Monday, April 30, 2007

Double Crochet Cluster Stitch

I don't have much to show for myself this morning. I spent much of yesterday trying out various new-to-me stitch patterns, trying to start a preemie blanket that I can crochet up fairly quickly. Something with no color changes, that will have minimal ends to tie in at the end, that sort of thing. Well, nothing worked quite right for a preemie blanket, so I might have to fall back on some tried and true stitch patterns. I also looked through the 200 Ripple Stitch Pattern book before I went to bed (and then dreamed about grannies and ripples all night), and there are a couple of possibilities in there. So I will keep trying to get something started.

In the meantime, however, I decided that the double crochet cluster stitch did have possibilities for a baby blanket, even if it is too open for a preemie blanket. (Hospitals like preemie blankets to be worked in fairly dense stitch patterns, because lacy patterns can get tangled up with the hospital equipment.) I had a feeling that a row of regular dc and then a row of clusters would look really nice. I didn't get much done on it, but I am pleased with the result.

The yarn is from Joann's Sensations line and is called Rainbow Classic. It is 100% acrylic, but it looks and feels like brushed mohair. The label suggested a P hook, and I thought that sounded like a great idea! So not only is this soft, soft, soft, it should grow fast, fast, fast!

I did also have a thought about that preemie blanket I was trying to design, so I want to get back to that and rework one section. I just don't want you to think I have forgotten about it!

I realized this morning that I have a staff meeting tomorrow morning, so I won't be back to post until Wednesday. Wish me luck with those preemie blankets! Hopefully I will have some progress to share by then. And if any of you have made preemie blankets and have a favorite stitch or pattern, please feel free to share. I would love some new ideas!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Another Finishing Day!

I had a very good day off yesterday, and I can't believe how much I accomplished! I love having one Friday off a month. As far as I am concerned, it is a day to myself, to do things I want to do. And I made the most of yesterday, that's for sure!

First off, I went to Weight Watchers and got good news again. I seem to have a pattern of losing a little bit for 2-3 weeks and then having a really good weight loss the next week. Well, yesterday was my day for a good weight loss, and sure enough, I lost 2.6 lbs last week. My official total is now 18.8 lbs. Reaching 20 lbs is my first big goal, so I am going to try to be very focused this week and lose the last 1.2 lbs. My body might not cooperate, but I am willing to try.

I ran some errands in the morning, including finally getting my purple baby blanket turned in to my local Project Linus coordinator. It feels good to have that finally donated. Then I came home and settled in to some crafting. That's when yesterday turned into a finishing day.

First up, I finished up 2 more squares for WUA, bringing my total to 5. I also finished up a second square for VA Tech, although I still need to weave in the ends.
Then I decided that I would finish my green and orange hat & scarf set so that I could use the rest of the orange for another WUA square.

I am really pleased with the way the scarf turned out. I decided to use extended stitches, so the orange rows are esc and the green rows are edc. The scarf is soft and drapey. I am not so pleased with the fringe, but at this point it will keep a child's neck warm, so this set is in the done pile. (To recap, the orange is Red Heart Soft and the green is Plymouth Encore, and I used a K hook for the scarf. The hat pattern is found here.)

Not bad for one day. I am adding to the monthly total over at Crafting for a Cause, and I am adding to my own total as well. However, I realized that I am still about a month behind in reaching my total of 100 items for charity this year. The afghan squares help a lot, but still I need to get busy! And I promise, next week I will get back to the preemie afghans.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My Bad, Or I Guess I Have Enough Stash!

Yesterday, with visions of blankets playing in my head, I decided to dig around in my stash to see what colors I could put together. I found some larger skeins of yarn that I can use for single color blankets, and lots of smaller skeins. I pulled out some partial skeins for WUA squares. However, much to my chagrin, I also discovered that I already have multiple skeins of just about every color of Simply Soft that I had just ordered from, including the mango that I have been anxiously awaiting. Oops! That will teach me to place orders online without looking first! I did manage to order 2 colors of SS Brites that I didn't already have - lime green and watermelon - as well as 2 skeins of the new Lion Brand CottonEase in taupe. I am contemplating using the CE for another Shoop Shoop capelet, done correctly this time.

So, since it turned out that I did have the yarn I needed to make squares in memory of Virginia Tech, I got busy.
I found some really nice patterns here. This one is called Racing Stripes. I followed the pattern and used an I hook, but I will go down to an H with the next one. This square came out 12", but I had to skip a row or else it would have been too big. But talk about a quick project! I started the square about 11:00 yesterday morning, I worked my normal 7 hours, and then I finished the square last night while I caught up on 2 episodes of Lost.

I am also happy to report that I have just had a terrific week at work. The library has been relatively quiet this week, so I have been able to catch up on all the work that has been languishing for the last 2 months. The fact that I have 4 or 5 new volunteers who are now trained and working regular hours has helped tremendously, too. I have tomorrow off for Saturday, and for once I don't think I am going to be exhausted on my day off. So I have high hopes that I can accomplish something impressive this weekend!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Blanket Thoughts

I spent yesterday thinking that I would really like to go home and accomplish something last night, preferably involving finishing something. Unfortunately, I get home late on Tuesday nights, and after a leisurely dinner on the deck, I didn't have a long evening. So I worked on this blanket that has been hanging around for about a year (yes, another one - and there's still one more on the hook!).

Before I started, I measured the blanket and right now it is about 28" square. I didn't really intend for it to be 28" wide, but that's what it is. So I gave some thought to how long it should be. I had the idea to take a couple of standard blanket sizes and figure out the ratio between length and width. Well, for 24" X 36" and for 40" X 60", the ratio is 1.5 for both. So if I use that ratio, this blanket should be 42" long. I should have enough yarn, so I will keep going and see how I feel as it grows. Yarn is TLC Baby, stitch is the V stitch, and I am using a G hook on this one.

I've also been thinking more about blankets for 7-12 year olds. I found this pattern that I would like to try, possibly in a rainbow of colors randomly striped, a la the ripple. I also found another note I had made along the way that lists a child's blanket as 36" X 45", which sounds more doable than 40" X 60" ( a teen blanket on this note). I don't remember where those sizes came from, and I do wish blanket sizes were a bit more standardized. Too many choices can keep me from doing anything. And of course, if I do a granny-style afghan, it will be square and not rectangular, so I don't know why I am worrying about this, but that's just the way my brain works!

And finally, through Whip Up this morning, I found a yarn shop in Blacksburg, VA that is going to collect 8" X 8" squares to make afghans for the families of the VA Tech victims. They are looking for knitted or crocheted squares in maroon, burnt orange, white and black, made with nice, soft yarn. I have an order coming today from with all sorts of colors of Caron Simply Soft Brites, including mango and coconut, so that I can start some squares for Crafting for a Cause, so I may try to make some for the yarn shop as well.

I'm not entirely sure how this has happened, but blankets have taken over my life! I may as well go with this now, though, because come summer, blankets are going to be the last thing I will want to work on, with the possible exception of smaller sized squares.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Warm Up America Squares

So, as promised yesterday, today I will show you what little crafting did get done this past weekend. Please remember that I didn't have a lot of time for knitting and crocheting. I spent most of Saturday on the computer and most of Sunday out in the yard. However, with what time I did have, I worked on these little beauties:

Yes, I finally worked through my gauge issues and successfully made some perfectly sized 7" X 9" squares for Warm Up America! Looking back, I think that I had tried to make some squares for WUA when I first got interested in crafting for charity a few years back. Then, I really struggled to get the size right. Now, with quite a bit more experience under my belt, getting the size right really wasn't hard at all. These 3 were crocheted, the peach with Simply Soft and the red and blue with Wool Ease.

There was some knitting as well, although as you can see, it is going much more slowly:
I'm using Plymouth Encore for this square, left over from one of my Red Scarves, and the seed stitch. I promise I will get back to my preemie blankets and other projects soon, but these squares were perfect for a busy weekend.

I want to put in another plug for Crafting For a Cause. I really am very excited to be part of this group, and they have already motivated me to get busy. In addition to finally making the WUA squares, I have also been in touch with my local Project Linus coordinator. I will be delivering the purple baby blanket to her this Friday, and I now know that there is a need in my area for blankets for 7-12 year olds. In looking around the internet, I am guessing that 40" x 60" would be a good size for that age group. So, over time, I will try to work on a few more blankets for them. Goodness knows I have the yarn in my stash to do it!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Worth Waiting For!

Definitely the first thing worth waiting for this weekend was the weather! Temps in the 70s and 80s, but no humidity. It was heaven! We don't get spring very often here in CT, but this weekend filled the bill. And I did accomplish quite a bit - housework done; laundry (like I have a choice!) done; yard work, well started at least and the patio furniture is now out (we even ate dinner outside last night); and guild newsletter, mostly done. Crafting, well not so much, but I will show you what I accomplished later in the week.

The second thing that was worth waiting for arrived in the mail on Saturday. Last November (I think) I signed up for the Knit Mitt Kit Swap. You might remember my efforts at felting while I was sick with the stomach virus in January. Well, my first partner checked in once with me and then disappeared. So eventually the swap organizers found me an "angel", and on Saturday I finally received my kit. And yes, it was worth waiting for!

The first thing that popped out of the kit was the book - Favorite Mittens by Robin Hansen. What an amazing book. It contains a wealth of information about traditional mitten patterns and techniques, many of which come from Maine (just about my most favorite place on earth).

The kit also contained Frog Tree Alpaca yarn in 3 beautiful colors, a set of beaded stitch markers, a Burt's Bees starter kit (which is good because my hands are still dry from the winter), and a bag of Hershey's chocolates (which have mysteriously disappeared already!). All of these goodies came in a beautiful bag with some quilting around the top. So I have to send out a big thank you to Valerie for completely spoiling me with this kit! Now I just need to pick out a pattern and start making myself some mittens for next winter.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Not Much Crafting Going On

I really haven't accomplished much in the past 2 days. This was Spring Break here in town, and work ran the gamut this week from extraordinarily busy to very quiet. One of my part timers was on vacation as well, so I worked alone on the desk more than usual and ended the week very tired. I am very happy to have a full weekend off to catch up.

I do have a couple of items to relate, though. I joined yet another community this week - Crafting for a Cause. One of their members joined 25 Things for Charity a week or so ago, and so I spent some time lurking on their sites. (They have a Live Journal community, too.) They seem like a fun, enthusiastic group, and I like that they count donated items as a community. I think it will really help me to feel like I am making a difference with my crafting, much the same way donating through my crochet guild does. Of course, this has given me a couple of other projects to work on! The group is collecting 7"X9" afghan squares for Warm Up America, as well as 12" squares in Virginia Tech's colors for afghans to be donated in memory of the victims. I have already gotten some maroon and yellow yarn to start some squares this weekend. I still have some gauge issues with the WUA squares, but I am determined to work through them and produce some perfectly sized squares.

So this means that I have the following projects to work on this weekend:

1. Weave in ends on the hat I made last weekend, and frog and rework the scarf to match. I have a really good idea for the scarf, and I can't wait to see if it works out!
2. Finish designing the crocheted preemie blanket, and work on designing a knitted version. Lacey's comment from yesterday has just sparked all kinds of ideas in my head. I don't design knitted items very often, though, so that one will probably take a little longer to put together.
3. Finish the granny square preemie blanket and start 1 or 2 more in an easier stitch that I can finish faster. While I'm at it, I should really finish the ripple preemie that I had started several weeks ago!
4. Work on afghan squares in 2 different sizes and a variety of colors.
5. Work on all the other WIPs I have going.

Oh yeah and do housework, yard work, laundry, and work on the next issue of the guild's newsletter! Luckily, I have no deadlines yet on any of the aforementioned projects, so I don't have to finish everything this weekend. So I will probably just work on whatever I feel like at any given moment. I'll let you know on Monday how successful I am!

One last thing - through the Granny Along I learned this morning that there is now going to be an ongoing Crochet Carnival. (A carnival is like an online magazine of exceptional blog posts.) I think this is just more proof that crochet is currently experiencing a real revival. I will have to look through some of my posts and see if I have anything to submit. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Designing a Preemie Blanket

As luck would have it, I had to do a lot of shelving yesterday at the library and that gave me time to work out the details of the preemie blanket I am trying to design. I already knew that I wanted to use green, pink and yellow in the blanket. I wanted to make 3 strips to make the finishing easier. Each strip would consist of 3 6" blocks of color. The first and last strip would be green/pink/green and the middle strip would be pink/yellow/pink. That was the easy part. The hard part was deciding which stitch pattern to use with each color.

I am using Bernat Softee Baby, and the pink is actually a pink and white marl. So I knew that I wanted to use a smoother stitch with that yarn. I settled on just dc for the pink squares. I also knew that I wanted more texture in the green and yellow squares as a contrast. But I had to struggle a bit to find enough but not too much texture.

My first attempt was a stitch pattern consisting of V and puff stitches. (Sorry about the fuzziness of the picture - I don't take good pictures with the super macro function.)
I like the stitch pattern, but it wasn't right for the blanket. It was too textured but not soft enough. I think it might make a nice shawl some day, though. So I looked through more pattern books and gave it some thought while I was shelving away. I finally settled on extended stitches, and I really like the results.

With the green yarn, I used one row of esc and one row of edc. The stitches are soft and just textured enough. As a matter of fact, I am thinking about making another blanket with just those 2 rows. As much fun as designing is, I do want to make some more blankets faster so I have more to donate.

I won't have time to post the next couple of days. I have to be up and out early both days. But hopefully I will have more to show you on this project when I return over the weekend. I can't wait to see the yellow added in!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Grannies for Preemies

So in an effort to redeem myself after the mistakes of Saturday, last Sunday I decided to use up some scraps of yarn that have been hanging around for ever and make some granny squares that I could put together into another preemie afghan. I really had fun putting different colors together, and I managed to make 7 squares out of my scraps. I needed 9 squares to complete the blanket, so for the last 2 squares I used yarn from a couple of newer skeins. I think all the squares work together, but I was surprised by the differences in color and texture from the older to the newer yarns. I was also surprised by how easily I chose colors to put together. I think the ripple along and the granny along are really starting to have an impact on my color sense!

I should have spent last night weaving in ends on these squares, but I started working on another idea. The squares with green, pink and yellow have really inspired me, and I am trying to incorporate those colors into yet another preemie blanket. I know what I want, but I am still working out some details.

(I have CNN on as I am writing this, and the disconnect between this happy post and the horrible news out of Virginia Tech is starting to get to me. All I can say is that when I hear about such evil in the world, I realize that my charity knitting and crocheting is very important to me. It's not much, but it is my way of bringing a little good into the world. In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone on Virginia Tech's campus. No one should have to live through such an act of violence.)

Monday, April 16, 2007

How Long Have I Been Crocheting?

That was the question I asked my husband Saturday night. He didn't have an answer (well, it was sort of a rhetorical question), but I can tell you that it is most of my life. And yet I managed to screw up not 1, but 2 projects that I worked on Saturday.

While I was online Saturday morning, I learned that the new Crochet Me issue was up and available. It turned out that Deneen had a pattern published in this issue, a really cute hat, and I decided to try out her pattern and make another hat/scarf set for the Salvation Army. I doubted that I had 2 shades of green to use, but I found a pair of stretchy gloves in orange and decided that a green/orange combo was the way to go. The green is Plymouth Encore and the orange is Red Heart Soft. However, in my infinite wisdom (said with heavy sarcasm), I decided to try the child size and go down a hook size as well. And I ended up with a perfectly sized hat for a toddler. Not exactly what I was going for, but it will still work for the donation. However, when I use the pattern again, I will use the correct hook size.

Then I decided to start the scarf, despite the fact that is was now late afternoon. I was going along great guns, but at the end of row 5 I finally realized that I was adding a stitch on each row because I was putting my first dc in the same stitch as the turning chain, and then crocheting my last stitch into the turning chain on the next row. I honestly know better than to do that, but there you are. I'm chalking it up to fatigue, but I'm not thrilled at the prospect of frogging the scarf down to the first row. Probably why I found something else to work on yesterday, but that's a topic for tomorrow's post.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's Not Finished...

...but here's the preemie blanket I have been working on. I almost got the edging finished last night, but when I got home from work I had to fulfill my highest function - providing a bed for the cat - for at least half an hour. I finally figured out that no one had turned up the heat, hence the need to cuddle with "Mom". Hopefully I will finish this up tonight and move on. I'm using this pattern and Bernat Softee Baby yarn, one of my favorites for preemie and baby things. I used a wooden F hook that I don't use very often. And, in what seems to be a theme this week, it doesn't lay completely flat. I know you aren't supposed to block acrylic, but I may try to gently block this. I think it would help. I would like to make another one in more "girl" colors, and I may go up to a G hook to see if that helps.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pictures Today!

Today I have some pictures to go with Monday's post. I finished up the hat and scarf set last night:

Specs: Simply Soft Shadows in Pearl Frost colorway, H hook for the hat and K hook for the scarf. The scarf is 7.5" X 45". The set should fit an older child or teen. I used a new (to me) stitch for the scarf, something called an alternate double crochet. It's a little softer yet more textured than a regular dc, and I thought it worked quite well for a scarf. I added a couple of rows of open work at either end of the scarf and at the bottom of the hat, but those don't show up well in the picture.

And here is the round ripple I have been working on:

It doesn't want to lay completely flat, even when spread out on the table, and I'm not sure how I feel about that yet. I will take it to my guild meeting on Sunday and consult with my fellow crocheters before I make a decision, though. Pattern is available here. I'm using Red Heart Soft and an H hook.

I also made progress on the preemie blanket last night. The squares are sewn together, and I will try to finish the edging today and post pictures tomorrow.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Lots of Crocheting Going On...

...but no pictures. I don't seem to have time or inspiration this morning to take pictures. I have been working on several different projects over the long weekend, but I didn't manage to finish anything, and there were one or two "issues" along the way.

Let's see, on Thursday I played around with some of the design ideas from the Create Along. I made a hat and started a scarf with Simply Soft Shadows. The scarf gave me a good travel project for the weekend. However, I worked on it yesterday while talking with the parents, and I missed a stitch, which I didn't realize for rows and rows. So now I have to frog and redo. Probably why I'm not up for taking a picture of it this morning.

On Friday, I had the bright idea to make a granny square for a preemie blanket I am working on. It requires 4 squares, and I had 2 done, so I thought I would make a 3rd quickly and then work on something else. Well, I grabbed the wrong hook, made the square (all 10 rows of it) and didn't realize what I had done until it was finished. So I frogged that one and then had a pile of yarn sitting on the arm of my chair. By the time I had remade the square correctly, the day was almost over, so I just kept going and made the 4th square too. But now the squares need joined and the blanket needs edged, so I will wait on a picture until it is finished.

I also worked quite a bit on a round ripple baby afghan that I had started last Wednesday. It is very pretty, but it really confused my mother, who informed me that "babies aren't round". I'm thinking, well they aren't exactly rectangular, either. {LOL} My MIL and I finally convinced her that once the afghan was big enough, someone would be able to wrap a baby up in it, but it was a tough sell!

I hope everyone had a good holiday. I worked very hard to stay on Weight Watchers the past 2 days, but I know I ate more than usual. However, I am very happy because as of last Friday, I have officially lost 15 lbs. Not bad considering I have only been on the program less than 3 months. I now have 4 days to get ready for my next weigh in. Hopefully I won't get bad news from this past weekend.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Kim over at the CrochetMe blog mentioned a new group blog in her entry this morning, and I'm glad she did. I've been exploring the "create along", and my head is spinning with thoughts about designing.

The idea behind this along is to limit the participants to the use of 5 different yarns and then see what they come up with. Most are knitting, but at least on designer is crocheting a sweater. All levels of skill at desiging are welcome, and as a group they are learning from one another's mistakes and triumphs. I think it is going to be fascinating to keep an eye on this blog.

The rationale behind limiting the yarns was especially interesting to me. Not that I do much designing, but often when I crochet for charity, I do find myself choosing different stitch patterns to try. I usually accept any limitations on the projects either without thinking or by chafing at them. It never occurred to me to accept them knowingly and as the beginning of creative expression. I also tend to be overwhelmed by the shear number of design choices available for any given project, so setting some limits for myself might actually help me be more creative.

The tutorial on using Excel as an aid to designing was also fascinating. I played around with it, and it really works. Unfortunately, I don't have a print screen button on my laptop, so I can't show you all what I came up with. But I am going to have fun with that in the future!

So, with Weight Watchers tomorrow and two family get togethers over the weekend, I probably won't be back until Monday. So have a happy Easter and a safe holiday weekend!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Moebius Shawl

I also had a little time on Sunday to work on my next Doris Chan project, the Blue Alleghany Moebius Shawl. I am using Ritratto like the pattern does, but in a different colorway, so perhaps I should come up with a slightly different name! I had started this shawl right after I finished the Blue Curacao shawl at the end of December, and I got a few rows done. Then I put it down for a long while, I think because it just wasn't growing very fast. I guess I thought it would come together as quickly as the first shawl, but it is a very different yarn and pattern which is much slower going. But working on it on Sunday, I began to get a rhythm going with it, and now I think I will be able to finish it fairly quickly.

After discovering that my gauge was off on the Shoop Shoop capelet, I pulled this project back out and measured in carefully. My gauge on this one is spot on, which is good news, but when I looked the piece over, I noticed that it was puckering. So it came to work with me on Saturday, and when Dee arrived to put up the exhibit, I had her look at it too. Dee is my crochet guru - there just isn't anything that woman doesn't know about crochet - and sure enough, she was able to explain to me that the puckering is caused by the combination of all the chain 3s, which create a light fabric, and the areas of sc, which are much denser. Blocking should smooth the fabric out, although that makes me a little nervous. What if I screw up the blocking after all my work on the piece? But I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

I am trying to be disciplined for once and only work on one Doris Chan project at a time. But I am itching to begin the Chrysanthemum Tea Shawl, too. That will definitely be my next project from Amazing Crochet Lace!

Monday, April 02, 2007

It's All About Crochet These Days!

Yes, my knitting is being woefully neglected these days while I immerse myself in crochet. This weekend was no exception.

First up, the highlight of my work day on Saturday was the installation of a crochet exhibit in the library's display case. I have to give a big thanks to Dee and Grace for all their hard work on the display. Grace made the large piece of filet crochet at the back of the second shelf, from a pattern designed by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The display really looks great, and I can't wait to see what my patrons have to say about it. However, for a description of the display, I'm going to refer you over to Dee's blog, because I have more to show you this morning.

Yesterday turned into a finishing day, which felt very good but did have one drawback. I finished up my second Shoop Shoop capelet, but when I laid it out to block it, I discovered that I had made a major boo-boo. If you notice, the left side is flatter than the right side towards the front, and there are only 4 points when there should be 5. Yes, I missed an increase and then perpetuated the mistake for 5 rows. And no, I am not frogging it. I will live with the mistake. I actually wore the capelet all afternoon yesterday and it is very comfortable and warm. I have enough yarn that I may try again some day, but not right now. I've kind of had it with this pattern for awhile.

Then I decided that it was time to finish up this baby blanket as well. I started this last fall, I think, and I got it to the point where it just needed the 2 last rows of edging and the final ends tied in. It has sat at that point for weeks and weeks, and I finally just got sick of looking at it. It is actually more purple that it looks in the picture. I'm not sure what I am going to do with it, but it came out exactly 24" X 36", so it might go to Project Linus. Other specs: Lion Brand Pound of Love and a K hook, and I used the sedge stitch for the main part of the blanket and an edging from Jean Leinhauser's 50 Crocheted Afghan Borders that I modified to include a shell stitch for the final row. No boo-boos on this one. It really did come out perfect.