Monday, November 28, 2011

The Case of the Curlies

Over the past several months I've made one scarf after another. Honestly, that seems to be my project of choice on a subconscious level. I truly dream of making sweaters and more complicated projects, but I guess deep within my psyche is an impatient need to complete a project quickly.

The scarf I'm currently working on is giving me a bit of trouble. It's curlier than anything I've crocheted in quite some time. I've researched this subject a bit online and found confirmation that single crochet does tend to curl, and that's exactly the stitch I'm using for this scarf.

[caption id="attachment_168" align="aligncenter" width="368" caption="The scarf before blocking."]Before Blocking[/caption]

How will I be able to correct this curliness? With my good friend Blocking. You know, blocking is something I didn't learn about until I started listening to Yarncraft podcasts. In all the years I had spent crocheting no one else had ever mentioned to me directly, nor had I heard talk of, blocking anything that I stitched.

If you're not familiar with blocking then don't be afraid. It's really quite a simple task. Basically, you're steaming or washing your finished piece of work then pinning it down in the desired shape while it dries so that your stitches are allowed to settle into the fabric. Different yarns will block differently so make sure to pay attention to the recommended washing instructions on your yarn label. If you're using wool yarn you'll want to make sure you don't felt your fabric unless that's the intended effect.

I haven't had blocking boards or pins in my tool arsenal so I've had to make do with what I have around the house. I have towels and lots of straight pins from sewing, which is pretty much all you need to get started with blocking. I layer two or three bath towels and place them on the floor, then I wash or steam my crocheted pieces according to the yarn label directions. After I have gently removed as much water as possible from the pieces then I lay them out on the towels. I gently stretch and shape the pieces to the size each one is supposed to be, then I use my straight pins to secure the pieces. You may only need to pin down the corners, however you may need to place a pin every few inches. Pay special attention to how quickly your crocheted pieces try to shrink up after you tug on them. The faster the yarn pulls back in the more pins you may need to use. After that just let your pieces dry then you can claim your project to be complete or finish up with any final stitching if needed.

Here is my finished scarf after blocking. For the record I didn't need to use pins this time around. I pulled the scarf into the position it needed to be in while it was wet, then just let it dry. I looked in on it periodically to make sure it was still laying flat while it dried.

[caption id="attachment_167" align="aligncenter" width="368" caption="The scarf after blocking."]After Blocking[/caption]

It looks like this case of the curlies was solved after all!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Whimsical Detour in Colorful Crochet

I'm not always a morning person. Matter of fact, most mornings I'm pretty irritated that I'm at work before the sun comes up. Sometimes it helps me smile, relax and breathe easier when I have the opportunity to visit a place like this.

There I find bits of whimsical crochet in very soothing colors that remind me I've wanted to make crocheted garlands for over a year now. I still haven't made a single garland that resemble these.  I have visions of what colors I would use to make a crocheted garland, and I have more visions of where I would hang them in my house, but still no garlands quite like these from Emma Lamb.

Last year I did make a few larger garlands, but they've been focused on holiday decoration and not year round whimsy. I supposed these Christmas garlands count for something, but I still dream of sweet delicate garlands that encourage me to twirl in the sunshine.

[caption id="attachment_166" align="aligncenter" width="456" caption="Christmas Garland"][/caption]

Do you have any crocheted garlands that bring you inspiration and positivity?


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Episode 11: Cowl Craziness

Today's episode begins by recapping the launch of the Shorty's Classic Cowl. Responses to the free pattern and YouTube videos have been positive and confirm this is a great project for crocheters of any skill level.

[caption id="attachment_161" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Shorty's Classic Cowl (Single Loop)"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_162" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Shorty's Classic Cowl (Double Loop)"][/caption]

Finished Objects

Shorty's Classic Cowls for two friends who each ordered two cowls. Yarns used for these infinity scarves have been Malabrigo Worsted, Malabrigo Rios, Cascade Superwash Wool and Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton. Each type of yarn lends unique characteristics to the scarves.

What's in my bag?

  • The fourth Operation Gratitude scarf is well underway with one more to go so that I can reach my goal of completing five scarves

  • The Plum Crazy Cowl is about to be frogged and started over

  • The Orange Sharf has been frogged because two many stitches slid off my needles and I had no idea how to recover them

What's in my ears?

What's in my stash?

Thanks to a few sales through my Etsy shop, I've had a bit of yarn money to help with local economic stimulation. I've recently purchased my first ball of Sheepish in Olive by Vickie Howell, more Perfection by Kraemer  and Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton from my favorite LYS Knitting Fairy in Grand Prairie, Texas.

What's in my library?

I'm still waiting for a publisher to send me a book I won recently, however I have a couple of great online resources to share with you. The Fall 2011 issue of Tangled is out and it includes some wonderful crochet patterns that mix beautiful yarns with modern stitch combinations. Some of the patterns that really piqued my interest were the Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Harmony sweater and Emma cardigan.Sign up for the Tangled newsletter here.

Another online resource I want to share is KnitFreedom by Liat Gat. Liat has put together wonderful instructional videos along with a newsletter that includes video the videos right in it. She has lots more videos on her YouTube channel, as well as video e-books and other resources so that you can become a knitting superstar!

My recent pattern purchase is the Vita Capelet (pronounced vee-tah) by Lindsey Stephens a.k.a. Poetry In Yarn on Twitter.

Well friends, that’s it for this episode. Feel free to send me an email at, find me on Facebook, Tout, Twitter or join the ShortysSutures Ravelry group. Thanks so much for joining me and I do hope you’ll join me again next time.

Until then, keep those hands stitchin’!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Shorty's First Crochet Pattern

I'm excited to share that I've created my first free crochet pattern, and I've even made some videos to help you with the project. Join me and make a Shorty's Classic Cowl!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Make Shorty's Classic Cowl

[caption id="attachment_157" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Shorty's Classic Cowl"][/caption]

I'm excited to share with you a type of scarf that I've been making almost non-stop since I created the first one about a month ago. It's not a complicated design, it may not be newsworthy to experienced designers, but I think it's a great project to help anyone new to crochet finish a beautifully classic infinity style scarf in a short amount of time. It's a quick project for experienced crocheters, too.

In this post you'll find written instructions along with video snipits to help you along. Please keep in mind this is my first time to ever film video, so if you find it hard to follow please let me know. I'd love to utilize your feedback so that I can make my instructions as comprehensive as possible.

What You'll Need

  • 215-220 yards of worsted weight yarn (recommended yarn -  Malabrigo Worsted)

  • Size H crochet hook

  • Yarn darning needle

  • Scissors

The Written Pattern

Note: there are a few ways to approach this project. You can make a single loop scarf where it will only go around your neck once, or you can make the scarf long enough for a double loop. The instructions below indicate how many foundation chains you'll need to make either lengths of the scarf.

  • Crochet 70 foundation stitches for a single loop scarf; Crochet 138 - 150 foundation stitches for a double loop scarf, depending on how long you prefer your cowl to be

Click on each picture for details (above and below each picture) on how to do each step of the foundation stitches. (If you prefer to watch the video on making the Foundation Stitches please scroll further down to find the links.)


Here are the written instructions for the steps noted above in the pictures: To begin your scarf and make the foundation stitch chain 2, yarn over and insert the hook in the first chain (the one farthest from your hook), yarn over and pull up a loop , yarn over and pull through two loops, then yarn over again and pull through the last two loops. For the second foundation stitch, and each subsequent foundation stitch, yarn over and insert your hook in the front loop of the bottom of the stitch (the loop just above your very beginning chain), yarn over and pull up a loop. You should now have three loops on your hook again, yarn over and pull through two loops, yarn over again and pull through the last two loops. Repeat this until you have enough foundation stitches to suit the length you want your cowl to be.

  • Join row 1 with a slip stitch in the top of the first foundation stitch, chain 1

  • Row 2: skip the first stitch that the chain 1 is attached to, and half double crochet in the next stitch and all the way round to the last stitch; join the row to the top of the beginning stitch of Row 2 with a slip stitch, chain 1

  • Rows 3 through 12: repeat Row 2

  • Row 13: after the chain 1 turn your work, skip the first stitch the chain is connected to and half double crochet in the front loop only of the next stitch and all the way around; join the row to the top of beginning stitch of Row 13 with a slip stitch, cut your yarn leaving at least a five inch tail, and pull through to tie off the row

  • Secure the base of Row 1 by weaving in the tail and also weave in the tail from the Row 13

If the written instructions have left you a bit befuddled, or you just prefer an instructional video, click on the links below to watch the videos on making the Shorty's Classic Cowl.

Foundation Stitches for Making Shorty's Classic Cowl

Joining Row 1 and Beginning Row 2

Row 3 and Beyond

Final Row of Stitches

Finishing the Shorty's Classic Cowl

This has been a really fun and confidence building project for me. As I mentioned in the videos, I've made this style of infinity scarf in a few different sizes. The example shown is meant to be worn as a single loop, but the other scarves I've made are long enough to be doubled around the neck for a fuller and warmer effect. I've also used different yarns to make the cowl which really adds a new look to each one. Pick your favorite yarn and give the Shorty's Classic Cowl a whirl. I think you'll find it's a fun, fast and easy project that takes you a bit out of the routine of sticking to what might be in your stitch dictionary. I hope this pattern helps you to explore the many creative options that are out there in the crochet world.

Keep playing with yarn and you'll find all kinds of new ways to keep those hands stitchin'!


This pattern is copyrighted by Shorty's Sutures. Anyone who takes this pattern and tries to sell it as their own is violating that copyright. Feel free to make a Shorty's Classic Cowl and sell what you've made if you wish, but kindly acknowledge where the pattern and inspiration came from.







Friday, November 4, 2011

Self Sufficiency and Stitchery: An Epiphany

Have you ever realized something at the end of the day and immediately thought, "Oh my... I completely forgot about...!" That's what happened to me last night when I realized I was expecting two books to arrive and I hadn't checked the mail.

I opened the front door and saw two boxes, one addressed to me from Amazon. Hubby snagged the other box and happily headed to the mailbox to see what else might be waiting for us. Indeed there was another little package addressed to me from Amazon! Here's what arrived:

[amazon_image id="0978866568" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Make Your Place: Affordable & Sustainable Nesting Skills[/amazon_image]


[amazon_image id="1440215456" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]The Colette Sewing Handbook: Inspired Styles and Classic Techniques for the New Seamstress[/amazon_image]

I've read wonderful things about Make Your Place: Affordable & Sustainable Nesting Skills, and I can't wait to dive in! As I mentioned in my last post, we have a small backyard garden and compost bin, but I want to do even more around the house to live a more sustainable lifestyle. This book has topics in it from canning to making your own detergent. With some of the lifestyle changes I'm planning to make in 2012 I really need to beef up my sustainability skills so I can save money and time. I think this book is going to be an invaluable resource to help me do just that!

The Colette Sewing Handbook is also an exciting addition to my resource library. I've been following Sarai Mitnick of aka Colette Patterns for a couple of years, watching her design and seamstress skills from a distance. I've always admired her style and how she makes sewing seem simple and doable for me. But, this is another area that I've been a big chicken about! I've talked myself out of investing in fabrics outside of quilting cotton out of fear of messing up the fabric, not measuring correctly or following a pattern well enough. Following Sarai and how she's grown her business by inspiring other people like me, along with hearing Isabelle of Fluffy Fibers customize her own wardrobe, has inspired me to have more faith in my abilities. I've wanted to make tailored garments for myself for decades (and that's no exaggeration)! But, I have yet to take steps to really make that fantasy a reality. That's about to change, and I'm confident this book will help me achieve another stitchy goal.

What stitchy goals do you have? Are you content with one craft, or do you have aspirations to tackle crochet, knitting, embroidery, spinning, weaving and everything else crafty related?

Keep those hands stitchin'!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Gearing Up for Change

As a teenager I used to be fond of change, or at least I told myself that to cope with the many moves my family made where I had to start over at school and with friendships. As I've settled into my adult life, however I've found that I prefer routine and stability over change.

These days I'm gearing up to make some major life changes and I'm getting more comfortable with the idea of a bit of ambiguity. That's considerable progress for someone who has claimed to hate 'the unknown' for the past several years.

I know it's too soon to start talking about resolutions for 2012, but honestly I can't wait. I've been working to change the way I think about my current lifestyle and schedule so that when next year comes I'll be more likely to let the changes become permanent.

Here are a few things from my lifestyle changing list:

  • Have more free time: I literally run from one thing to the next every weekday and sometimes weekends, too, and I'm so tired of being tired

  • Garden and live off the land more: we already have a small garden and compost bin in our backyard, but I haven't learned to can and dehydrate our produce yet

  • Bake more: I would love have home baked goodies around the house more often, and I'm confident with more free time this will become possible

  • Create more and sell more: I love to not only crochet, but also to embroider and sew, and I want to learn to love knitting, too; my plan is to make more stuff to list in my etsy shop

  • Work less: enough said I think

  • Exercise daily: I consider myself to be an active person but I certainly don't dedicate a regular block of time each day for promoting physical well being.

My husband is on board with all of these changes, and we're working together to see how we can make it happen. Over the past several years we've scaled way back on 'extras' around the house like satellite tv, having a land line phone, frivolous shopping sprees and buying on credit. We're happy to be independent of all credit card debt and we discuss purchases before we make them even if the total may seem insignificant.

One of the things that's helping me gear up for more lifestyle changes is basic mental preparation. I've thought long and hard about what I want out of this life, I started making notes and referring back to them to see what 'wants' were recurring, and I've tried to map out a plan for how to allow those changes to take place. I'm amazed at just how much mental adjustment these proposed lifestyle changes have caused me to embrace. I can't tell you how many tearful episodes I've endured where I've had to basically brainwash myself into thinking that I can let go of what I consider to be 'normal' in order to have a more fulfilling life. I've had to let go of some close friendships in the process because it's really hard for me to relate to people who don't share the same basic lifestyle. I've had to accept that's ok. I still have the friends in my life, but definitely not on the level that I used to have. I'm finally ok with that.

I'm also gearing up for resistance from family. My parents want certain things for me, and scaling back instead of blasting forward into a higher level of career will be difficult for them. I'm confident I can show them that everything will be all right, and that I'll be a happier person over all.

The biggest obstacle has been me, though. I'm having to let go of security and that's tough. Like I mentioned, there's been a lot of brainwashing going on inside my head. Conforming to the norms of society has been easy, becoming a nonconformist isn't. But, I'm still gearing up for change. Change is going to be good. And I will continue to keep my hands stitchin' throughout it all!