Saturday, December 29, 2012

Free Pattern Link: Home Sweet Home

Before we get to the pattern, let's take a moment to talk about the lies knitters tell.

Or not so much "lies," perhaps, but rationalizing:

"It's on sale."

"It's only one skein."

"It's sock yarn, so it doesn't count."  (I've actually heard this!  And once I did, I started using it myself.)

"But it's cashmere!"

"But it's being discontinued." (Usually accompanied by whining.)

"It's my (husband's, mother's, son's, daughter's, sister-in-law's third cousin's) birthday.  I was thinking I would make something for him/her."

"It's my color."

"It's for charity."  (One of my personal favorites.)

I'll bet you can think of some too--please share them in the comments section below.

I had plenty of excuses for this purchase last year from Haus of Yarn in Nashville:


That's right, the labels don't lie; it's Plymouth Baby Bunny, my friends.  It was on sale, half price!  It was being discontinued (pause for a moment to commemorate our loss.)

Plus, I love the colors, I planned to use it for a charity blanket because it's machine washable, and last but not least, it has ANGORA in it.  (Ooh, pat the bunny!)

And so it came to pass that I bought every ball they had of these colors.  Think of all the money I saved because it was on sale!  (Pause for a moment to commemorate our b.s.)

I started crocheting, and it became one of my travel projects during my move this past summer.  Not only is the pattern fairly simple once you learn it, so it didn't stress my travel-logged brain, I was dreaming of my forever home while making log cabin squares.  Sympathetic magic, anyone?

Here's the link for the free pattern; it's a Red Heart pattern called the Autumn Log Cabin Throw.

At one point, I decided I didn't want to do the squares all the same as shown here, so I began experimenting.  I had a vision!

I made a ton of the new squares.  I laid them out together with the original ones.

I hated them.

I moved them around, this way and that, and then yet another way.  I still hated them.

Much frogging ensued.

So I have essentially made this blanket more than once, but I am finally finished, even after weaving in about five thousand yarn ends.




I am very happy with it now, so much so that I don't want to give it away to charity after all.

So much for that yarn-buying excuse.


Here are a couple of other log cabin throws I've made in the past year or so from the same pattern.  The orange-y one was from donated yarn and went right back to Threads of Kindness for Alive Hospice.






The other throw is currently curled up on my couch.  It's mine, all mine!  (Insert covetous maniacal laughter here.)

This one is made out of Berroco 100% Merino.  I LOVE this yarn.  The stitch definition is perfection, and it feels silky-smooth and bouncy, especially when using an ebony crochet hook.


Naturally I still have a ton of this yarn.  I bought enormous quantities of many colors because I had a vision.  (And it was on sale!  And it was being discontinued!)

Meanwhile, I still have some of the Baby Bunny left; surely I can make something for charity out of it. Surely I won't fall in love with it so much that I will have to keep it.  Maybe I should just make baby hats.  I can't wear baby hats....

If you like the Autumn Log Cabin Throw pattern, you might also like the River's Edge Ripple crochet pattern.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Pinwheel Highways



When I first got back to California this past June, it only took me a couple of days to get my freeway mojo back.  Sure, I drove on highways all across the country, but California freeways require their own special subset of skills.

I often think of what my friend Patricia used to say when we drove anywhere in L.A.: she who hesitates is lost.

Arriving at last, that first day, after two thousand miles of interstate and what seemed like an endless desert, rush hour on the 210 roller coaster was harrowing.  Anything after that is a piece of cake.

Still, I had never done what I did recently, driving down the coast.  (Doesn't that sound great?!  "Driving down the coast."  I love it!)

Anyway, it had been raining gently for several days, what we call a "storm" here in California, which qualifies as "drooling" (not even drizzling) in Tennessee, and finally the ocean wind was blowing away a huge bank of clouds.

My camera was beside me, in my purse.

I'm sure we're not supposed to do this anymore than text while driving, but I swear I kept my eyes on the road as I fished out my camera and took it out of its case, one-handed.  I didn't even look through the screen that passes for a viewfinder.  I just held up the camera and snapped away.





These shots remind me of quilted pinwheels.

"Jack in the Box" block for sampler in progress

I've heard people can transfer photos onto fabric; I think I might quilt some of my own photos someday as art pieces.  In the meantime, this sampler is pinned and ready for the actual quilting.




Sounds like the perfect way to spend the holiday.  Hope yours is as peaceful as mine promises to be.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fiber Out!

This past week was great for getting some projects out the door and into the hands of others.  I sent off the butterfly for the Butterfly Project, the squares for the yarn bombing in L.A., then joined a local group making pillowcases for the troops.

My plan was to use up a lot of stash.  I had several patriotic themed fabrics, like this one.



The pattern this group was using, however, called for contrasting trim and end piece colors, and of course, I wanted to use their pattern, so what happened?  I bought more fabric.  I walked out of the quilt shop with more fabric than I went in with.  (Noooooo!)  Luckily, they are planning another event like this in a few months, and now that I know the pattern, I intend to de-stash with a passion.

Here is one of the two pillowcases I made--in the excitement, I forgot to take a picture of the second one.















Here's one someone else made:





I love the fabrics people chose; very cheerful and bright.  More pics may appear soon at www.quiltventura.com.

Where our troops are stationed in Afghanistan tends to be drab in more ways than one, so apparently they are thrilled to get something colorful.





Meanwhile, back here in the States, yesterday was Binky Patrol.  I had finished crocheting a blanket and matching hat from yarn I got from them last time.  Yarn in, yarn out!

The pattern I used is one of my favorite diagonally increasing (and decreasing) stitches.  I hope to publish it soon with several different edging possibilities.  This one I made up on the fly, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.  Luckily, I took notes, or I would never remember what I did.

I also had a chance to teach a couple of Binky newbies how to knit; I started them off with Continental style.

It's good to know both Continental and "throwing" style, in case you want to do color changes in a row, for example, but why confuse the issue for beginners?  Start them off with the simplest, I say.  (Simple for you, I hear my mom saying.  Hi, Mom!)

Along the way, I ended up helping a lady learn to crochet granny squares.  There was much input from the sidelines about the different ways everyone does the basic granny.  Some do a round and then turn and go back the other way.  This makes it more reversible.  Some put more chain stitches in the spaces.  (This makes the blanket wobbly, in my opinion.)

Anyway, much marveling and wonderment ensued.  New techniques were learned by all.  I try to keep an open mind, and diplomatically tried out other people's suggestions--confusing the beginner in the process, alas.  Lesson learned for me!  At least I quickly figured out to go back to teaching her my technique; I like it, and she did a great job.

The upshot is, there's more than one way to skin a granny square, so whatever works for you is the best way.

And that's the word from my neck of the woods.  Or ocean.


Love to all my readers, and Happy Winter Solstice!  It's coming soon!  The days will be getting longer! Hooray!













Saturday, December 15, 2012

New at YIYO Designs

I'm dreaming of a green Christmas....

For those who haven't quite finished with their seasonal shopping, here are some things I recently put up for sale in my Etsy shop, YIYO Designs.

Blue Cloud handspun yarn
Venice Scarf



Wedding Cake Scarf
Creamsicle Baby Blanket
Leaf Scarf
Ocean View Blanket

Although I call the sea green blanket "Ocean View," as I was scrolling through my photos, I came across this picture I took of the pool at Hearst Castle.  Hmm....  Mom and I visited there in 2010.  Quite lovely.  I wasn't consciously trying to mimic the design, it just turned out that way.




Anyway, for a little extra $$, quick shipping of scarves and blankets can be arranged!  Click here: YIYO Designs to find out about these items and more, and email me from the Etsy site or comment on this blog if you need something ASAP.

And may you all enjoy your holidays!  Don't forget to breathe!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Barbara Walker and A Surprising Thread


Click pic to order!

Back when I wrote The Archer King, I hadn't gotten back into crocheting yet, let alone knitting and spinning.

I used Barbara G. Walker's Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets in researching my novel--in fact, reading her discussion of the Robin Hood stories was part of what inspired me to write my novel.

So when it was done, I had the cojones to ask her for a testimonial.  To my delight, she gave me one!  You can read her testimonial and many others here.

Then I learned about Binky Patrol and started crocheting and knitting for charity.  Several years later, I got a job at Monarch Knitting and Quilts, a job which fed my fiber obsession in a big way.  (As in, much of paycheck spent on yarn.)

I happened to notice some books by a certain Barbara G. Walker, wonderful treasuries of knitting patterns which I coveted, but I thought, no, it couldn't be the same Barbara G. Walker.

Then one day my boss came in to work and said she had googled me and bought my novel, because of that Barbara G. Walker testimonial.  It IS the same person!  I am so pleased!

So even though there is very little about fiber in my book, there's a surprising connection to the fiber world.  I use Barbara's treasuries all the time.  Thank you again, Barbara, for the quote, and thanks for all the hunting-gathering-and-creating of knitting patterns.  You are a treasure.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

FrankenHat

I recently got the felting bug and took a class at the LYS.  I plundered my stash, determined not to buy more yarn, especially for an experimental project.  I ended up using a combination of Cascade 220 and Plymouth Galway.  I especially like the Galway, a down-to-earth worsted weight yarn with a certain special something that makes for smooth knitting.  I made a sweater out of it a couple of years ago and it is super warm.



I also used some of the Galway left over from that sweater in my version of the Great American Afghan, along with some good old reliable Brown Sheep Naturespun, ye yarn of many colors.




Anyway, back to felting.  There were two class sessions, allowing extra time for people who had never knitted a hat before, let alone felted.  For me, making a hat was not all that new, but it was fun sitting, knitting, chatting, and watching the hats grow.

And grow, and grow.

Because felting shrinks things.  And I wanted a wide brim on my finished hat.

Here I am at the shop, posing with the knitted result.



FRANKENHAT is born!

IT'S ALI I I IVE!




It followed me home.  EEK!








Then it was time to felt.






I learned that standing over a washing machine while something felts is a big turn-off for me.

Those of you who enjoy it, I applaud you, but it's not for me.


Still, I'm pretty happy with the result.

Leave it to me not to leave well enough alone, of course.

I crocheted some flowers and felted them along with the hat, just to see what would happen.

Now I'm playing around with where to put them exactly, and how.  I could pin them on, and they would be moveable and removable.

I could sew them on, maybe even with attractive buttons and such.



Someone was telling me about attaching magnets to the flowers and using more magnets inside the fabric to hold them, but I don't really want six magnets weighing down my hat and head, and possibly causing magnetic waves to wash through my brain, although that might turn out to be a good thing.







Then I took a needle felting class, and found out I could just needle felt them onto the hat!

True, I wouldn't be able to move them around, but I might be willing to forego that ability.

It may look like an awful lot of flower relative to hat, but in person, it's better.  I will be layering the flowers a little more so they take up less room.

Plus I can flip part of the brim down if I want; I think it's quite dashing!  I'm not a member of the Red Hat Society, but wearing this hat, I might have to join.




Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bust That Stash!

I got an e-newsletter from the Santa Barbara Fiber Arts Guild, and in that newsletter was a call to arms for a yarn-bombing.  A group of wild and woolly crocheters are planning to blanket the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles with granny squares next year.  All they need is thousands of squares.

Hooray!  A sterling opportunity to bust some stash!

I emailed for the details.  They want solid color 5-inch squares, any fiber, any pattern, as long as we use the colors they want:  white, orange, yellow, cyan, hot pink, purple, and lime green.  (Yes, I'm hoping you, dear reader, will be inspired to contribute a square or three.  For the yarn-bombing website, click here.)

With the enormous stash of yarn I have, you would think I would have tons of all of these colors, but no!  I have various siennas and apricots...






...and peachy/creamsicle colors...




...I have various teals and turquoises and pinks...


.






...and most of what I have is mingled with other colors, variegated or self-striping, or just a little darker or lighter than required.





I did manage to dig up a few things, fighting the urge to just go buy more yarn, and I've got about a dozen squares so far.  Please note, they want us to leave a nice tail of yarn so they can sew the squares together.




At first I went the traditional granny route, then started messing around.  I did a truncated version of a square from Jan Eaton's 200 Crochet Blocks book.  That's the bright orange flower-centered one pictured above.  I did a "make-it-up-as-you-go" square or two.

Then there was a gauge issue, not that I was swatching--heaven forfend--but to make one square the right size, a single crochet edging was too small, double crochet was too large, so I went with a chain.  Not really a picot, just a little ruffly edge.



Then I thought, if it's a frilly granny, why not go frillier?  I didn't have enough yellow left to do it on the above square, so I added a frill to a white one:



I am about out of appropriate yarn now, so, time to package the squares and send them off to their destiny in L.A.  Good luck, little grannies!

For the free Frilly Granny pattern, click here.

If you like this pattern, you might also like the inexpensive Granny Paints The Town pattern.




Sunday, November 25, 2012

Leapin' Lizards!

Last month, when I got home from that very fun Binky Patrol meeting, I was slowly putting things away, playing with the beautiful new fabric I received, and generally puttering around.  I was getting hungry for dinner, but too excited about fiber to sit down yet.

I had just tossed a finished preemie blanket on top of a project bag in the living room when I saw a dark shape dart under the couch.

Eek!


It had a lizard-like look, from the brief glimpse I got, and I was hoping it wasn't a mouse, which would be even worse than a lizard, in my opinion.


Even if you're not a fiber artist, critters who belong outside are not welcome in, but when your couch is covered with projects in varying stages of completion, and you have seven project bags around it, and books and swatches for designs on the coffee table, and yarn yarn everywhere as far as the eye can see, lizards and their ilk are a particularly bad idea.  Not to mention mice.

Standard appearance of couch in my home
(Yes, that's a finished quilt, a blanket that needs its ends woven in, swatching for a design idea, three finished shawlettes that need blocking, a skein of handspun that needs winding, and a stack of fabric pieces.  And that's just the couch!)

I took a deep breath.  I knew I couldn't eat dinner or sleep until I got rid of whatever-that-darty-thing-was.  So, what would work best to get a lizard out of the house?  Calm was the first essential ingredient.  I told the lizard--if it really was a lizard--aloud, "Try to remain calm."  That was for my own benefit as well as the lizard's.  "I am trying to help you, to put you outside where there are rocks and bushes to hide under and food fit for lizard kings."

I got a broom and a metal bowl.  I moved the couch this way and that until the little critter ran out.  It was indeed a small lizard.  I cornered it here and there with the broom, cutting off its escape until it paused long enough for me to plop the bowl over it.

Phase One Successful!

Another deep breath.  Now, how to get the lizard from the middle of the living room over the lip of the doorsill and outside to freedom?  There was no way out of the living room without a nice hump of doorsill in the way.

I started sliding the bowl along the floor, slowly, so the lizard could run along with it, and I at least got it close to the door.  Then I gently slid one of those (expletive deleted) political flyers we were all getting every day last month under the bowl.  At last, a use for politicians!  ;-)  Or at least, for their mailings.

Phase Two Complete.

"Don't worry, lizard, you're almost there.  Stay calm."

I didn't think upending the bowl with the flyer on top so I could carry it outside would really work.  The bowl was too big, the flyer too flimsy; the lizard might leap out.  Onto me.  Not acceptable!

Lizards and mice and fish, oh my!

Oops, sorry for the interruption, some fish just swam by.




Anyway, it occurred to me to open the front door and slide the bamboo mat I keep there over the hump of the doorsill, making a kind of ramp.




Then I slowly slid the flyer with the bowl on top onto the mat, over the sill, onto the porch, over to the first step at the edge of the porch, and then a little further, and a little further, and at last, out plopped the little lizard, and it ran along the walkway, out, out, out toward the sidewalk!

Mission Accomplished!

I could just picture this lizard telling the other lizards about the adventure s/he just had.  They would never believe it.

"This flying saucer came down over my head," the lizard would say.

"Sure, sure," the other lizards would say, smirking.

"No, really, and as long as I kept moving with it, I was fine, but all I kept thinking was, I want to go home."

(Yes, I watched The Wizard of Oz again recently.  Excellent movie to knit by.)

Flying Saucer, or Lizard Removal System

At any rate, it was a consciousness-raising experience for me, because I stayed calm, and I can only assume it was consciousness-raising for the lizard as well.

I am making more of an effort to keep the couch clearer.  And I'm keeping the seven project bags in another room and only pulling out the one I'm working on at the moment.

This is not just because there are a lot of lizards in the neighborhood.  I prefer not to have chaos in my living room.  I think better when my surroundings are beautiful.  Yes, my projects are beautiful too, but not in cascading piles leaving nowhere to sit.

Someday I know I will have a real workroom with plenty of shelving, and bins for storage, and if any lizards get in, I know exactly how to get them out again.