Handsome Fancy Goldfish

For one our Christmas exchanges, I made our nephew a fancy goldfish. He has an aquarium and just loves his fish but it’s a bit hard to cuddle them when you can’t take them out of the water.

I went with the standard orange color for my goldfish, and using a pattern I found on Ravelry from Kate Wood, I went to work. (By the way, have I mentioned this pattern is free?)

I used Knit Picks Brava Worsted yarn in Orange and clear eyes I happened to have in my eyes stash (that thought made me laugh). Although the tail/fins get a bit tedious, it’s worth it in the end for the overall look. I did make two tail fins, as suggested by the pattern designer, and she was right that it gives a fuller look, while also supporting the fish.

You can see a couple of the in-progress photos in my goldfish project on Ravelry — but here is the final little guy below. I was extremely careful in placing the side fins, so as to keep them symmetrical with the eyes. The clear eyes really give the fish a more authentic feel, I think.

Isn’t he so handsome? You just want to pick him up and snuggle him, which was the whole point. He was a hit and it made me really happy to be able to do that for our sweet nephew.

Fancy Goldfish_zvc

You could make these in just about any color under the sun and the project page shows a few in different stripey versions, too. I think I will definitely be making more of these.

If you have made any or try this pattern based on my endorsement, I’d love to hear how it goes!

The Cuddliest Snowman

Well, folks, we’re getting down to the last week of 2017! (Hurrah!)

While I usually mourn how quickly a year has gone by, this one I am ready to bid adieu so I can say, “Hello, 2018!”

I am still working on a project here and there, and it’s possible I’ll finish up one or both before 2017 gasps its last breath, but my most recent finished project is too cute not to share and celebrate.

The pattern is from The Crafty Fox Crochet. I saw this snowman in my Instagram feed a lot in the last month; it was a really popular creation amongst crocheters this year. I decided to try my hand at it and I really liked making my inaugural cuddly snowman!

The color options are endless for the scarf, hat, and pom-pom, though I find poms are more of a yarn commitment, since it takes so much to make one. My first one fell apart and I was very squinty about the waste of yarn before I finally got the second one to work (pictured).

I ended up using this snowman as a giveaway gift in a white elephant holiday game, but I think in the future, I’ll reserve making them for those who really treasure these kinds of gifts.

I hope your holiday season is going well, friends. Happy jolly merry holi-daze!

 

Diving Further into Lalylala-land

Hello, friends.

My regular work life amped up in the past month, plus we got to Thanksgiving and the beginning of the mega holiday shopping season.

It’s the cray….craziest time….of the year!

Since finishing the Tunisian triangles pillow, I have zipped out an Etsy order here and there, but I’ve also been doubling down on personal projects, seeing things through to completion. I can say after four full years of crocheting, that my speed at making certain things has increased, which is a nice little perk. What used to take me 8-10 hours has decreased by an hour or two, at least.

I also haven’t taken on any very large projects with a deadline like Christmas looming. I’m not currently working on any blankets or any projects that are overly complex, and that helps keep my stress levels down.

But what I have been able to accomplish is a complete trio of amigurumi from one of Lalylala’s 3-in-1 pattern sets — the winter bunch.

In it are patterns for a snowman, a reindeer, and a pine cone (aptly named Woody). I have a real thing for pine cones; in fact, my wedding favors were fire starters, which were pine cones dipped in wax. We had to warn people not to just light them as candles or they’d be in for a surprise.

As you can imagine, I was very excited to try my hand at these. The snowman I whipped up pretty quickly; the time-consuming factor was the hat. For my dolls, I used KnitPicks Brava worsted yarn, with the exception of using a color of Vanna’s Choice for the hat of the snowman, because it’s stiffer. I used a smaller hook so it would properly fit Mr. Snowman’s head.

I also had to make my own carrot nose, because the one I got from the pattern was too small and/or I was unable to make it work. I used some powdered blush on a Q-tip to give him his flushed pink cheeks. Such a cute touch!

I next tackled Woody the pine cone, and I am glad I wasn’t on a deadline for him, because the “leaves” added an extra complicated step that I hadn’t anticipated. Working on him upside down to create all the stitches for a singular “leaf” took far more time than working with a flat piece that hasn’t been stuffed yet. Nevertheless, despite the couple of extra nights I spent on it, I am really pleased with the overall look in the end. Someday, I’m going to do the silver-colored one. It’s just so wintery and festive!

IMG_1981_zvc

Lastly, I plowed ahead to do the reindeer. I have trouble finding safety eyes in sizes between 6mm and 10mm — so either my eyes are too small or too big. I ended up going for too small for the reindeer, and so my doll looks a tad squinty. Nevertheless, he came out a handsome little guy, and I’m just proud of myself for doing all three from the collection.

This isn’t my very first foray into Lalylala dolls. I started a Sepp the Seahorse doll (which I have probably mentioned somewhere on here) about two years ago, and I finally have a reason to finish him, since he’ll be a gift to someone who has a “sea” theme for their nursery. I’m happy to have a motivating reason to finish him, since he’s been sitting on top of my storage cubbies for far too long. Of course, there was the sailboat that I made over the summer.

If I can keep up my mojo, I might be able to tackle one or two of the Christmas patterns yet, where she has a tree, a candle, and an angel. As of this moment, I have three Etsy orders to fulfill for made-to-order items, so my personal plans may go to the back burner for a bit.

Below are some photos of the finished bunch. They would really brighten up a mantel or other holiday display quite nicely, don’t you think?

What are you working on this holiday season?

Finished! Colorful Tunisian Triangles Pillow Cover

It took me a little while to do both halves of the aforementioned triangles pillow cover, but I did it! Part of the “finishing” is knotting all of the ends, weaving in others, and making sure the ends aren’t going to get loose. I had some time on my hands the other night while waiting for a family member to arrive, and after a couple of hours, the whole thing was done!

I did not do the crab stitch as suggested by the pattern; I merely crocheted the two sides together with one round of single crochet in the bright blue color and left it at that. My measurements for achieving gauge turned out to be pretty accurate, as the pillow cover wasn’t too big nor too short, but just short enough to allow the pillow to look plump within the cover.

It’s a 16″ x 16″ pillow and I used a 4mm hook.

Here’s the final photo:

I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Although my fingers got a little numb after tying a ton of knots with the yarn ends, I really loved the texture and feel of working with Paintbox Yarns DK. I definitely recommend.

To read the original post in its entirety, the full text is below.

***

I have wanted to dip my toe into the graphghan game for a while now. If you don’t know what that is, check out this image search for Tunisian graphghans. Some of them are completely mind-blowing.

Essentially, each Tunisian simple stitch creates a square-like stitch that is denser than a standard crochet stitch, which makes it easy to plot “graphs” of more complicated images into a blanket. Some people do opt to make these projects with single crochet stitches, which works fine and I have seen some stellar work with single crochet, but in my opinion, color changes are much easier in Tunisian crochet. It has to do with being able to simply “loop on” your new color and move on. Other designers have also used the box stitch to create graphghans in the C2C (corner-to-corner) method — see Repeat Crafter Me, who has really perfected this technique.

What stopped me from attempting a graphghan was using 50-100 bobbins for a project right off, so I thought I’d get my start with a smaller project that still involved enough color changes to make it interesting and challenging. (Also, learning to use bobbins.)

Enter Poppy and Bliss! This designer is similar to Felted Button with her use of color. She definitely knows her way around Tunisian crochet and has created some beautiful designs. I purchased the Tunisian triangles pillow cover pattern ten months ago and promptly bought the yarn I would need, and that yarn has sat in my yarn cart for the better part of a year. Here’s how far I got: I wound four bobbins of the eight colors.

(By the way, in case anybody is wondering, I opted to use Paintbox yarn (acrylic) in the DK weight, which can be purchased from Love Crochet. This acrylic yarn is made in Turkey and despite it being DK with a yarn weight of 3, it is very fluffy and soft with a gorgeous array of colors. I was very pleased with being able to match up the colors quite nicely for the bright pastel version of the pillow. I would say my only gripe is that instead of the name of the color, they print the number of the color on the label.)

In addition to being a smaller and more manageable project, the pillow cover also means I don’t have to weave in the ends from the color changes. I took the designer’s advice and have knotted them together along the way so the color changes don’t create any loose or holey stitches, but otherwise, I have found this pattern to be relatively easy. She gives instructions on the color changes and how to read the chart.

If reading a chart intimidates you, trust me, I have been there. This is also an easy enough “advanced beginner” pattern that allows you to get comfortable with reading a chart without being overly confusing. It is not the same as reading a fair isle chart, which is something I’m working on learning.

I will caution anyone who wants to try this pattern that you will need to know a few basics about Tunisian crochet and having practiced those techniques on easier patterns will benefit you. For example, creating a selvedge, the return pass, tension, etc.

The most tedious and/or difficult aspects to the entire project thus far have been swatching and finding the right gauge to fit my 16″x16″ pillow, winding the bobbins, and getting started with all the color changes from the chain/foundation row. Once you get all of the colors onto your hook, off you go! (More details on this project can be found on my Ravelry projects page, but I am having to use a 4mm hook to get the right gauge vs. the 6mm hook the pattern calls for.)

One other difference for me with this project is that I am making two sides of the pillow with the pattern; I am not creating just one side and sewing it to fabric on the other side. It may seem daunting to do two, but I’m already 1/3 of the way through after only spending two nights on it in my free time.

I will post again when I’ve finished the project and will continue to put up photos as I go along — places to find me on social are below!

😀

 

 

All I Want for Christmas is to Make a Wreath

All I want for Christmas is to make a wreath
to make a wreath
see to make a wreath
Gee, if I could only make a Christmas wreath
Then I could show you my amazingly crafty crochet skills on my front door for Christmas!

Or something like that. It’s a simple request, really.

I went down a pretty wild rabbit hole over the weekend, trying to find the “perfect” crochet Christmas wreath pattern.

I did find two that I really liked for the base of the wreath, since I want to do twisted colors instead of just simple color blocks.

Example:

Crochet Wreath 1

Courtesy of Craftsy

I have a creative brain but I don’t have an engineering brain, so reverse engineering this just makes my brain go to mush. I’m sure there is a very simple way to make the stripes twist, but I just can’t figure out how to get there. (If anyone has any tips for this, please share!) This was a pattern kit from Craftsy, and is no longer available and is available once again.

I sent a message to the designer of the pattern, hoping to find out if she has the pattern for sale somewhere, but haven’t heard anything back yet it seems the pattern only comes with the kit and not as a standalone. I love this concept and think it would be super pretty with red, green, and possibly white. Or red, green, and a hint of gold.

Another example of the twistedness that I liked was this one:

Courtesy of ilikecrochet.com

Unfortunately, THIS pattern is only available through a crochet magazine and you have to pay for a subscription, so there is no direct access to it otherwise.

AHHHH! I just want to get cracking on a wreath already!

If you are on Ravelry and want to take a gander at the vast number of wreaths available to make (and this is just crochet), check out the search results here.

I’ll keep you few readers posted if I succeed at this project. I have had a styrofoam base sitting in my craft room, just waiting to be used for decorative purposes….

To be continued….

Update as of November 28: I don’t think the wreath is happening this year.

Hexagonal Crochet Trivet

I’ve highlighted the book Crochet One-Skein Wonders in previous posts, this being one of them, and when I got the urge to make a new kitchen accessory the other day, the book didn’t fail me.

I have wanted to make this hexagonal trivet (called “Golden Ray of Sunshine Trivet,” which you can find on Ravelry) since I first saw the pattern, but I was too new to crochet at the time, and wasn’t at all experienced at working with crochet thread.

If I hadn’t tried my hand at cupcakes, which require thread and smaller steel hooks to make the “wrappers,” I don’t know if I would have had any of the supplies on hand.

But I did — so I went for it! I was extremely pleasantly surprised at how much easier this was to do than I thought it would be. As long as you have a decent 1.5mm hook, it’ll work just fine with the number 10 crochet thread, which is super itty bitty thin.

Whale Buddy & Cupcake Amigurumi

Crochet Cupcake with Thread “Wrapper”

I worked up both halves of the trivet in one afternoon/evening, and then finished the project the next night.

I’m really happy with it and hope it will work out as well as the much plainer and thicker cotton trivet I made years ago but is still going strong. Plus, it’s so pretty! I think it could be just as stunning in one color, perhaps even better looking without the colors to distract from the stitches, but I was happy with how this turned out.

I didn’t have to spend any money and it’ll provide some usefulness and a pop of color. Win win!

Crochet Hexagonal Trivet

Project Pillow Cover: Colorful Tunisian Triangles

I have wanted to dip my toe into the graphghan game for a while now. If you don’t know what that is, check out this image search for Tunisian graphghans. Some of them are completely mind-blowing.

Essentially, each Tunisian simple stitch creates a square-like stitch that is denser than a standard crochet stitch, which makes it easy to plot “graphs” of more complicated images into a blanket. Some people do opt to make these projects with single crochet stitches, which works fine and I have seen some stellar work with single crochet, but in my opinion, color changes are much easier in Tunisian crochet. It has to do with being able to simply “loop on” your new color and move on. Other designers have also used the box stitch to create graphghans in the C2C (corner-to-corner) method — see Repeat Crafter Me, who has really perfected this technique.

What stopped me from attempting a graphghan was using 50-100 bobbins for a project right off, so I thought I’d get my start with a smaller project that still involved enough color changes to make it interesting and challenging. (Also, learning to use bobbins.)

Enter Poppy and Bliss! This designer is similar to Felted Button with her use of color. She definitely knows her way around Tunisian crochet and has created some beautiful designs. I purchased the Tunisian triangles pillow cover pattern ten months ago and promptly bought the yarn I would need, and that yarn has sat in my yarn cart for the better part of a year. Here’s how far I got: I wound four bobbins of the eight colors.

(By the way, in case anybody is wondering, I opted to use Paintbox yarn (acrylic) in the DK weight, which can be purchased from Love Crochet. This acrylic yarn is made in Turkey and despite it being DK with a yarn weight of 3, it is very fluffy and soft with a gorgeous array of colors. I was very pleased with being able to match up the colors quite nicely for the bright pastel version of the pillow. I would say my only gripe is that instead of the name of the color, they print the number of the color on the label.)

In addition to being a smaller and more manageable project, the pillow cover also means I don’t have to weave in the ends from the color changes. I took the designer’s advice and have knotted them together along the way so the color changes don’t create any loose or holey stitches, but otherwise, I have found this pattern to be relatively easy. She gives instructions on the color changes and how to read the chart.

If reading a chart intimidates you, trust me, I have been there. This is also an easy enough “advanced beginner” pattern that allows you to get comfortable with reading a chart without being overly confusing. It is not the same as reading a fair isle chart, which is something I’m working on learning.

I will caution anyone who wants to try this pattern that you will need to know a few basics about Tunisian crochet and having practiced those techniques on easier patterns will benefit you. For example, creating a selvedge, the return pass, tension, etc.

The most tedious and/or difficult aspects to the entire project thus far have been swatching and finding the right gauge to fit my 16″x16″ pillow, winding the bobbins, and getting started with all the color changes from the chain/foundation row. Once you get all of the colors onto your hook, off you go! (More details on this project can be found on my Ravelry projects page, but I am having to use a 4mm hook to get the right gauge vs. the 6mm hook the pattern calls for.)

One other difference for me with this project is that I am making two sides of the pillow with the pattern; I am not creating just one side and sewing it to fabric on the other side. It may seem daunting to do two, but I’m already 1/3 of the way through after only spending two nights on it in my free time.

I will post again when I’ve finished the project and will continue to put up photos as I go along — places to find me on social are below!

😀

 

 

Pre-Made vs Made-to-Order

I want to give a shout-out to those shop owners who regularly keep items in stock, particularly those of the knit and crochet variety.

Whether you sell at fairs or have an Etsy shop or your own website, I find it daunting to keep items in stock, for several different reasons.

  • Anticipating what your customers want — try as I might to stay “on trend,” there is no telling what potential customers are going to actually purchase. There is so much subjectivity when it comes to buying something, especially if it’s a gift for someone else, that it’s hard to know what will fly out the door vs. sit around. I do check my stats regularly, and look to see what search terms are getting people to my shop, but I haven’t figured out any magic formula. Sometimes I don’t participate in the hot trends, however. Two examples that come to mind are ponytail hats (for autumn/winter) and mermaid tail blankets. I have made mermaid tail blankets, as I’ve blogged about, but trying to list a custom mermaid tail blanket was a bit overwhelming. People want to see color choices and they want to see an example. Since I’ve only made three in three different colors, I would have to ask people to use their imaginations, unless they ordered something exactly like what I’ve already made. Just typing all that out reconfirms for me why I never made a listing for them.
  • The more effort you put into something, the more you want it to sell. This is especially true for larger stuffed animals or any kind of garment. I have a baby blanket that hasn’t sold, even when I had a sale going on for the month of July. It’s colorful with a popular design (dragonfly) and is a terrific size, but…..nada. I try not to dwell when things don’t sell, for whatever reason, but it definitely shapes my decisions on what to make in the future, even if I’m just trying something out for fun. On the flip side of the coin, smaller and easier things don’t always sell, either. I’ve made several cute baby hats in the past that have just sat there, so they went into the gift pile, instead. Baby hats never go out of demand but it’s also a saturated market, so… c’est la vie.
  • I work full-time, so I don’t have as much time during the week as I’d like to dedicate towards crafting. I am in awe of and inspired by those who have creative careers where they can make and sell for a living (pottery comes to mind). Even if I didn’t work full-time, however, reasons 1 and 2 would keep me from making things in advance unless I were regularly setting up booths at craft fairs.
  • Limited space! While I do have a dedicated craft space for my yarn and other crafting supplies, storage space for finished objects is definitely on the smaller side. If I were to have a shop full of items in stock, I would have to be selling something 1-2x a week so I didn’t have 20-30 animals and blankets and things laying around.

For those reasons above plus those below, I enjoy doing custom orders as they come in:

  • have sold items in stock and I really love when I’m able to ship something out quickly without having to make the customer wait. That said, even when I make something for the current season, e.g. a cowl, there is no telling what someone is going to want. It’s great to have a little pile of pre-made gifts, but typically, I like to ask a person if I can make them or their child something, and 99% of the time it’s not what I’ve already got on hand. Case in point, I’m about to make my third hippo in a row as a gift to a friend — they’re just so cute, a terrific size, and the accent colors are totally customizable.
  • I can buy specific yarn for a specific project and know that it will get used. If you are a yarn addict as I am, you know the pitfalls of buying a bunch of yarn with no intended project. I made that rookie mistake AGAIN this past weekend, when I used a Michael’s store credit to purchase a whole bunch of Caron Baby Cakes yarn in multiple colors, just so I could try it out. Now I’m working on another baby blanket to use up 5 of the 7 skeins I bought. Worst case scenario, the blanket will be donated, but I have so many friends having children, I am sure it will be gifted or sold. (It’s a very pretty design.)
  • Making custom orders is giving someone exactly what s/he wants, down to color, size, etc, and it makes me feel all warm and toasty inside to be able to craft something precisely as that person desires, be it friend or customer. This raccoon and the big pink bunny are just two examples of that.

This is a random aside that doesn’t have anything to do with crochet or knitting, and I don’t mention it very often, but I have various photographic prints for sale in my shop. Photography, like crochet and knitting, is such a saturated market, that I rarely sell any prints or canvasses, even though these have a short turnaround time. I have been toying with the idea of getting rid of the photo listings. I’ve read that it’s better to have one particular focus per shop, as well, so it may be the little nudge I need to finally do away with them and stick to the yarny things for Etsy. I have bigger aspirations, and I may just need to see the light on this and stick with the crochet sales (and potentially knit sales in the future!).

If anyone who reads this blog is also an Etsy seller, I would love to hear your feedback, especially if you keep items in stock. I just don’t find it very practical for how long it takes to make things and hope for the best, but I see plenty of people who sell regularly from their stores.

Thanks for reading, friends. Until the next mishap or adventure!

Knitting Update: We Have Dishcloths

When I last wrote on learning how to knit, I was swatching like mad.

Eventually, you wear yourself out on swatching, and you have to dive in and make an actual thing.

The month of July witnessed me making three dishcloths. I didn’t think they’d all been this month, but when you diligently record your projects in Ravelry, the details don’t lie.

This bright orange item that resembles a square now sits in my kitchen sink, and was my first official knitted project:

I didn’t block it, and because it’s done on the diagonal, one has to be careful about how one decreases, which is more difficult than increasing, which is a simple yarnover. I have higher hopes that the next time I tackle this design, it will look a bit more polished.

Then of course you have the hole in the middle, which I didn’t know how to fix. Still don’t. I don’t know what to do with dropped stitches and, so far, any mistakes I made either live in the project or I have to frog all the way or most of the way back; this is completely unlike crochet, where mistakes are easier to fix when you catch them right away. (+1 crochet)

After the orange thing, I graduated to attempting a chevron washcloth from Very Pink Knits. It’s quite pretty and I love that it’s reversible. In fact, I’m not really sure which side is supposed to be the front.

I don’t actually have a photo of it, just a video from Instagram, which you can see here.

That one ALSO had a mistake in the middle (what’s with me and doing that?) and I didn’t know how to fix it. Trust me when I say that I had to frog along the way, but only when I was catching the mistakes mid-row.

My most recently completed dishcloth is this ZickZack design from KnitPicks:

What I like about it is that it’s easy, with just knits and purls, and a simple row counter app on my phone helped me stay on track. I didn’t have to frog nearly as much mid-row, and lo and behold, I don’t have any holes in it! The toughest part for me was binding off, which I still need to perfect. This one got blocked and looks terrific. I’m thinking of making more to do bundles for the Etsy shop.

Little aside: I was encouraged by my cloth-making when a friend of mine tagged me on Facebook, who said she loved her (crochet) spa cloth that I made for her, as it was done up with KnitPicks Shine Sport, which is made from Pima cotton and bamboo. I can attest that they do make for seriously luxurious washcloths.

Last but certainly not least, what has contributed to my success in knitting has been investing in some better needles, specifically circular ones. My ultimate goal is to be able to make things in the round, namely hats and mitts and things, and I have hit some hard potholes going down that road so far. I am currently working on my Magic Loop skills, which I hope will be the key to my success in finally whipping up a hat. Stay tuned.

In sum, I have gone from ultimate frustration with loads of epithets and claiming I would never be able to “DO this,” to swatching, to attempting a dishcloth, to actually making a dishcloth that is attractive and doesn’t have any holes or other unsightly mistakes.

This crocheter is on the knitting path. If any of you readers are also experienced knitters, or just learning like me, I’d love to hear any stories, tips, or anecdotes you may have.

Cheers!

Who Doesn’t Love a Big Pink Bunny?

When I first started working with this custom order request, I honestly didn’t know how big the bunny would turn out in the end, just that it would be “twice the size” of the Big-Bottomed Bunny* I already have in my shop.

I worked with the pattern to double the number of rounds and stitches, carefully monitoring the shape as I went along. She ended up twice the height at a full 12″ tall, but I think she ended up more like 3X the width around — look at that big old bottom!

Although it took more yarn than I expected, I’m really happy with this beauty, and hope her new owner is, too. She’s soft and squishy, and just cute to look at. Her soft pink color gives any room a nice little pop.

*Pattern is not mine–it is from the book Crochet One-Skein Wonders, which is a fabulous book!

Up ‘Do