Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Moving to Wordpress:

I just wanted to let you know that I've moved my blog over to

From now on all new posts will appear there. All the previous content from this blog has been moved over, so you'll still be able to go back and find some of your favorites.

I'll also be learning to use some of the capabilities of Wordpress to add some things that you will hopefully find helpful. Patience though. It's a work in progress and I'm still learning the new stuff.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Liberté Slouch Hat

My Liberté Slouch Hat 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.

Front View

Back View

Is it time for a little revolution in your life? This simple slouch hat is a little quirky with easy picots along the edge and seam for texture and three leaves to act as a tassel on the top. The use of sock yarn keeps it from being bulky while adding some spring to the fit.

Yarn: Any fingering yarn, approximately 365 [395] yards. Model shown in Malabrigo Sock, 100% Superwash Merino (3.5oz, 440yds); colorway: Archangel (850).
Supplies: Size G-6 (4mm) crochet hook, Yarn needle
Finished Dimensions: Sizes Small/Medium [Large/XLarge] approx. 19" [22"]/48.25cm [55.8cm] in circumference and 13.5" [14.5"]/34.3cm [36.8cm] long excluding the tassel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Crochet4Life In Uganda: Making a Difference in the Lives of Women

Having grown up in Africa I have always held the people close to my heart. Africa is full of incredibly creative people. When they are given the power and resources to do good it's amazing what can happen.

Allen Nansubuga, one of the founders of Crochet4Life Women's Group in Uganda, is one of those making a difference. She saw a need in her community and she decided to do something about it. Before I go on, let me tell you how you can help if you choose to. You can make a donation of any amount to on PayPal. Believe me when I say even $5 will make a significant difference. 

In colonial times the British established a cotton growing and export industry in East Africa that made them millions of pounds a year. The country of Uganda is reviving that industry in an endeavor to provide cotton for industry in East Africa.

Allen saw that some of that cotton could be hand spun and crocheted or woven into products to be sold locally. So she set about getting the resources she needed to begin teaching local women the skills needed to do that.

Crochet4Life Women's Group Uganda was begun in 2009 by Allen Nansubuga and Christine Namutebi. They saw that many of the women in their community were unable to earn income because they were illiterate and lacked skills. As a result, many of the women were totally dependent on whether their husbands brought home money for food. If they didn't, the women and their kids went hungry. Allen and Christine were convinced that many of them could learn to crochet and become empowered to live meaningful lives and become agents of change in their communities.

Crochet4Life has worked to enable a moms to produce handmade crochet items, particularly baby clothes and mom accessories, for income to buy food and pay school fees for their children. Mothers and grandmothers started to join for all sorts of reasons. One wanted to save up for a pig, another wanted to save for seeds for a garden she shared with her mother, and a third wanted to pay for a weekly milk supply from her neighbor's cow.

Since 2009 the group has known a lot of ups and downs. Materials were always short, the locally available yarn was of low quality, and some women had to move away. It took time to achieve good quality and keep the crochet clean, as the women's homes have no furniture and they have to sit on dirt floors while they crochet. However, gradually the women became familiar with spinning and crochet. The fact that they were producing things they could use and sell has helped them gain self-confidence. 

Recently, Crochet4Life has shifted from making only baby products to those that can bring in more income such as hairbands, crochet sandals, and woven cotton scarves. The sandals have proven to be a product that sells well.

The women who have learned to spin cotton use rigid heddle looms to weave scarves that they can sell. They've also been trained to crochet the sandals and are paid per piece.

Next steps:
• Increased production of handspun cotton, weaving, and crocheted sandals.
• Increase the number of local sales outlets for their products.
• Continual development of new designs and ideas for existing and future products.

Challenges you can help with:
• They need to rent a home for Crochet4Life since they lost the space where they were meeting in 2013. Currently, everyone is working from home with one person coordinating everyone. They really need to setup a studio where they can put their equipment, meet and work together (crochet, dye , spin weave, train/capacity build, etc), as well as display their products for sale.
• In order to boost production to meet demand they need money to be able to purchase the sandals they decorate with crochet.
• They need someone to help them learn how to dye their cotton hand spun yarns with materials and resources readily available in Uganda.

If you want to invest and help them grow enough to become sustainable in their local marketplace, you can give to on PayPal.

Like and follow Crochet4Life Uganda on Facebook to help spread their story and keep up with the latest developments. If you have skills and knowledge to share with them, you can PM them there or email at the above address.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Chameleon Cowl

My Chameleon Cowl 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.

Like a chameleon, this cowl changes its look depending on the colors you choose. The interlocking stitches make a unique  texture and leave fewer holes for warmth to escape. Wear it draped or fold the extra and secure it with a pin for extra warmth and drama.

Yarn: Any fingering yarn, approximately 520 yards (see Yarn Notes). Model shown in Dragon Faery Dyeworks Gradient Yarn Kit, 80% Merino, 20% Nylon (6 hanks, 90 yds each, 520 yards/pkg); colorway: Outlander.
Supplies: Size G-6 (4mm) crochet hook, Yarn needle, 2 Locking stitch markers
Finished Dimensions: Approximately 27” (68.5cm) in circumference and 10” (25.5cm) tall.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Things Designers Do To Sabotage Your Project

We don't do it on purpose, but designers sometimes sabotage the people trying to make our patterns.

Designing for publication isn't as easy as it might seem. After the initial spurt of inspiration and excitement about a new idea, comes many hours of hard work. I'm going to give you the process from the designer's point of view and indicate where the unintended sabotage can happen.

1. As we create a new design we need to make notes about how we did it so that we can do it again.
We designers often write out our notes in a shorthand that makes sense to just us. It's very abbreviated, often jumping over the hard parts to figure out how to write it down later.

2. Then....we have to rewrite that pattern in a way that follows some sort of standards that someone other than ourselves can figure out.
Sometimes a pattern is fairly straightforward, but often there's some special way that something is done in order to get a unique result. That is a place where we can easily get hung up and fail you.

3. We have to decide what the difficulty rating is. Just because it's easy for us doesn't mean it's an easy pattern for the general public.
Everyone has their own ideas about what makes a pattern more or less difficult. What stitches were used, any special way those stitches were used, and what yarn is the pattern sample worked in. So even if the designer is only using basic crochet stitches, how they use those stitches can take it from beginner, to easy, or even intermediate in a heartbeat. But sometimes, once you know the trick, the pattern goes back to being easy.

4. We have to make sure to include all the details that help the maker do it right. The yarn details, what hook was used, if it needs other things like buttons and stitch markers, what size the finished project should be, and the gauge.
This is where the sabotage seems to happen a lot.
Example 1- Assuming everyone will get the same results with the same size hook: I had found a delightful pattern for a baby cap. I don't have any children and don't see newborns very often, so when I realized the designer hadn't included dimensions or a gauge I was dismayed. I had no idea how to make sure the finished hat was the right size. She listed the hook and yarn size, but I couldn't be sure that it would come out right since the thickness of worsted can be varied, I didn't know what specific yarn she used, and my gauge might have been tighter or looser than hers. Because she failed to give me the most basic information I needed to successfully make her pattern, I couldn't even attempt it.
Example 2 - Mixing up gauge with dimensions: I recently helped a friend figure out a shawl pattern that she wanted to work on. This designer had rated it as being at her level of experience but had not offered a gauge or dimensions for the finished project. The dimensions were embedded in the pattern to be figured out as she went. I spent a lot of time helping my friend to figure out the gauge from the pattern dimensions embedded in the pattern so that she could find out if the yarn she had would work. Even then we had to keep checking along the way, not completely certain that we had it right.

5. Once we've written up the pattern in a way that is readable, we have to photograph the sample...
The pattern photograph(s) has(have) at least two purposes. One is to show people what the pattern makes. The second is to help the maker get a sense that they're doing it right. A pattern is type of puzzle and it helps to have a photograph to reference.

Photographing the sample for a pattern takes some training, experience, planning, and time. Whatever we do, it needs to make it clear to the viewer what it is and what is special about it. If it's something to be worn it is beneficial to have it on a body, whether it's a person or a manikin. The lighting has to be just right to show off the whole thing as well as any special stitches or textures. In addition, the photograph has to be in focus, have an appealing composition, and a background that complements and doesn't distract. Needless to say, getting a good photograph can be quite difficult.

6. ...and then choose a way to get it proofed for errors.
As our writing teachers told us, always proof your work. And that often means having someone else go over it who has never seen it before. We get so familiar with what we've written that we can no longer see our errors. The same is true of a crochet pattern and this is where a lot more of the sabotage can happen.

The two most common ways of checking the pattern for errors are tech editors and testers. Tech editors check your math, the way a pattern is written, errors in spelling and grammar, as well as making suggestions as to how parts might be worded more clearly. Testers are people who actually make the pattern and give the designer feedback on things that don't make sense, they had to fix, or need to be worded better. Both are good ways of proofing a pattern as long as they are quality people who are good at what they do.

That said, no one is perfect and errors can still be missed. Sadly, some people either skip this step or don't use someone who knows what they're doing.

7. Sometimes diagrams or charts are needed.
These are the additional bits that help to complete the written pattern. They can include diagrams of the object with dimensions, visuals to show assembly, graphs for color work, symbol diagrams showing the stitches, and anything else that needs explaining with a visual.

These can require special skills, special tools, and just as much time as writing the pattern. If they're done well, they're a great resource for the maker; however, if not, they can actually confuse things.

8. Finally it all gets laid out on paper and published.
This is another area that can require special skills, instincts, and even special tools. It's not a requirement to have an attractive layout (although nice), but it is important that the layout makes the pattern easy to read. I'd say that the only sabotage I've encountered here is readability or having trouble finding what I need. As with anything, breaking things up a bit and putting in a good amount of white space for the eye to rest is always a good thing.

If you encounter a pattern with problems I hope you will consider sending the designer a KIND note letting them know what you experienced. I know I like to hear about things that don't make sense or are incorrect because I want your crochet experience to be a good one.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Using Stitch Markers to Keep Track of Your Row End/Turning Chain

I often have a newer crocheter come to me in frustration and self-recrimination because their work is getting wider or narrower and they don't know why. It's usually because they're having trouble keeping track of that elusive turning chain at the beginning of the row and/or forgetting to skip the first stitch when the turning chain counts as a stitch.

First, I always tell them to stop beating themselves up. Everyone has this problem when they're first learning to crochet. Second, I let them in on a secret. Even experienced crocheters have trouble keeping track of the ends of the row. Especially when the yarn has color or physical texture that makes it hard to see your stitches. Third, I give them the tip I'm going to give you.

1. Buy or find a pair of locking stitch markers. If not locking ones, at least ones that are easy to get on and off and will stay in place, not falling out before you need them to. Like the spiral kind. They're not expensive and well worth adding to your tool stash.

Spiral stitch marker is on the left and the locking stitch marker is on the right.
2. When you work your turning chain for the next row, place your stitch marker in the last chain worked. When you work the last stitch in the row, put a stitch marker in the top of it, too.

The stitch marker it in the top stitch of the turning chain on the right and in that top of the last stitch of the row.
3. When you start the next row, the first stitch marker you encounter will tell you which stitch to skip and you can move it up to the last stitch in the turning chain.

You can see where the first stitch marker showed me to skip the first stitch (ideally you would move it to the top of the turning chain) and I'm about to work the final stitch where the stitch marker is placed in the top of the turning chain.
4. When you get to the end of the row, the stitch marker will not only show you where your turning chain is, it will show you exactly where to place the final stitch in the row. When you've worked that last stitch you can move the stitch marker up to the top of it.

My stitch markers have been moved up to the last row worked.
It's a bit fiddly but if it helps you achieve your goals of having a perfect edge, why not?