Latent Mermaid Tail Photos

I kept my promise to myself and took photos of the completed mermaid tail blankets with my DSLR, so I have a few more pictures to share. I was quite pleased with how these turned out and I’m told the girls they were intended for love them.

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*Note: I don’t know why some of the photos appear blurrier in WordPress except that they are larger than they appear, and so downsizing them causes the blurriness.

Hodgepodge of Projects

Well Happy New Year, friends!

All I can say about my recent absence from the blog is, “Good grief!” (Charlie Brown style.)

I began a post in late 2015 to document what I was working on and life turned topsy-turvy when I changed jobs and then became consumed by the holiday season craziness.

December saw us going from Indian summer to having a chilly fall and then back to Floridian temperatures just in time for the holidays. Our Christmas was far from snowy.

I worked on a bevy of crochet projects between November and December. My memory may underestimate the number of things I did, which is why I try to take photos of my completed projects.

Below are some of the items I completed between November and January; I did a slideshow because there were a few too many to make readers scroll and scroll. Currently on my hook in need of completion are a houndstooth scarf and a new blanket I just started. I’m excited about both! I’ll finish the scarf pretty soon here and then the blanket will be an ongoing project…

Anybody working on anything really fun or interesting, or get anything for Christmas that rounded out your wishlist?

I received some more books on amigurumi, socks, and sweaters. I really want to kick things up a notch this year. And! My Etsy shop’s two-year anniversary is coming up! I think I’m going to do something a little special to celebrate. 😀

Until next time–keep up the delicious creativity!

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Wending My Way Through Tunisian Crochet

For the better part of two years, I have largely focused on amigurumi projects, with a few baby garments and the random accessory here and there. Then I received a terrific book with all kinds of different patterns in it, entitled Crochet One-Skein Wonders. Isn’t that cute?


In it, there are several patterns which refer to Tunisian crochet. I had no idea what an afghan hook was or how this differed from what I had been doing, but I was certainly intrigued, especially by the pictures of the thicker, woven texture of the end products.

My book notes: this book contains projects that are largely for advanced beginners and advanced intermediate crocheters, so they do presume you have a baseline skill set. They give both written and chart instructions where they can, which is also helpful. Lastly, they organize the book by yarn weight, going from lightest to densest, which spoke to my little organized soul. It boasts a nice index.

I began heavily researching Tunisian crochet to see if I wanted to invest more time and money into new hooks and new techniques. Short answer: yes. From what I could tell, this was a distinct twist on my crochet skills that I felt I must have in my repertoire. My basic desire was to be able to create more densely made items that weren’t as “loopy” as standard crochet. For whatever the reason, knitting just does not call to me. So being able to create “knitted” things with a twist on a crochet hook held a strong appeal.

Once I acquired some hooks, books, and even more different types of yarn (mainly cotton blends so I could make All the Washcloths and Pot Holders), I also sunk a little spending money into two Tunisian crochet classes on Craftsy when they were having one of their big sales on classes. If you haven’t checked out Craftsy yet, I strongly recommend it. They are a go-to for any kind of major creative craft medium out there and feature tons of classes, shops, patterns, etc.

After practicing a lot of the stitches on a swatch (some quite unsuccessfully), reading through stitches and patterns, watching YouTube videos, and following along with a number of lessons in one of my Craftsy classes, I finally began to grasp the concepts without flailing about awkwardly with these stranger crochet hooks and different stitch techniques. Because Tunisian crochet is a blend between crocheting and knitting, it takes a bit of practice to get to a baseline comfort level. Once I got the hang of it, though, I started wanting to make more and more items. I’m excited to go to the next level in my class, which creates a colorful shawl/tunic.

Let’s get to the fun stuff; time for some show and tell! These are all beginner projects, mind.

The first two things are washcloths that were part of my online class. They’re the same pattern but in different colors. They utilize three different kinds of stitches to form a lovely embedded square pattern. Here are those stitches up close:

Stitches

Simple Stitch is as easy as it gets. Honestly what is difficult with Tunisian crochet is getting the hang of your tension and making sure the sides even out. Another aspect of Tunisian crochet that I like is, generally speaking, the stitches are universally named. One doesn’t have to convert from UK terms to US terms, for example.

Tunisian Knit Stitch is probably one of the more popular stitches to use, at least from a beginner’s standpoint. It looks exactly like knitting and gives a nice tight weave and beautiful look to the project.

Here is a full shot of the white washcloth after it was steam blocked and left to dry. It still looks a little wavy and uneven but that’s just due to my novice hand. I made this with KnitPicks Shine Sport. It is super soft and I have used it on my own very sensitive skin. I will be making more with this yarn blend of pima cotton and bamboo, but I’ll try out other colors.

First spa washcloth
Next up is the tri-color washcloth. I made this with CotLin, a blend of cotton and linen, also from KnitPicks.

The challenge here was changing colors at the end of each forward pass, each reverse pass, and keeping the sides even.

IMG_7223_webFinished and steam blocked (no pins necessary, thankfully):

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Once I conquered this thing, I wanted to go back to the book I mentioned before and try out the pot holder pattern I initially saw. Because it was entirely in Tunisian Simple Stitch and I wanted to create a slightly different look, I decided to wing it and make my own pot holder without any assistance from a pattern. I know, crazy talk! I have never just begun crocheting without a pattern. But I forged ahead.

I made two squares, same height and width, two different colors, with a third color for an accent color on the border when I crocheted the two sides together. Not too shabby!

PH side 1 PH side 2PH side by side
Because I was using up the CotLin yarn, this is definitely more of a lightweight potholder, but I still think it will do the trick. I’ll have to experiment with bulkier yarns for heavy duty pot holders in the future.

I feel like I’m on my way and I’m looking forward to tackling more complex stitches and patterns that aren’t in simple shapes. I have heard tell that you can do Tunisian crochet in the round, something that intrigues me as an amigurumi maker (since I can now crochet in the round in my sleep). In the second class I purchased from Craftsy, the end project is a fitted sweater vest, which involves shaping, increasing, decreasing, and other scary sounding verbs. I’ll get there.

I absolutely recommend learning this form of crochet for anyone out there who is on the fence, doesn’t know what the heck it is, or has the same desire I did, which was to create less holey items and learn new kinds of stitches. It is seriously fun and interesting, if you geek out over this kind of thing as I do. And I do.

Until next time, friends.

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!