Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sanctuary Scarf

My Sanctuary Scarf is now available as a download for $5.00. 
You can purchase it from Ravelry by clicking here:
 
You can also purchase it from Craftsy and Kollabora.


The rich, earthy colors of this scarf are perfect for a princess living in the woods waiting for her prince to appear. It's made as a continuous, möbius loop which gives you flexibility in warmth and also keeps it from getting lost. The chunky yarn means it works up fast and soft.

Yarn: Any bulky weight yarn, approximately 130 yards of the main color and 70 yards in each of two secondary colors. Model shown in Tahki Yarns Juno, 97% Alpaca, 3% Acrylic, (1.75oz/50g, 84 yds); colors: Lavender (008), Paprika (007), and Chestnut (009).
Supplies: Size K-10.5 (6.5mm) crochet hook and a yarn needle.
Finished Dimensions: Approximately 6.5" (16.5cm) wide and 50" (127cm) in circumference.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Learning to Crochet with Lace Weight Yarn: Part Four

This is the fourth part of my series on crocheting with lace weight yarn. The first part was about getting comfortable using smaller and smaller hooks, the second part was about managing your tension and gauge, and the third part was about the importance of developing a good rhythm and practicing tall stitches.

Start small. Don't start with a shawl, start with something smaller like an edging. Find a pattern with a simple repeat. When you've gained some comfort at that level, then you can start enlarging your projects.

Here's a simple edging you can start with. I used a lace weight alpaca and a B/1 2.25mm hook.

Row 1: Ch 4 (counts as dc), dc in 4th ch from hook, ch 4, sl st in same ch as dc, turn.
Row 2: Ch 6, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), dc 9 in ch-4 sp, dc 2, turn.
Row 3: Ch 3 (counts as dc), sk first st, dc 1, ch 4, sl st in base of dc just made, turn.
Row 4: Ch 6, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), dc 9 in ch-4 sp, dc 2, turn.
Continue by repeating Rows 3-4 until you have your desired length.

Now, try it with treble crochet:
Row 1: Ch 5 (counts as dc), tr in 4th ch from hook, ch 5, sl st in same ch as dc, turn.
Row 2: Ch 7, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), tr 12 in ch-5 sp, tr 2, turn.
Row 3: Ch 4 (counts as tr), sk first st, tr 1, ch 5, sl st in base of tr just made, turn.
Row 4: Ch 7, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), tr 12 in ch-5 sp, tr 2, turn.
Continue by repeating Rows 3-4 until you have your desired length.

Having finished your edging you may find that it is curling out of control and that can be alarming and even disappointing. But here's what you can do, and it's easy.

• Get some soap. My preference is Eucalan and you can get it at your local independent yarn shop or online. I like it because you only need a tiny bit and you don't need to rinse it out.

• Mix up a little in a bowl with tepid water. Put in your edging and get it thoroughly wet. They recommend soaking it for 15 minutes.

• When time is up, remove the edging and gently squeeze out excess water. A great way to do that without worry is to wrap it in a towel and squeeze. The water will be absorbed into the towel.
• Now lay out your edging on that towel, gently untwisting and straightening it, teasing out picots to a point. Then just let it lay there and dry. When it's fully dry you'll find that it lays flat and behaves nicely.

So, have some fun and try out crocheting with lace weight yarn. You might be surprised where it leads you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mountain Top Spats

My Mountain Top Spats are now available as a Ravelry download.
$4.00


You can wear these for all to see or discreetly tucked under your pant legs. Either way, they’ll keep your ankles toasty warm. The buttons down the side are both functional and a stylish design detail.

Yarn: Any light worsted yarn, approximately 260 yards. Model shown in Mountain Colors Twizzle, 85% Merino, 15% Silk, (100 gms/250 yards); color: Hummingbird, 2 skeins.
Supplies: Size F-5 (3.75mm) crochet hook, yarn needle, 16 buttons that are 1/2” (1.25cm) in diameter, sewing needle and matching thread.
Finished Dimensions: Approximately 8.5” (21.5cm) wide and 9.5” (24cm) long when unbuttoned and laid flat.

It's also available on 

Craftsy, Kollabora, and Patternfish.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Banana Leaf Shawl

My Banana Leaf Shawl is now available as a Ravelry download.
$6.00



Inspired by sun-dapples banana leaves, this shawl is a little bit of Aloha spirit to take home. Worked tip to tip in both Tunisian and regular crochet, it's just right for cool island breezes or an early fall walk on the mainland.


Yarn: Any fingering-weight yarn, approximately 800 yards. Model shown in Hanalei Strings Hand-dyed Bamboo Merino Fingering, 50% bamboo, 50% merino (100g/435yds), color Banana Patch, 2 skeins.
Supplies: Size F-5 (3.75mm) Tunisian crochet hook with an 11" cord and yarn needle.
Finished Dimensions: Approximately 12.75" (32.25cm) deep at center and 62.5" (158.75cm) wide across top edge.

It's also available on 

Craftsy, Kollabora, and Patternfish.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Learning to Crochet with Lace Weight Yarn: Part Three

This is the third part of my series on crocheting with lace weight yarn. The first part was about getting comfortable using smaller and smaller hooks and the second part was about managing your tension and gauge.

This post is about rhythm and tall stitches.

Developing a good working rhythm helps make more even stitches.
• Uneven stitches will ruin the look of a piece of lacework. Working to a rhythm can help make the stitches more even.
I always tell my students that developing a good working rhythm will help them make a better crocheted fabric. In order to do that you need to be able to work with few interruptions until you can establish your own natural rhythm. Working to music that is at the right pace for you might help. Counting a rhythm out loud can help, too.

You've probably got your single, half double, and double crochet stitches down pat. Now you need to start practicing your treble and double treble crochet stitches.
• In making lace you will find that being comfortable with these stitches will be critical. Designers will often use taller stitches in order to get lacier results.

This lace sample is worked in chains, single crochet, double crochet, double treble crochet, and double double treble crochet.

The taller the stitches the harder it is to keep them nice and even. They tend to get loopy and loose toward the top. This is where managing the tension on your yarn (part two) is really important. I've found that keeping the yarn that is wrapped around the hook as snug as possible really helps. 

In the top photo you can see the uniformity and compactness of the stitch, especially in the very top of the stitch. The bottom photo shows a less uniform stitch, especially in the loopyness at the top of the stitch.

I've found that the Knitter's Pride aluminum crochet hooks work well. In the smaller sizes the shaft is a little smaller than the head and this helps in keeping the stitches from getting too loopy.


See the hook in the middle? The silver one? That's the Knitter's Pride one. See how the shaft is a little narrower than the head. These are all size B/1 2.25mm. All three work, but I've found the middle one is far superior for doing those double trebles and double double trebles.

Stay tuned for part four and an edging pattern to get started with.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Learning to Crochet with Lace Weight Yarn: Part Two

This is the second part of my series on crocheting with lace weight yarn. Ultimately, the goal is to for you to be able to create those wonderful, gossamer creations for yourself. Since too many are easily intimidated, they never try.

The first part was about getting comfortable using smaller and smaller hooks. Here are the next steps.

Making lace requires the ability to manage your tension appropriately. This is where a lot of you get stuck since many of you are either all or mostly self taught.
• Lace weight yarn is a little harder to hang onto, so being able to figure out how to keep your yarn tension just right will help give you the right gauge.
• Lace doesn't require tight stitches when you use yarn rather than thread. But you don't want them too loose either.
• While your stitches don't need to be tight, you do want them to be regular. You want each stitch to look as much like the others as possible.


A lot of people struggle with tension, even with regular crochet projects, because they were never taught how to manage gauge with their hands. They only adjust it by changing the size of the hook. Here's what you can work on to help with that.

Look at how you hold your yarn while working. There is no correct way, only correct results. You should hold your yarn in a way that you are in total control of it and you can easily let the yarn slide through or stop it to create tension between your hand and the hook. If you're always too tight, you're going to have to figure out how to loosen up that yarn hand. Maybe fewer wraps, or just learning to relax and let it happen. If you're too loose, you need to learn how to lessen the slippage in your yarn hand. Maybe add a wrap of it around a finger.

Now take a look at how you use your hook. Yes, this is the other side of managing tension and your gauge. How much are you pulling on your working loop(s) to loosen them...or not pulling on them? With lace the key is to pull a little bit, just enough to let the hook through, but not so much to make a sloppy looking stitch.

Work on that for awhile and in my next post I'll talk about rhythm and tall stitches.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Learning to Crochet with Lace Weight Yarn: Part One

I know a lot of you out there get a look of terror in your eyes when someone suggests that you should try crocheting lace with lace weight yarn. It's this sort of mystical achievement that seems unattainable.

If you secretly wish you could make those splendid lace confections, keep reading. This is part one of a four part series of posts. I'm giving it to you in small bites so you don't get overwhelmed.

Making lace requires a small hook and this is where some of you get hung up.


• Making lace doesn't have to be done with crochet thread and a steel hook, although that's the most well known because of the doilies your great-grandma made. It can be a B, C, or even a D hook, and that's not so bad.
Lace weight yarn handles more like yarn than crochet thread. An exception is the gossamer weight mohair/silk blends that sing a siren's song to you from the shelf in your yarn shop. Avoid those for now.

So, ask yourself "what is the smallest hook I've ever used on a crochet project?" If it's an E, find some yarn that will work with a D hook and try it out. If you're fine, keep going down in size of hook and yarn until it starts getting a little difficult. That's where you need to stop and practice. Work on that size until it's comfortable then begin sizing yourself down again.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Treasure Bags

My Treasure Bags are now available as a Ravelry download.
$4.00


These little bags are quick to make and perfect for using up the left-over nuggets in your yarn stash. They can be used to hold small treasures you keep or give away.

Yarn: Any worsted-weight yarn, approximately 40 yards of each in 2 contrasting colors for each bag. Models shows in Knit One Crochet Too Camelino, 90% merino, 10% Camel (50g/109yds), colors Pine and Rust.
Supplies: Size G-6 (4mm) crochet hook, yarn needle, and locking stitch marker.
Finished Dimensions: Approximately 3-4" (7.5-10cm) wide and 4-6" (10-15.5cm) tall depending on your yarn.

It's also available on 

Craftsy, Kollabora, and Patternfish.



Midwinter Blues Cowl

My Midwinter Blues Cowl is now available as a Ravelry download.
$4.00

When you start feeling as low as the temperatures, make this cowl to boost your morale. It will keep you cozy warm, and the cable texture will make sure you look good, too.

Yarn: Any worsted-weight yarn, approximately 200 yards. Model show in Plymouth Yarn Monte Donegal Hand Dyed, 40% Alpaca, 40% Merino, 14% Acrylic, 6% Rayon, (50gms/~109 yds); color: Aqua, 2 skeins.
Supplies: Size I-9 (5.5mm) crochet hook, yarn needle, locking stitch marker, and 3-4 buttons, 3/4" diameter.
Finished Dimensions: Approximately 6" (15.25cm) wide and 22" (55.75cm) long.

It's also available on 

Craftsy, Kollabora, and Patternfish.



Winding a Center-Pull Ball

Having a yarn winder is handy when you purchase yarn that comes in hanks. However, not everyone has one. Often you can have it done at the yarn shop, but you can do it yourself if needed too. Here's how.

**Throughout this process it is important not to wind the yarn tightly. Keep it light and loose. This is better for the yarn in the long run and makes the center-pull aspect work better.**

1. Tension your hank around something like someone's hands or a couple of chairs. You can also lay it flat on a table or your lap, but that's asking for tangles. Believe me!

2. Take one end and hold it in your left hand (or right if you're a lefty). You'll want to leave a long tail hanging down past your palm. This is your center, so don't lose it. If you have trouble keeping track of it, tuck it into your watch band or under a rubber band around your wrist.


3. Begin by winding the yarn loosely around 2 or 3 of your fingers.


4. When you've got a nice bunch on your fingers, slide it off and flatten the loop between your fingers. Some YouTube videos show that you should fold over this part before moving on, but I find this makes it more difficult to wind the next part. So I just leave it flat. If it sticks out, who cares. It just needs to work.


5. Still keeping the beginning end towards your palm, begin winding the yarn around the compressed loops. Remember, don't wind tightly. When you have a nice bump you're ready for the next step.


6. Tilt the yarn ball a bit and start winding the yarn on at a bit of an angle. Keep the beginning end down by your palm.


7. When you've got a nice bump rotate the ball slightly and wind on at an angle in a new spot keeping the beginning end of the yarn down by your palm. Continue rotating slightly and winding on at an angle. This doesn't have to look like it was done with a ball winder so don't worry about rotating it every time you wind on. Just keep making bumps of yarn.




8. As you wind the ball will grow bigger and bigger. Throughout your winding be sure that you keep the beginning end down by your palm.


9. When you're near the end of your yarn, wind it around the middle of the ball and tuck the end underneath it. See how the beginning end of the yarn is still hanging down from the bottom of my ball?


10. Here's a view of the bottom with the beginning end hanging out. That center bump is the yarn that I wound around my fingers. As you begin pulling on the yarn end, that bump is what you will use first. If you wind the yarn around it too tightly you'll have trouble getting it to feed out as you use it.

I hope this is helpful. It's not a video, but sometimes still photos are helpful since you don't have to rewind.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dyeing for Crochet: An Adventure in Food Coloring

My crochet group came to my house at our last meeting and we learned to dye yarn using food coloring. Yes...food coloring. We had soooooo much fun! In some of the pictures you can see Kool-Aid packets. Those are great to dye with also.

We used Wilton Gel Food Coloring to do it and here's what you'll need if you want to try it yourself:

• Wilton Gel Food Coloring
Wilton Mini Decorating Squeeze Bottles
• Yarn that was 100% animal fiber. No synthetics or plant fibers since they don't work. Animal fiber includes wool, alpaca, silk...you name it. If it was made by a creature, it counts.
• Cream of Tarter (white vinegar works too)
• Measuring spoons
• Glass bowls that fit in the microwave, or plastic wrap
• Some way of winding your yarn into a hank. A niddy noddy, a yarn winder, or something that will work of your own choosing.
• A microwave or steamer.
• Someplace to hang up your yarn to dry when you're done
• Toothpicks or craft sticks (small tongue depressers)
• Scrap acrylic yarn.
• Bucket

Winding yarn on a yarn winder.
First, we wound the yarn into hanks. We used a niddy noddy and yarn winders but you could do it by winding around your arm from hand to elbow or between a couple of chairs. We tied it very loosely with a figure 8 in a minimum of 2 places using some scrap acrylic yarn.

Second, we put the hanks of yarn into buckets of water to soak for 20 minutes while we mixed up our colors.

Beginning to mix up our colors.
Third, we mixed our colors.
• Using some Wilton Mini Decorating squeeze bottles we put about 1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tarter (for acidity) and some of the gel food coloring in (using the toothpicks or craft sticks). Don't worry about putting too much Cream of Tarter in since you need the acidity to make the dye colorfast. You want your dye liquid fully saturated with it. Next, put in the food coloring. The darker you want your color the more you want to put in. We tested our colors on a sheet of paper towel before using it on the yarn.
• We filled the prepped squeeze bottles with water and shook them up really well to make sure the Cream of Tarter and food coloring were fully mixed into the water.

Fourth, we took our hanks out of the water and gently squeezed out the water being careful not to accidentally start the felting process. That's something to be careful of throughout the dyeing process.

Fifth, we applied our color and heated the yarn to set the color. There are a couple of options for doing this step.

• You can put the part of the yarn you want to color in a glass bowl that will fit in your microwave. Squeeze on color and mush it in with your gloved fingers until the yarn has no or few white areas. Heat it in the microwave for a couple of minutes then move to the next part of your yarn to color another area with another color. Repeat the color and microwaving until all your yarn looks about how you want it

Microwaving the yarn to set the color.
OR

• Cut a piece of cling wrap that is about 10 inches longer than your hank of yarn. Lay it flat on the table and center the damp hank of yarn on it. Apply the colors you've mixed up where you want them. Fold the ends of the cling wrap over the ends of the hank then fold in one side and roll the hank up in the cling wrap. Next, roll the whole thing up in a spiral. At this point you can put it to heat in the microwave. I have never had problems with the cling wrap melting, but heat it a minute at a time (2.5 minutes total) and check on it to make sure everything is okay every minute. If you don't want to use the microwave you can put it in a steamer and steam it for 30 minutes. Make sure the yarn package is suspended and won't melt to the side of the steamer.

Using plastic wrap allows you to color all of it at once.
Sixth, remove your yarn from the heat and let it cool down completely. When it's quite cool, rinse in cool water until any excess dye is completely rinsed out. Carefully squeeze out the excess water and hang it up to dry.

The finished product.

These are the 3 that I did. The one on the left is a light gray Alpaca yarn. The other two are white Merino.

I would encourage you to have fun with it! Why fuss about not being able to find the color yarn you want when you can make your own?

If you want to try dyeing with Kool-Aid just use half a packet of regular Kool-Aid in one squeeze bottle. Use it just as you would the food coloring with these exceptions. Do NOT add sugar, don't use sugar free Kool-Aid, and you don't need to add Cream of Tarter or Vinegar because Kool-Aid already has citric acid in it.

Estes Park Wool Market 2014

Most years I make a trip to the Estes Park Wool Market. It's always in June and it's always worth it.

I didn't take a lot of photos this year because I was so busy buying. I mean it. My hands got full very quickly. I took two bags for carrying stuff and they were both full when I was done.

I was impressed by the new building. It seems a little bigger than the old one. Or maybe it was the nice new layout of the booths that made it seem bigger. The quality of the vendors was really high too. 

Here's the haul:

I didn't get much yarn. That doesn't mean that they didn't have any, it just means I like to spin my own. 
•There is one hank of green in there. It's from Daybreak Dyeworks and it was a gift for my neighbor. She likes green and was taking care of my cat, Calypso, while we were gone. The colorway was done specifically for the wool market and was a limited edition.
• There are 2 hanks of white from Skaska Designs. That's silk for plying what I spin on my Russian spindles.
• The red braided fiber is Bluefaced Leicester from Daybreak Dyeworks in her Dance Fever colorway.
• The hot pink and blue fiber on the right is superfine Merino from The 100th Sheep.
• The silver gray fiber is Angora rabbit from Midnight MoonSong.
• The brown fiber in the gift containers is Paco Vicuña from Jefferson Farms Natural Fibers. I'm spinning that on one of the new Russian spindles I got.
• 3 new Russian spindles from Skaska Designs. 2 are for spinning and 1 is for plying.
• The brown bag far left is full of Bison down from The Buffalo Wool Company.
• The ball of purple yarn is Yarn Place Graceful Lace Yarn in their Dusty Autumn colorway from Skaska Designs. It is fine enough for my Spring Hope Shawl pattern being published in the Spin-Off Fall 2014 issue.
• Last, but not least is the 2 braided, multi-colored rovings from Dicentra Designs. They're Bluefaced Leicester and Tussah Silk in their Road of Trials colorway.

That should keep my wheel and spindles busy for awhile.

Honey mentioned to me earlier in the year that he wanted to stay at another Grand Lodge. They're the old, grand accommodations built when the national parks first started attracting a lot of visitors. So, we splurged and stayed at the Stanley Hotel.


It's quite grand and is famous because it's the place that inspired Stephen King to write "The Shining." They give tours that focus on the hauntings and book trivia, although we didn't do that. And we weren't haunted in our very nice room either.

We visited Rocky Mountain National Park the next day, although we didn't have to go into the park to see the elk. This guy was hanging out by our hotel parking lot.


The days were overcast but we still enjoyed the RMNP scenery.


Who can resist a view like that?

Good Tunisian Hooks

I don't like it when my tools don't work the way I need them too. I don't like it when they aren't attractive either. Needless to say, I've been "making do" with my few Tunisian hooks.

• One I inherited from my mom. It's from the 70s when they called it Afghan crochet. It's short and metal and good for simple, small projects. The button on the end should be bigger though.
• Another 2 Boyes that I got from Hobby Lobby when Tunisian started gaining interest again. They're metal tubes that are extra long. They work but they're heavy and don't fit in a bag very well. I'm used to shorter for my project bags.
• A Bates with a cable was special ordered through my LYS last year sight unseen. It's okay, but not interchangeable.
• Then there are the 2 Denise Interchangeables that I got at another LYS last year when I needed a certain size quickly. They're plastic, they work, but I HATE them. The plastic is TOO flexible and "sticky," the hook part is too short, and it has a useless grip dent.

So, when I expressed my frustration to my fellow crocheter one of them gave me the answer.

I present to you Knitter's Pride Symfonie Dreamz Tunisian Crochet Set. These hooks are wonderful.


• They are wooden. Love that!
• The hook part is long enough to grip and not too short like so many Tunisian hooks that have cords.
• The set comes in a range of sizes from E to L. Nice! I like doing Tunisian in a wide range of yarn weights. Not just worsted.
• The transition from the hook to the cord is smooth. No hangups.
• The cords come in different lengths so I can switch to whatever I need. The set comes with 3 lengths to choose from.
• There's no useless grip dent to confuse me.
• They come in a clear plastic organizer sleeve. An individual pocket for each hook and a pocket behind them for the cords and buttons.
• One of my local yarn shops had just gotten them in and so I had instant gratification!
• And last but not least, they're pretty. I know, color doesn't affect function; however, it does make me enjoy using them more.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Classes

I've got new classes listed under "Class Information" in the right hand column.

Please contact me if you're interested in any one on one instruction. Even if it's not listed.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

News Flash! Pattern in Spin-Off

News Flash!

I'm going to have my Spring Hope Shawl pattern published in the fall 2014 issue of Spin-Off magazine. So start watching for it in September and get your copy.

All I can tell you right now is that it is a lace shawl pattern using some of my handspun gossamer weight lace spun on a Russian spindle.

For those who aren't spinners or don't know how to use a Russian spindle, don't despair. When the fall issue hits the news stands, I'll let you know what commercially spun yarn you can use to make the pattern. I don't want to leave any of you out.

This news flash is a little delayed due to the fact that, in getting the pattern and copy to Interweave I was rather busy and am just now finding time to blog about it.

If you want more, up to the minute information, you can follow Unyunga on Facebook.

Great Western Alpaca Show and Denver Fiber Fiesta

This post is a little late, but better late than never...right? Life has been busy.

At the beginning of May I went to the Great Western Alpaca Show and the Denver Fiber Fiesta. It was easy to do both since they were held in the same location, the National Western Complex.

I started out at the Denver Fiber Fiesta. When I entered the building it was up the stairs in a big wide open space. There were a lot of vendors and I had fun looking around. Not many people were visiting right then, so I was free to look without jostling or competition.

Denver Fiber Fiesta
The vendors had some really nice things to offer. Fiber, yarn, and finished goods such as garments, rugs, felt, accessories, and other related items. They had a handspun contest that I didn't get to look at since it was being judged when I was there.

I bought some Merino from this vendor, Daybreak Dyeworks.
I came away with some nice merino and alpaca fiber for spinning.

 
Here's the superfine merino from Daybreak Dyeworks all spun up. It's her ¡Fiesta! colorway. She's going to be at the Estes Park Wool Market next weekend, so I'll look for her there and get some more fiber from her.


Next I went to find my friend, Mary, of Autumn Sun Alpacas in the barn. I had fun looking at all the animals as I walked the aisles.


I had to wonder how well this guy could see through the fluff around his face.
I eventually located Mary and we had a great chat.




After that we both ended up sitting together to watch the judging of some alpaca classes, one of which her husband was showing in with one of their animals.




It was good to spend some time with her since we hadn't seen each other in months. It was nice to do some catching up.

My one complaint about the day was a serious lack of information available and a lot of miss-information.

The Denver Fiber Fiesta site hadn't been updated for the show from the pre-show information. That was a little frustrating, but I managed in spite of it.

The National Western Complex was another matter. Due to lack of good signage and traffic I ended up parking in a paid parking lot on the complete opposite side of the complex. If I had managed to see the one sign that was poorly placed as I came in I could have parked for free near my destination. When I figured out the general direction I needed to walk, I literally walked in a big circle. Their signs were placed so that I walked about 3 times as far as needed to get to the door I needed to get to where I was going. After talking with vendors at the Fiber Fiesta and my friend, I found out that they had experienced similar frustrations that morning since the parking locations for both vendors and visitors had been changed that morning. I would say that the National Western Complex is not managed with good customer service in mind.

That said, I'm glad I went.