Jan 28, 2013

A Wealth of Washcloths . . .

It seems as if I spent most of last year in pain.  No, not the pain of a watching a steadily deteriorating 2012 presidential election campaign, nor the pain of living in a swing state, although by the time November 6 had rolled around, I was ready to unplug myself from all modern -- and not so modern -- communication mechanisms.  And, no, not the pain of a slow recovery from two back-to-back minor car accidents that had me in weekly physical therapy for 6 months.

Rather, I'm talking about the pain of tendonitis.  For much of last year, I suffered from recurring tendonitis in my right wrist.  Tendonitis is a bitch, particularly when the inflammation holds hostage the very muscles one uses for a favorite activity.  At several points in the year, I would pick up my hook, make a hat or two, only to have to immobilize my wrist when the pain came flaring back.  Even a steroid shot didn't provide long-term help.

Happily, I can report that the inflammation is virtually gone.   As I struggled to figure out why the pain kept returning, I discovered that how I cradled my wrist when I crocheted further inflamed an already inflamed tendon. 

As  recovered, I took crochet slow and in small doses.  I focused on crafting a series of washcloths for my eldest, eldest niece, who recently moved to New York City where she is living on the shoe string budget of a struggling actress cum waitress.   As I experimented with ways to reduce the chance of aggravating the tendonitis, I toyed with different yarns (cotton, hemp, linen) and stitch patterns.  

I even managed to get over my dislike of the front post stitch.   Executed only on the front side of the fabric, in alternating rows, the fpdc created a beautifully textured designs, such as these two squares. 

Tree of Life Afghan pattern, LionBrand Yarns
Weldon's Practical Crochet, Second Series, ca1889
I made 12 washcloths last year.  I also ended the year with a wealth of knowledge about how to reduce the chance for injury, as well as gained a greater appreciation for the craft of crochet.
However, I still hate the back post stitch.

Mar 31, 2012

More Off the Hook

During February and March, I managed to crochet more than 2200 yards.  No, my wrist still hurts but not as much since I'm started wearing a splint to immobilize my wrist and thumb at night.


  First out of the gate was the MacKenzie Tartan Bookmark, made from some vintage thread purchased at an estate sale several years ago. The Fan Bookmark pattern was designed by Crochetroo.  Named in honor of the the primary color in the MacKenzie Tartan, this will be a gift to someone in a Ravelry swap I'm in.  Made from Collingbourne's Luxura, Size 20 crochet thread,  (marketed as artificial silk thread), this actual spool was manufactured sometime between the mid-1920s to as late as 1943.  After a slow start, this bookmark worked up fast.  I will definitely make a few more.  Yardage = 25 yards

During February I took a stab at knitting. I even went so far as to attempt stranded color knitting.  I made two different versions of Lindsay Koehler's Piano Hat.  The first hat was completely knitted (with crocheted ear flaps added as an afterthought), while the other was crocheted with the keyboard knitted added before the crocheted ear flaps.  These ear flap hats were crafted for DN #1 and her buddy, both cheerleaders at their local junior college.  They wanted hats in their school colors (green, white, and gold) to wear while cheering during outdoor games. DN#2 calls these "Henry Hats."  Long story.  Total yardage = 415 yards

MARCH Projects

I started the month off with Mondo's Scrappy Key Lime Dish Cloth.  Having been tasked to craft something out of scrap yarn, I took inspiration watching Project Runway when Mondo Guerra pulled together and won! with this little dress made of different fabrics. I alternated two different balls of cotton yarn -- one was solid green and one transitioned from white to various shades of green.  The texture is created using the SC-Ch stitch combination.

I was then tasked to find inspiration from a Gustav Klimt painting.  I love images of trees, so naturally when I saw this picture, I had to craft something!  And would you know it, I had three skeins of Lion Brand Homespun in the exact same colors!  Thank goodness for bulky yarn because my Birch Forest Homespun Shawl went from start to finish in less than 10 hours.  I used the Half Granny Square Shawl pattern by Anastacia Zittel.  Despite a wingspan of more than 70 inches, the shawl weighs just over a pound.  A perfect shawl for the office.  Total yardage = 555 yards

Next up was a felted tote that started out as a wool watch cap for my father.  My sister Constance has always said that my father has a big head so I made it a bit large.  Knowing that it was going to be felted, I made it a bit bigger. However, when I finished crocheting the brim, I realized that it was waaaaay too bit, even for my "big-headed" father.  So, I turned it upside down, added on the straps and button, and felted the hell out of the new tote. This will make someone a great project bag.  Yarn used was Patons Classic Wool and Lion Brand/s Wool Solids.  Yardage = 762 yards

This little baby bib was a simple project to craft, using almost a skein of Ornaghi Filati Gong, a plush mercerized DK cotton yarn.  Its trimmed in a single ply of red cotton pulled from a scrap of 4 ply TLC Cotton Plus. Yardage = 121 yards

I made this Massage Ball Sack to use as part of my physical therapy. This sack is designed to hold two tennis balls next to one another to aid in trigger-point therapy, an alternative type of massage used by physical therapists to break up the trigger points or muscle knots that are the source of pain throughout various parts of the body. The balls effectively reach either side of the spine, upper back, and other targeted areas of the upper and lower-body, as well as thigh and calf muscles.  I used Lion Brand Sock-Ease in Grape Soda.  Yardage = 219.

Mar 24, 2012

Anatomy of a Stitch: The Single Crochet

I remember my first crochet project -- a red cotton washcloth made entirely of single crochet stitches.  Not yet versed in counting my stitches or knowing where to begin the next row, the sides were basically straight, if a bit wonky.  My aunt's next door neighbor, a master crocheter if ever there was one, taught me how to form the requisite stitches -- the chain and single crochet stitches.  I still have that washcloth, somewhere, faded and misshapen from use.
The single crochet (sc) stitch is the second stitch (after the chain stitch ) most beginning crocheters learn.  It has been deemed one of the most important stitches every crocheter needs to know.  Many crochet patterns and projects incorporate single crochet stitches in some form or manner. I learned to crochet before the advent of the Internet and YouTube videos but the single crochet remains one of the easiest stitches to master.  Simply insert your hook under the loops of the next single crochet stitch in the row below, yarn over, pull through hole, yarn over, pull through both loops on the hook.  Pretty hunky-dory.

Okay, time for a bit of honesty.  The single crochet stitch, when used by itself, lacks . . . lacks . . . lacks beauty and style.  It is a very ugly stitch when worked flat and, occasionally, in the round.  The fabric it creates when worked in a straight row as shown in the border of the washcloth below, showcases each row, each stitch hole, in painful detail.  One can easily see the "knots" that make crochet fabric so thick and unwielding, and so unattractive that it dissuades many from picking up a hook.  The resulting fabric is just plain fugly; it does not drape well, not even when worked with an overlarge hook.  Can you tell that I am just not a fan of this stitch? 

Several years ago, I made my first lace shawl.  Its recipient remarked that she did not know that crochet could be so beautiful. Praise and damnation.  Unfortunately, the only crochet she had seen were "old-fashioned" granny squares, and single crochet washcloths and hats.  She had not been exposed to the beauty of crochet, which lies in the variety of textures and patterns that can be produced when basic stitches are used in combination with other stitches.  You'll find that this is particularly true for the lowly single crochet stitch that seems to blossom when used in combination with other stitches (i.e., chain, half-double crochet, double crochet, etc.). Take another look at the washcloth below.  The rigid bands of single crochet surround shells created by placing 3 sc stitches into one stitch.  A totally different fabric that looks less like a bunch of neat knots in a row and more like textured fabric.  Worked in the proper sized hook, the resulting fabric is full of drape.

Single Crochet-Chain combination:
In recent years, I have avoided the single crochet, opting instead for the half double crochet when making hats in the round, 5- and 7-double crochet stitch shell patterns for afghans, and double crochet-chain combinations for lace shawls.  Anything but straight sc.  But I''ve found some neat patterns calling for single crochet in straight rows.  Hunting around for alternatives, I found instances where some crocheters  substituted a sc-ch combination where you sc into the chain in the previous row and ch one, skipping the sc in the previous row.  This creates a relatively solid frabric with a semi-criss cross texture (see below) that lays flat, is stretchy when pulled from the top and bottom, but stable when pulled from side to side.  The stitch combination works in the round as well.  Two examples -- a washcloth worked flat and a heating pad worked in the round.

2005 by Donna Hulka
Split Single Crochet:
This is more about hook placement rather than stitch combination.   Instead of working into the top loops of the stitch in the row below, you insert your hook between the 2 vertical legs of the single crochet stitch in the previous row,  See my previous post for more information about how this works when working flat versus working in the round.

Here, a series of split-sc stitches alternates with a series of chain to produce what could pass for sloppy garter/stockinette.  When blocked, this fabric stretches easily from side to side but less so when pulled top to bottom.
There are infinite possible ways to use the single crochet stitch.  Obviously, you can work it in straight rows.  More importantly, you can also use it as a building block for creating more complicated stitches when used in combination with itself and other stitches. 

Feb 5, 2012

Completely Off Topic

I know this is completely off-topic but I had to post these send ups of the Twilight franchise.  Oh, since I got them off a Ravelry thread, this post may not be as off-topic as I thought.


Let's talk about Edward first who can not hold a candle to our friend Angel!

Vampires? Sparkle? Yeah, right. What Buffy says.

Then there is Bella.  To paraphrase Forrest Gump's mother, "Stupid is as Bella does!"

Bottom line: why I have not read beyond the first half of Twilight, nor will I see any of the movies.

What can I say but . . . .

Josh Whedon, my condolences.

Jan 28, 2012

Hooked Up

After a bit of a hiatus, I finally have gotten back into crocheting.  What finally got me going after nursing a sore wrist and a college freshman through her first semester?  My Outlander Fans swap that started January 1st.  Based on A Breath of Snow and Ashes (ABOSAA), the sixth book in Diana Gabaldon's excellent Outlander series, the swap features the Highland Games in which four clans (Beauchamp, Fraser, MacKenzie, and Murray) compete for points.  For this gathering of the clans (i.e., swap), we are crafting things in response to a series of challenges tied to ABOSAA.  Bowing to my competitive streak, I have submitted an item for each of the six January challenges. 


Beauchamp Felted Cap:
This lightly felted helmet (above) was made for a friend of my eldest, one of a set of twins who helped her survive her first college semester.  DN #1 (dear niece) is always a willing, if not a jokester, of a model.  I used 3 skeins of Lion Brands Landscapes.  I gifted DN with the remaining 21 skeins -- 24 skeins or 1,320 yards gone from my stash.
Book Tie-in:    We had to craft something for a friend.  I chose to do so in in colors reminiscent of the Beauchamp clan colors.

Asclepian Comfort Pack:
This little 8 x 10 cotton pouch features a lined hot pack filled with lavender-scented flax seeds.  It's Egyptian cotton construction allows it to be heated in the microwave or cooled in the freezer.  Let me just say that Knitting Fever's King Tut 100% Egyptian Cotton yarn is one of the most scrumptious cotton yarns around. The sc-ch stitch pattern produced a wonderfully textured yet soft fabric.  Previously selling at $15, this yarn been discontinued but I have a few skeins left.  Easy to make, Donna Hulka's pattern can be found on the Crochet Me website.  182 yards gone from my stash.
Book Tie-in:  The rod of Asclepius, also known as the asklepian, consists of a serpent entwined around a staff and is an ancient symbol associated with medicine and healing. The name of the symbol derives from its early and widespread association with Asclepius, the son of Apollo, who was a practitioner of medicine in ancient Greek mythology. This comfort pack makes a fantastically relaxing and comforting combination that soothes the body and mind. Use this pack on your back, neck, feet, or anywhere that could benefit from a little TLC.

Stone Circle Hat:
Hat number 2 was a gift to the friend of DN #2.  Said friend loves purple so hence Lion Brand Yarn's Sock-Ease in Grape Soda.  Unfortunately, the wool-nylon blend of  is a bit scratchy.  I only hope it gets softer with washing.  285 yards gone from my stash.
Book Tie-in:  Many members of the Beauchamp Clan are not linked by blood but rather by their ability to be transported by the circles of stones that only they can hear. In ABOSAA, Donner is looking for a safe way back home, through the stones. In addition to the stones encircling the hat’s edge (see unblocked version at right) , lines of stones are aligned along 8 spokes or axes, drawing the travelers to its center, to their destinies. In Wiccan spirtuality, the number 8 vibrates: power, practical endeavors, status oriented, power-seeking, high-material goals, sacrifice, money-oriented, decisive, and stern -- traits that travelers like Otter Tooth and Donner were seeking to fulfill in their journeys to the past.

Roger's Neck Garter:
This slim cowl is made from Kraemer Yarns Tatamy Tweed DK acrylic cotton blend.  Although the manufacturer calls for 3.75 mm needle, I used a 4.5 mm hook combined with what I call a “back bar hdc” stitch to create a slightly loose gauge without losing the drape or being holey. Crocheting into the back bar created by the original yarn over results in a reversible plush fabric. Despite the “thickness” the fabric does not feel knotty or cumbersome.  Nice yarn.  250 yards gone.
Book Tie-in:  This little neck garter is a gift for Roger from Bree, to warm and sooth his throat from the winter chill. Bree wants Roger to know that she understands his pain and will do what she can to help alleviate whatever discomfort she can. Although Roger loves Bree in the muted colors of homespun, Bree hungers for the brighter colors of her own time. The muted tones of this blue-green homespun styled yarn represent a bit of a compromise, but, as we know, Roger lets Bree have these little victories.
Jenny's Wedding Pouch:
This little cotton bag used a full skein of Gjestal Baby-Bomull, a Swedish yarn that translates simply to Baby Cotton. 197 yards from my stash.
Book Tie-in:  Jenny Fraser, like all the Frasers, is verra proud. Wanting to put her best foot forward, she made this little bag as her only outward luxury during her 18th century Highland wedding to Ian Murray. Forever practical and lacking the resources to spare pearls for something that would be used infrequently during her lifetime, Jenny imitated the look with a bobble stitch. Always practical, Jenny intends to pass the bag to her eldest daughter upon her marriage.

Firecracker Beret: 
The third of three hats made this month, this one for sister Connie Jean down in Houston.   Constructed of Lion Brand Yarns Amazing (yeah, that its name), the yarn at times felt a bit scratchy while working the hat but luckily produced a hat soft to the touch.  'Twas a quick project started in the wee hours of the new year as I awaited phone calls from family living out west.  176 yards gone.
Book Tie-in:  Playing on the firecracker red and orange Aurora colorway, the beret represents the wee matches Briana spent much of the winter of 1773 creating.  Despite the threat of a house fire hanging over her parents heads, despite her husband's uneasiness about possible fire in their own home, Brianna insisted upon experimented with bringing instantaneous fire to her hearth.  This hat would serve to keep her fiery red hair under control as well.

All in all, six projects totally 1,222 yards -- all out of my stash..  I'm gearing up for the February challenges where I plan to finally make the Stone Path Hat, item number 2 on my Bucket List.

As an aside, I am the chieftess for Clan Beauchamp, as well as the chief chieftess for our biannual gathering.  The Games have been played five times before, and I am proud to say that we Beauchamps have triumphed each time.  My clan sisters are a wonderful set of women.