Time for a Recheck

Earlier this year I did a short post on what I was hoping to accomplish in 2017. So lets take a look at where we’re at:

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Nesting Basket Pattern…….Check!

Christmas Stockings……Crochet Check and Knitting Check!

That leaves me down to the pattern bundles. I have a few patterns ready for the bundles, but with two boys and my husband’s work schedule gone crazy, time is not something I am finding in abundance. It looks like y’all will have to wait a bit longer for those to come out. In the meantime though, I’ll be starting a series of VERY short blog posts on the A-Z’s of crochet and knit stitches.

The goal of these posts will be to work on stitches you may have never heard of or seen (like astrakhan crochet or Andalusian knit stitch). My goal with these is to expose you all to some unusual stitches you can try out over the holidays and to show you how to use them in different or unique ways (yes, there will FINALLY be a tutorial on Crocodile stitch in the round). Sometimes I’ll show you how I increase or decrease in a stitch (like crocodile), and sometimes I’ll just show how the stitch is worked. I may even have a project or two to go along with some of them.

If you have any questions on a specific stitch (how to work it a certain way, decreases, increases, etc…) or would like to see a specific stitch covered, now would be a really good time to email me! I’m planning out the next couple months of stitches along with my pre-school lessons for my older son and would love to include your questions in my posts!

There is ONE other thing I need y’all to help me with…

I have been asked for business cards a couple of times and I would LOVE to give some out, but I need to finalize a design for them. What do you all think of this:

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It’s just a draft, but I would love to have some feedback on it.

I think that’s all for now, so happy crafting!

 

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Getting Back to Work

Hey all!

There’s been a LOT going on in the last few weeks, so I thought I would pause and share some of the home life that’s happened as well as give you all a look forward at some of the things to come for the shop and the blog!

For those of you who missed it, we got some new neighbors at my house:

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And we’ve had some really cool weather (in so many senses of that word):

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Oh, and then there’s that little thing that happened a few weeks ago:

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We’re so happy to have our second son here and the whole family is settling in very well. We were lucky enough to have my parents and my in-laws here back to back to help with the baby and with our three year old. They were such wonderful help, I wish I could keep them all here forever!

It’s been a few weeks now and I’m ready to get back to work on a few things. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may remember this basket:

Italic Nesting basket 9.5 inch bath towels1.png

It is the smallest in a series of nesting baskets (baskets that stack inside of each other), and the basis for a pattern that you should be seeing in the shop in June. The pattern will include instructions for this same design for three different sizes and for making an Italic version (pictured above) and a straight version.

I’ll be doing another blog on crochet colorwork very soon to help with some pointers on how to keep your colorwork designs looking sharp in a couple of weeks. Keep an eye out so you get some time to practice before the pattern goes on sale!

We’ll be starting our Christmas Stockings soon and in preparation for that I’ll be doing a little intro on some “fun” yarns that you might find at your local craft store and how to work with them. Pull out your drawing pads and graph paper and get some ideas jotted down for what you would like to have on your sock this December. Christmas in July has never been more serious–or more literal, I think.

The other piece I have in the works is a pattern bundle set for both knitting and crochet. Since we’re all past the beginner stage, I think a set of beginner patterns is in order for all of you who have made it this far! Some will be familiar (like our dishcloth from the Crochet 101 and Knitting 101 tutorials) and some will be new. Keep an eye on the shop over the summer and into the fall for these fun items!

I’ll be sticking to one blog post a week for a little while. I haven’t found a ton of time for working on this between kids and home life (if you’ve read my last couple you may have noticed they’re a little scattered), and I want to continue to give you all my best work if I can.

I think that’s about it for now. As always, I love to hear from you all. If there is something you would like to see or learn, please let me know.

P.S.

Shortly after I finished writing this, I dropped my cell phone (which also serves as my camera–bet you hadn’t guessed that huh?) and shattered the camera glass on it. The face is fine and a replacement is on the way, but you may get a post or two with old, repeat, or borrowed photos until the new one is up and running.

Baby Update!

As promised we had our second son this month! Tuesday to be exact. We’ve only just gotten home, and I found a quiet minute to help keep you all updated. 

I apologize in advance if I am slow to respond at this point. Please be patient as we adjust to having a fourth member of the family. 

Happy April!

Hey everyone!

I hope you all are enjoying the beginning of spring so far! I thought I would take a little break from all the informative blogging to give you an update on the home front.

As many of you already know I am pregnant with my second child (a boy!) who is due on April 22! That’s about two weeks from now and we are ALL super excited in my house!

I want to let you all know this because once the baby comes I may not be as readily available as I have been for questions and help with patterns.

For the time being, the blog is going to go back to once a week while we get ready for and settled in with the new baby. I know you’re probably bummed to hear that, but I hope to make up for it by starting our socks EARLY! I’ll be taking you through the basics of socks and have two ways to crochet and two ways to knit socks done up for you along with the “short version” patterns for those of you who just need the quick guide.

The Etsy shop will still be up and running, but no custom work will be available and only digital downloads will be for sale for a few weeks while I get back on my feet and into the swing of having two kids.

If you need help with anything, please feel free to email me or check out the FAQ page. Like I said, I’ll be slow to respond, but I’ll do my best.

Happy crafting!

Natalie

Other Tools You Might Need

I’ve gone over MOST of the tools of the trade at this point, but there are a few tools that cover knitting, crochet, and design that I’ll cover here so that everyone has a list of tools in one place. This is not an exhaustive list of EVERYTHING you’ll ever need, but some good general pieces that you should have on hand. I can’t count the times that I’ve needed something on this list and it WASN’T called for in the pattern at all.

With that in mind, let’s take a look!

Yarn Needle

yarn needle

It may seem silly, but I’m going to say it: a yarn needle and a sewing needle are NOT the same thing. A yarn needle is a large, usually plastic, needle with an eye you can ACTUALLY see through. They’re intended for passing yarn through and used to sew sweater seams or tuck long tails. Sometimes to darn work (that doesn’t mean cursing the work, really!).

The thing about keeping a yarn needle on hand is that sometimes even when you “don’t” need it, you’ll use it to pull ends through to the back side of the work when they get unruly or to help tie difficult knots. Recently I used on to hold a stitch that I had dropped in my knitting until I could find a way to reintegrate the stitch into the work.

Stitch Markers

These little guys come in several different varieties, but I have to say my hands down favorite is the safety pin style pictured above (officially, these are called “locking stitch markers”). They’re like small plastic safety pins and they work for crochet, knitting, design, and holding finished parts in place for sewing.

In general, stitch markers are used to keep your place in a work. Sometimes for counting rows, sometimes for keeping patterns. In knitting, you’ll often be asked to use ring makers (the whitish markers shown above) and slip them as you work the pattern so you know where increases or decreases are. In crochet, usually you’ll place a marker so you can count back so many rows. In either art, you can use them to mark the *’s in the pattern so you know where the repeat starts and ends. When designing, I often use these markers to help me keep track of  changes in the pattern or where I am trying something different to see what it looks like.

Spare Yarn

spare yarn

Spare yarn is EXACTLY what it sounds like, yarn that you have leftover. This can be ANY length of yarn, whether it’s a small ball or just a 6-8 inch length that you keep hanging around. Spare yarn is often used for holding knitted stitches when there are either too many for a stitch holder, or in place of a stitch holder. Crocheters will use spare yarn less often, but it does happen from time to time.

Designers, you should keep as MUCH scrap yarn on hand as you can. You will use it for practicing stitches and working out patterns before you make the nice copy. When you’re designing something meant for cashmere, DO NOT practice it ON cashmere, seriously.

Measuring Tape

measure tape

I expect that most of you are familiar with this tool from somewhere. There are two kinds of measuring tape, one is pictured above and the other is the semi stiff version usually used in construction or found in tool boxes. I prefer the flexible kind for yarn work, but either one will do really. The point is to have SOMETHING that will allow you to measure your work.

Knitters and designers, you should have about 5 of these hanging around your house, you will lose them and you will use them. Most knitting patterns have SOME section that says “knit even for x inches” or something similar. Having one of these on hand will make life a LOT easier. Designers, it doesn’t matter WHAT medium you’re using to design, you need to know if your work matches your measurements. You’ll need to check things like waist sizes of garments early and often if you’re making anything fitted.

Crocheters, don’t think you’re off the hook here. You may not need this tool as often, but when you find that awesome sweater pattern, you’ll probably need it to either measure yourself or the garment before sewing or blocking the work.

Stitch Counters

stitch counter

There are all kinds of really cool stitch counters out there. You can get some pretty neat digital ones if you like those, or you can just stick with the old fashioned twist to count kind pictured above. One of the cool things about the plastic ones is that you can slide it onto your hook or needle and it will pretty much just hang out there. Either way you go, the point behind these is to help you count either stitches or rows.

I’ve mostly seen these called for in clothing, both knit and crochet, but I’ll be honest, I have a three year old, one one the way, and limited concentration. I use this tool on just about everything I work right now to keep track of where I am.

Plastic or Metal Gauge

knitting-gauge

This odd looking tool is starting to become one of my favorites. The holes in the top portion of it correspond to US knitting needle sizes and can be used to measure a crochet hook if the size is unknown or worn. The slide at the bottom helps you determine what your gauge is (knitted or crocheted) when you don’t have a ruler handy. I use mine mostly to measure unlabeled hooks or needles (especially DPNs) to make sure I have the right size for the pattern I’m starting.

This is one of those weird tools, and a rare occasion, where I’m going to tell you to just get one. You won’t use it often, but when you need it, you NEED it and every time I have needed one I have needed it at a time when I couldn’t get to the store to get one  (either they were closed or I couldn’t leave).

Stitch Holder

stitch holder

A stitch holder is almost exclusively a knitting tool. It is used for–as the name indicates–holding stitches. I have also used them for marking rows and the beginning of rounds, but that is not their intended purpose.

Knitters you will often see these when making gloves or working with cables.

Safety Pins

safety pin

These are another tool that I would expect you know from somewhere already. Safety pins are used all over all kinds of crafts. When it comes to knitting, crochet, and design, I use them for marking stitches, holding small amounts of stitches, pinning sections together before sewing, pinning ends to the ironing pad for blocking, marking size changes, and several other things.

All around these are just useful. They work for just about anything in a pinch, if you know their length (look on the box they come in) you can even use them to measure.

Straight Pins

straight pin

Straight Pins are more common in sewing than they are in knitting or crochet, but you WILL use them if you choose to block your work. We’ll be talking about blocking work soon, so keep an eye out for how to do that coming soon. For now, know that straight pins are pretty much exactly as described. They come in several varieties, some with large plastic heads like the ones pictured, some are just small pieces of metal that look almost like penny nails.

When we do get around to blocking work, you’ll use these pins to make sure you work is at the right measurements before we block it.

Outside the Skein: How to Make Yarn Without Spinning

One of the best things about any of the yarn arts is that you can do them with just about anything. Yarn is just a kind of string like rope or twine or ribbon. But have you ever thought to look beyond the craft store and into the more eclectic side of string?

How about something like thing gauge wire? Like these wonderful creations by Blanka Sperkova:

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Photo Credit: http://www.designswan.com/archives/wire-knit-not-the-knitting-you-know.html

That might look a little intimidating, but it’s worth trying if you’re interested in it. You’ll want strong needles for this and I would start with a florists wire or thin jewelry wire that you can get in quantity. Wire will not be forgiving like yarn is and when it breaks is does not go back together well, but if you put in the practice on cheaper wire, you’ll be ready to put in the money for the kind of wire you’ll need to make something as beautiful as the picture above.

Finger Knit Shoelace Necklace | Orange | iNecklace v1.0

For those of you a little less adventurous, how about something still in the ball park like shoelaces? The taped ends can be decorative or can be snipped off. You can even get rolls of shoelace yarn on Etsy and other places if you don’t want to bother with the snipping. Working with shoelaces is very much like working with either cord or ribbon depending on which style you get.iHooked on Etsy has some interesting necklaces made from shoelaces you can check out.

Photo Credit: https://www.etsy.com/listing/232755991/finger-knit-shoelace-necklace-orange

 

But enough about the pre-done jazz right? We’re “DIY-ers.” We don’t need no stinking online, free shipping, make it for me junk right?

Yeah, maybe that’s a bit extreme, BUT if you DO want to make yarn yourself, I have a fun project for you and older kiddos that can be done with anything from grocery bags to sweatpants (preferably freshly WASHED sweatpants). I’ll be using plastic grocery sacks today, but the concept works the same on anything that is round in shape (shirt bodies, pant legs, sleeping bags, etc…).

First, we’ll lay out our material as flat as we can. If you’re using shopping bags, do what you can to make sure they have the handles laid flat as well and match up all the “corners” at the bottom so they look like they would fresh off the stack.

cut-the-bag

 

 

Next, cut off any uneven or closed off parts. In the case of our shopping bags, I’ll cut off a thin strip at the bottom (maybe a 1/4 inch or so) and the handles at the top so I’m left with a nice square. If you’re using a shirt, you’ll want to cut it at the armpits and for pants, just cut off any thick hemming or places where the elastic is sewn in.

 

 

Once you have that prepped, cut your bag or fabric into about 1 inch strips. With fabric you can go a little thinner, but with the grocery sacks, you’ll want to stay as close to an inch (or even a little over) as you can because they tend to tear if they get too thin. For the plastic, I find that folding the bag into thirds (matching the side seams and leaving the open ends at the top and bottom) helps when cutting them. That won’t work as well with fabric because it will try to slip.

Now that you have your strips, keep your three year old busy or wait till nap time. Chasing them around the house with half your project is entertaining for them, but troublesome for you.

When the little one is taken care of, take the strips, open them into rings and lace them around each other. This is done by taking two rings and laying one over the other. Then pull end one of the one ring through end two to make a knot.

Pull the knot tight, but not TOO tight. This is thin plastic and will easily tear. If you’re using fabric, you want it to be sturdy but not rip. Keep lacing rings together until you have a good length. Then wind them into a ball using your hands (the yarn winder was NOT made for this) and you’ll be ready to go.

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Anything you can make out of yarn you can use this for, just remember it ends up being a “bulky” yarn or bigger depending on what you’re using. My favorite things to make with plastic yarn are door rugs (like welcome rugs) or reusable grocery bags (the irony is the best part). You can even use them to make holiday wreaths or place mats. If you want different colors, hit up your family and friends for bags from specific stores. Certain mega-marts use brown or grey bags that can be laced together to add some color to the basic white and red of most grocery stores and take out places.

 

Yarn Balls

Sort of sounds like a curse doesn’t it? “OH, Yarn balls!” Well, it can be if you don’t have a yarn winder of some sort. And I’ll be honest, there are a few that may make that REALLY a curse!

I happen to have a small yarn winder myself, but I have found that sometimes that just doesn’t cut it when it comes to cleaning up the mess that is my scrap yarn. And let’s be honest, in that mess of a craft closet I keep, sometimes I can’t find the blasted thing.

The good news is if you have a pair of fingers and a free hand, you can wind yarn with a pull from the middle WITHOUT a yarn winder.

Now, if you DO happen to have a yarn winder, I’m going to go through the instructions on how to use the thing. Yours should have come with some sort of instruction sheet and their really not THAT complicated, but when I got mine the instructions were in Japanese. Luckily my husband and I took Japanese as our junior college courses and were able to get through them, but it’s not exactly a common language here in the US.

Before you start, here’s an

OPTIONAL EXERCISE: Remember when I said acrylic is a form of plastic, just like the nails you get at the salon? Go grab a plastic grocery sack and cut the handles off. Flatten them out as nicely as  you can and then grab each end of the handle. Pull as far as you can without breaking it. It should get nice and thin (kind of looks like yarn now right?).

Ok, now put it back.

Yeah…that bit doesn’t go so well does it? Plastic likes to take new shapes, but doesn’t really like to go back the way it was. Your acrylic yarns will do the same thing if they are stored in a very tight ball. BE AWARE how tight you are winding your ball whichever method you use.

With a Yarn Winder

First thing you’ll want to do is make sure that your yarn is MOSTLY tangle free. Many times I’m rewinding a ball or turning a half used store bought skein into a ball so that’s done for me. However, for those of you who have just dyed yarn using the mess methods, you’ll want to at least give it a cursory untangling or be prepared to wind the ball twice.

Once you’re satisfied with the stat your yarn is in, make sure that your winder is set up in a good location. Mine has a small metal clamp on the bottom of it, so I have clamped it to my desk.

yarn-winder

Next you’ll lace the end of your yarn through the spring like part. Mine happens to be silver.

spring-piece

There were some seriously complicated instructions on how exactly to lace the yarn on my instruction sheet. Just put the yarn end through the hole. It’s a LOT easier.

Now that we have that bit done, find the v shaped slit in the top of the winder. There should be one on either side of the cylindrical part.

v-shaped-slit

Lay your yarn across the two slits and gently tug it into place so that it’s held by the slits.

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Here’s the tricky part–and unfortunately the part that I can’t show you in pictures. You need to keep  a steady tension and pace as you start to wind your yarn.

Just like when you’re working, the tension is SUPER important here. I seriously CANNOT stress enough how important it is to have a medium tension. Too tight and the yarn could snap as you’re winding too loose and the ball won’t come together (and the yarn may wrap around the gears at the bottom–TOTAL NIGHTMARE). You have GOT to have a good tension on this. Your yarn should flow freely, but your ball should still form up nicely. It may take a couple practice goes to get it right.

Once you have a happy tension, you’ll want to make sure you have a happy winding speed. You may want to practice winding with an empty winder so you can get used to a pace that works well for your. You want to be able to do one ball in one sitting (if you have small children, you might need to wait till they are otherwise occupied) and you’ll want to make sure that the whole ball is wound at about the same pace. Speeding up and slowing down will make the ball tighter or looser and will make the ball uneven and sloppy.

When you’re done, the yarn ball (or cake, as they are sometimes referred to in this shape) is ready to remove from the winder. Just gently remove the starter piece of yarn from the v shaped slits and slide the ball off the winder. There will be a sizeable hole where the winder was siting, but if you gently squish the yarn from the outside of the ball toward the center that will go away and not hurt your ball.

Now you’re all set and ready to work!

Without a Yarn Winder

For those of you who DON’T have a yarn winder, but still want to have nice yarn balls that pull from the middle with less trouble than the store bought skeins, grab your yarn and hold out your hands because that is all you will need to make this happen.

Start off by laying your yarn across two fingers and holding it in place with your thumb.

lay-yarn-across-fingers

Wrap the yarn around your two fingers angling it slightly (which way it is angled doesn’t really matter). The goal here is to start your nice tension. Don’t cut off the circulation to your fingers and don’t leave the yarn so loose that it’s hanging off your hand.

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After you have a few rounds in one direction, wrap the yarn at the opposite angle for a few wraps. This will help to crate a stable base for your ball as you get it started.

angle-2

Repeat that process, switching between angles every few wraps until you have a small ball forming on the end of your fingers. Try to keep from winding too tight. Especially with acrylic or synthetic yarns, the tighter they are stored, the more they lose their shape for working with later.

repeat

Once you have a small ball formed, slide your fingers out and use your thumb to hold the center of the ball. This will hold your starting string in place and help you to mark the center so you don’t accidentally cover over it.

hold-thumb

Now, wind your string around the ball, being careful not to trap your thumb and turning the ball every now and then to keep an even wrap going. Just like before, do a few wraps on this side and then turn the ball and do a few wraps on the next side. If it helps, imagine there are four sides to this ball and just try to work them evenly.

wind-right

When you’re done, you’ll have an easy to work ball like this:

done-hands

The nice thing about hand winding your ball as opposed to using the winder is that there is no size limit on your ball. if you want to take a one pound skein from the store and turn it into a hand wound ball you can easily do that (granted, it will take some time). If you wanted to do that with a winder, you would only be able to get partway through it before the winder was stuck due to the limited space between the threading post (the silver part) and the core (the part that holds the yarn).