Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tidy mind, tidy stitches.

Today's topic revolves around the topic of organization:

"How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry."

I have to admit, I love the idea of my home being organized. Neat. Tidy, even. I want to have cables neatly tucked away behind electronics, every item hidden away out of sight or neatly and attractively displayed. You know, a place for everything, everything in it's place, that whole bag. The truth is a little closer to the complete opposite. Electronics cables are so wild they seem to have a life of their own, clutter breeds in the nooks and corners, and dust accumulates at an alarming rate. I'm a wip, though, and so is my house. I'm working on it.

In this vein, I recently made the effort to corral the evergrowing pile of yarn that threatened to engulf the living room. Dearest Husband had been hinting for a while that it might be nice to be able to walk across the living room without tripping over my yarn. Being the wonderful wife that I am, I indulged him and corralled most of my yarn to a corner of the living room with some plastic containers. I would love to have a glass-fronted cabinet for my yarns and fabrics, but alas, my budget weeps at the thought. The containers do a great job though. The ones I found are 15 quart clear Sterilite container with snap handles. The size is perfect- I don't have to dig through a giant tub to find what I'm looking for. And since the containers are clear, I know what's in them before I even open them up. All in all, they're pretty good for the purpose.

I also have a pretty basket, which I keep some overflow and yarn that I know I'll be using soon. I really like this basket because it's pretty and because it was part of a wedding gift from a couple of awesome friends. :) The little roll of fabric is part of a liner I'm planning on sewing for it- I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

As far as my hooks and notions go, I have this bright blue pop-top container. I got this thing at Michael's for a grand total of $2. It holds my crochet hooks, yarn needles, and some of those snappy little hair barrettes (which I slip in the working loop of a project to keep things from unraveling).

See? Snappy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skill + 1UP

Today's challenge:
Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year.

This time last year, I would have considered myself a beginner/beginner-intermediate crocheter. Even though I have known the basics of crochet since I was a child, it wasn't until I started blogging that I really immersed myself in the craft. If this blog isn't good for a single other thing, I'm grateful that writing it has inspired me to learn new techniques and try new things.

Today I'd say I'm a pretty firm "intermediate" crocheter. I've learned a lot about deciphering patterns and charts (especially from that dratted Market Bag I'm working on). I've learned interesting new techniques such as the magic ring (or adjustable ring, or whatever you prefer to call it), as well as stitches I hadn't used before. I've discovered some luxury yarns I love, but haven't yet reached the level of "yarn snob" (and I hope I never do!). Oh, and I've actually managed to finish more projects in the past year than I had in the previous five years combined. I count that as some serious growth.

I'm on the brink of another big milestone in my quest to crochet awesomeness- writing a pattern. I have never before written a pattern. Two years ago, I'd never even used one (most of the projects I did were just plain, flat pieces like scarves and small blankets). Pretty soon I will embark on my pattern-writing journey. Hopefully I'll manage to turn out a written pattern that works for other people! It's one thing to have a set of directions in your head, but another thing entirely to translate those into written instructions that others will understand and be able to use.

I also have plans to create a textured yarn painting of my own design. I'm not sure yet whether it will be round or rectangular or square, what yarn I will use, or any of that. What I am sure of is that I have a striking image in my mind, and a burning desire to translate that into yarn so I can share the beauty with everyone around me.

In short, I have grown by leaps and bounds in my crochet skills, knowledge, and ambition over the past year, and I sincerely hope I can accomplish the same over the next 12 months.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Yarn of Two Tails...

No, wait, that isn't right...
A Tale of Yarn Cities?
No, that's not quite right either...
A Tale of Two Yarns!! That's the proper title for today's 2nd Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Challenge, courtesy of Eskimimi Knits:
"Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them."
A big part of my crochet habit DOES happen to revolve around yarn. I derive a great deal of joy from the entire process, and that begins with selecting a yarn. Sometimes I buy a yarn without a project in mind, simply because it's a nice yarn that happens to be on sale. Sometimes I pick a yarn out for a project and just end up tickled pink with how it turns out. And sometimes, oh there's that fateful occasion when I purchase a yarn for a particular purpose, and it turns out that the yarn is not only terrible for that purpose, it's just plain terrible.

Join me, if you will, in the craft store. There are racks and racks and racks of yarn, and you're looking to try something new. So you touch everything. Yes, when I go yarn shopping I become a child. I cannot keep my hands off the yarn. I have to touch every ball of yarn in the store twice before I can figure out what I want. And I come across a wool yarn. It's fairly inexpensive for the amount, and it feels like your average, everyday wool in the skein. So I purchase enough for a project, bring it home, and start working.

It's like a short-lived love affair that leaves you bitter and tired and sad and angry, all at the same time. At first, I was happy with how everything was going. The yarn was okay, and I loved the pattern. Then, I started to notice little things. Like how the yarn didn't want to hold its twist, and how it split every third stitch, forcing me to mutter unladylike things as I pulled out the split stitch so I could work it properly. Then I got halfway through and realized that I love the pattern but LOATHE the substrate. This yarn is horrendous. I'm at the point where I want to frog the whole project and just make a rug with this awful stuff, because that is the only thing on this planet that it is good for. If you read this blog regularly, you may have already figured out that I am referring to Lion Brand's Fishermen's Wool Yarn. That stuff is just plain awful, and isn't nearly worth the price paid for it. So if anyone was looking forward to seeing how my Scallop Scarf turns out in the end, don't hold your breath. This is probably the last you'll see of it:

On a slightly more positive note, I have a yarn in my stash that I Adore. That's right: adore-with-a-capital-A. This stuff is so soft you'd think it was spun out of clouds and unicorn farts (you're welcome for the mental image). It's KnitPicks Andean Treasure in Sapphire Heather:

That's 100% baby alpaca fiber, dyed a luscious deep heathered blue. Again (say it with me now): I Adore this yarn. My problem is that I purchased it with no idea of what I wanted to make with it. Now that I have it, I can't just use any old pattern for it. No! It has to be something just as special as this yarn. Since I have a few other irons in the fire so far as my crochet goes, I'll have to hold off on using this yarn until I happen across juuuust the right pattern for it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Market Bag Progress

I've gotten about halfway through the body of the market bag. It looks kind of weird right now, but I'm hoping that if I persevere, it will turn out right in the end. A note for those who would like to try this pattern- pay very VERY close attention to where the ends of your rows are. You may want to mark them, just to be sure. It can also be difficult to find your place again if you lose track of which row you're on in the two-row repeat, because they only differ at the beginning and the end of the rows. Since they're so similar, it's hard to keep track of which one you're on unless you've been paying close attention to it.

Here's what I've got done so far:

As I get more done, I'll take photos and share them! Hopefully I'll be able to use them to put together a tutorial for those of you who would like to make this bag, but find the original pattern too confusing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Journey of Milk

I am a crocheter and a crafter, but I also have an education in agriculture. There is one big thing that bothers me about the state of our society in the United States: very few people really know where their food comes from and how it gets on their plates. Instead of bemoaning that fact, I present you with a couple of videos about how milk gets from the farm to your fridge. I really hope you find these interesting, and if you have questions about how food is produced in the U.S., please ask!! I'll do my best to provide you with accurate answers.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hippity, Hoppity, Easter's on its Way

Here's a little eye candy for everyone:

Wouldn't this make the greatest easter basket ever? I'm going to have to keep this pattern for when I have kids. :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Am I Doing?

Remember that cute green market bag from Bernat? I'm making one in Sugar n' Cream Mod Ombre- it's a bright ombre with white, blue, green, and yellow. Perfect for spring, if you ask me. :) I read over the pattern today, and I have to say, I was incredibly confused. This is a terribly written pattern. Nowhere does it mention that you are crocheting the bag from the top on one side to the top on the other, in a sort of boat shape, then crocheting the handle on top. It's kind of weird. But I'm up for it. Why? It's just that cute. Thankfully, I had the good sense to see what folks on Ravelry had to say about it, otherwise I don't know if I would have figured out how the heck I was supposed to get a bag from that pattern. It really does look like the pattern was never tested. >_<

In other news, I have plans to make a free-form sort of design for a round afghan. I've had this idea floating around in my head for a while. Inspired by the February landscape and a poem I had written a while back, I dreamed it up on my way home from work one day. I'm going to sketch it out sometime in the next few days. Keep an eye out for that! I'm really excited about this project, and will keep you all updated on its progress. :)

I feel like I've forgotten something...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!
In honor of this happy occasion, I present you with this adorable shamrock garland:

And a couple of interesting quotes on the Emerald Isle and her people:

"This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever."
- Sigmund Freud (speaking about the Irish)

"It's not that the Irish are cynical. It's simply that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody."
- Brendan Behan

"The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad. For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad."
- G.K. Chesterton

"We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English."
- Winston Churchill


Monday, March 14, 2011

This little piggy went to the market...

The recent warm weather has got me thinking of spring. Not only will the weather improve, but the local farmer's market will come out of hiding. Just the thought of the farmer's market has me excited. Local raw honey, music, produce, meat, flowers, and everybody and their brother brings a dog. And what does a stylish young woman take to the market? A market bag, of course! Here are a few designs I particularly like:

I like this design from Lion Brand because it looks roomy and sturdy. I think it'd look great in monochromatic stripes- shades of blue or green (my two favorite colors) or even shades of bright, sunny yellow or orange (they're growing on me).

I love the look of this bag from Bernat. There's also a knit version, for you multitalented crafters out there. I think it has just the right balance of openwork (for stretch) and solid stitches around the edge for a sturdy foundation. And I just love the shape- it deviates a little from the traditional tote or market bag shape.

And there's always this great vintage string bag. It's super-portable, and looks like you could just about fit the Eiffel Tower in there, if you had half a mind to. Plus, I bet it would work up in a snap.

And then there's this modern version of a string bag, worked in worsted weight yarn:

 Which pattern do you like best? My favorite is the cute green one. :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Busy, busy, busy.

I have been very busy lately. What with starting a new afghan for a dear friend's wedding (I really really want to post photos, but I can't until after I've given the FO to the wonderful couple!), making another Poke Ball hat, and scrambling to get the house spic n' span for our landlord to show it tomorrow, I've had little time for blogging. I do have something neat to share with you today. A little while back, my husband gave me a copy of Amazing Crochet Lace: New Fashions Inspired by Old-Fashioned Lace.

I have to say, there are a couple of patterns in there that I think are pretty ugly, but it's the same with almost any pattern book you buy. At any rate, there are several patterns in here that I'm just dying to try out, if only I had the time. I definitely want to make the Chrysanthemum shawl on the cover of the book. There's also a skirt pattern and a shawl/wrap pattern utilizing pineapples, which I adore but have never crocheted. And there is a pattern for a gorgeous floral lace robe. So I think I'm pretty well set as far as potential projects go this year. :)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Yarnbombers, unite!

Yarnbombing is the act of knitting or crocheting on or around an item in public, such as a light pole or statue. I recently discovered this on my walk home from work:

It's hard to tell from the photo, but those are shells crocheted around the cord of a payphone. I now see this every day while walking home from work, and it never fails to make me smile.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Technique of the Week: The One Ring

Okay, so it's not THAT "One Ring", but I like to think of it as the One Ring of working in the round. Especially if you get frustrated at the hole left in the middle of your hat/motif/afghan/you name it with other methods. I recently tried this when making the button for the font of my Poké Ball hat, and I love it!

You can find great photo and video tutorials all over the web, but I think these two from PlanetJune are excellent. She's posted a right-handed tutorial, and a left-handed version as well!

Here's a little peek at her tutorial:

If you love in-the-round projects, but hate that little hole that's left in the center, you should definitely learn and use this technique!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gotta Catch 'Em All!

A friend of mine recently asked me to create a hat for her to look like a Poké Ball. For those of you unfamiliar with the game of Pokémon, it's a fun little game that I grew up with, and it has expanded into a cute game empire. In-game, you use devices called Poké Balls to capture adorable creatures and force them to fight one another so they can gain experience, grow, and evolve. See? It's loads of fun. For lovers of the game, the basic Poké Ball has evolved into an iconic representation of all the things they enjoy about the world of Pokémon.

It looks kind of like this: 

So on Saturday I took a little trip to Michael's and picked up some Loops and Threads Charisma yarn in red, white, and black. I'm so proud of myself for beginning and finishing the hat in the same day! It is worked entirely in HDC, and is my own pattern. I'll post the pattern once I work out variations for different sizes. :)

Til then, enjoy the pretty photos!