Saturday, February 8, 2014

Favorite Yarn Brands: Are You Loyal or Do You Try Them All?

I'm game for trying anything and, as a crochet rule breaker, I'll try different yarns even if they're not recommended for a particular project.While I'll play around with any type or brand of yarn given to me, I tend to gravitate to a select few when I'm doing my own shopping.

Until very recently, I hadn't spent any time crocheting with cotton yarn, which I talked about in yesterday's post. Now that I have, I've got to say my first love for cotton yarn is Yarnspiration's Sugar n Cream. The color selection in solids, stripes and twists inspires me to create. Soft to the touch but durable, I have many plans for upcoming cotton yarn crochet creations.

But, of course, my cotton yarn experience isn't very vast. I've looked at, felt and priced other cotton yarns. And then I always gravitate back to Sugar n Cream.

Over the past years, more acrylic yarn has worked its way through my fingers and off my hook than anything else. Again, I'll try just about any acrylic yarn if it's given to me or I find a great deal...and I mean a great deal. But, given my druthers, I choose Redheart's "With Love"  and Lions Brand. The large, soft skeins make me want to crochet large afghans or chunky scarves. There are more colors than I can choose from, leaving me feel like a kid in a candy shop trying to figure out which treats to choose.

Do you have favorite yarn brands? Tell me what you like for different crochet projects. I'd love to hear from you and possibly be introduced to a new favorite!

Friday, February 7, 2014

100% Cotton Spa Cloths (Free Pattern)– Discovering the Joys of Cotton Yarn

I confess. Sometimes I’m resistant to trying new things. Although some forms of change excite me, I’m also of the mindset that “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Thus was the case with yarn types. New colors thrill me, and I’d tried a few fancies – liked some of them, didn’t care for others. Until recently, I was an acrylic yarn girl all the way. The softness and the multitude of  brands appealed to me. And, if I’m honest, it’s easy to find inexpensive acrylic yarn.

After my grandmother passed away in October 2012, I inherited some of her yarn and a few crochet hooks. Tucked in amongst the various balls of acrylic pastels, variegated yarns and numerous skeins of heather gray were four balls of Yarnspiration’s Sugar n Cream 100% Cotton Yarn. 



Stripes, showing the blue and green yarn that hooked me.

The turquoise-blue, lime-green and rose-pink skeins (all with flecks of white and part of the Twists Collection) were unused and still in their original wrappers. A work in progress was attached to the fourth skein, which was red, and sealed in a plastic sandwich bag. My grandmother had been working on a dishcloth before she passed away. She’d crocheted five rows and the hook was still attached. I couldn’t bring myself to use the yarn or even remove the hook for that matter, so I tucked the plastic bag safely into my yarn stash and let it be. 

For about a year, I continued crocheting with acrylic yarns. I couldn’t bring myself to use my grandma’s skeins. Then my mother added to my very small selection of cotton yarns with a skein from Sugar n Cream’s Stripes Collection. The beautiful shades of turquoise, green and yellow dazzled me, making me want to turn that colorful skein of cotton yarn into something useful. Knowing that a close friend of mine was allergic to acrylic yarn, I decided to surprise her with a set of spa cloths (appropriate for using as washcloths or dishcloths). 

Spa Cloth Directions

This set of spa cloths is easy to make, and the textured effect of the stitches makes them great for scrubbing. Choose colors that appeal to you to add to your bathing or kitchen-cleaning experience. Sugar n Cream has a dangerously large selection of cotton yarn, and I will soon be expanding my collection! You can also order your own set of spa cloths from me right here.

  1. Chain 26 to start. If you want a wider cloth (mine are about 7-8 inches), add a few more chains.
  2. Create texture by Chaining 1 (does not count as st). Crochet (1 SC, 2 DC) in the first stitch. Skip the next 2 stitches. *Crochet (1 SC, 2 DC) in next, skip next 2 stitches*. Repeat from * to * across until the last 3 stitches. Skip the next 2 stitches. 1 SC in the last stitch, turn. (25 stitches total) Make sure to crochet into that little "hump stitch" on the side from your last row so your spa cloths have straight edges!
  3. Crochet 18 rows using the directions in Step 2. Modify with more or less rows if you want to alter the size of your spa cloth.
  4. For the last row, SC into each stitch. Continue to SC all the way around the spa cloth until you return to the last row. SC all the way around the cloth once more to finish the edge. Fasten off.


Add a scalloped edge to your spa cloth if you want something a little more fancy or feminine. *Crochet 5 DC into the same stitch. Skip the next three stitches, then SC into the fourth stitch.* Repeat from * to * all the way around. 

Add a loop for hanging your spa cloth. After completing the second round of SC’s, slipstitch into the corner. Ch 8-10 for your loop, and then slipstitch into the corner again. Fasten off.

Clearly, my cotton yarn adventures have only just begun. I can’t wait to crochet more cotton items, which means a trip to the craft store will be necessary. Yippee!! Tell me what you love to crochet with cotton yarn. Sharing ideas is half the fun.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Big Reveal -- Pink & Brown Crochet Daisy Afghan

In last week's blog post about crochet baby headbands, I hinted that I was working on a special secret project for my daughter S's baby who was due any minute. After six extra days of waiting beyond her due date, Baby Girl is finally here! Her timing is perfect as I've just finished an adorable crochet daisy afghan for her.

There's just something about daisies, isn't there. In one of my favorite movies, You've Got Mail, Meg Ryan's character receives a bouquet of daisies when she's sick in bed. She says, "Don't you just love daisies? I think daisies are the 'friendliest' flower." I certainly agree. I've grown daisies in several gardens and just love them. They are can you not smile at the sight of a daisy?

Since S has chosen shades of pink and brown for her baby's bedding, I made this daisy afghan with yellow, white, raspberry pink and mocha brown. Pink, white and brown were all store-brand yarns I bought in Germany, and the yellow was from Redheart.

As is often the case, I first saw a daisy afghan on Pinterest. Which led me to this tutorial on how to crochet the daisy. From there, I modified the additional stitches slightly to form my squares. Now, it's finally time for the big reveal!

Ta-da! Such a happy, friendly-looking afghan!

Take a closer look at the squares and scalloped edge.

Daisies are indeed the friendly flower! Crocheting this afghan brought me lots of happiness and joy, especially imagining the little sweetheart who will be bundled up in it. This is another project I will do over and over again.

If you'd like a Daisy Afghan of your own but don't crochet or have the time for bigger projects, you can order a Daisy Afghan for yourself on my Custom-Made Crochet for You page.

Crocheting this afghan made it feel like springtime. If the Chicago weather doesn't improve, I might have to start making another one!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mr. Monkey -- My First and Only Attempt (So Far!) at Amigurumi

Amigurumi is, as you may have guessed, a Japanese words that means crocheted or knitted stuffed animal or doll. "Ami" means to crochet or knit, and nuigurumi is Japanese for "stuffed doll". Put them together and you have something like this.

It was while perusing crochet pins on Pinterest that I was first introduced to amigurumi. I couldn't say it then, and I can barely say it now. Admittedly, I was intimidated by what I saw. After reading  few patterns I thought, "No, that's not for me!" Even though some of the crochet critters I saw were really adorable.

"Hoo, hoo, I'm cute!"
Nothing can make me change my mind like love and an adorable little almost-two-year-old who loves monkeys. My daughter R's toddler son D. is crazy about Curious George. When a friend introduced me to an amigurumi monkey pattern, I knew I had to make it for D. And, truth be told, the pattern wasn't all that difficult.

Crocheting the monkey required lots and lots of small rounds for very long arms and legs. Only for D would I have put forth such effort. Since then, I've said "no more!", but I'm weak when to comes to cuteness in small packages. Here's Mr. Monkey, who is now happily living with his best friend D.

Mr. Monkey -- my first amigurumi attempt.

Sitting comfortably on his crochet afghan after a long morning of play.
 "Never say never" is what I always say. While I'm not inclined to try amigurumi again soon, it's very possible a cute little face will look up at me, melt all my resolves and get me started on the next crochet critter.

Have you made any amurigumi, and what have been your amigurimi experiences?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Have Yarn, Will Travel -- Crocheting on the Road

If, like me, you're Crochet Crazy, then I know your motto is the same as mine. "Have yarn, will travel." When it comes to anything longer than a day trip, I can't go anywhere without my crochet bag.

My crochet bag

It's nothing fancy, mind you. Just a canvas giveaway bag from a local grocery store here in Germany. The quote on the side, by Goethe, is written in Italian on the side pictured above and German on the other side. It refers to using nature in a slow and pardonable way if we want to come out winners in the end. I don't understand Goethe, but I'm not sure many do. 

Anyway, I'm a happy camper when I can bring my Magic Bag of Crochet Things along with me. It weighs almost nothing and doesn't take up lots of space. Inside, I have all that I need: yarn for my current project, the current project if it fits, crochet hooks, scissors that are TSA-approved, crochet needles, a pink measuring tape and a few other crochet supplies. Here's a peak...

Contents of my crochet bag at present.

Because I live in Germany (but am originally from the Chicago area) and have family in Chicago, I travel between the two places a couple times per year. Plus I'm a tour director in the summer. So my crochet bag has logged a lot of miles, made it through a lot of security checks (they always want to see my scissors, but always let them through) and kept me busy on many long flights. I wonder if I could get frequent flyer miles for my crochet bag.

Today, as you read this, I'm somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, on the way to Chicago. Our family is awaiting the arrival of two baby girls, and I look forward to meeting them and spending time with my mom and kids. My trusty crochet bag will be traveling along with me. I think it knows the flight path to Chicago as well as the captain does. :) Who knows what I'll be working on. I've just finished a project and haven't decided what to crochet next. I'll have to let you know.

My crochet bag has accompanied me to Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Germany, Holland, France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. Tell me where your crochet bag has traveled! Because doesn't the suitcase just somehow seems empty without containing something related to crochet? :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Crochet Projects Gone Wrong

The best of intentions combined with attractive crochet photo inspiration doesn't always result in the prettiest of outcomes. Take this shrug, for instance. It's really pretty, isn't it? I'm wearing my version of it as I type, which you'll see in a moment.

Photo inspiration for the shrug I crocheted.
 It looked so pretty in the original photo that I envisioned myself crocheting one in every color to wear everywhere I went. And, of course, everyone would compliment me on my Shrug du Jour and ask where I bought it.

"Oh, this?" I would reply. "Why, I made it myself!" But, alas, my shrug didn't turn out quite like the original. And, I won't be crocheting one in every color for myself. Nor will I be wearing them outside of the house.

My version of the shrug.
Well, you can see the difference, can't you? My shrug doesn't look the same on my body because I'm not a Size 0 like the above grapevine mannequin. Plus I had the hair-brained idea to add extra rounds so it would close in the front. Instead, it made my shrug kind of slouchy and shapeless. So, I wear it with my pajamas in the morning or on chilly afternoons. I hated to see all that yarn and work go to waste.

The second crochet project gone wrong was a sweater pattern that developed as the result of a brainy idea I had. :) You see, I'm hooked on the idea of making myself some crochet sweaters (hence the shrug attempt), but I don't want to make the kind that have to be pieced together...two arms, a back piece and two front sections. I just can't bring myself to do it.

I found a pattern for a baby sweater that was all one piece and thought, "Oh, if I can modify that for an adult size, I can make one for myself!!" So I did the modifications, and I got this:

Technically also a WIP.

What's iffy about this sweater, you ask? Well, I loved the yarn on the skein. It's called "Confetti". Now, how fun is that? It sounds like whatever you crochet with it will be fun, light and joyful. Like a party in a sweater. :) But, now that it's there in all it's confetti-ness, I'm wondering if it's not a bit much. Plus, the idea in my head looked much better on me than the actual sweater looked on my body. It fits, but it's not flattering. The jury's still out on what to do with this project. Until then, it remains sleeveless and unfinished. File it under the WIP or UFO category.

Have you ever had any crochet projects go wrong? Tell me all about them...please! Then I'll know I'm not the only one whose crochet ideas don't always turn out exactly as planned.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Giant Granny Square

After a long break of many years, I started crocheting again a couple years ago. I've always been crafty, and while my kids were growing up I sewed (and sold) clothing, coverlets and draperies. A couple years ago, I picked up crochet again as a way to relax and relieve stress.

The first project I decided to tackle was something with granny squares. Why not? Granny squares can be used for a variety of crochet items, you get instant gratification by whipping up a square or two, and the color combinations are endless. I wanted to learn and make something at the same time (I don't like to waste time), so I followed a Youtube tutorial for granny squares to get me started. I highly recommend Crochet Geek for many different crochet tutorials; and she does have one for granny squares.

The first project I tackled was a baby afghan for my daughter R's son. Looking back at it now, it's not the prettiest thing in the world (hence no photo!), but it was good for a start. Then I made my granny square scarf and got lots of compliments on that.

One day, I was surfing the internet for ideas and stumbled across something called a Giant Granny Square Blanket. I was hooked!! Literally and figuratively! To make a Giant Granny Square you just keep making rounds until you reach the desired size of your blanket, instead of making a bunch of small, individual squares. I chose a palette of appealing colors to keep myself from getting bored. Here's the finished product. Since this Giant Granny Square doesn't have a home, it is for sale.

This Giant Granny Square Blanket is made with acrylic yarn in shades of blue, green, yellow, tan and off-white.

It measures 42 inches by 42 inches (107 cm x 107 cm) and is perfect as a large crib blanket, for a toddler bed or draped over your couch as a lap afghan.

You can get more information on my page, Custom-Made Crochet for You.

Making this Giant Granny Square was such a zen-like experience that I've no doubt, I'll make another one.