Monday, July 10, 2017

FINISHED - Block Stitch Baby Afghan

Well that was quick!  Last night I finished our daughter-to-be's first baby blanket.  We're going to name her Xena Vermilion and after a routine ultrasound over the weekend, the revised EDD is now Dec 8, 2017.  Being an adopted Korean, raised in America, I never wanted a traditional or common American or English name for our daughter.  "Xena" is after the warrior princess and "Vermilion" is one of the technical color shades of the 2c Jackson Banknote (1870-79) issue that Matthew collects and it is a descriptive term appreciated among philatelists.

This blanket was so fun and easy to make.  I'm anxious to get started on another one soon, either for my shop or to give as a gift.

The edging was a lot of fun.  Just 1 sc, 2 HDC, 1sc over each block all the way around.  Then I made the corners 1 sc, 3 HDC, 1 sc to keep them square.

Now I can start working on my next project which is for charity.  The SF Knitters & Crocheters are making a sea animal themed patchwork afghan for donation.  One of the members brought in a bunch of yarn for us to start with and this is colorful cornucopia I brought home to work with:

I have to crochet 6" x 6" squares with sea animals embellished on them.  Because of my obsession with marine life, invertebrate biology specifically, I am really excited to participate in this project.  Because I have so much travel  planned from now through early Aug, I'll miss our next few meet ups so I have about a month to finish all of my squares.  On Aug 12th we're going on a fiber filled filled field trip to Knitterly in Petaluma.  I've never been there before and I can't wait to check it out!

Depending on how much progress I make, I'm hoping to destash some of my own yarn to make extra squares and appliques.  I've always enjoyed free form crochet and mixing sewing and embroidery with crochet.  I have no problem throwing patterns to wayside and creating unusual combinations of colors and textures.  Stay tuned for the funky results!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Crochet Patchwork of Love

When I was a kid and first learned to crochet, I began making little solid single crochet squares out of any yarn scraps I could get my hands on.  I've continued making these squares anytime I have yarn scraps over the past 3 1/2 decades.  Here I am with some squares back in 2012.  Here's the assembly process coming together back in the fall of 2016.  Originally I had intended on giving this patchwork afghan to my parents for X-Mas in 2016 but connecting the squares took longer than anticipated so I sent it to them for Easter in 2017.  It's funny to think that I've probably crocheted a few squares during every single NCAA Mens Basketball March Madness tournament since the mid-80s.

The finished afghan came out to be 14 squares long x 9 squares wide = 126 squares total.  Each square was 20-22 single crochet rows in size with a black single crochet border.  The squares were connected by single crochet with HDC border around the edge.

The afghan covers the top of my queen size bed.  It isn't intended to be used as bedding but rather a warm blanket to snuggle under during the ice cold Buffalonian winters that are so familiar to my parents.  This blanket reminds me of all of the yarn I've worked with over the years.  Many of the squares are made from vintage yarn handed down from my great aunts.  I still remember buying some of this yarn at Hills, Ames, Gold Circle, Pleasures and Past-times (and Past-times and Pleasures) and other craft shops and department stores around WNY that no longer exist. 

Now that I'm going to be a mother, I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to pass this new tradition onto my child once they're old enough to crochet.  

WIP - Crochet Block Stitch Baby Afghan

This past May and early June, Matthew and I travelled to Finland to attend the Finlandia International Stamp show where Matthew was exhibiting his collection of 19th century Danish West Indies postal history in Tampere.  After the show we went to visit friends in the Telemark province of Norway.  While in Skien, I found a really nice yarn shop called Strikkenpinnen and splurged on as much Norwegian alpaca yarn as I could fit in my suitcase.

With this luxurious Sadnes Garn Alpakka, I've started crocheting my first baby blanket with the block stitch.

Like practically every other pattern in existence, there's plenty of online tutorials, pintrest pins and google image diagrams for this pattern all available for free.  There's also plenty of patterns available for purchase on etsy and ravelry.   

It's very easy to work on while travelling or watching TV.  The only catch is that you have to hide your tails and tie off at the beginning and end of every row.  My blanket is about 36" wide and I'm crocheting with size F hook.  I have 4 1/2 skeins of white left and when it's done, I'm done.

Acorn Alpaca Simple Crochet Tunic Sweater

On X-Mas Eve, while Matthew and I were aboard my favorite floating hotel, the RMS Queen Mary, down in Long Beach, CA, I received quite a surprise.  Matthew proposed me (and I gladly accepted)! We're both philatelists and 3 years ago we met at a stamp show in Hartford, CT, while attending a dinner for "young philatelists" (stamp collectors under the age of 50!).  As corny as it sounds, it was love at first sight.  We've been through so much together and since I moved back to SF about a year ago, our relationship continues to grow stronger everyday.  We are truly happy living and working together and so incredibly in love.  I don't care how cliche all of this sounds but I totally believe in true love and you can't make quality handmade crafts without it.

Anyway, as you must be wondering where I'm going with this, Matthew's mom and stepdad sent me the most gorgeous handspun 100% alpaca yarn for X-Mas.  They live in the suburbs outside of Boston and the yarn came from a farm local to them called the Acorn Alpaca Ranch.  I instantly fell in love with this super soft and surprisingly light weight yarn and called up the farm to order more.  The 2 ply skeins are 4 oz./400 yds. and $26.50/skein.  They are totally worth it and as far East Coast yarn goes, I highly recommend buying directly from this farm.  They're friendly, professional and easy to work with.

With my swank new yarn, I decided to design my own simple crochet tunic sweater based on my own personal measurements.

My arms always get hot, especially when I'm crocheting, so I decided to make a sleeveless sweater with a square collar.

So here comes the even bigger news.  While I was only about 1/4 finished with the sweater, I found out I'm pregnant!  So instead of making it a form fitting curve clencher, I relaxed the base of the pattern to make it more forgiving to my steadily expanding pear shape.  I'm now in the 2nd trimester of my pregnancy and the sweater is so cozy that I can easily see myself wearing it well into the fall.

Here are so close ups of the detail.  The entire sweater is made with a size F hook and single crochet stitch.  

Basic natural fiber beauty.

The shoulders are horizontally attached to the vertical edges of the top of the front and back sides.

Once the sides are connected, the base is crocheted in a horizontal round around the bottom.

Looks like a square laying flat but fits like a glove!

Crochet Wave Scarf

I have no excuse for not posting for so long, especially as I've been crocheting more than ever and quite involved with the SF Knitters and Crocheters Meet up group so I have plenty to talk about.  We meet 4x/month, twice in Bernal Heights and twice in the Mission.  It's a lovely group of regulars with a few newbies coming and going.  Everyone has great ideas to share.  It's so fun and inspirational and it keeps me motivated to stay on track with all of my projects.  Most of the other women are knitters but there's a few crocheters and a few who swing both ways.  Best of all, through the group, I've made a really great friend named Kristine.  We now crochet and chill together on a regular basis (outside of the group).  Coincidentally, my next door neighbor growing up was also named Kristine and she was my best crochet pal.  

I actually finished this scarf months ago but totally forgot to take photos of it.

It's based on this simple wave pattern and I mainly worked on it whenever I was riding and/or waiting for public transportation.  Although the scarf is enormous, measuring 96" x 11.5", it only took a few months to finish.  It's super warm, crocheted with a size G hook and vintage Sayelle wool and Red Heart Super Savers.  I love the way it came out and believe it or not, I actually wear these colors often!

Once the weather cools down in a month or so and I can handle heavy yarn being draped all over me, I'll start crocheting some of these for my shop.  For those who don't already know, summers in SF can be very cold!

If you want to try this pattern yourself, there's plenty of tutorials on youtube.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

Get your beanie on!

I was supposed to meet up with a woman (whom I came into contact with via a local knitting and crochet forum) to show her how to crochet a beanie tonight but she flaked out.  After texting with her briefly, I gathered that she was a novice crocheter so in preparation for today's meet up, last night I dug out some chunky yarn and a big hook (size H) and crocheted a sample beanie to use as an example.  Many areas of the country are already well into beanie season.  Personally I love hats and I love crocheting beanies because they are so versatile, quick, easy and fun to make.

In my office downtown, excuse the mess in the background.

This is a great project that if you crochet as fast as me, you can bang out in 1-2 hours flat.  You really only need about 170 yards of medium-thick yarn (1-3 skeins) plus some extra yarn for your pom pom, a darning needle, measuring tape and size H hook.  Skill wise, if you can chain, crochet and HDC, or if you've ever made a scarf, you can make a beanie.

Simple Crochet Beanie Instructions

1) Measure the diameter around your forehead and over your ears (where you want the bottom of your beanie to rest).  You can take this literally or figuratively but I have a big head - 22" around!  Put that number to the side.  

2) Measure the length from your forehead to the top of the back of your skull (where the pom pom will rest on the top of your beanie).  Add 2-3" to that measurement if you want a folded brim on your beanie.  I measured 12" (9" + 3" for a brim) for my head.

3) So it really doesn't matter what tension or yarn you use because all you need to do is chain the length from step # 2 (i.e. 12").  

4) Then you just crochet or HDC like you're making a scarf until you get to the length from step #1 (i.e. 22").  

5) Once you get that far, you connect the "scarf" to create your beanie with a darning needle.  Then when you get to the end of the row, you weave/sew the edges together and pull the yarn taught to create the top of your beanie.  Leave a little excess yarn after you tie off so you have something to tie your pom pom on with.  Hide all of the tails inside of the beanie.

6) Make your pom pom, tie it on and shizzam!

I had so much fun finishing that little project that I decided to start another beanie with some absolutely gorgeous Galway 100% wool and size F hook using the ribbed stitch.  This is a beautiful stitch that creates a fine texture and contrast.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Owl lives!

Hard to believe it's been well over a year since I last posted anything but that doesn't mean that I haven't been crafting like crazy.  Dates and locations might change but one thing that always remains consistent is my crazy craftiness and/or craziness in general!  But just to bring ya'll up to speed (that is if anyone is even still reading this ancient artifact also known as my blog), after careful consideration and romantic provocation, in early July 2016 I moved back to San Francisco and into a lovely (little!) 2 bedroom apartment in Noe Valley with my boyfriend, Matthew.  We live on top of a very steep hill with fantastic views, surrounded by a surprising amount of vegetation (for SF).  It's a beautiful, friendly neighborhood bursting with a variety of cute shops, restaurants and a vibrant farmer's market.  And after months of work, our apartment is finally starting to feel like home.  I've transformed one of the bedrooms into the Preciousowl HQ.  It's still a work in progress but I can't complain.  At least I have my own nest!

3 months ago I started crocheting this rug for under our kitchen table with some rug yarn I thrifted in Niagara Falls while visiting my family back east over the summer.  It's actually a combination of 80% rug yarn and 20% scrap acrylic yarn leftover from other projects.  Mainly I would work on the rug whenever riding public transportation around the city, waiting for flights to depart and also in the evenings or on the weekend while binge watching "our shows" and/or football on TV with Matthew.

This is a very simple pattern but it also requires continuous counting. Once you get adjusted to the traditional chevron pattern, you don't have to count every single stitch but it helps to at least double-check that the count is correct on every other peak or valley.  As far as size goes, this is a very flexible pattern.  Each chevron/point/arrow equals 50 stitches.  25 stitches measures about 4" with a G size hook and medium-thick yarn.  I wanted my rug to be about 32" wide so I made a total of 4 chevrons (100 stitches total) across.

Basic Chevron pattern for 32" wide rug:

If my instructions don't make any sense, try this online tutorial.

1) Row 1.  Chain 100 stitches plus 5.
2) Row 2.  Skip the 1st stitch, crochet 2 stitches, skip 1 stitch, crochet 11 stitches, crochet 3 stitches in one.  At this point you will be at the top of your peak.
3) Still Row 2 (valley).  Crochet 11 stitches, skip 2 stitches.  You're now at the bottom of the valley.
4) Still Row 2 (2nd peak).  You're joining the 11th stitch from the valley to the 1st stitch of the 2nd peak.  That counts as the 1st stitch.  Now crochet 10 more, crochet 3 stitches in one and you're now on the peak.
5) Still Row 2.  Keep repeating and alternating valley and peak until you get to the final peak.  After you've crocheted 3 in 1 at the top of the peak, crochet 11 like usual but then because you're on the end, you will skip a stitch and crochet 2 stitches just like at the beginning.
6) Row 3.  I alternated 2 rows of every color but you can do it however you like so either keep using whatever yarn you're using or tie off and tie a new color on whenever you like.  The only real "trick" here is simply to chain 1 + 1 crochet in the first stitch, crochet 1 stitch, skip 1 stitch, crochet 11 stitches, crochet 3 stitches in one.  At this point you will be at the top of your peak and you can keep repeating all of the steps from the Row 2 directions.
7) Keep repeating the pattern for as long as you want your rug to be!

So now that my rug is finished, it's time to refocus on the patchwork square afghan I've been crocheting out of scraps since I was a little kid.  I've literally been working on this afghan on and off for about 3 decades and I've resolved to finish it once and for all and give it to my parents for X-Mas this year.  Some of the yarn came from my great Grandma Dorn's stash.  In general, it's a magical trip down memory lane using the scraps of 30+ years of crochet projects.  I plan to keep posting my progress.  Here's to hoping my next post will be less than annual!