Another tip of my hat(s)

DSCN4607I finished off a few more projects before the deadline for our school’s Mitten Tree! This bunch is all done in knit.

Two of these items (well, technically, three, but what’s the use of a single mitten? Therefore, a pair counts as “one”) come together into a matched set, as you can see. This hat/mitten set is done in a child’s small, listed as toddler 2-4.

I’ve worked the hat pattern before (for the sparkly white knit set from this post). It’s written efficiently, makes a warm hat that fits snugly, and is simple and rather plain, not heavy on texture.

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…except for a showy, but not overwhelming, swirl of PSSO decreases to shape the top.

That plainness makes this pattern perfect for yarn that demands attention–in this case, stripes. Oh, how I love stripes!

The mitten pattern came from the same book. I like that the gusset and thumb are built in, not added later with picked-up stitches. Nice, since I’m, ahem, all thumbs when it comes to picking up stitches. Not my favorite thing to do in knit.

DSCN4608The third new knit item is a hat, made from my old favorite pattern of Grandmother’s. This ribbed hat is a nice choice for a charity drive. It has lots of stretch and an adjustable folded cuff, so it can fit anyone who is unexpectedly in need of a hat, toddler through adult.

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And with that, I’ve brought my 2015 Destashing through Giving tally to

for self/family: 1

for charity: 8

Mitten Tree is done, but another outerwear collection drive in my city is going on through the 30th. I foresee a bunch more yarn consumption in the next week and a half!

Crafters, share your favorites! Which warm, practical patterns are your go-tos for charity knitting or crocheting projects?

Hats off to charity

DSCN4605My preschooler’s class had a Mitten Tree project again this year. This was a perfect opportunity to put some of my overstock of yarn to good use. I had a lot of fun with these crocheted hats!

As with last year’s mitten tree, these hats were strongly influenced by my grandma’s good friend, Tillie, whose copious crafting stash I inherited two years ago.

Two of the hats were actually crocheted who-knows-how-many years ago by Tillie herself–at least, the rectangles that form the main bodies of the hats were. All I did to finish them was add a seam and a pompom, then fold up a cuff.

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DSCN4604I think Tillie would have been very pleased to know her work was going to someone who might be very, very cold without it.

For another three hats, I did the crocheting myself but used Tillie’s yarn. The first, from a super-soft, fluffy, easy-care variegated yarn, is sized for an older infant.

DSCN4610These next two were a whole different kind of fun. I loved planning out the stripe patterns. This one’s sized about about right for a three-year-old girl,

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Those stripes make me think of sherbet. Mmm!

and this one is large enough for an adult.

DSCN4601And there you have my first batch of crochet items for my 2015 Destashing through Giving tally:

for self/family: 1

for charity: 5

Bonus brag! Wouldn’t you know, most of the material for these hats had been tucked into the same storage bag, so I can actually share my first 2015 Messy to Classy photos now, too:

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the whole overstuffed “before” bag

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contents of “before” bag, spread out for viewing

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…and the contents, “after.” (Yes, there’s now a second ball of fuchsia yarn. I swear I did not buy more! That’s from frogging out part of one of Tillie’s rectangles to get it down to children’s hat-sized.)

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packed up again, “after.” Is that actually empty space in there now?!

Obviously I haven’t made it to the “classy” finish line yet on that particular storage bag, but I like the progress so far.

Check out what other reformed-Messies are up to on Preeti’s link party page here:

What are you working on lately, fellow crafters? Share your current project links, stories, and photos below.

A finish, and some more motivation

DSCN4500Here’s my first finish of the year, which I promptly gave to my mother-in-law. She appreciates a good, hard-wearing knitted dishcloth better than anyone else I know.

Using two yarns for a single dishcloth was a sort-of new thing for me. I know I’ve crocheted 2-color dishcloths, but I don’t remember doing it in knit before. If so, it apparently wasn’t very impressive. This one, I will remember for sure.

This plaid pattern is from a Leisure Arts book I’ve used before. From straight on, it’s just pretty, but when you get a view from the side, you see the interesting texture, too.

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DSCN4506I think this pattern would look even more striking in higher-contrast colors. I may do this one again in cream and emerald green–both of which I do have on hand, so that would totally be in keeping with my new de-stashing goal.

Speaking of which, I guess it’s time to begin the 2015 destashing tally. Here goes.

for self/family: 1

for charity: 0

Besides the de-stashing goal, I’m finding get ‘er done motivation from the 2015 Messy to Classy link party.

I haven’t taken any pictures yet, and once I do, it will take a whole bunch of finishes before anyone else would be able to discern a difference between my “before” and “after.” But I do love the idea of Preeti’s link party and will be checking in regularly to see everyone’s progress.

Messy-to-Classy

Go, classy crafters and fellow de-stashers alike!

What crafting link parties/blogs/forums keep you motivated?

A year of…

20152014 was a great craft year for me. I made dozens of things, from a big afghan that took almost 11 months to finish to baby headbands that went so fast, I tossed off 2 or 3 a night.

I made items practical and items whimsical. I used the cheapest broadcloth fabric or acrylic yarn, or the softest natural-fiber blends, as the project dictated.

I ran my usual range, sewing to crocheting to knitting, and even experimented a little with scrap fabric appliques.

It’s all so fun and satisfying, but this year, I want to do more than keep up the momentum. I want to continue to be productive, but all these materials tumbling out of closets and corners have become a real problem. I’ve read so many other crafters admit to the same problem I have: The supply has outgrown the space I have to contain it.

I need to get things out of bins and bags and boxes here and there. I need to finish the unfinished, and I need to use what I have to do it.

At the same time, it wouldn’t help my storage crisis to take 1000 yards of yarn from my closet, crochet them into a sweater, and then puzzle over how to wedge my new sweater into that same crowded closet.

The fact is–other than quick-consumables like dishcloths and scrubbies and hard-worn children’s mittens–we don’t often need anything that I craft. Besides, for me, the satisfaction of crafting is often in the doing, not in the possessing.

And so, the solution must be to make a greater percentage of things that I intend to send off to live somewhere else. I do that fairly well now, but the state of my closets screams “not well enough.”

I’d like to try my hand at selling, yes, so maybe this should be the year I finally make good on my occasional threat to secure a local consignment agreement.

But even more, maybe this should be the year I craft for a cause. If I want to de-stash in a meaningful way, charity is just the ticket.

So, a 2-part resolution:

For each item I make/finish off for myself or my family during 2015, and for each item I make to sell for cash, I will also make/finish off something to give to a nonprofit.

For short, I’m going to call this part of the goal “destashing through giving.” I’m even going to make it a separate category on this blog so I have a quick way of sorting through my post records to check up on my balance throughout the year.

And except for things for my family, all I make this year will be fashioned exclusively from materials I already have, until the stash is slim enough to be put away neatly and order has been restored.

If you think you spy some loopholes in there, you’re right. “For my family” covers several “don’t acquire more supply” exceptions: dishcloths (because my yarn stash is mostly non-cotton right now), the “who can predict” of kids’ Halloween and school play costumes (in addition to stash fabric, I needed feathers, thermal underwear, and paint to finish this last season’s costumes), and sewing thread and elastic (because that’s just a fact of mending).

But as far as I can see now, those will be it for new purchases.

Let the stash control and charity stitching begin!

What are your crafting resolutions this year? Have you ever crafted for a charity, and if so, which one? Links, photos, and other inspiration are welcome!

A big, soft floral finish

DSCN4473 I’ve been enjoying my newly finished afghan for about a week now. The cool days and outright cold nights are perfect for test-driving this kind of crochet project!

My afghan turned out to be everything I’d hoped for: colorful but not garish, warm but not heavy, pretty but not too frilly to be welcome in this house populated by more males than females, and just the right size to fold neatly across the back of our couch.

At my last afghan update, I showed off block #21. Block 22 was done not long after I posted. Then I got on a roll and cranked out blocks 23 and 24 in an overexcited marathon 24-hour period before really contemplating the next step.

Since I’d opted in to only my favorite 6 of the 24 patterns Tamara selected for her Moogly crochet-along, my challenge was in arranging the finished blocks (4 of each pattern) so that no two of the same pattern were directly adjacent. I wanted them spread fairly equally around the afghan, but I didn’t want it too look too studied, too far from random. The look I had in mind was organic but not unkempt.

It took a little trial and error before I settled on this plan. Imagine each block’s labeled with pattern 1-6 and color variation A-B. First I laid them out so each was used once:

Row 1: 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A

Row 2: 5A, 6A, 1B, 2B

Row 3: 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B

…and then I reversed the rows for the second half so that each top-to-bottom column would contain every pattern, no pattern repeats within either a row or a column…

Row 4: 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A

Row 5: 2B, 1B, 6A, 5A

Row 6: 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B

For the joining, I wanted something suggestive of vines or twigs sort of growing among all those flower-inspired blocks. Flowers and vines, right? And I really, really wanted to incorporate a few leaves here and there in the joins, too. Initially I planned to make those leaves from the treble cluster that’s repeated throughout the Catalina afghan square. That was, after all, not only the square that convinced me to join this crochet-along in the first place, but leaves would have been perfectly in line with my vines-and-flowers idea.

As it turned out, I couldn’t do the leaves. I had to keep the joins very simple so they didn’t eat up all my yarn. I didn’t realize I’d estimated low on yardage when I ordered the green, and by the time I tried to buy more, I couldn’t match dye lots.

simple crochet block joinThe regret was short-lived. Now that it’s all together, I’m perfectly happy with how the joins turned out. For the border, at first I wished I’d been able to get a third round in, but the two-round border I ended up with is very nice, too. If I’d added a third, it would have been lacier and more formal looking, and that wouldn’t do for the “not too frilly” requirement!

2-round crocheted afghan borderTwo big things I learned from this project:

– The same brand, same line, same weight yarn–I used nothing but Premier Deborah Norville Everyday Worsted–can be vastly different in thickness and heft from one color to another. Working the same pattern with the same hook but in different color variations, I got blocks that were as much as an inch and a half different in finished width,

– so, I learned how to adjust for those differences to make the block sizes match in the end.

And I’m very pleased with the final results!

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What is/was/very soon will be your last big finish for 2014?

A ho-ho-hat

DSCN4439 My latest crochet finish: Well, if ever there were a photo that needs no explanation, that’s the one!

(Despite having just said that, one detail to add. This hat comes with a quirky twist. I’ll post about that separately once I have a few last adjustments done.)

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(Oh, and barring schedule glitches, I’ll pop back in sometime this week to share a quick how-to for those crocheted holly leaf appliques. They’re quick and easy, I promise! Updated 12/24/14: Well, those schedule glitches happened. Clearly it’s now too late for this year…2015, maybe?)

Do you have any festive seasonal items on your WIP or just-finished list this week? Description, photo, and pattern links are welcome!

Busy as a beaver, part III

DSCN4002And here it is, folks, the final installment of Christmas Display 2014/Mechanical Beaverware. This group: the knits.

I’ve chosen to share the most time consuming items last, which is exactly the opposite of how they were planned and produced. As soon as I was asked to make new outerwear for the Christmas beavers, a rich, dark variegated yarn from my leftovers stash (the photo at left) and this sparkly white yarn (below) leftover from my swimsuit coverup project over the summer came to mind.

IMG_1763I cast on the variegated scarf first. I decided from the get-go to do it in rounds, not flat, since the end product is so much neater that way. What I didn’t bargain for was that, duh, that produces two complete layers, which of course costs double the time to complete.

In the end, this scarf took me more than a month to finish. In fact, I got so tired of that endless spiral round that I started and finished 8 of the other items during breaks from this scarf. Part of the reason for that was, I was determined not to return a tiny, mostly unusable ball of this pretty yarn to the leftovers bin. So I kept going ’round and ’round until it ran out. The finished scarf (not including the pompoms) measures a full 45 inches long.

I’m not sorry. It came out absolutely stunning.

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DSCN4110Here’s the hat to match, made from a pattern I’ve used many times before. For the record, the hat went waaaaaay faster than the scarf.

DSCN4000The pompom yarn was missing its label, a full skein pulled from a discount bin for one dollar some years ago. I’m pretty sure it’s Caron–a super, super soft light acrylic. Isn’t the color just a perfect complement to the main yarn?

So that was the first Beaverwear set started, but next to last to be finished. Now, the second knit set:

DSCN4329The chessboard-looking scarf pattern is from a Leisure Arts book. It’s one of those knit items that looks intermediate but is really not at all complicated to make. The hat is what I got when I blended the chessboard stitch pattern from the scarf with another Leisure Arts pattern called, simply, “basic hat.” They worked together very nicely.

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DSCN4327My only hitch with the hat came when I was about to start those decreases at the top. I almost never need stitch markers and had no idea where I had stored them when I came to the first spot in the pattern that called for them.

You know what they say, Necessity is the mother of invention.

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DSCN4324Yep. Seven stainless steel washers (brand-new and sparkly clean, of course) across a row made for a very, very heavy knitting needle, but they were precisely the right size for marking these #10s. In fact, when I cast off, I put those washers snug in my knitting caddy just in case the missing real markers don’t turn up before I need them again!

That brings the final tally for Beaverwear 2014 to 7 hats, 11 scarves. Put another way, that’s 4 knitted items, 2 crocheted items, and 11 sewn items.

And while I did get bored with long stretches of those spiral stockinette rounds on the variegated scarf, still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy every. last. stitch. of the whole project. Making stuff just feels good, doesn’t it?

What are your current projects, either just completed or in progress?

Busy as a beaver, part II

IMG_1272Here’s the second group of items I made for our local Christmas display 2014–with a very slight twist. The Mechanical Beaverware project took to the road with this hat-scarf set.

Crochet is a perfectly portable craft. With only two colors of yarn to juggle, choosing this set as my take-along when we went on vacation was a no-brainer. The vast majority of these rows and rounds were born far, far from home, at my mother’s house across the country, or at high altitude while getting there.

It was a fun project, as crochet almost always is. I didn’t have to think too hard to hook up with a pattern that doesn’t exactly look like peppermint, but suggests it. Which is, of course, perfectly holiday appropriate.

The scarf is as simple as they get, double crochets spaced by chain stitches. I did use a double row of solid single crochets at 10-row intervals in the stretches of white, and there are the color changes, but really. Beginner level simple.

IMG_1274And the hat isn’t much more complicated. Decreasing to shape the top was the only part I had to pay attention much, just to long enough to count to keep the spacing even. Otherwise, the whole thing was mindlessly pleasant.

IMG_1280I had just exactly enough red yarn to finish the fringe and pompom. Literally nothing but four under-2-inch scraps was left at the end. Meant to be, right?

IMG_1276And about that yarn? Both the red and the white are leftovers from previous projects. Free and free.

This was the only beaver set I did in crochet, but it really came out exactly as I’d imagined with no fuss whatsoever. I’m happy.

With crochet added in, the Beaverware tally stands thus: 5 hats, 8 scarves. Only knit to go!

What’s the simplest, yet most satisfying crochet project you’ve done lately?

Busy as a beaver, part I

DSCN4210A month ago, I mentioned I’d been busily completing a bunch of stand-alone projects in between the blocks for the afghan crochet-along. That’s sort of accurate. Actually, many of those stand-alones were individual pieces of one rather large project.

Remember last fall when I made outerwear for a bunch of animatronic penguins? (Here’s just the last post in that series, which links in turn to the earlier ones.) Well, this year the beavers who populate that same public Christmas/winter display got huffy and demanded new duds, too.

Instead of keeping the individual pieces fairly uniform as I did for the penguins, I had fun with variation this time. Some were patterns from books, others patterns I worked out myself, others just mindless stitch-until-the-length-is-right. Obviously, that meant some flew off in no time whereas others felt like an eternity to finish.

Seems like the best way to group all the finish-off photos is by craft type. So–today, here’s the fastest bunch, the ones that were sewn. The ones I pulled off in under 30 minutes each. They nicely improved my project-completion average when the others started dragging.

I used a chunk of donated fabric for the gold-and-red hats and two scarves. It’s a heavy woven cloth with some variations in the thickness of the threads, which makes it durable and interesting to look at, but also super easy to work with. These pieces all zipped together in spare moments over just a couple of days.

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This model is a stuffed beaver who just happened to be available for the job, not the actual recipient of the hat. The animated beavers are much larger than this one.

The ball fringe is also donated material. Some odd bits of thread and fluffs of felt along the anchoring strip betrayed that it had been salvaged from some previous item. Giving the trim a second life in this beaver-wear made my thrifty heart happy.

DSCN4004Two more hat-scarf sets came from a length of fabric I got via Freecycle. The cloth has a rough, uncomfortable texture I’d never use to clothe a living human, but for faux-animate critters, it fits the bill–as do those wacky bright stripes!

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DSCN4009The yarn that went into the pompoms and tassels is a bunch of leftover bits too small for their own projects. Score.

DSCN4204Finally, this trio of scarves (without matching hats) was a last-minute addition to the public display project. They were made for some tiny human animatronic characters, not beavers. These little folk needed scarves to hide some exposed wiring. So I guess you could say that even though they don’t actually provide warmth, these scarves are utilitarian.

The lightweight broadcloth they’re made from came from my own scrap bag. All three colors were left over from my kids’ last few years’ Halloween costumes. As for the fringe, if it looks familiar to you, you have a great eye and memory! It’s a scrap from last fall’s doll dress project.

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DSCN4370So there you have the quick finishes. The Christmas display tally so far: 7 scarves, 4 hats.

What are your favorite quick-finish projects lately? Links to pictures are welcome!

Keep calm and block on.

crochet afghan blockIt’s been crazy busy around here this past month–work, work, work plus the kids’ school schedule plus church projects plus unexpected complications with the house, vehicles, and pet. Blogging is the first thing to drop off the end of my to-do list when time gets scarce.

But the crafting continues nonetheless. Even on the most harried days, I can usually find a few unscheduled minutes to throw in some stitches. I’ve completed several knit and several crochet projects that way–a round here, a row there–since July. I’ll get around to posting about them all as soon as life lets me.

Between those separate projects, I’ve managed to keep up with Moogly’s afghan crochet-along. I just finished block 21 of 24. That’s the block you see above, my palette’s version of Cocoa Puff by Melissa Green. It’s a bold, pretty one!

The pattern is written exactly right, but I won’t lie. I struggled mightily with Round 10. I fought it for more than two hours total (over two days, so it seemed even longer!). I frogged it back to the first side of the block at least half a dozen times before I finally made it to the end of the round.

And then I counted the stitches and they still didn’t add up.

It wasn’t until I ripped out the entire round, counting as I went, that I found where the mistake was. I’d misread the pattern at only the SECOND stitch of the round.

Lo and behold, starting fresh did the trick. I worked up that whole round correctly in 10 minutes the last time.

I hereby chalk up those lost hours (and poor reading that caused them) to fatigue!

This block fits in with the theme of the previous blocks, yet it’s a nice texture contrast, too. The navy part of the flower here is super heavy whereas the flowers in the other blocks are lighter and lacier.

afghan block close-up

This block–and the three others I’ll be making from this pattern–will add a nice weight and warmth to the afghan.

I have finally completed a few other blocks from this crochet-along, too. I guess now’s the time to slap those pictures up before I disappear from the ‘Net again!

I’ve shared my color take on Flower Tile Afghan Square by Marta Chrzanowska before, but it now has three sisters. Here are the two color variations (I made a pair of each) together:

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I now have all four of my Lion’s Mane by April Moreland blocks done, too. This is also one you’ve seen in singular form before:

afghan blocks

Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. These four blocks are not exact pairs. I think once they’re mixed into the afghan, though, the fact that I departed from my notes won’t matter a bit.

And finally, all four of my finished More V’s Please by Melinda Miller blocks can now be pictured together:

afghan blocks

Just in case you’re  seeing all this and thinking I’m some wonder of productivity, lemme clarify. I did not make all 13 of those blocks PLUS the other projects I mentioned (plus achieve life in general) between July and today. I’d had to put aside a bunch of these blocks for long enough that I forgot they weren’t finished. Several of those finishes consisted of adding only the last round–and that’s the part I did recently.

I’m (inordinately) proud to check my crochet-along project bag today and see that I now have exactly ZERO previously started crochet-along blocks incomplete. So–on to block #22!

How about you? Are you currently participating in a crochet-, knit-, or sew-along? Tell me about it–and you’re welcome to share links to your progress photos, too!

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