It has been one week.

It has been one week. One week since I was awoke by the sound of traffic.

I live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the road I live on is a major access for the community of Grizzly Flats. It was one week ago that from the traffic, being too heavy and commuting in the wrong direction, that I knew something was wrong.

I checked news sources and social media outlets, but it was at least 30 minutes until I found confirmation that Grizzly Flats was being evacuated due to fire. By morning I would learn that longtime friends had lost everything in the Caldor fire.

My turn- It has been one week

Only 24 hours later I would receive my own evacuation warning. My family loaded up the pets, packed the “important papers”, loaded up favorite mementos and left home. It is a surreal experience.

We have since returned home, as our notice is actually a “warning”, we are not under a “mandatory” evacuation. However we continue to live in a heightened state. Everything is still packed, and when things need to be used, they are re-packed immediately after. It is kind of like camping at home.

These are the times when you find out what is important. I am surprised at where crochet fit in this for me. Among my packings, I made sure my hooks found a vehicle. However only the yarns that I have current commitments had the same fate. The only completed projects that made the cut were ones that needed photography, as they are near a publication date. I didn’t pack any books, not any of my “specialty yarns”. I didn’t even pack my “specialty” or “collectable” hooks. Just the everyday hooks made the car, and that current projects made it there too.

Maybe it is because crochet is not a “thing” for me. Maybe the process is really what drives me. The movement of my hands, the twisting of the hook, the flow of the yarn between my fingers. Granted times like these make it difficult to be creative and design something new. Yet, crochet does keep my hands busy and my mind focused.

How you can help

As of today the fire has evacuated a physical area nearly half the size of the state of Rhode Island. If you want to assist those evacuated or how have lost everything, here is a site listing ways.

Crochet Quilt Blocks- the Half Square Triangle

Crochet quilt blocks lend themselves to unlimited creativity. These can be great for scrap projects or planned out artistic works.

Below I describe how to create your own simple geographic block, as well as some idea suggestions.

Ohio Star Crochet Quilt Block

In the world of quilting the half square triangle, even using just this block, the possibilities are endless. Essentially it is simply a square that is worked with two colors. It is divided on the diagonal, creating a look of two triangles with the long ends together.

Sizes for crochet quilt blocks

Create your own design, just ensure that these blocks are the same size, or equal fractions of each other. Meaning make big and little blocks. The big block might be 10” then the little squares should be 5” so that they can all be put together equally.

Getting started with your crochet quilt blocks

To begin, create a chain the desired length of the diagonal of the square. This chain should be an odd number. Work a single crochet decrease over the 2nd and 3rd chain (need to know how to work a single decrease, check it out here), single crochet in each chain across until 2 chains are left.   Single crochet decrease over the last 2 chains, then chain 1 and turn.

All subsequent rows of this half of the square are worked the same. Work a single crochet decrease over the first two stitches, single crochet in each stitch across until 2 stitches remain, then work a single crochet decrease over the last two stitches. Repeat this until only 2 stitches remain, and then single crochet decrease these tow stitches together.

Half Square Triangle Crochet Quilt Block

The next side

Using another color and the unused loops of the beginning chain. Work the same stitch technique of decreases on each side of the row.

The block is really just that simple. Now for some ideas. I have found plugging the term “half square triangle quilt” into a search engine, and then selecting the images option, that there is a great abundance of uses.

Ideas for Crochet Quit Block -Half Square Triangles

Some of my favorites are the Ohio Star block, Flock of Geese block, and Pinwheel blocks. The half square triangles that are created can be put together to form these larger blocks, then these blocks can be put together to create pillows, blankets, ponchos, the possibilities are only limited by imagination.

Embossing Crochet in the Kitchen

Playing in the kitchen can be fun and I have found ways to bring crochet into the mix. Crochet in the kitchen is not a new thing. I have crochet potholders and trivets, crochet dishtowels hanging from my stove door, some crochet dish cloths, and even crochet handle covers for cast iron pans. However, I have started embossing crochet in my baking.

I made a personal challenge to work my way through a Swedish book on baking this last year, and can say with tasty results. Starting my morning with a cup of hot tea or coffee and a couple of butter cookies have become part of the results.

Embossing Crochet Cookies

Embossing Crochet Butter Cookies

I have played with a couple of butter cookie recipes and found some quick, simple, short cuts that have made these my new go-to snacks. When I start rolling out my cookies, and they are ready to cut, I place a crochet doily over the top of the dough and work my rolling pin over it. This embosses the doily pattern into the fabric. I then take a pizza cutter and cut the dough in squares and bake.

I get to enjoy the doily design with my coffee in the morning. They look like I spent time and effort on them, and when really they are my simple pleasures.

Want to try them for yourself?

Emboss Crochet Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3 ¾ cups flour

Preheat oven to 400°. Place all ingredients in food processor and turn on. Mix for about a minute, or until dough looks like sand, but when pressed sticks together. if it does not seem to come together well, add a little water about 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until it forms a dough.

Pour dough into a bowl or onto plastic wrap and form dough into a flat ball. Place in the refrigerator to chill, at least 10 minutes up to overnight.

Time to roll

Roll dough out to desired thickness (usually between ¼- ½ inches). Place clean doily over dough (you can also place a piece of plastic wrap between dough and doily, but keep it loose). Roll impression of doily into dough. Note: often you kitchen lighting does not show the texture very well, so get down to eye level to get a better look.

Rolling out embossing crochet cookies

Chilling helps embossing crochet

Cut dough into 2 inch squares (or desired shapes), and place on baking sheet (since the cookies do not spear, you can place many on the tray, close together). I usually get a few dozen squares. For best embossing, place cookies in refrigerator for 10 minutes to re-chill. Bake for 8-10 minutes. It may appear that the embossing is not as detailed, but let the cookies cool and the impression will become more visible.

You can use the same technique with any crochet pattern, on any rolled dough. However a cold dough helps keep the embossed image best. Image your next pie with a lace embossed top…it is definitely on my list to try.

My Head and My Hands are Disconnected

As we enter a New Year, I always find myself reflecting on the previous 12 months. This time I found some interesting understandings that I had overlooked; disconnect between my head and my hands.

With the constantly changing dynamics of 2020 I needed to keep my hands busy. I needed to keep a rhythm and flow of yarn in my hand, yet I had difficulty designing. My mind did not want to count stitches. It did not want to think of stitch patterns or colorways. My mind did not want to plan, my hands just wanted to move.

What I realized is something that has always been part of me, that I am most creative when I am calm. This was something that was constantly in peril in the last several months. I have been mentally juggling various situations in various days. Handling the changes of focus that have been tossed my way daily has made its effect, as most of the designs that I released in my pattern line have been designs that I had designed earlier.

However, I have been finding a new way to focus artistically. I have been rediscovering things that inspired me as a child. I stumbled across various little trinkets that had held my attention when I was younger. A couple of mismatched barrettes that I always thought were so pretty. A picture on a playing card, just a couple of kittens, but the monochromatic feel always captivated me. Even some fabric that my mom had purchased to make me a sundress. The dress was never made, but I always smiled when seeing the little rows of yellow roses.

This has helped me feel grounded. I still may not feel like my designing muscles are ready to fully flex, but at least I feel like there is a way to calm my mind for an artistic focus…so maybe I can find a happy medium between my head and my hands.

How the CGOA Master Program Changed My Life

There are points in your life that you can reflect back on and realize that was where everything went in a different direction. For me one such point is the CGOA Masters Advanced Stitches & Techniques Program. Some may recognize my name as a teacher or designer or even past president of CGOA, but none of that would be true if not for that portfolio.

I remember when I first learned of the program, when Advanced Stiches & Techniques was first released in May of 2010. A group of fiber artists were discussing how they were getting master certification in weaving and yarn spinning. I was in awe that such certifications even existed, as I had never heard about it before. Then I get my first newsletter from CGOA and was thrilled to learn that they offered just such a program.

Getting started

I purchased it the day it was released, and waited patiently for it to arrive in the mail. As soon as I open the envelope I was enthralled and captivated by the 29 page document. Picking up a skein of yarn I began working each swatch as it was listed.

I will admit I was a bit apprehensive. There were times I came across stitches I had never worked. There were patterns that had no description or picture of what it should look like. However, I continued on. In honesty, I was so excited that I completed the entire 48 swatches and 13 questions in a matter of days. Not wanting to appear too eager, or speedy in my work I waited a week or so before contacting the CGOA office to set up a review. Unbeknownst to me, the course was so popular, that by the time I had requested a review it already had a four week backlog.

Over the next four weeks waiting to be assigned a reviewer, I anxiously looked over my work, practiced a few of the new stitches, and tried to stay calm. There was no point in second guessing myself.

The wait

Then the time came to send of my portfolio. I was a complete mixture of feelings. Essentially taking a test from a professor I had never met, and they were going to tell me if I could actually crochet. I am self-taught, and even though I had been crocheting for 25 years at this point I had never had someone scrutinize my work. What if they told me I was joke? What if I was only making mistakes? Then I remembered those fiber artists, and how in their discussions they had talked about how much they learned about themselves and their work through the review process for their certifications. How it improved their weaving, their spinning.

After finally passing the review process, I realized I did learn a lot about myself, and improved my crochet. The program forced me to consider things, stitches and techniques that I had just taken for granted. By understanding more about my stitching I have improved my work.

Moving Forward

The rest of my adventure grew from this. Now that I had actually completed this recognition program I had friends and family ask me to teach them to crochet. It is a bit mind boggling that people that have known me as a crocheter only now think I can actually successfully crochet because I received a certificate, but it is what it is.

Then being invited by CGOA to be recognized as a Master at a graduate ceremony at their next annual conference took me into the world of design and further professional growth. I also made lifelong friends whose diverse backgrounds create a unique tapestry in my life, it is always amazing how crochet can unite. I found another family one that understands and embraces me in an entirely different way than I had ever experienced before.