Chevron Convert

IMG_2202 zvcWhen chevron was blowing up a few years ago, I didn’t get into the trend right away. But after I tackled a couple of projects that used it, I really liked the look of it, colors depending.

Last year, Jeanne from The Crochet Crowd designed this chevron “hugs and kisses” blanket using Caron Baby Cakes. I liked it as soon as I saw it. My transfixed inner voice said, “I must make the thing.”

It took me longer to complete than I would have liked, but largely that was due to my getting sidetracked with orders, work, and other life goings-on. It is not a difficult pattern.

For my blanket, I decided to blend two different colorways, Dreamy Mint and Frosted Pansies. I wanted a pop of yellow in there to break up the teal, grays, lavender, and cream. I liked working with this yarn, for the most part, but it can split at times. It is very soft and warm, though, and I like how easy it is to wash and dry it.

I found this project relatively soothing to create, although I had to keep careful track of my rows, since it the pattern repeat consists of 8 rows. For the bobble stitches, I switched from my usual comfortable Clover hook to my Furls Odyssey hook, which has a nice long neck, ideal for working with a fluffier, thicker yarn such as this one for bobble stitches. Because you alternate with something different each time, it keeps you on your toes. It is not dull or mindless to complete.

I ended up not using all four cakes, since I did not chain as many initial stitches, opting to make something slightly smaller than the pattern calls for. (I believe it calls for 6 cakes.) Because I didn’t want the blanket to be overly taller than it is wide, I stopped with the cream color of the fourth cake. I had enough to do a single crochet border in cream around the entire blanket, which gives it a nice finished look. My blanket is roughly 31″ wide and 36″ tall.

I didn’t have an intended recipient for this blanket, so I’ve listed it in my Etsy shop. It’s largely neutral and I think the colors pop so nicely with the chevron pattern. Jeanne did such a nice job with the design.

Have you tried your hand at this one?

 

Challenges with Color Changes

Late last year, I had two back-to-back orders for baby penguins. Due to the holidays and typical year-end madness, I didn’t get around to doing a post about either of them.

In previous renditions when doing the color changes in the head (white eye areas on a dark gray/light black background), I have kept my two colors of yarn going simultaneously, but I have had mixed results with the color changes looking loose in the end product.

I made an executive decision as a woman who takes pride in her handcrafted goods. I changed things up by snipping one of the colors for each round (the white in the head) and tying secure knots with the loose ends. I found this to be much more successful in keeping the stitches tight (as color changes can produce looser or sloppier looking stitches), not to mention not wasting a lot of yarn carrying tails back and forth around the head. In the end, the dolls looked polished and professional, and I didn’t have to worry about a stray end coming loose if the doll ends up in the hands of a careless child or pet.

Finished penguin with tight color changes

Fast forward to the present moment. In one of the crochet groups I am in on Facebook, someone posted this blog article, where the author wrote about doing more seamless color changes in amigurumi.

I gave it a try the next time I worked on a doll (this time, a giraffe) — and I am pleased to say it is a successful technique!

Giraffe with new color changes technique used

As you can see from the photo, where the color change happens when you’re working in the round (without a join), the jog isn’t as noticeable. Check out the horns. It doesn’t glare out at you and you don’t get the “zig-zag” effect. Sometimes the zig-zag looks okay for a particular effect but for the most part, it looks nicer when it can be avoided.

Even my husband, who doesn’t notice much of what I’m doing with crochet most of the time since I’m always working on something, thought the this color-change technique was noticeable and one to keep using.

There are a couple of key points I discovered: slip stitching loosely is important, or the piece will look slightly shrunken on that round. If you’re going for the shrunken effect, slip stitch more tightly. The other point is to make sure there are enough rounds between the color changes that aren’t doing a lot of increasing or decreasing. In fact, it is ideal to change colors when there is another round of one single crochet stitch in each stitch around.

Lastly, the slip stitch round + doing the next round in the back loops with single crochet = one round. Knowing that helps with counting your rounds, since you’ll see the two horizontal lines next to one another. See photo below:

If I’m not mistaken, the blog post I linked to above has gone viral in the crochet world, because I have seen the “big time” crochet designers doing their own posts showcasing their successes with it.

Have you tried this out? What do you think?

 

Pattern Overview: Robot from Amigurumi Today

I received a request to make a couple of little toys for two small boys who were going to be traveling. They had their own unique interests so I worked with the client to try and find patterns that would sync up to their particulate tastes.

For one little boy, I made a butterfly, the pattern of which is from Theresa’s Crochet Shop. She designs “affordable cuteness” and is very talented. For my version, I added a little sparkly white color for the inside of the wing and used a teal color for the rest of the butterfly. S/he turned out super cute! I’m really happy with this pattern, despite the vast amount of hand sewing involved, and will make more.

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When it came time to find a good robot pattern, I landed on this free one from Amigurumi Today:

Image courtesy of Amigurumi Today

I really had to work to get the head just right, because when working in continuous rounds and making a square shape, you’re actually creating a parallelogram, so it’s pretty slanted and not a decisively straight-edged square.

Image courtesy of Twisted Turns Rebooted

Because this is whimsical and for a little boy, I didn’t think he would mind, but the perfectionist in me was struggling a bit. I used a 3.5mm hook and light worsted weight yarn so the stitches would be nice and tight. Between the head, the face, and embroidering, those alone took a couple of evenings.

 

The head is oversized compared to the body. When I sewed the body to the bottom of the head, it looked centered in the front and completely wonky in the back; something I had to live with. Here’s the back:

By the time I got to the arms and legs and got them sewed on, the doll looked less crooked. But there is definitely a reason you don’t see the back of the doll on the pattern page. 😉

Ultimately, I made a couple of variations to my doll that strayed from the pattern but nothing major. I would probably make another of these if I could figure out some better techniques for embroidering the face. While I know how to cross stitch, embroidering faces onto a crochet canvas is not something I’ve completely mastered.

Skill level: experienced intermediate | Pattern rating: B+

Here’s my very sleepy looking robot doll — or maybe he’s rebooting?

Without the bottom legs, the robot isn’t really taller than the butterfly!

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.

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!

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