Saturday, February 1, 2014

WIPs and UFOs...Oh My!

Come on know you've got them. They're hiding in drawers, lurking in the back of a closet or stuck in a pile of other UFOs waiting to become FOs. Maybe they achieved their current WIP state because they were taking too long to finish. Or, perhaps, you had a mild case of Shiny Things Syndrome and found something else to work on.

Works in Progress (WIPs) and UnFinished Objects (UFOs) are par for the course for those who crochet regularly. Personally, I don't like loose ends...literally or I try to finish what I start. "Try" is the key word here.

Last week, I was searching through my yarn supply because I couldn't find the exact color I wanted. You know how that goes. But that's another blog post entirely..

In any case, I looked through my yarn stash, which is divided into several bags. Then, because I still hadn't found the color I was looking for, I started searching through drawers and cabinets. You never know where an errant skein of yarn might be found! Glory be! Guess what I found, left in a drawer in the Spring of 2013 and forgotten completely.

 First (But Unintentional) WIP

Forgotten color block afghan
 Second (Also Unintentional) WIP

Cream, gray and blue granny squares
Third (Intentional) WIP

Beginnings of a Christmas afghan for one of my kids...but in January?!
 And the first two projects -- poor forgotten crochet squares -- were found in a Walmart plastic bag in this drawer. Shame on me! 

WIP hiding place
 The first WIP is a color block lap afghan made with super-soft 3-ply yarn I bought here in Germany. I WILL finish it because it's the perfect weight for springtime and will look nice draped over the arm of our black leather sofa. 

The second WIP -- the cream, turquoise and gray granny squares -- I honestly have no idea what to do with them. I don't have enough of the blue and gray colors to make enough squares for an afghan or even a scarf. Maybe you have some ideas. Perhaps I'll have to use them as an excuse to BUY MORE YARN while I'm in the States!!!

Tell me about your WIPs and UFOs. Come on, I know you've got some lying about, waiting to be finished!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Crochet Baby Cocoons & Matching Hats -- The New Way to Swaddle

Next week I'll be traveling back home to the Chicago area to spend time with my family (two babies should be making their arrivals next week) and to attend a training with the company where I work as a tour director during the summer and fall. All the cold weather I've been hearing about makes me wish I had an adult-sized crochet cocoon to keep myself warm for the next several weeks. But I can only imagine how long that would take to make!

While the Midwest has had an Arctic-like winter, we've had a really mild winter here in the Dusseldorf area. In fact, it's been so mild that nature seems to think it's almost spring. Today as I walked down to the recycling bins a couple blocks from our house, I saw these signs of spring:

A gorgeous, flowering tree with tiny, pink buds.

Forsythia bushes in bloom by the neighbor's house.

And tiny buds forming on the magnolia tree in our front yard.

I was going to post a picture of what the weather's been like in Chicago lately, but I decided I'd rather focus on spring-like weather while I have the chance.

Anyway, when I saw my daughters, S and R, this past Christmas, I gave them each a crochet baby cocoon with a matching hat for their babies who are now due any minute. I'd also made one for a friend last year, and everyone really liked them. The positive comments prompted me to do yet another thing I've wanted to do but have been too busy...publish my first crochet pattern!! May it be the first of many! Here are pictures of the baby cocoons made with my pattern.

Crochet Baby Cocoon with Redheart Pink Camo

Heather gray yarn with off-white and baby blue trim.

My baby cocoon and matching hat pattern is available on Amazon. They're popular for photography props, but I think they're great for swaddling. In fact, every baby in the Midwest should have a crochet cocoon and matching hat this winter!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

An Heirloom Crochet Christmas Afghan

Now that my kids are grown up and having children of their own, I like the idea of having special things to leave behind. Mind you, I'm not a person who likes to accumulate a lot of "things". In fact, I've found downsizing my stuff to be very liberating. I think my biggest opportunity to be free of stuff was when I moved from the Chicago area to Germany with my whole life packed into two suitcases!

But back to leaving special things behind.... When it comes to crochet, I tend to gravitate toward projects I can finish within in a few day, if possible. How about you? I've undertaken some larger crochet projects, but always felt like I'd run a marathon by the time I crocheted the last stitch and tucked in the yarn tail. You tired of the project, repeating the same patterns and using the same colors that you practically have to pull yourself across the finish line?

Back in November, I stumbled upon this crochet square design and instantly fell in love!

Willow Squares for a Scarf

I searched and searched until I learned that it's Jan Eaton's "Willow" Square, from her book, 200 Crochet Blocks.... What I love about the willow square is that it looks so lacy and intricate, but it's really not that hard to crochet. If you know the basic crochet stitches, you can make the willow square. The squares above were used to make a scarf for my daughter, R., for Christmas.

Because I loved the willow square so much, I decided to make a Christmas afghan with it...something special that we could pull out every year to add to the magical atmosphere of Christmas, and stay cozy and warm under it on chilly winter nights. My wish was to crochet an heirloom blanket of sorts that would last for many, many years.

I chose to use Redheart's "With Love" yarn in Red Berry, Lettuce and Aran. You can also see these colors in the baby headbands I crocheted since I used my Christmas afghan leftovers to make them.

Redheart yarn -- Aran, Red Berry and Lettuce

Between early November and the first week of January, I crocheted myself...well...crazy! A few times I took a quick break for other projects, but on the average I crocheted two squares per day. Some 42 willow squares and a granny stripe border later, I had this gem draped over the arm of the couch.

My finished "Willow" Square Christmas Afghan

Yay!! I was so excited to finish it! The afghan is soft, warm and snuggly. And, as an added bonus, my boyfriend M. (who doesn't like blankets unless he's sleeping) has snuggled under the blanket with me twice on chilly nights as we watched movies. It doesn't get much better than that. :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What's Cuter on a Baby Girl (and Quicker to Make) than a Crochet Headband?!

Hello Everyone! In yesterday's blog post about Chunky-Stitch Infinity Scarves, I mentioned that I needed to blog about some of the baby crochet projects I've been making. These last few months, my nimble fingers have been working away making a crib-sized ripple afghan, two crochet baby cocoons with matching hats, more hats and eight baby headbands.

You see, we have not one...but TWO babies on the way in our family! My oldest daughter, S, was due with her baby girl yesterday, January 28th. She was pretty much finished with being pregnant a few weeks ago, and I know she was highly disappointed to have her baby's due date come and go. But you know how babies are; they come when they are good and ready. My younger daughter, R, is due with her little girl on February 7th. Like her older sister, R is also ready to bring her baby into the world.

Of all the baby crochet projects I've tackled (and will tackle in the months to come), making baby headbands was certainly the easiest. Talk about instant gratification! I made eight altogether, four for each baby. I worked at them each night for three evenings and was done. Each of the girls received an identical set, with minor differences in the embellishments.

Each headband is crocheted with rows consisting of four to eight double-crochets. To give the headbands more stretchiness and a ribbed look, I double-crocheted into the back loops only. The circumference of the finished headbands is around 12 to 13 inches, and the pom-pom and lavender bow headbands each have a button hole and two buttons so they can grow along with the baby's head. Since both babies are arriving around Valentine's Day, I crocheted this red headband to finish off each set.

Tips:  For these headbands, I used Redheart's "With Love" yarn because it's super-soft and has just the right thickness. Chain four or more to get the ideal width for your baby headband. As you form your rows of double-crochets, make sure to crochet into that little hump-like loop on the side at the end of each row so your edges are straight. Somehow it's easy to miss these, and then you get crooked edges. I always count my stitches to make sure my rows are even. To achieve the ribbed look -- instead of double-crocheting into the two loops of each stitch -- DC only into the single back loop, which is the loop farthest away from you.

I'm also busy making a surprise crochet gift for S's baby, but I can't say anything about it until I give it to her next week or so. Here's a hint for you: Everything's coming up daisies! The big reveal will be sometime next week.

In the meantime, I've got to figure out what project to blog about next...hats, my giant granny square blanket, my Christmas afghan or one of the other projects I've done or am doing. And then there's the thought of yarn shopping...something I'll be doing lots of while visiting my family in the states! I'm salivating just thinking about all the possibilities.

I'd love to hear about what you're crocheting these days! Who knows; maybe we can inspire each other.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chunky-Stitch Infinity Scarf

Don't you love crochet projects that you can finish in a few days? I'd been wearing my Granny Square Scarf for quite some time and decided it might be time for another scarf option. Plus, wintertime is definitely scarf time. Although, this has been a very mild winter compared to my native Chicago. We've had no snow in the Dusseldorf area and the temperatures have hovered around the high 30s to low 40s F (3-8 degrees C). Whereas in Chicago, they've had Arctic weather and one serious snowfall after another. I'm hoping this will change by the time I visit there next week!!!

Here in Germany, the infinity scarf has been popular for quite some time. I have a few fabric infinity scarves that I wear with my outfits, but didn't have one to go with outerwear. Now I do! Here I am sporting my new, forest-green infinity scarf. Below the picture, I'll provide the directions. It was an easy project that took me three nights.

To make my chunky infinity scarf, I used:

  • approx. 3 skeins of 3-ply acrylic yarn
  • a Q hook (15.75 mm) (If a Q hook isn't available, use a P)

Get loose, chunky stitches with a Q hook.

The Q hook is a Big Daddy when it comes to crochet hooks, but I wanted a loose stitch and was happy to use one of the old wooden crochet hooks I'd inherited from my grandmother because it feels like she's near when I use them. To get the thick, chunky look, I used double strands of yarn.

  1. Chain 18
  2. Double crochet (DC) into the second stitch from the hook. Double crochet all the way across, ensuring you have 18 stitches at the end.
  3. Chain two and turn your work to start row 3. Double crochet 17 to finish the row.
  4. Repeat step 3 until your scarf has 70 to 80 rows.
  5. Slipstitch the ends together and you're ready to wear your infinity scarf. 
You can also make an infinity scarf by crocheting in-the-round. To do this, you'd have to start with a Chain 82, and then double crochet 15 to 18 rounds.

Next, I'm going to blog about some baby crochet projects because we've got some babies coming in our family, and I've been crocheting my fingers off these past few months getting ready their arrivals!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Granny Square Scarf -- The Perfect Wintertime Crochet Project

When I first started crocheting again, I was inspired to make a scarf after seeing this picture of one of the Olsen girls sporting what I thought was a pretty chic-looking granny square scarf. I like bright colors and eye-catching accessories, and this would definitely fulfill both.

I'd been busy making granny square projects anyway, so why not make something for myself? The thing I love about granny squares -- about all squares, really -- is that you get quick gratification from your efforts. Spend several minutes or an hour crocheting, and you've got something to show for it. And, as I watch the squares accumulate, I know they're going to amount to something really pretty when they're finally sewn together. Progress, progress!

To replicate the scarf above, I made 26 granny squares, each with four rounds. I dug into my leftovers bag and gathered up some bright colors and scraps to use for the first three rounds. Black was my chosen color for the last round because I really wanted to make the other colors stand out. My finished granny square scarf measures about 72 inches or 183 cm. I used medium-weight acrylic yarns and a US J 10/6.00 mm hook.

What do you like to make with granny squares besides blankets?

Welcome to Crochet Crazy

Hello Everyone! For as long as I can remember, I've been inspired by color and pattern. Creativity is like breathing to me, and crochet is one of my favorite ways to express myself. I love that it's produtive and Zen-like all at the same time. I love that I can use my hands to create special things for family members, friends and on a rare occasion myself! Above all, I can get lost in my daydreams while doing crocheting.

I started dabbling in crochet and knitting when my kids were babies (now they're grown and having babies of their own o_0). Then I got wrapped up in the busyness of single-parenting and my crafts fell by the wayside, unless they were used to clothe my children or make money. A couple years ago, I picked up crochet again and haven't looked back.

My world spans the US and Europe, and I crochet everywhere I go. I have children and other family members in Illinois, and I spend a few months there every year. My German boyfriend and I share our lives together in Germany. And, when I'm working as a tour director, I travel around Central Europe. I love to be on-the-go and am lucky to have loved ones who support my endeavors. It works because we make it work together.

I've been posting on Pinterest under the name Crochet Crazy and figured it was about darn time to start blogging. Although this isn't my first blog, it's my first crochet blog. I hope to share project pictures, inspiration, and bits and pieces of my life and my travels. Just the way friends would if they were gathered around the table with a cup of coffee or glass of wine and their current crochet project. I look forward to gathering with you here and getting to know you!

Stop in and say "hi", and let me know what you like about crochet.