2 Books Not to Overlook!

I really do not know where the last 12 months have gone!

Last year a few friends had new books hit the shelves, and there are some that it has taken me a while to getting around to reading, not because I wasn’t eager to dive into the pages, but simply because my time demands took me in other directions. So, it was really been nice to be able to finally get through 2 of them recently.

First, my son has made comments about how the world seems to be returning to hieroglyphics with the proliferation of emojis, then my friend Charles Voth came out with his first book…Emoji Crochet! This book is full of fun patterns, from home décor to wearables. You can make a throw or a pillow then move on to a hat or sweater. The really great thing in this book, in my opinion, is how many different techniques are used. You can learn so many different crochet techniques that I would recommend this book if not simply for that reason. Charles uses tapestry crochet techniques, applique techniques, color work, charting and written instructions to delve into putting faces on your work.

Charles also ensured that there is great detailed instructions of these techniques accompanied with illustrations. This is probably due to his profession as a technical editor, meaning he has a hand in many crochet patterns that are published by ensuring that the math works and the pattern written creates the item in the photo. In addition to being a technical editor he is also a college professor, so he understands how people learn, and this book definitely has this in mind.

It is hard to pick which project I like the most in this book, but I think the Not Too Blue for You Mittens top my list of first projects to complete. If you get the opportunity, check this book out, you will not be disappointed! (Check out other designs by Charles here and his classes here)

Another book I have been checking out is Bath Knits by my friend Mary Beth Temple. Now I will not even pretend that I am a knitter, I dabble, and know just enough to get myself in trouble, so this book has been perfect to help me practice the basics. There are plenty of ideas for pampering yourself in the bath, but in my beginner state I will focus on the great array of wash clothes. Like many of Mary Beth’s book this one is straight forward and lets you dive right into the projects while subtly learning a few new approaches.

Mary Beth has been an accomplished designer in both knit and crochet for a decade, and might be best known for her long running podcast Getting Loopy! Both her book and podcast are worth checking out.

Now that I have been able to at least read through these 2 books, now it is time to get my hooks and needles flying and work some of these projects! (Find more of Mary Beth’s designs here)

 

Relax with Pink Lemonade

My latest design! Aim to Squeeze Pink Lemonade Blanket is a great baby throw that just screams summer. Find it in the June 2018 issue of I Like Crochet.

It is worked as a half circle and then is squared up, to highlight a half of a pink lemon slice. I will admit, I really did not know that there were such things as pink lemons, not until I undertook this project. The colors are fabulous together, highlighting a yellow rind, sandwiched between blur and pink, then accented the white.

This is a fun project that keeps you engaged, while still allowing you to enjoy yourself. Working the half circle creates all of the lemon segments, you then add the peel and begin to square it up with the blue back ground. You then work the rind between the segments and sit back and relax with a glass of lemonade.

The yarn is Baby Soft by Lion Brand, so it is easy to find, and the colors always go so well together. It is soft and nice to work with.

If lemons are not your thing, I could easily see this as an orange, a grapefruit, lemon or lime. Any citrus can be worked into this design, making it a bit versatile.

I really like the large size of the half slice, as it really encompasses most of the dimensions of the throw. This really offers great visual interest, and makes for a very appealing addition to your home, or kids room.

This is noted as a kids blanket, but personally I like it myself as a nice lap afghan, it is a nice size and helps just take the chill off, or when I am on my patio it helps block the sun without being to hot.

I had a fun time with this project, and I hope you will too.

Tips for the Mundane

There are some truths about crochet that no one ever seems to share, we all hit a period where we are bored. This could be a stitch pattern, the act of moving the hook, the feel of the yarn. Everyone I have ever met does put things down from time to time, but they never really admit it.

It does not matter if you crochet for a living or just as a hobby, sometimes we find a mundane point. However, I have found a couple of ways through this period.

Ask yourself why. Is it that the stitch is not exciting? Is pattern is taking too long to finish? Is my attention being pulled in another direction?

We have all been there, and there is no shame in it. I have found a couple of approaches to get through it and still actually end up loving crochet again.

First, take a break. This is not a bad word and it does not mean that you are done with the craft, it simply means that you need a point of rejuvenation. Usually when I put my hook down, I find that I still need something to keep my hands busy and fidgety in the evenings when sitting with the family in front of the television. For me I then pick up work puzzles, maybe some Sudoku or word searches, I don’t quite have the disposition for crosswords but there are plenty of different puzzles to keep me entertained.

However, sometimes you need to get a project finished, there is a deadline…maybe you need that gift for the baby shower in 3 days. In this case, I have to set small goals. It can be as simple as completing a set number of rows of the pattern every time I sit down with it in my hand. This really depends upon that stitch pattern, but maybe it is as simple as getting through one of the row pattern repeats. Maybe it is getting to the next color change, or the next color change in the yarn. I set myself a visual point and work toward it. I find that this helps even more if I have a small reward for myself at the end, maybe I get a cookie or such, maybe then I get a nice stretch. It does not have to be anything big, it just has to be something to break up the monotony.

Sometimes it is as simple as changing projects and putting one in “time out”. I find this happens most on projects that I was first intrigued by, but then quickly discovered that the design was a really rather simple stitch repeat, like an entire afghan worked in only double crochet rows. There is nothing wrong with it, it just is not very exciting, and frankly if I do not have a reason or deadline to actually complete it, I might not get it finished. In this case I just have to be honest with myself. There is no harm in using the yarn in another project.

I wish I could say that I never put down my hook, that I have endless creative energy, but alas that is not what works for me. There are times I need to find another focus to help but my love of crochet back in focus.

Two at A Time- Double Up that Yarn

Thinking back I can remember it intimidating me the first time I tried it, but now it seems like nothing out of the ordinary. Using two strands of yarn, or more, at the same time now gives me no second thoughts.

This practice of crocheting with more than one strand of yarn yields some really nice results. I may not use it all that often, but I like the look it creates an almost speckled effect. In some cases it helps two bold colors blend together.

The best tip I can share is to simply treat the two (or multiple) strands as one. Hold them together as one, not worrying about if the colors twist together in your hand. This twist will lend to the effect. When you yarn over and pull your hook, use all the strands, really just treat them as one. After a short time it is easy to get into this rhythm, so don’t be afraid to treat it as such.

It does have some tendencies that can be a bit annoying, for instance keeping equal tension on two yarns can be challenging. This becomes a bit more obvious when I begin one yarn from a new center pull skein, and the other has been worked from a bit already. The new skein is tighter to pull from and this makes it a little awkward to ensure that I keep both strands under an equal tension. I personally correct this by pulling more yarn out of the new skein to more equally match the pull of the second skein.

If I am using two yarns that are wound into balls the challenge becomes keeping them from rolling all over the place and becoming tangled together. There are a couple of tips to deal with this annoyance, I use two different yarn bowls that “trap” the balls and prevents them from “free rolling”.

Another thing to keep in mind about using more than one strand of yarn is that the weight changes. It is not like adding the two weights together will double the weight or anything. By using two medium weight (number 4 weight) yarns does not create a super bulky or a number 8 weight yarn, but it does make a heavier weight, but more like a Bulky (number 6 weight) yarn. As a result you need to use a larger hook. Check out a Beyond Basics Hat, using two strands of baby yarn to create a fun hat here.

By ensuring that you have a proper size hook to accommodate both yarns you also ensure that the fabric has the drape you desire. Just as any project if you want a dense fabric use a smaller hook, if you want a more fluid fabric use a larger hook.

However I usually use yarns of differing weight together, I might accent a medium weight yarn with a light or even lace weight yarn. I might use a completely different fiber, might match a wool with a silk, an acrylic with a mohair, a cotton with an alpaca. The yarns provide a different texture, a different sheen, often a different color, but they always provide something amazing to look at.

Pechin is a New Classic- A Great Shawl

There are a couple of stitches that always seem to make their way into my work. I find that I create multiple projects using them, and still I never tire of working them. My latest design from Manos del Uruguay and Fairmount Fibers, Pechin, falls into this category.

This shawl is worked from the center of the neck outward, utilizing a simple chain and single crochet combination. I find that this stitch allows that yarn to really be the feature. It creates a light, airy fabric that embodies the yarn to go as far as it can. By this I mean that you can go a long way with just one skein. As an example, Pechin is only a 2 skein shawl (using Manos del Uruguay Milo), and a really good sized shawl at that.

For Pechin, I broke up the chain stitch pattern with bands of shells. This creates a visual break as well as a bit of dimension. The bands gradually space further apart in this design to help keep the flow balanced, and I feel it helps give a really classic look.

I have to admit, I could work this shawl over and over again. The stitch pattern has a nice rhythm, and just enough details, at just the right time, to keep it from getting boring. I also feel that it really has a beautiful balance between the design and the yarn, they feel at harmony with one another as neither over powers the other.

Okay, that might seem a bit wordy or dramatic, but what I mean is that it is a pattern/design in which you can appreciate both the yarn and the design at the same time. I have spoken in the past about how you select a yarn or pattern to bet let one or the other be a highlight, like not using a variegated yarn in a design that is heavily textured, as the yarn will win over the design (read more here). Pechin however, has a balance that allows the yarn to shine as well as the design, and this is true even if the yarn is variegated.