Saturday, February 22, 2014

Yarn Shopping and Link-a-Long

I'm like a kid in a candy shop today. :) My mother and I are going yarn shopping today for an infinity scarf I'm going to crochet for her. It's the final one in a series of infinities I've made, such as my Chunky Stitch Infinity here and the Cream and Pastel Infinity here. She's going to Greece soon and wants me to make a cotton infinity scarf for her. I'll have to update you later with photos of the yarn we pick out. My favorite cotton yarn brand to date is Sugar n Cream, but we might be venturing into new cotton yarn territory today!

But even more exciting than a trip to Joann Fabrics is that I'm hosting my first Link-a-Long today!!

What's a Link-a-Long, you ask? It's my way of spreading the love amongst all of us crafty bloggers and helping everyone get a little more exposure and a few extra comments on their blogs. Admit it...doesn't it make your day when someone leaves a comment on your blog? Don't you love to know that someone stopped by and found your creation useful or beautiful? I hope you'll join in and play along on what is sure to be the first of many Go Crochet Crazy Link-a-Longs! I will visit each blog linked to here and leave a comment. Here are the easy-peasy rules for your part of the game:

Go Crochet Crazy Link-a-Long Rules
  1. Leave a comment for this post and include a general link to your blog or a link to a specific blog post. I ask that your blog be craft- or home-related, no nudity or swearing, please.
  2. Visit the blogs of the two people above you and leave a comment. (Note: If you're one of the first two here, you're on your honor to come back later and comment on the last two blogs at the time of your visit.) Of course, you can comment on more, if you like.
  3. Optional: If you want to spread the love even further, share this Link-a-Long blog post through Google+ or Facebook...totally up to you!

I AM so excited! I can't wait to visit all your blogs, see what you're up to and spread a little crafty love! One things I've found as I've become more involved in the crochet community is that we're really a great group of people. I invite you to join in today's Link-a-Long to give and receive some of that wonderful kindness, camaraderie and a little love from fellow crafters. 

Update on Yarn Shopping Trip

I wanted to update you on my yarn shopping trip to Joann Fabrics yesterday.  Talking about feeling like a kid in a candy shop! I was practically frothing at the mouth as I walked up and down five aisles that looked something like this...

Oh my, the possibilities!
The sole purpose of going to Joann's was to buy cotton yarn for an infinity scarf I'm designing for my mother to wear on her upcoming trip to Greece. After much looking, and putting yarn in our basket, then taking it out again, we finally settled on a large skein of Bernat's 100% cotton in a beautiful variegated called Smokey Wine. Complementing this is a skein of Sugar n Cream's Ecru.

For an upcoming infinity scarf.
I hadn't planned on buying anything for myself -- oh the willpower involved in this! -- until I stumbled across a small section of Redheart Boutique yarn. Oh my. The swirls of color...the luxurious softness of the yarn. In a heartbeat, I knew that I must have it. One skein, the last of it's colors, had no label and was unraveling before my eyes. No matter! It called my name, loud and clear. 

I must, must, must finish the Scrapbuster afghan I'm working on for Baby S and the infinity scarf I'll be making for my mother. But as soon as I do, I can't wait to get my fingers on this:

Isn't it lovely? Someday, in the not-so-distant future, I'll be blogging about what I made with it.

In the meantime, join in on this week's Link-a-Long (rules above). We're having so much fun visiting one another's blogs! I'd love to have you play along. :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Scrapbuster Crochet Cat Toys -- 20 Minutes & Some Leftover Yarn

Yesterday I blogged about the scrapbuster crochet afghan I'm making for Baby S, who's now a little more than a week old! When I finally had time to crochet last night, I really wasn't in the mood to work on a long-term project. It was rainy, windy, a low dense fog had settled in, and I was on Day 4 of a horrible head cold. What I needed was a project that would give me instant gratification and help me use up some more of my yarn scraps. (Free pattern below.)

My cats were kind of lazing around, too...all of us ready for some warm spring weather with windows wide open. We all needed a little entertainment, so I spent 20 minutes (on each) and some of my yarn scraps to make these:

Scrapbuster Crochet Mice

If you're a cat lover like I am, than you know they can be a finicky bunch. But I'm not one to be easily outdone. The secret, final ingredient would make them love their new crochet mice!

These were so easy and fun to make; I finished all three in less than an hour, with interruptions. The pattern is simple. I'll follow with photos of how well the toys were received. **Feel free to use the following pattern for your own personal use or for profit, but please link back to this blog post and give credit to me.**

Scrapbuster Crochet Cat Toys

K Hook (6.50 mm)
Yarn scraps
Stitch marker

Ch 3, slipstitch together to form a small loop.
Round 1: Ch 2, HDC six times into the loop.
Round 2: Lay your stitch marker (a different color piece of yarn) over the space following your last stitch to mark the beginning of a new round. HDC 2 times into each stitch. Total 12 stitches.
Rounds 3 - 7: HDC once into each stitch.
Round 8: *HDC one time into each of the next two stitches. HDC2TOG (half-double crochet two stitches together for a decrease)*. Repeat from * to * to the end of the round.
Round 9: Alternately HDC into one stitch and then decrease all the way around.
Finish: Cinch the yarn tight to make a pointy, nose-like end. Knot and cut off the excess yarn. For the Whiskers: Cut two pieces of yarn about 3 inches (7.5 cm) each, and thread them through the nose area. Tie in a knot and trim the mouse whiskers to the desired length. For the Tail: Ch 7, SC into the second chain and in each chain to the end. Fasten off. Use the excess yarn to tie the tail to the bottom end of the mouse.

After crocheting the three mice and adding my secret ingredient, I was excited to give them to the cats. And, of course, I knew they'd all be as excited to receive the new toys as I had been to make them.

Patches was too busy napping on a soft crochet afghan to play.
Ernie was very enthusiastic about his new mice!
So was Sophie!
Alice was too busy thinking about important things, such as world peace or her next meal.
As you can see, the crochet mice were received with mixed reviews. But I won't let my enthusiasm be dampered. My cats are amongst the ficklest of fickle, and I know they'll enjoy batting and bunny-kicking their toys around during those few moments that fall between nap time and mealtime.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Scrapbuster Project -- Free Crochet Afghan Pattern

It seems just lately that everyone's working on scrapbuster projects. I'm not sure if we feel the need to justify our next yarn purchase or make room for it. As much as I love looking at those small balls of colorful yarn, the organized, fastidious person in me likes to use things up and move on.

As I searched for a good scrapbuster project, I came across several multi-stitch afghans that people are working on. But I'd just completed something similar as an infinity scarf for my upcoming pattern eBook. I didn't want to make another scarf, although the Granny Square Scarf I blogged about here would be an ideal scrapbuster project.

Finally, I decided to make a baby afghan for my daughter R's newborn baby girl. R has tons of blankets from when her son was born almost two years ago, but consented to me crocheting this one because baby S loves a good heavy blanket and this one has a flowery motif.

Here's the yarn I started with.
The baby afghan I'm crocheting for my scrapbuster project will measure about 40 inches wide (100 cm) by about 36 inches high (90 cm). The pattern below is for this size. Adjust accordingly to make a larger afghan.

My scraps come from various brands and weighs of yarn...remember, I'm a rule breaker. To follow this pattern, you need to know how to chain, HDC and DC. I'll explain how to do the Cluster stitch within the pattern. I'm using a J Hook (6.00 mm).

**Feel free to use this pattern for personal use or for profit. I only ask that you remember to give credit to me, Mary at Go Crochet Crazy, and link back to my blog page.**

"Flowers in Bloom" Scrapbuster Afghan

**This pattern would also make a lovely scarf if adjusted accordingly**

Ch 93 (crochet a wider chain for a larger blanket, but make sure your final chain number is divisible by 3)

Rows 1 - 3: Chain 2,, counts as first HDC. HDC in each stitch to the end of the row.

Row 4: Change colors. Chain 3. Skip 1 stitch. *DC, Ch 1, DC all in the next stitch. Skip 2 stitches*. Repeat from * to * until the last 2 stitches. DC, Ch 1, DC in second-to-last stitch. DC in last stitch.

**You'll use the Cluster stitch for the next row. To do this: YO, insert into the stitch, YO and draw through 2 loops. YO, insert into same stitch, YO, draw through, YO and draw through 3 loops. YO, insert again into the same stitch, YO, draw through, YO and draw through all 4 loops. 

Row 5: Switch colors. Ch 3. Skip first DC. *CL into next Ch 1 space to make a flower, Ch 2*. Repeat from * to * until last Ch 1 space. CL in Ch 1 space, then DC into last stitch.

Your work will look something like this.
Row 6: Switch back to same yarn used in Rows 1-3. Ch 2 (counts as first HDC). *HDC in top of CL. 2 HDC in Chain 2 space*. Repeat from * to * until last two stitches. HDC in CL, HDC into last stitch.

Row 7: Chain 2, counts as first HDC. HDC in each stitch all the way across.

Repeat Rows 4-7 until you crochet to the desired length. Add an additional row of HDC to make both ends of the afghan even. Finish off the edges with your favorite edging. I'll be using a scalloped edge.

Here's where I'm at so far with my scrapbuster project:

Since I'm also working on another project at this time, I anticipate needing a week or two to finish this afghan. I'll pop in and update with photos as I go along. Let me know if you decide to give this a try! Or tell me what scrapbuster projects you've enjoyed crocheting.

Project Update #1

I promised I'd return to update you on the progress of "Flowers in Bloom", my scrapbuster baby afghan project. I actually took a break from it one day to make Scrapbuster Cat Toys, which you can see here.

Since taking this picture two days ago, I've actually gotten another set of cream, green and flowers added. But this will give you a good idea of how it's turning out. Expect to see color variation in some places. As tempted as I was to go out and buy what I ran out of, I have continually reminded myself that this is a "scrapbuster project". So far, I'm loving how it's coming along.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite scrapbuster project?

Project Update #2

With great joy, I've taken this project off-the-hook today and will be able to present it to three-week-old Baby S later this afternoon (read more about it in this blog post). So, without further adieu, allow me to show you the finished product. What do you think?

Crocheting the last few scallops for the edge.
A gorgeous scrapbuster afghan created by Mary at the Go Crochet Crazy blog.
"Flowers in Bloom" is ready for its new home
**I'm excited to be participating in Oombawka Design's Link & Share Wednesday!**

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top 5 Reasons to Crochet

As I write this, I realize that if we all sat down and made our own lists of top five reasons to crochet, there'd be some vast differences. But I think, amongst those differences, there'd be a lot of common themes. So, with this in mind, I'm going to write out my top reasons with the hope that you'll chime in and add your comments and additions.

This blog theme came to mind this morning when I woke up with the worst head cold ever and thought to myself, "How am I going to motor through the day feeling like this?" I determined I would work as best I can (I'm a freelance writer), and drink lots of liquids and rest, if possible (like that's going to happen). And I would crochet.

I could take a day off from crocheting, but why would I want to do that? As I sit here feeling stuffed up and with a raw nose from blowing it, the only thing that brings me comfort is the thought of crocheting. Which leads to my Top 5 Reasons to Crochet.

  1. Crochet Brings Me Joy. Once we reach adulthood, there are few things that bring us pure joy the way so many things did when we were children. For me, crochet delivers that childlike joy.
  2. It Brings Other People Joy. A crochet item is more than a practical article intended for use, warmth or wear. It's something that's stitched with love that can outlast the person who made it. Not every recipient of a crochet gift realizes this, but those who do value their gifts and find joy in them.
  3. A Great Stress-Buster. On a stressful day, when everything seems challenging, crochet is an effective way to let go of the stress. Even if it's only for five minutes, the rhythmic motion of crocheting and the ability to get lost in thought makes all those worries and concerns dissipate.
  4. Fuels My Creative Spirit. Creativity is like oxygen to me. Without creative expression, I feel like I'm withering away.
  5. A Practical Part of My Plan. At the end of 2013, I decided that I must do more to balance out my life and experience more joy. I love crochet; I think about new designs and projects all the time. I've decided to make it part of my sustenance, as well as part of my joy.
 When I pick up my crochet hook and a new or current project, it's a moment of pure happiness. Now I want to hear from you! Tell me your top reasons to crochet and what it means to you.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

An Inherited Crochet Afghan Created in 1937

My maternal grandmother passed away in October 2012 at 94 years old. Next to her Lazy Boy sat a basket with works in progress. She had been working on two granny square afghans, one in pinks and greens, and the other in gray and a variety of pastel colors.

For as long as I can remember, she'd always been the crafty type. As a child, I remember the "back room" of her house, which had been converted to a sewing room, complete with a dress form. She sewed clothing with perfect stitches and exact fit. Being a product of the Depression Era, she'd learned young to sew out of necessity, not just as a hobby.

Besides sewing, I also remember her working on various yarn crafts, needlepoint and dabbling in 3-D art. Like her sewing work, every craft project she undertook was done with perfection, producing something beautiful in the end.

After Grandma was gone, my mother and I were cleaning out her apartment. A large bag of yarn accumulated, including some of the fancy yarns I blogged about the other day, and my mother said to take them with me.  Then my mother pulled out an afghan from the closet and handed it to me. "Would you like to have this?" she asked. I struggled not to cry.

The beautiful lapghan my mother handed me had been crocheted by my grandmother sometime around 1937, when she was about 20 years old. Here she is a year earlier, standing proudly with her best friend, wearing the coats they'd bought on layaway for 25 cents per week.

My grandmother is on the right.
 Stitched in a potpourri of half-double crochets, bobbles and scallops, the beautiful lap-sized afghan is a medley of red, pink and taupe. As I examined it closely, it was clear my grandmother had a gift. I am certain she would have never identified her crochet or any other craft-ability as a gift.

Over the course of nearly 80 years, the afghan has gotten a bit stretched, it feels as if the stitches are tight from washing, but it's crocheted so well that I'm certain it will last on this earth far longer than I will. Someday, one of my grandchildren or great-grandchildren will be given this afghan and it's my job to make sure they understand its significance. It will be my responsibility to tell them about the woman who crocheted it.

Soon the afghan will grace my couch in Germany, where I live most of the time with my boyfriend. We have no pets there and no small children who are prone to spilling, so the afghan will be safe until it is given to a subsequent generation. I miss my grandma every day. But I feel connected to her each time I pick up a crochet hook and yarn, and especially when my fingers run over the very stitches she crocheted in 1937. 

My grandmother holding one of her great-great-grandchildren, September 2012.