Crochet Attachment, or Attached to Me

When I was younger crochet was an emotional outlet, I do not know if I could say the same thing today. Maybe crochet has grown up with me, or maybe it has just become ingrained to my every day.

I remember when I was in high school that my brother use to joke that is anyone was cold and needed a blanket, then find a guy for me to date then break up with me. Not that I dated much at all, but break-ups did through me into an afghan making frenzy. Everyone in my family has at least one, friends from the time can probably say the same.

It was not necessarily that I was filling my stitches with tears, as much as it kept my hands busy and helped to let my mind focus. I guess in a sense it was my meditation. I am not sure if it applies the same today.

I crochet daily, but now it has a different focus, it is part of my work. I keep more notes about the stitches I am working, I am deciding the best way to highlight a yarn, I am thinking of things for blog posts, I am exploring different ways to explain techniques in teaching, basically I have lost my mind wandering. I am not completely sure that this has come from the position of it being my work, or the many years that I have been doing it, over ¾ of my life.

I also am not working nearly as many afghans. I made many blankets over the years, I really only started making garments about a decade ago. In all things relative that is very short amount of time. So maybe that has taken to my change of my crochet experience, that I have expanded the scope of my outlet.

I may not recognize it as my emotional outlet, but nearly twenty years of marriage could have curbed that need. I still am not sure what I would do with my hands while seated just about anywhere, so maybe crochet has grown into something more primal, maybe it is just a part of me that I cannot see as separate.

Cotton & Linen Perfect Zooey for Summer

When the temperature climbs to numbers that have more than two places in them, yarn does not sound like the leisure activity that it usually is. Fortunately there are nice plant based yarns that do not trap the heat like wool or even acrylic does. Juniper Moon Farm creates one such yarn in Zooey.

Zooey is a 60% cotton, 40% linen yarn that feels cool and is durable. I have to admit, I am not always drawn to linen, but the blend with cotton in this yarn makes it softer and less stiff than I have experienced in other yarns. It can take a hardy blocking, and I recommend that you plan on blocking this yarn, it brings an entirely new quality to it. Once it takes water, which it generously absorbs, it blossoms and becomes softer. It then can really open up stitch work and make some beautiful lace work with relatively little effort.

The yarn is listed as a fine weight, also referred to as a 2 weight, but easily works up with larger than expected hooks, even if the yarn is rated for a 3.5-4.5mm (F-G) I like it on a 6mm (J) for a more open effect.

The hank has some decent yardage at 284 yards (260 meters) for a 3.5 ounces (100 gram) ball. Even has a 4 ply yarn, plied with 3 strands of linen and 1 strand of cotton, it does not seem to have a really round nature. It seems a little flat, but that is something to be expected form the fibers. The ply is not real tight, however this did not seem to cause any splitting.

I think this yarn would do well as a market bag, maybe even a cover up for the beach. That also lends me to think that it could pull off a sun hat. It really does make me think of summer projects, this might limit my creative sense, but overall I think it can have some great uses.

 

Small Town, Small World, Big Punch in Fiber Arts

The world has ways of reminding me that it is much smaller then I think, and I have had friends recently make me think of my home town a bit differently. I grew up, currently live, and have long roots in the California gold country; a friend made a comment about living in such a historic place, and I admit I think I probably have taken that for granted. However the craziest thing isn’t how much my area has history, it is how often I learn about companies in the fiber industry that have roots here too.

 

As I was getting into the profession of crochet I began to pay a bit more attention to my surrounding in regards to other professionals. My local Fibers Guild (a groups of members that love all things yarn) I learned that there was a yarn company just a short distance from my kids school, Lisa Souza Knitwear and Dyeworks. I have worked with Lisa over the years to help create crochet designs in her beautiful yarns, as well as help work her show booth and visit various cities throughout the United States.

 

If only having a well-established yarn company in my town was enough, I also learned that a nationally recognized fiber spinning instructor and author, Lexi Boeger of Pluckyfluff, grew up in my community as well. Heck she was only a year ahead of me in high school, but my high school was large enough that I can honestly say that we did not run in the same circles. Her family owns a well-known local winery, and she has a studio just near the tasting room, that I have had the pleasure of teaching workshops at.

 

Those two connections should be more than enough, then I got into a conversation with a long time member of my Fiber Guild and when she learned where I lived she immediately assumed that I must know Lorna Miser, the creator and founder of Lorna’s Laces yarn. I did not know her, but the connection was made that as I was growing up she was starting the yarn company literally about 2 miles from my childhood home. There is even a colorway within the yarn company that features my street name, Bucks Bar. I did meet Lorna a few years later, and long after she had sold the business that is now housed in the Chicago, Illinois area, I was when working on some designs for a book that she was working on, and learned that she knew several members of my extended family. Even though up until very recently she and I only lived about thirty minutes apart, while she was starting up her latest yarn adventure, Zombie Yarns,  we would only cross paths at trade shows thousands of miles from home; but that is how it works out at times isn’t it? Never have lunch with a friend when you are in the everyday routine of home, but definitely make time when out of the ordinary grind.

 

So looking back over the connections above to my community, I thought that maybe there was something in the water or maybe every community as secret fiber artists dwelling in plain sight. Then I was at a trade show earlier this month in Columbus, Ohio when a friend and colleague escorted me over to check out a hook supplier. Honestly, I was tagging along a bit, my mind was already taking in the days discussions with various yarn companies when the gentleman, Chris Barnes, mentioned something about California. I mentioned I was from Placerville, that got him to look up, as he started he grew up there. Now I should mention that when traveling it is exciting to find someone that can pronounce the name of the town correctly (it is a short a sound), let alone know where it is without me drawing a map. We began chatting back and forth to find that we knew several of the same people and he was only two years ahead of me in high school and hung out with my cousin during his high school years. Apparently he had just taken over the business his father had started in my hometown, Brittany Needles. The company moved several years back to a little down on the northern coast that I enjoy vacationing at, Mendocino, but it started right here in my little gold rush town.

 

I know I have taken the local gold rush history for granted, but I did not realize that there was such a rich fiber arts history in the professional sense surrounding me. Honestly, since this last connection I am beginning to think I need to question the ladies at the Hangtown Fibers Guild more, as when I excitedly mention these new to me connections, they have already know everyone involved.  I wonder if there are any other industry connections hidden away in my back yard.

Crochet Hats De-Mystified

It is interesting that you completely forget how you felt about something before it became common place. Okay, that sentence could apply to many things in today’s day and age, however I was personally thinking of my crochet. A conversation I had with a student juggled a little something free in my mind about hats.

I find crocheting hats a pretty relaxing past time at this point in my life, enough so that the yarn I post about on Fridays … that swatch usually becomes a hat…but I didn’t always feel that way. Hats were intimidating to me, probably because the only crochet hats I had seen as a kid growing up were usually worked vertically with short rows. I had never really seen a top down, or even bottom up worked crochet hat, until probably college.

Top down hats start as a flat circle

That does make my crochet life sound a bit sheltered, maybe it was. I did teach myself after all and I primarily crocheted with “hand-me-down” yarn form other people’s stashes. I made doll clothes and scarves, but if it was something to be adorned or admired, I made afghans …hundreds of them.

Anyway, when I would contemplate working a hat, I was always befuddled by the dome shape, and having it actually fit. Little did I realize how easy it was to make, so easy that since I learned it I have never looked back. Essentially a top down crochet hat begins with a flat circle. Yes, a flat circle. This seems a little counterintuitive, but it works. Creating a flat circle simply requires adding the number of stitches worked in round 1 to be added evenly throughout all other rounds. Meaning if I begin the first round with 12 double crochets, then I add 12 double crochets evenly in each following round, so round 2 would have 24 double crochets, and round 3 would have 36 double crochets.

After the circle is worked to a point where the outer edge, the circumference, measures the circumference of the head (usually somewhere between 20” and 22” (51-56 cm) for a typical adult), then you quit working any increasing stitches and continue working even (a single stitch in every stitch around), until you have the hat the desired length.

Here is a really basic pattern for a hat, nothing fancy…

Using any yarn and a corresponding hook,

Rnd 1: Ch 4, 11 dc in 4th ch from hook, sl st to top of beg ch. (12 dc)

Rnd 2: Ch 3, dc in same st, 2 dc in each st around, sl st to join. (24 dc)

Rnd 3: Ch 3, dc in same st, dc in next st, [2 dc in next st, dc in next st] around, sl st to join. (36 dc)

Note: Depending on your yarn and hook only continue working Rnds until circumference of hat is met with circumference of the circle, then work Body of Hat.

Rnd 4: Ch 3, dc in same st, dc in next 2 sts, [2 dc in next st, dc in next 2 sts] around, sl st to join. (48 dc)

Rnd 5: Ch 3, dc in same st, dc in next 3 sts, [2 dc in next st, dc in next 3 sts] around, sl st to join. (60 dc)

Rnd 6: Ch 3, dc in same st, dc in next 4 sts, [2 dc in next st, dc in next 4 sts] around, sl st to join. (72 dc)

Rnd 7: Ch 3, dc in same st, dc in next 5 sts, [2 dc in next st, dc in next 5 sts] around, sl st to join. (84 dc)

Body of Hat

Ch 3, dc in each st around, sl st to join. Repeat this Rnd until hat is desired length.

Fasten off and weave in ends.

Make a few hats, and considering helping your local community by donating a few to your local homeless shelter.

Cotton Classic- a Little Different than “Traditional”

Some yarns always inspire me, some always tell me what they want to be, others, well maybe not so much. Cotton Classic by Tahki Stacy Charles is one of the former, it can always find a design in my mind.

Cotton Classic is 100& Mercerised Cotton and this sometimes causes people to pause. The term cotton is generally understood, it had a great marketing campaign throughout the 1980’s about how it is a naturally grown product that lets the fabric breath. Cotton also is stronger when wet, has limited stretch, and many think of it shrinking when first washed. This first wash shrinking, is not like felting of wool, this is essentially because cotton, being a short in length fiber, has more “twist” worked into the yarn in order to hold the fibers together (if a strand is long it does not need to be twisted together as much to hold, while something short needs to have more twists to ensure the hold) this puts a lot of tension on the fiber. When the yarn (of cotton shirt) finally gets fully submerged in water it actually allows the fiber to relax, this allows it to release the tension, and this caused the fiber to contract. So cotton will only shrink in the first washing whereas wool will continue to shrink with washings.

Cotton Classic by Tahki www.lindadeancrochet.com

Cotton Classic by Tahki Stacey Charles

The term that confounds many is Mercerised. Mercerised is a process that removes the slight halo effect that can accompany a cotton fiber, this is essentially the tiny ends of the fiber protruding from the yarn. To Mercerise the yarn, or thread is brought over an open flame to burn off the fibers. This creates a yarn that has a nice smooth finish that has great stitch definition. Another side effect of this process is that it does not allow the cotton to absorb water as is normally considered. Thus Mercerised Cotton is not recommended for dish clothes, where regular cotton will work wonderfully.

I find Cotton Classic is wonderful for warm weather projects, dressy scarves, home décor items, a great market bag. I even love it for tank tops and cover ups. This yarn has a wide arrange of colors available, and it shows of lace work stitches and textural stitches fabulously. It comes in small hanks of 1.75oz/50g with 108 yds/100m. It is a light weight and has nice drape on larger hooks.

Consider it for your next summer weather project, and don’t worry about this cotton reminding you of a dish rag.