“Ocean and Sand” Blanket Using Caron Cakes

As we amble on through winter, I’ve found myself tackling cheerful projects like this precious baby blanket. I bought the yarn on a whim (Caron Cakes in colorway Faerie Cake) and decided to see how it would work up as a blanket. The colors are just so pretty, aren’t they?

This blanket wasn’t done using a pattern — I winged it — but I’ll list the basics of what I did below, in case you want to try something with this line of yarn.

Due to the small amount of wool in it, the blanket feels slightly denser than a typical baby blanket, but it’s not what I would consider heavy. It adds just the right amount of weight and warmth. The stitches hold up well and the blanket has a nice drape. I was able to make a blanket about 28″x 30″ which includes four rounds of a border, using only two cakes.

Hook: H (5mm) 

I started off with a chainless foundation row of half-double crochet stitches and then kept the height by using extended double crochet stitches throughout for the body of the blanket.

For the border, I did one round of single crochet, followed by two rounds of standard half-double crochet, and ended with one round of twisted single crochet, which mimics crab stitch without the headache.

It worked up quickly and prettily — the stripes do all the visually pleasing work, really, although I really do like that edging with the twisted single crochet in the aqua color.

I ended up listing this blanket in my Etsy shop giving it to some friends as a baby gift. I call it the “Ocean and Sand” blanket because of all the shades of “water” it has in this colorway. Of course, being named Faerie Cake, it could be used in any number of magical-themed projects where you need some beautiful shades of blue. Below are the photos with more closeups of the blanket itself.

If you’ve tried this colorway or Caron Cakes in general, let me know what you think of working with it!

Super Fluffy Cowl with Celtic Basket Weave

I decided to challenge myself during a recent bout of illness where I could do nothing but sit around at home, for days. During the times when I did have a little energy, I would work on this cowl. I wasn’t sure at first whether I would actually finish it, but I was determined to see how it would go for several rounds, at least.

Little back story: I have had two skeins of Scarfie yarn from Lion Brand sitting in my yarn cart for months, waiting to be made into something. It’s ultra fluffy and soft but is a pain to frog and takes a jumbo hook to use it.  (Example: I have tried and failed so many times with Moogly’s Squish cowl and have just given up on making that project; I can’t get a split bouillon stitch to work with Scarfie to save my life.)  In late 2015, I made a hooded cowl with one skein of Scarfie, and while it turned out well, I also used a wooden hook for that project, which greatly fatigued my hand.

By now, I have invested in a Susan Bates aluminum M hook and that helped immensely for trying this cowl pattern. My personal note about the pattern is that it is crucial to watch the video tutorial that she links to. Learning the Celtic basket weave stitch is best with visuals, in my opinion. It still took me a few rounds before I felt comfortable knowing what I was doing. Due to the size of the hook and having to be super careful with the fluffy yarn,  I never got up to my normal speed of crochet, but I was still able to finish this piece over the course of doing a round here and there while being sick.

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In the end, I love the final product! It feels like a springy cloud around your neck and is ultra warm because of the dual layers of basket weave stitches. The mocha colors are so pretty and go with a lot of winter wear. I’m really happy with it and may even devote my other skein of Scarfie yarn to make another of these down the road.

cowl-on

 

What Not to Do with a Hank of Yarn

Being a hank n00b, I had no idea what to do with one when I finally received my first. It looks unassuming and not all that intimidating, being in a nice neat twist. As per uge, I had taken advantage of a sale from Knit Picks and grabbed up one of their beautiful hanks of wool and poly-amide blends called Hawthorne, prettily named Happy Valley.

I had very specific plans for this hank, as I intended to make the Fortune’s Shawlette from Moogly.

I was ready to get my yarn on.

I was ready to get my yarn on.

Unfortunately, I didn’t Google what to do with a hank before I got started, so what began as a simple unraveling turned into this mess:

Hank messIt’s pretty tragic.

I thrust one end of the yarn at my husband, who good-naturedly took it, I started with the other end, and we started winding the yarn through an infinite number of knots.  While I’ve made progress, this is how it sits on my table until I can finish winding it. The ball on the upper left is connected to the suuuuuuuuuper extra knotty section of the hank. O_o

Far too belatedly did I research how one is actually supposed to unwind a hank, so The More You Know on that one. Then of course, I also read that you should plan to make whatever it is you’re going to make with the wound yarn quickly so it doesn’t stretch it out, making me slightly more anxious than I already was about getting this yarn ready to use.

While it remains to be seen whether I make the shawlette with this particular hank of yarn, it is next on my list after I finish a round of amigurumi orders, which I’m  still in the throes of making.

So for anyone else out there who hasn’t experienced a hank disaster, take not after me. Ask your local yarn shop expert or someone who has done it before to guide you through this process so you aren’t going through a harrowing ordeal that may result in throwing away a perfectly good amount of yarn. (Right now I am determined to get through this–I hope to win out.)

Wishing you happy yarn creating and a beautiful weekend!

Edit: I managed to salvage a lot of the yarn, and I do have an idea up my sleeve on what to do with it, but it is in my long-awaited crochet queue as of February 2016!

Stumped

One of the reasons I get sucked into buying so much yarn is I fantasize about all the potential things I could make with the yarn I am drooling over (and end up purchasing).

Logic tends to lock itself in the bathroom and I end up convincing myself I’m going to make THE most beautiful ________ with the threads in my shopping cart.

Case in point: I bought three different sets of color-changing yarn from Bonita Patterns. Like, months ago. I bought two different skeins of each, thinking I could always buy more if I started a large project.

Those beautiful skeins have sat on my shelf just waiting to be used. Last week, I decided to pull one out so I could attempt to start making something as a gift. I researched and researched (until my researcher was sore) until I thought I had figured out exactly what I wanted to make with this stuff:

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I started a pretty butterfly shawl but wasn’t really feeling it for this particular yarn. (I think the shawl pattern is gorgeous but I believe it would do better with a less fuzzy yarn and something a bit shinier.) Then I tried a wavy scarf pattern but despite my best efforts with it, self-doubt kept creeping in and I decided not to waste anymore yarn and scrap it.

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This yarn is a blend of angora and acrylic. It has a nice stiffness to it, so it will hold its shape well, but also has some nice fuzz from the angora.

At this point, I have returned the yarn to its position on the shelf and I am still ruminating on what to DO with it. I have researched patterns from a yarn perspective, yardage perspective, ease of making, you name it. At this point, I’ll need to have an epiphany in a dream. I. Am. Completely. STUMPED. If there is such a thing as Crocheter’s Block, I have it.

If anyone out there has a suggestion or two, send ’em my way!

Back to my crochet lair where I continue with my owl project….

 

Let’s Talk Yarn!

Now that I have kind of eased my way in to this total dedication of a website to my craft, I’m going to dive right in and flesh out a post that has been percolating for quite some time.

Having had the better part of two years to re-stoke my passion for yarn, I started making a mental list of the kinds of fibers I enjoy working with and those I decidedly do not.

I have steadily built up a collection of a variety of yarns for the kinds of things I have been primarily making, those being amigurumi, baby wearables, and adult accessories like fingerless mittens, scarves, washcloths, and hats. I am slowly but surely expanding on my skills and I intend to continue challenging myself, even if it seems crap-your-pants intimidating.

I don’t believe that one must work with yarn in order to love it, to say nothing of fantasizing about all the things that can be made from it. There’s just something about browsing in yarn shops that transfixes you; it’s quite the meditative experience as you caress the skeins or hanks that come in a rainbow of colors and fibers, animal and synthetic alike.

Personally, I was not a little amazed at how quickly the yarn stores amassed in my home. As I type this out right now, one half of my L-shaped couch is taken up with a portion of my yarn stash, a project I put down and need to pick up again, my Yarn Drum holding more supplies and my hooks, Polyfil stuffing, several books, and other paraphernalia. (I have an incredibly patient and tolerant husband, whom you’ll probably hear me mention from time to time.) I usually cram myself in the elbow of the couch in order to work and leave DH some room. It’s safe to say that it is a mutual goal between me and my husband for me to have a craft room just for All the Yarn and anything related to it.

So: below is a shortlist of yarns I like and one or two I don’t–it is BY NO MEANS comprehensive. In fact, I have yarns in my stash that I haven’t even worked with yet and won’t have time to mention. But I bought them because I knew I’d want to try them out. Those untapped skeins still hold a lot of whimsy for me until I actually put them around a hook and get cracking.

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Vanna’s Choice: a lovely acrylic worsted weight craft yarn. There are an abundance of colors and my local JoAnn Fabric carries it, so it’s easy to find in person. However, some of the colors I can only find online, and at least two have been discontinued, much to my consternation, e.g. Soft Pink and Duckie. It has some good spring to it but is also soft enough to the touch. I prefer to make amigurumi with this yarn, first and foremost. It’s also not bad for the occasional hat. Who knew the letter-turning lady from Wheel of Fortune was a yarn junkie, too?

Red Heart Super Saver: Another acrylic worsted weight yarn. I have read from many a crocheter that RHSS is great for blankets because it washes well and becomes soft. I remain unconvinced I’ll ever make a blanket with it. It is quite stiff and scratchy, especially the more colorful variegated skeins. However, it is very good for amigurumi. I began a Christmas stocking following a Red Heart pattern but I bit off more than I could chew and I need to start over. I was too inexperienced when I began it–file it under Crochet Fail. Pro: this yarn comes in a TON of colors and is available in many brick-and-mortar stores and websites.

Chocolate Easter Bunny

Made with “Coffee” – great for amigirumi like this “chocolate” bunny!

Red Heart Boutique: there are different variations of Boutique but I have tried Unforgettable and Treasure for various projects. For acrylic yarns, they do a nice job of making them soft and in a ton of gorgeous color-changing yarns.

Jewel Toned Blanket Border

This blanket was made with Unforgettable in Candied.

Hat Beauties

The hat on the right was made with Treasure.

Conversely, Red Heart With Love is one yarn I am not thrilled with. That is not to say that it isn’t a good craft yarn, for those who like working with larger, chunkier (acrylic) yarns. I bought a skein of it on a whim and made one granny square and was done. I am confident others can and do make very nice blankets out of it. It’s just not for me.

Bernat Softee Baby: this is a terrific acrylic baby yarn! It works up well for tons of things for baby, including blankets, hats, booties, etc. I have found it is limited in colors but what is available is lovely. Will keep using, for sure.

Mint and Cream Baby Blanket - Wide Fold

This went to a friend and it is working out wonderfully as a car-seat blanket!

Caron Simply Soft: I’ve had mixed results with this acrylic yarn. The pros are that it is, as it boasts, quite soft, has a sheen to it, and comes in some stunning colors, including and particularly jewel tones. I find it makes better garments or blankets than amigurumi. It has what experienced crocheters call “drape.” It’s taken me a few times of hearing or reading this word for me to pick up contextually that it means it takes to a shape nicely. No bunching. That said, it can be quite splitty when working with it. I believe one must use a larger hook, have looser tension, and/or use a hook set like Clover if you don’t want to pull your hair out when working with this yarn. My sharper Susan Bates hooks did not like Caron Simply Soft.

Profile of Golden Horse 2

Main body color, mane, and tail are Caron Simply Soft.

Purple Peacock Hat 9-12 months | Crochet

This is a gorgeous purple that turned out a “peacock” hat. Let’s call it Grape Drape.

Knit Picks: oh my goodness, where do I start with Knit Picks? This is a soup-to-nuts yarn company that offers terrific yarns from acrylic to silk at reasonable prices for what you get. For example, I was previously only using Lily Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn for washcloths and dish cloths, but I will continue to buy cotton yarn from Knit Picks. CotLin is quite nice and I have Dishie on my wishlist. I have also made a gorgeous baby blanket from the Shine Sport yarn, which is a blend of Pima cotton and bamboo. I’m now working with the Comfy line in fingering weight on one of my New Crochet Challenges–it is ultra soft and comes in gorgeous bright colors! I have also made amigurumi from Knit Picks’ Brava acrylic line, fingerless mittens in Chroma, and have Galileo waiting for me in a few shades. I could and probably will do a separate post on Knit Picks later on. I just lurve this brand!

A few other brands I have used and quite like are: Deborah Norville (limited to JoAnn Fabric stores but Amazon carries a lot of it), Lion Brand, Universal Yarn, Cascade, and Berroco. Side note: some people may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned Michael’s. While Michael’s has long been a favorite craft store of mine, at least in my local store, the yarn selection leaves something to be desired. So, while I still have love for Michael’s, and can roam around in there for far too long, it is not my yarn store.

Lastly, there are quite a few specialty yarn brands out there I have not yet ordered from but will someday, including Jimmy Bean’s Wool and Nerd Girl Yarns. I need to give a shoutout to LoveKnitting here because I have ordered several of the brands I’ve mentioned from them and they not only have loads of brands, terrific customer service, fast shipping, and frequent sales, but your order arrives in an organza bag. It’s those little touches, you know?

Anybody relatively experienced knows that I have barely touched the tip of the iceberg and I’ve written an exhaustive post already. As I mentioned above, I will likely dedicate further blog posts to particular brands, especially as I branch out from mostly synthetic fibers. I do have some merino wool blends, a couple of worsted wool skeins, one alpaca/silk hank that I’m figuring out what to do with, and some angora blend skeins that I’m ruminating on what to make; I’ll update as soon as I have figured out just the right projects for those.

In the meantime, my hope is that I have helped out a few other novices or even advanced beginners like myself who want to “talk shop” and get a yarn dialogue going, or just shed some light to those who need some recommendations on where to start for a particular project. I geek out just a tad with all this stuff.

Until next time!