jumbo skein bought for a project, but never used.

  And also a leftover from making the elephant rug, almost an entire skein of Red Heart Super Saver in black. It was still so full that I was fighting to pull the tail out when I began. And I weighed it, too: This 7 oz. ball was only missing half an ounce. I was sure that there would be enough to join all the panels!

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  I really like the look of the joining seam I'm making, but it's eating more yarn than the stitch used for the panels. I thought about ripping it back and changing to a lighter stitch, but I didn't want to chance running out again anyway. I like the seam, and I don't want to change it! So, I went yarn shopping...

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  I went yarn shopping to discover that the local Michaels doesn't carry Red Heart Super Saver. UGH! The only other nearby option for getting yarn right now: Wal-mart... NOOOOO! I don't know the reason why in this town, Wal-mart on a Wednesday is a freaking madhouse. It's not much better any other day, but there's no way I'm going there on a Wednesday if I can help it. Since I'm pretty sure I'm already using it in the project anyway, I picked up a skein of Caron One Pound just in case:

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  And wouldn't you know it... Red Heart Super Saver isn't available at the local Wal-mart, either. I'm not sure if somebody just buys it all up, or if the store never stocks it. All I know is that every time I go to buy it, they have empty shelves. So, I'm glad I picked up that skein of One Pound... But now, to progress in reverse:

yarn, stash, WIP, work in progress, Red Heart Super Saver, Caron One Pound, crochet, afghan, panels, seamless join, scrapbuster, stashbuster

  It may seem like undoing to you, but I know I can rip this project out and have it back together before an online order will get here. So in my mind, waiting for a shipment of yarn is anti-progress, and ripping it out is moving forward.

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  After deciding to re-roll the entire skein as a center-pull ball on my fingers, I'm glad to be a heavy metal fan with devil-horn experience. Ouch, that was a lot of yarn to roll that way... And I wasn't even done yet:

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  Soon enough, I had the last of the Super Saver unraveled from the project. I briefly considered redesigning the seam stitch again, but no, I'm keeping it as-is. With that skein of One-Pound, I'll end up having leftovers when I'm done. I like the texture of the fuller stitches combined with the seamless join. It gives the seam a cabled look, and it was working to beef up this somewhat delicate design that's intended for a boy.
 
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  I find it funny that this project forced me to go buy One Pound in black. I just finished the Big Huge Afghan for my dad, which used up the One Pound skeins that were supposed to be for my coffee-themed blanket... But the taupe never fit in with the coffee theme, and I planned to try again with black once the yarn-shopping-ban was lifted... And since the ban never really was lifted (though I've broke the rules a few times), I decided to create the afghan for Dad and make some room in my stash.

yarn, stash, WIP, work in progress, Red Heart Super Saver, Caron One Pound, crochet, afghan, panels, seamless join, scrapbuster, stashbuster

  Now with a new WIP using up more scraps, I'm forced to go buy the yarn that I was waiting to purchase for another project. Ironic? Yes, but I'm taking it as a sign. Work never progressed on the things I was waiting for, but more-spontaneous ideas have started flying off my hook. I found myself once again enjoying finished projects instead of feeling like a failure for the ones that didn't move forward.

  Sometimes when things aren't working, you just have to progress in reverse. Abandon the idea that is holding you back, or at least put it away for another time... Work on something else that gives you a challenge of a different kind... Such as how my latest work in progress is like putting together a puzzle by using up scraps. It's not a plan; just an idea to follow. There's times I like plans. There's other times I'll rip back an entire skein just so I don't have to wait for a shipment of yarn. Do what you have to do to keep the "happy" in...

Happy Crocheting!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mmm, Cotton Cakes!

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  Such a yummy find today! So, I had to go yarn shopping. And when I say "had to", I mean it; I swear! I ran out of the yarn I was using to join the pieces of a work in progress, plus I have a neglected WIP that's also been awaiting the purchase of yarn. As always, you know I have to look for any new yarns that may be on display. (It doesn't mean I have to buy them, right?) The find of the trip: Deliciously soft Caron Cotton Cakes.


Caron Cotton Cakes, cotton, acrylic, blend, yarn, new


  And just because I don't have to buy them doesn't mean I can't buy them, right? Because I totally bought some. After all, No self-respecting crochet blogger would pass up the chance to shout about an awesome new yarn, right? And yes, if you were in the local Michaels, I was the one that was loudly exclaiming "COTTON CAKES? LOOK, IT'S CARON CAKES IN COTTON! CARON CAKES MADE COTTON! OMG IT'S SOOOOOOO SOFT!"... Thanks for looking the other way and understanding my yarn addiction instead of calling the Funny Farm to come get me.


Caron Cotton Cakes, cotton, acrylic, blend, yarn, new


  Anyway, enough silliness about the shopping trip. Let's get to the yarn itself: Cotton Cakes comes in 3.5 oz / 100 g balls; approximately 211 yds / 193 m. Unlike its part-wool big sister Cakes, Cotton Cakes is acrylic blended with... Yup, cotton. Although the label claims to be a worsted weight / 4, it feels much closer to a DK yarn.


Caron Cotton Cakes, cotton, acrylic, blend, yarn, new


  Available in colors similar to the original Cakes, my eyes almost dismissed this yarn for smaller balls of its big Sis. There was a display of Cakes across the aisle from the Cotton Cakes, and I was wondering "why would they put two displays across from each other like that?", then I saw that word: COTTON. So don't go shopping on autopilot, or you might just miss it!


Caron Cotton Cakes, cotton, acrylic, blend, yarn, new


  But no, I didn't miss it. Two balls of Caron Cotton Cakes ended up in my arms, and are now in the stash I'm trying to reduce. Part of me wants to recreate the Be Square Top with it, because wool is just too warm for Florida. The rest of me wants to make something fresh with the new yarn. And if there's anything left of me between "part" and "the rest", it will keep me from starting a new project until all other WIP's are finished.

  What, you laugh and doubt me? (Well, you probably know me, then.) I promise, it hasn't touched the hook yet. As for that little tail that kinda sort-of popped out for me to take a picture, I stuffed it back in so it wouldn't tempt me. Believe me, it's calling... But I have a lot of work to do on the latest WIP on the hook; it's the whole reason I went yarn shopping to begin with. And do I have a story for you about that one! I'll tell it another day, though. For now, I'll leave you with

Happy Crocheting!