Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lambtown Fiber Festival

Last weekend I drove a few like minded Bay Area fiber lovers from the SF Knitters & Crocheters to the Lambtown Fiber Festival in Dixon, CA.  It was the first time I had ever been up there and it was hotter than HELL!  It didn't help being majorly pregnant but I still had a lot of fun, as did the other lovely ladies.  The event took place at the Dixon May Fair and I definitely felt some classic county fair vibes what with all of the livestock, greasy food vendors, country band stand musicians, antiques and handmade goods for sale.

I witnessed my first electric sheep shearing contest and learned that sheep are are sheared twice/year.  The sheep in these photos were Dorset-Suffolk half breeds.  The shearers work 8 hrs/day and they wear sole-less suede shoes so they can "dance" with the sheep as they shear them.  The sheep literally just plop themselves on the ground and let themselves be sheared.  The best shearers kept the sheep calm and relaxed throughout the process which only takes a few minutes.  

I took a photo of this raw fiber literally seconds after it was sheared from a sheep.

(Well hung!) freshly sheared sheep.

These are a few of the submissions I liked best from the fiber competitions.

I loved the natural colors in this weaver and yarn vendor's stall.

I think it's really only a matter of time until I begin weaving and/or rug-making...

My 100% pure alpaca purchases for the day.  Gorgeous handspun yarn from Fanfare Farm in Vacaville, CA and Black Diamond Farm in Knightsen, CA.  

I've started a wavy scarf with my Fanfare yarn.  It's incredibly soft and a dream to crochet with!

And on a totally unrelated note, on Sunday I finished a neon pink crochet mermaid's tail for my dear friend, Irene in Toronto, who has a daughter named Ocean.

Now it's time to start working on holiday presents for friends and family although I honestly don't know how much progress I will make before/after Xena is born.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Summer Recap

It's been such a busy summer.  Matt and I were travelling non-stop but now that I'm 29 weeks pregnant, I won't be boarding any flights until after 2018.  For your viewing pleasure, I've decided to summarize all of my crochet related summer adventures into one giant recap.

At the end of July we flew to Buffalo to visit my parents and celebrate my dad's 74th birthday.  My mom had been telling me about a wool farm in Freedom, NY.  They have a shop, connected to their house called The Wool Room.  They spin and dye an incredible selection of yarn in a variety of weights and styles.  It was a glorious, sunny afternoon when we visited the farm and I got to meet some of the happy residents.


This basket is filled with my purchases, all worsted double and triple ply wool and alpaca.

Our next stop was WNY Yarns in the Town of Tonawanda, NY which is literally walking distance from my brother's house.  Too bad he doesn't crochet!  This is a relatively new shop that's been open for a little over a year.  The owner, Heather Schwartz, is only 33!  Meeting her and visiting her shop was such an inspiration.  I love WNY and I am so proud of the entrepreneurs who continue to add value to a community so dear to me, especially females younger than me.  They had a great selection of local yarn I had never seen before in addition to wide range of classics at very affordable prices.  They offer plenty of knit and crochet classes for a variety of skill levels in an enormous location with a friendly and relaxing environment to work in.  If I still lived in WNY, I swear I'd be hanging out there everyday!

Here are my purchases, all locally spun and dyed merino and alpaca from the Orchard Park, NY based spinners Death by Yarns.

This is the wavy scarf I started crocheting with some of the sparkly fingering yarn I bought.  I already finished a 70" scarf and 1/2 and I'm going to make matching hats but I'm not posting photos yet because I'm giving them as gifts and I don't want to spoil them.

While I was home with my family, I finished the marine themed charity squares that I mentioned in my previous post.  It was fun to get creative with limited supplies and free form crochet.  I used a lot of hyperbolic crochet for the sponges and corals and basically just made everything up as I went along and added some minor embroidery embellishments.

My next stop was New Orleans, LA.  Matt and I were down there for an annual philatelic event at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter.  One of my fellow knitting philatelists recommended that I check out a yarn and embroidery shop, walking distance from our hotel, managed by her daughter, aptly named The Quarter Stitch.  Their customer service was impeccable.  They wrapped my yarn in colorful tissues with curly ribbons like wool candy!

 After returning to the Bay Area, my meet up group went on our field trip to Knitterly in Petaluma.  What luck, the day we visited the shop, they were having a sale and all of the yarn I bought was 30% off!  It's a great location, right in the heart of heart of downtown Petaluma.  They offer a full range of classes and they had a lot of nice yarn that I haven't seen in SF.

Finally, in the midst of my galavanting, I finally finished Xena's mermaid tail in Madeline Tosh Mandala.  

The base of the body starts with a 10 stitch round DC magic circle.  The 3-D crocodile stitch is a lot easier than it looks.  Working in a round you alternate rows of DC-SC-VS-SC for the foundation row.  Then you SC 4 on each side of the V with a SC in between and SC between each "scale".  The scales increase in increments of 5, using the following algorithm:

1st Foundation Round: DC-SC-VS-SC (for 5 total VS)
2nd Foundation Round: VS-DC-VS-DC in SC-VS-DC in SC-VS-DC-VS (for 10 total VS)
3rd Foundation Round: VS-DC-VS-DC in SC-VS-DC in SC-VS-DC-VS-VS-DC in SC-VS-DC in SC-VS-DC-VS (for 10 total VS)
...and if you chose to continue increasing, just add an extra DC in SC-VS-DC in SC-VS to the formula.

Even the wrong side of the body looks cool.

My camera simply does not do the luscious colors of this yarn justice!

The design of this pattern is the purest definition of a wool eater but it's worth it for the tangible, textured results.  The tail is simply a ribbed SC increased by 3 chains every other row.  Since I had some extra yarn left, last night I started making a matching hat.  Now the only thing missing is my baby!  Only a few more months until a photo opportunity becomes a reality.  You can find a plethora of free youtube tutorials online to crochet your own mermaid tail.  Eventually, if I have the time, I might make some more tails and sell them on etsy.  It's just hard to put a reasonable price on a handmade product that uses nearly $100 worth of yarn and at least 10 hours of work.  

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!