Friday, December 20, 2013

She Just Gets It

While I haven't been publishing I have been teaching crochet. That has been interesting.

Up til now, all of my students have been adults, women who have decided to revisit crochet and either relearn it or learn it again.

Recently, a woman approached me to do private lessons for her 10 year old daughter. My first internal response was panic since I've never taught crochet to a kid. But, I pushed back the fear and said I'd love to.

So we got together for her first lesson on Wednesday night.

1. She's an absolute sweetheart!
2. She's REALLY enthusiastic and REALLY wants to learn.
3. She's made really good use of YouTube and got a good start on her own.

That was my first impression and it was all correct. My second impression impressed even me.

1. She gets it. She can see things/visualize in her head. That's really rare these days and quite refreshing. I'm the same way and so I realized I know just how to teach her.
2. She doesn't get all upset when it's not perfect the first time and actually thinks that ripping out is fun. When she made a mistake she's just laugh, rip it out, confirm what needed to happen, and went on. Totally cool!!
3. She saw the magic and wants it for herself. When she was practicing her single crochet (it's going to be a hat) I made a fingerless glove (for my niece of the same age) worked the same way she's making her hat. I did that to simultaneously get something done as well as to demonstrate what she needed to learn and do. Before our time was up I finished it and so she was able to watch me stitch it up and she tried it on. That's when she understood how what she was doing could be turned into a hat (tube with one end tied shut) and she saw the magic. As we were walking with her mom out to our cars she turned to me and said, "When you made the hole for the thumb, did you just skip stitches?" Yes, she gets it and it made me smile.

So I have to say, I think I'm going to enjoy teaching this little girl. And maybe she'll reinspire some magic in me, too.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Downton Abby Crochet

Downton Abby has many of us enthralled to the point of addiction. Oops....did I say that out loud?

A magazine with patterns inspired by the show was recently published.........for knitting. Ack! Please! No crochet? Don't get me wrong, I think knitting is appropriate and beautiful, but it seems that we crocheters are left to do what we've always done.We're going to have to make it up ourselves. So here's some inspiration and ideas for you. Yes, you can do it!

Fashions from 1917.
• Downton Abby has been set in a time period of many changing styles. To find what you might be looking for, use the following words. Edwardian Era (1901-1919), Art Nouveau (1880-1914), Art Deco (1919-1939), Bauhaus (1919-1933), and Arts and Crafts Movement (1861-1914). If you search for clothing with those words what you will find are images that show the change in attire (especially for women) where the corset begins to disappear and hems begin to rise. After all, it's the era when women won the right to vote. A very BIG deal.

• Did you know that, in the Downton Abby era, crochet was just as important a part of a woman's skills as knitting, embroidery, tatting, sewing, cooking, and all the other "womanly" arts?

Downton Abby era women's mags.
• Antique stores sometimes carry old women's magazines which generally covered all the womanly arts and will often contain a crochet item here and there. However, they'll be in a form that is appropriate to a working woman trying to brighten her life. Doilies, tablecloths, baby clothes, corset tops, etc in crochet thread and a few things like bathing jackets, heavy shawls, or caps in yarn. 

• Lace was used to embellish everything. Lace edgings, insertions, and whole lace fabrics.

From the 1950s but timeless.
• If you'd rather have those beautiful flowing lace pieces, but you're terrified of crochet thread, use lace weight yarn. It's going to be much closer to the original but easier for a yarnie to manage.

• So lets say you're using crochet thread or lace weight yarn, but you want something really authentic. Take a look at the corset covers with the lace tops. We don't wear corsets anymore (thankfully) but we do wear tank tops.

• Imagine what you find in those antique needlework magazines. Suddenly a corset cover becomes a tank top and the motifs for a tea table cover become a delicate lace jacket or a beautiful and expensive looking wrap.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Season for Gift Giving: Choosing Your Gift Projects

Hey Yarnies! 
It's time to kick our "make stuff" attitude into high gear!

As the season for giving approaches (way too fast) we, the makers of stuff, start taking on projects left and right. So here are some thoughts to help you along.

1. Get together with other "makers of stuff" to create some community while getting your gifts done. Believe me it's a lot better than working in isolation, it's a great resource for ideas, and it might even help you get them done faster.

2. Choose projects that you can actually complete in time. Scarves, hats, mittens, amigrumi, and any project that is fairly small. They're going to be easier to complete and you will probably run into fewer problems that might bring you to a grinding and frustrating halt.

3. Don't start a project that is either a little beyond your experience level or is complex and takes too much brain power. This is not the time to push your envelope. Do that after the holidays as a treat for yourself!

4. Consider making doubles of those hats, mittens, and scarves if you can and donate the duplicates. If you aren't aware of any places taking donations, ask your fellow makers (item 1 on this list), ask for suggestions from your local yarn shop, or use the internet to find local giving opportunities. Some areas that might have need are natural disaster victims, the working poor, returning veterans, and those suffering from debilitating illness or the elderly.

5. Consider giving patterns and supplies to the "makers" on your gift giving list rather than making it for them. Find a pattern you think they'll like and purchase the yarn for it in a color they will love. Consider including a nice new hook, too. Sometimes we don't buy the nice stuff for ourselves, so it's extra special when someone else gives it to us.

6. Check out the "Patterns" links on the right for some gift giving and making ideas.

7. Have fun! Too often gift giving gets stressful because we're trying to do too much in too little time. So take it easy and make good project choices based on what you can do. Gift giving should be fun and uplifting and it can be if you do it right.

8. Reward yourself with a project gift to do after all the holiday fuss is over. Is there a pattern you've always wanted to make or a yarn you've always wanted to make something out of? Get everything you need to make it happen and have it ready to start the day after all the holiday craziness is over.

My one-eyed cat, Calypso, by our tree.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Classes for October, November, and December

I think fall has finally arrived here in Colorado. There is gold on the Aspens in the high country, so we should start seeing it here on the Front Range in a couple of weeks.

With fall arriving it signals the beginning of a new quarter of classes at Table Rock Llamas in Black Forest. Since it's the holiday season for us all I kept the schedule for crochet classes light so that you all can focus on getting your gifts finished in time.

Crochet Help:
Saturday October 19th, November 9th, and December 7th or by appointment- 10am to noon

Crochet Along (CAL): $10 per session plus supplies.
Get some of your Christmas gifts done using one (or all) of these patterns...your choice.
Ocean Waves Scarf- Learn how to make a simple but beautiful scalloped edging as you go.
Falling Stars Hat- Learn how to make an easy linked double crochet stitch that will make this hat extra warm and cozy.
LoDo Scarf- Great for crochet newbies who want to practice their stitches and get a scarf with maximum visual impact.
Wednesday November 6th, 13th, and 20th- 1pm to 3pm

Beginning Tapestry Crochet: $27 plus supplies
Tapestry crochet is an easy way to add color patterning or images to your crocheting. We’ll learn about using 2 or more colors to work a color pattern both in flat work and in the round. We’ll finish by putting your new skills to work on a small basic bag pattern using 2 colors and single crochet. You’ll need to know how to single crochet and be very comfortable managing your yarn and tension.
Wednesday October 16th, 1pm to 3pm

Crochet Study Group:
We meet at the Panera on North Nevada in the University Village Shops every first and third Monday from 7pm to 9pm. If the date we are supposed to meet falls on a holiday, then that meeting is canceled. If you wish to be added to the email reminders, contact me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Vacation Spinning

Sometimes I acquire a project while on vacation and that's what this post is about. 

We are in Waldport on the Oregon coast and on Wednesday Honey wanted to go antiquing. The very first place we went to had a booth set up by 3 fiber people with batts for spinning, handspun yarn, and a few patterns. I saw a merino batt I had to have.

See why?

Problem is...I didn't bring a spindle. My mind stewed, twisted, turned, searched every shop we went in for anything I could use as a spindle. Nothing!

Thursday morning our plans for the day fell through so I called the only yarn shop in the area to ask if they carried spindles. No, but I might try this other place. So I called Elsie's Discount Roving and was told they had only 2 left.

So I located them on my map and Honey and I drove to their shop 3 miles north of Depoe Bay. Yes! She had 2 spindles that were beautifully made and even perfectly balanced. I was in business.

I decided to strip from both sides of the batt alternating colors and thickness. The green side spun thin and the pink side spun thick.

I will ply it back on itself as a 2 ply and hopefully the varying color and thicknesses will make for interesting yarn.

Last night I made another amazing discovery about my new spindle. It can be unassembled to pack flat. How cool is that?

I went looking for the maker on line and found his spindles available at Madwomans Dyepot on Etsy. It seems I can get extra shafts and whorls sold separately there. A heavier whorl for heavier yarns and a lighter whorl for lighter yarns. Extra shafts can be used like extra bobbins.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fun Stuff

I rarely enter the world of toys with my crocheting, but lately I've come across some fun ideas on Pinterest (find me under the name Unyunga).

Since my 4 year old niece was coming today I pulled out my yarn scraps to make some owls for her to stuff and take home or give away. We got three done and they were a lot of fun.

The instructions are at, easy Crochet Owl Tutorial, posted January 23, 2013.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Table Rock Llamas Fiber Studio and the Black Forest Fire

I need to post about the Black Forest Fire, because some will be curious and I would like to share.

Table Rock Llamas Fiber Studio was spared due to our superhero firefighters. I visited them yesterday to get in touch about my upcoming crochet classes (see side bar), to congratulate Kris and Val, and to see it first hand.

It was BUSY with people and we're all amazed at how little smell of smoke there was. Especially considering the singe marks on the side of the back building where they hold workshops.

Here are photos I took:
The front of the store with the parking lot full.

The west side of the back building. The grass is burned right up to the parking lot, there are singe marks at the base of the structure, but no damage.

This is the east side and you can see that the back of the property, behind the back building is almost completely burned. They've begun thinning out a few of the trees that are going to topple if not dealt with, but most will stay until new growth comes in. That prevents erosion and helps shelter the new plants.

The fire started June 11th, not quite 1 year after the Waldo Canyon Fire. For those of us who had direct experience with the Waldo Canyon Fire last year it was the beginning of the Post Traumatic Stress roller coaster all over again. We all hung on, trying to keep up with the news but not too much. Over 500 homes lost and 2 lives with 100% containment on June 27th.

One of the good things to see was that the city, county, and state took the time to learn from the fire last year and they JUMPED on it this year. The fact that more homes were lost is not a reflection of their competency. That number would be more than double if they hadn't learned from last year. One of the other complications is that Black Forest is a rural area with livestock as well as people to evacuate and houses tucked way back on dirt roads where they're hard to get at.

But Table Rock Llamas Fiber Studio is still there and acting not only as a business, but as a refuge for those who need a place to gather and support one another. Isn't that what yarn shops are really for?

Estes Park Wool Market: Part 2

When there's a part 1 there has to be at least a part 2. So here is the part 2 of our Estes Park Wool Market trip.

In addition to the 2 ounces of buffalo/silk (pictured in part 1) I got 4 of these half ounce containers of cashmere (2 ounces total).

A new Russian Spindle now filling up with a half ounce of Paco Vicuña from Switzer-Land Farm.

A new plying spindle now loaded with the buffalo/silk and 60/2 silk thread ready for plying. I having a little trouble getting used to it since it's bigger and heavier.

It doesn't seem like much, but all that is a bit expensive. However, knowing that the small quantities of fiber I got will go REALLY far on a Russian spindle. I'll get about 250-400 yards (plying it with silk) out of half an ounce. I got the spindles and Cashmere from Galina Khmeleva at Skaska Designs. She is the one who taught me how to use a Russian Spindle.

I'd like to take a moment and talk a little about Russian spindles.

1. Try it before you buy it. You don't have to know how to use one, just set it spinning in a support cup and let it twirl in the cup of your finger. It should NOT wobble and it should go and go and go. If not, try another one. I don't recommend buying sight unseen on line because of this unless you can convince them to let you try it and send it back if it doesn't work.

2. If you end up with one that wobbles, you can use it as a plying spindle. That's what I have done with the first one I bought before I knew better. It works great for that although it's a little small when you double up what you've spun with the silk. However, if purchasing a plying spindle, put it through the same test that you do for the spinning spindles and get the best one you can find.

3. You do not have to ply with silk. However it is a great idea for several reasons. First, it's cheaper than plying with the same fiber. When you are paying $18-$50 per ounce you want to get as much out of your money as possible. Second, it adds strength and durability to your yarn. The softer, expensive fibers will wear out fast and the silk helps that not to happen as quickly. Third, silk adds a wonderful sheen to your yarn as well as softening the natural colors. Of course you can use dyed silk and I'm presently working on that idea.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Strawberries: Tunisian Crochet

A question about how to do a stitch combination was asked through the Buffalo Wool Co. on Facebook. It had 4 photos and the instructions were in in foreign language. So I thought I might help her out by figuring out how it was done and post instructions here.

This is the link that one of the commentors eventually provided for the original designer's page. This link is to the original instructions and the original source (that we know of). I like to give credit where it's due.

Tunisian Crochet Strawberries:

Supplies I used: 
• Lily Sugar N' Cream Red and Mod Green
• J  Tunisian Crochet Hook

Stitches Used:
• Tunisian Simple Stitch (TSS)
• Tunisian Knit Stitch (TKS)
• Tunisian Double Crochet Shell Stitch (TdcShell): Work 5 double crochet loops (dclp) in same stitch OR [Yarn over, insert hook into next stitch TKS style, yo and pull loop through, yo and pull loop through 2 loops on hook] 5 times in same stitch. This makes one TdcShell.

Pattern Information:
• The instructions are for forward rows only. All of the return rows are worked as normal.
• Changing the color is done at the end of the return rows in the last yo, pull through loop.
• The pattern is worked in a multiple of 4 stitchs + 3 and 4 row repeats.

Pattern Instructions: 
Loosely ch 27 using red.
Foundation Row: TSS 27.
Row 1: [TSS 3, TdcShell 1] 6 times, TSS 3. (There should be 51 loops on your hook.)
Change to green in last stitch on return.
Row 2: [TSS 3, TKS 5, yo and pull through 5 loops, ch 1] 6 times, TSS 3. (There should be 27 loops on your hook.)
Change to to red in last stitch on return.
Row 3: TSS 5, [TdcShell 1, TSS 3] 5 times, TSS 2. (There should be 47 loops on your hook.)
Change to green in last stitch on return.
Row 4: TSS 5, [TKS 5, yo and pull through 5 loops, ch 1, TSS 3] 5 times, TSS 2. (There should be 27 loops on your hook.)
Change to red in last stitch on return.

Continue repeating Rows 1-4 until you have your desired length.

****If you want plumper berries, use a Tunisian Treble Crochet Shell stitch in place of the Tunisian Double Crochet Shell stitch.****

Tunisian Treble Crochet Shell stitch (TtrShell): Work 5 treble crochet loops (trlp) in same stitch OR [Yarn over, insert hook into next stitch TKS style, yo and pull loop through, yo and pull loop through 2 loops on hook twice] 5 times in same stitch. This makes one TtrShell.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Estes Park Wool Market: Part 1

A friend reminded me that I need to get better at my blogging again. (Thanks Mary)

I was able to go to the Estes Park Wool Market a couple weekends ago (June 8-9) and thought I'd share a bit with you. For those not familiar with it, Estes Park is the town that is the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. RMNP is a pretty incredible place and gets a lot of out of visitors both from Colorado and out of state. So Estes Park is a tourist town with a lot of hotels and a lovely little  "downtown" to walk through and enjoy.

The city of Estes Park is the one that organizes the wool market and they hold it at the county fairgrounds there. It's mostly a livestock fair with a not-to-shabby vendor area. Needless to say, a lot of people go just for the vendors.

When I go I usually have particular things in mind that I want. If I didn't do that, I would be there all day and come away deeply in debt. This year I was focused on things that had to do with using my Russian Spindle and making gossamer weight yarns.

My very first stop was to visit Galina of Skaska Designs to pick up a couple more spindles and see what she had for fiber. She was really busy when I got there, but I managed to come away with the spindles and some cashmere.

I stopped at Buffalo Wool Co. to get some bison/silk.

After perusing the other vendors looking for silk (not much there at all this year) and chatting with a friend who was a vendor, we headed out to look at the animals in their barns.

 This rather ordinary looking goat produces cashmere.

 This one produces Mohair.

And these are Paco-Vicuñas. I did purchase some Paco-Vicuña to try out. 

Needless to say, I spend a lot of money on some beautiful fibers. The kind that are $25-$40 an ounce. Fortunately they go really far on a Russian spindle.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Post Vacation: Lace and Crochet Classes

I'm forcing myself to come down from the vacation high just a little bit. I've got things to get done.

I've been having a blast (still) with my Russian spindle.

I finished the yak/silk and have begun crocheting some lace out of it. It's WONDERFUL to work with and OH...SO...SOFT! For those who are curious, I'm using a B-1/2.25mm hook and this yarn is gossamer weight, about 40+ WPI (wraps per inch). That size of hook keeps the fabric from getting too tight and stiff and as the yarn is handled the yak fluffs up and fills in the gaps for a very warm garment. However, it doesn't start to mesh like mohair does, so it's easy to rip out if you discover a mistake you can't live with.

On my spindle I've been working with some bison/silk. It's nice too with a warmer cast to the gray. It's been as nice to spin as the yak/silk has been. I haven't decided yet what to do with it. Probably another lace shawl. I've decided that I need to visit my teacher, Galina, at the Estes Park Wool Market and purchase a couple more spinning spindles and at least one more plying spindle.

On a more serious note I'm doing some crochet classes at Table Rock Llamas. Their class schedule is here.

I'll be teaching:
• a 4 session (2 hours each) beginning crochet class in May
• one 2 hour class on How to Read a Crochet pattern in June
• and one 2 hour class on Tapestry Crochet in June.

So, if you're in the area and interested in any of those, be sure to sign up.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Grecian Crochet Via Santorini

Honey and I just got back from an incredible vacation on Santorini. This was the view from our room.

We went to celebrate Honey's 50th birthday and had an incredible time there. We thoroughly enjoyed the island, and in particular its residents. The Greeks are wonderful people.

One of the things we learned is that the residents of Santorini spend the winter making things to sell during the tourist season. It was wonderful to see so many products of Santorini (and other parts of Greece) available to purchase. I was amazed to see A LOT of crochet.

Here are a couple of photos I took of some silk crocheted edgings for shawls from Soufli.

I also saw a lot of beautiful crocheted jewelry. Some made of wire and others of silk thread.

Even some crochet in our bread basket at a restaurant.

In one of the shops selling locally grown and made items I talked with a woman about what I had seen. She said that crochet is very popular with Greek women and they especially like to do items with angels, flowers, and butterflies.

I had hoped to find some more information about Greek crochet when I got home, but I haven't had a lot of luck so far. However, I did run across this blog by a Greek woman where she has shared photos of some of her crocheted family heirlooms. I also finally found a site selling the Soufli shawls with more edgings to see.

It's all been very inspirational!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I'm Getting There: New Beginning?

I quit my job at the end of January thanks to a very understanding Honey and I spent the first 3 weeks just resting and putting myself back together. I was pretty fragmented. I spent the next next 3 weeks getting ready for 2 trips making new clothes that actually fit my tall, curvy body. NICE! We had a death in the family and so I'm very thankful that I had the time to spend helping my mom with funeral and memorial service stuff.

Here is the really exciting stuff though:

1. I took a Russian spindle class from Galina Khmeleva and I'm hooked. I'm also helping her with writing a pattern from a crocheted Orenburg shawl she has and wants to publish. It's been a lot of work AND a lot of fun. Right now I'm going through the first draft and correcting it and the most fun way to do that is to make one. So I'm using some Carmelina 30/2 Muga silk I got from Treenway Silks. It's going to be gorgeous when I'm done!
I have learned so much from Galina and this project. Russian spindles are used to make gossamer weight yarn from any fiber that works, not just cashmere.
I guess the traditional way to do it is to spin the cashmere (goat hair) and ply it with a 30/2 or 60/2 silk. The silk reduces the cost and increases the durability of the yarn. As Galina says, plying cashmere with cashmere is "like eating butter with butter." I bought some 50% Yak/50% Silk from her and plied it with Treenway's Myojo 60/2 Bombyx Silk. I have about enough yarn for a scarf, so I'll have to decide of my new lace patterns under development to use.

2. I've been doing monthly crochet help for anyone requesting it at Table Rock Llamas and now I've got 3 classes scheduled there for next quarter. Beginning Crochet, How to Read a Crochet Pattern, and Beginning Tapestry Crochet.

3. I've been designing, but have not had the time to focus on preparing the designs for publication. So I'm hoping I can get to that this summer and If I do, there will be a flurry of new patterns. Wish me luck!