Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Winter Wool Sale

On Valentine's Day, my husband took me on a fun, fiber-filled outing...the Winter Wool Sale held by Bide a Wee Farm and Whistlestop Farm, held at Whistlestop Farm in Hillsboro, Oregon. It was a sunny day for the most part. Now I must say that we have had a moratorium on fleece purchases at my place for several years, as I still have lots of unspun fiber around that needs to be processed; but my husband encouraged me to look over the fleeces for sale, and we did end up buying about a half dozen small ones that caught our fancy. There were a great variety of Shetland, Jacob, and Navajo Churro fleeces, along with a few that had been crossbred with other breeds. It was such fun to look over the fleeces, and feel the soft, greasy fiber on each one!

After we had spent quite a while admiring and inspecting the fleeces, we whittled the number down to what we felt we could afford, and purchased them. They had some chairs set out around a fire pit for spinners to gather, and my husband brought my trusty Ashford Traveller from the car, along with my basket of fiber, so I could sit and spin for a while by the fire, along with several other spinners. What fun! We chatted about spinning and fiber as we sat and spun.

While I visited with the other spinners, my husband entertained himself by taking pictures of the sheep with his new camera. See the variety of lovely natural colors in the fleece?

I suppose it wasn't your typical Valentine's Day celebration, but it suited us to a "T". Such a lovely way to spend a winter morning!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Musings on Crochet Techniques: Beginning a Double Crochet Row

Earlier this year, I acquired Lily Chin's video, Crocheter's Toolbox (on sale today at the Interweave store at a fantastic price!) and I have been listening to it in the afternoons as I work on my current pattern project.  Today, I was listening to her describe an innovative technique for starting a row of double crochet without the gap produced by the standard ch-3 beginning.  Her technique involves working a loose single chain instead of the ch-3, and working the first dc into the first st, instead of counting the ch-3 as the first st.  (Not intending to be a spoiler...buy the video or the book, she has lots of great techniques and ideas to help you crochet more efficiently!)  I had done this before in working dc rounds, but had not tried it when working rows before.  I will illustrate the usual technique, then Lily's technique, and finally my adaptation to her technique.

First of all, the normal technique uses a ch-3 to raise the yarn to the level of the dc st:

Chain 3 to begin row

Skip the first st and dc into the second one.

See the holes created by the starting chain?

I was curious to see how the beginning of the row would look with just the single, loose chain at the front, so I put down my work and picked up a hook and yarn.  I tried a swatch, and liked the no-gap look.  Here is how you do it:

Pull up on the loop till it is about the same height as the dc

Yo hook and draw through loop to form a very loose chain

Turn work; dc in very first st.

At end of row, dc into top of last dc but ignore the loose chain.

This creates much less of a gap between the stitches!

The edge is a bit wavy, and the chain looks a bit sloppy.

No gap...I loved it!  One little thing bothered me, though.  That first stitch with its accompanying loose chain looked pretty bulky, and the chain stuck out to one side of the fabric a bit; and because the chain was loose, it looked as if it might catch on things.  I wondered if I could make that edge a bit smoother?  I tried a few different ideas, and here is what worked best.

Work a loose chain about the same height as a dc, as above.  When it is completed, before wrapping the yarn around the hook to start your dc, swivel the tip of the hook counterclockwise two full turns (see arrow in photo below).  This puts two twists into the loop on the hook, and seems to give the yarn in the chain a little elasticity, so that it pulls together a little bit more than the chain without the extra twists (or at least that's my theory).  Then work your dc in the very first stitch, as usual.  Here are the illustrated instructions for my adaptation:

Rotate the hook twice counterclockwise after making the loose chain.
Dc in the very first stitch as before.

The completed row...it seems just a tiny bit less bulky to me.
 Here is a photo of my swatch.  I placed a yarn marker where I started my revised version of Lily's technique.  It's not a huge difference, but I like the more compact, less wavy edge.  And the chain at the edge is less likely to catch on something, because it is pulled a little tighter.
Lily's method below the blue marker...mine above.
I hope you will enjoy this technique.  I love "hanging out" with great crocheters, because their innovative ideas spark my own explorations.  Thank you, Lily! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Variety is the Spice of Life

I recently published a new pattern.  It took quite a long while to get the pattern written up, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the yarn I had made the original prototype from (a couple years ago) had been discontinued.  Secondly, I wanted to include several sizes in the instructions, and wanted to actually knit them up and make sure they worked.  And thirdly, I had made a number of similar tams which were variations on the theme, and wanted to include these ideas as possible variations for the pattern. 

This particular tam was inspired by some beautiful, bright, rainbow-colored yarn with long color repeats.  The tam is constructed using kite-shaped wedges for the top, and I thought it would be fun to make a tam in which each wedge would be a different color of the rainbow.  I tried it with Bernat Mosaic yarn, and it worked pretty well.
The tam was colorful...really colorful.  I knitted the body of the tam, then worked a section of ribbing with a couple rows of bobbles.  It looked pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself.
But when I found out the yarn had been discontinued, I had to find something else.  I settled on

Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable, which not only had a long color repeat, but also a lovely sheen.  I loved the Dragonfly colorway, and quickly worked a tam up.  It worked!
The yarn fairly glowed.  And the bobble rows turned out different colors, just like in the other tam.

I made tams in a couple of other colorways, and then faced a new decision.  I had made a very similar tam in this modular technique, using two colors of yarn.  Should I include the directions for this as a variation to my pattern?  Or should I publish it separately, on its own?

I got some yarn in two colors (solid colors this time), and tried working up the new pattern in two colors.  I figured that I could write it up as a variation to the pattern.  I did this, but called it by a different name (The Zigzag Tam) to distinguish it from the original (The Victoria Tam).

 I began thinking about other possible variations.  The tam could be made in just one color, for a textured effect, or in two colors with one for the tam top and one for the body.
 And what about using a variegated yarn with a shorter repeat?
 Finally, I remembered that I had made a modular tam several years ago in which each kite-shaped motif was a different color.  So I included that as well, for inspiration.
After making multiple tams in several sizes and variations, I finally got the pattern completed.  And here it is...Ta Da!!  It's available on Craftsy, Ravelry and in my Etsy shop.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Floral Celebration in Irish Crochet

After the success of my framed monogram, I decided to play around with some Irish Crochet motifs.  When I bought the frame for the monogram, the frames were on sale, Buy 1 Get 1 Free.  How could I resist?  And there was a perfect square frame that would be perfect for framing a piece of crochet.  I have long been fascinated by the highly textured lacy exuberance of Irish Crochet, and had played around with it off and on for years, and having recently downloaded Maire Treanor's video on Clones Lace, which clearly demonstrates the techniques, I was freshly inspired.  I pulled out a couple of favorite books, and began crocheting.

Irish Crochet is not for the fainthearted...it generally utilizes fine thread and tiny steel crochet hooks...and it uses more complex techniques like crocheting over a padding cord and more difficult stitches, like bullion stitches and clones knots.  I often find myself ripping out a stitch that didn't work right, and doing it over (and over!)  so that it looks right.  But though it can be frustrating at times, the finished product is well worth the effort.

After I had a selection of flower and leaf motifs completed, I tried arranging them in several different ways.  I chose the following arrangement:

This photo was taken before I actually had the flowers sewn onto the backing...and sadly, it is the only decent photo I have of this piece...it sold the day after I got it framed!  I need to make more of these...

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Unique Wedding Gift

In anticipation of my son's upcoming marriage, I wanted to make something special for a wedding gift for him and his bride.  In the past, I have sometimes made a crocheted doily with the initials of bride and groom worked into the fabric, generally in filet crochet.  But somehow, I couldn't really envision my new daughter-in-law using a doily in her decor.  I debated whether to even try to make a wedding gift...there was not much point if they would not be able to use or enjoy it.  Then, I got an invitation to Anna's wedding shower.  It had a monogram with their initials entwined together...very lovely!  I didn't quite think I could reproduce it in filet crochet, though.

I mulled it over, keeping the invite close at hand so I could study it.  Maybe I could just do the letters in crochet?  That meant I would have to find a way to frame them, but it was a possibility.  I picked up a hook and thread, and started playing around, trying to create an "H" out of crochet.  It took several tries, but eventually I came up with something workable, based on the shape of the "H" in the monogram.

The uprights of the "H" were constructed of a crocheted mesh stitch, and I created the curlicues using an Irish Crochet technique which involved working single crochet over a padding cord, which could be drawn up to create curves.  On some of the curves, I worked a second row of padded single crochet, which allowed me to make curves in the other direction by increasing where I wanted the curves to be.

I wasn't totally pleased with the result, but I thought it might do.  But for the smaller initials on either side, I decided to try something different.  There is a technique that I came up with several years ago, a kind of chainless foundation, that utilizes cluster-type stitches stacked on top of each other.  I found that, if I worked this foundation row, I could work single crochet along one edge to shape it into the letter shape I wanted.  This worked quite well, and I was very pleased with the smaller initials.

Things were coming along with the crocheting, so I made a trip to my local crafts store to get some tips on framing a piece of crochet.  I brought a swatch along, just to be sure.  Amanda was very helpful and had lots of tips and suggestions for me, and even helped me find the least expensive options for the little bits and pieces that I needed to finish my framing project.  She suggested that I glue my velvet fabric backing onto foam core using a fabric-safe spray adhesive, and then stitch my crocheted pieces in place on the fabric-covered foam core using a needle and thread.  I ordered some spacers cut to fit the frame I chose, so that the crochet wouldn't be mashed up against the glass.

Back home again, I carefully wet-blocked the initials, trying to get the curves as smooth and round as possible.  That done, I laid it out on some dark fabric, to see how the crocheted pieces looked together.

I played around with the arrangement a bit, and someone suggested that I place the left side of the "H" higher than the right side.  As I prepared to sew the initials onto the backing, I decided to see if I could intertwine the letters, somewhat like Anna had them in her monogram.  Here is the finished design:

Even though it is not quite the monogram that Anna used for her wedding, she loves the piece and it is proudly displayed in their new apartment.  Here's a photo I took of the framed monogram before I wrapped it:

The exciting thing about this project (other than creating something special for loved ones!) is that now I know how to frame a crocheted art piece.  What next...perhaps some Irish crochet motifs? 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Brioche Rib Scarf Pattern Now Available!

I have been playing around with the Brioche Stitch for several years now.  In fact, you can check out these  blog posts from 2011, when I began my explorations:


The scarves I made using this technique were similar, with some variations.  At a recent meeting of the Tigard Knitting Guild , I taught a mini class on the Brioche Rib technique, with the instructions for the basic scarf for my handout.  I thought I would post the material as a free pattern in my Ravelry shop and my Craftsy shop, for anyone who might be interested.  The pattern creates a cushy, warm scarf from chunky yarn, in one or two colors.  The scarf begins and ends with brioche rib in a single color, and if you like, you can join a second color after you have knitted the initial border.  The two-color rib is somewhat like a corrugated rib,  but thicker and more "ribby".  One color is predominant on one side, and the other color is predominant on the other side of the knitting.

This 4-page pattern download is a photo tutorial which will give you the basics of the Brioche Rib stitch in one or two colors.  If you would like to make a narrower or wider scarf, cast on an odd number of stitches to whatever width you like.  I hope you enjoy the pattern! 

Visit Mountain Mist's Craftsy Pattern Store »

Monday, May 26, 2014

Remembering the Yarn Garden...End of an Era

I recently got an email from a favorite yarn shop in my old neighborhood, the Yarn Garden.  The subject line said, "Goodbye from Yarn Garden".  What??  Though I hadn't been over there in quite a while, since we moved to the other side of town, I was filled with sadness.  After almost 15 years in business, they were getting ready to close their doors.  I decided to go down to visit one last time, and see if I could find some goodies at their Goodbye Sale (50% off everything!).  I decided to bring my camera along, to document this historic event.

Approaching the shop
It was a gray day, to match my somber mood.  

The shop looked so empty by the time I got there, but there were still some good deals left.

A few last shots of the old girl...

I paid for my purchases, took a last look around, and left.  We will miss you, Yarn Garden!