Practice your Spanish with craft videos

I have been teaching Spanish and English for about 20 years, and, until now, it had never dawned on me that I could actually write something that might be useful to language learners and yarn enthusiasts at the same time. I think this has to do with the fact that I speak Spanish and English equally well (although English is my native language) so I have always checked things out in both languages without giving much thought to it. I constantly tell my language students that watching and listening to videos related to their favorite hobby is a great way to practice. It’s fun because you’re interested in the content, it’s educational because you’re practicing the language you are studying, and it’s practical because you can learn new things about your hobby.

I’m limiting myself to talking about Spanish language tutorials for knitting and crochet, but you can actually practice just about any language this way by searching on YouTube. You can also do this for any craft you’re interested in.

You might ask yourself, “how will this help my language skills?” Well, for starters, the big focus here will be, of course, on listening comprehension. One of the benefits of using how-to videos for listening practice is that we often, for practical reasons, need to replay segments of a video to make sure we’re mastering the craft skill demonstrated. If you’ve ever done listening comprehension activities for homework or self-study, you have probably encountered an especially frustrating recording you had to play over and over again to answer the comprehension questions. By using a how-to video you won’t feel so bad about replaying things because this is what you would do with an instructional video in your native language. It will feel totally natural to scrub back with your needles or hook and yarn in your lap. It’s a nice change of pace from the typical listening activities you might have to do.

Another benefit is that you’ll learn new vocabulary or reinforce vocabulary you already know because very often the action or object talked about is shown to you. If you hear the word “aguja” you will more than likely see a finger pointing at the “aguja,” which is Spanish for “needle.”

Finally, you will more than likely learn something about knitting or crochet you will find valuable. In different Spanish-speaking cultures, knitting and crochet is very popular among a wide range of people representing a variety of social classes and ethnic groups. People over the centuries have independently developed strategies, tricks, and techniques that have not yet been published in books about knitting and crochet, but rather passed down from generation to generation. Some of the more interesting videos I find are the ones made by “everyday” people who want to share something they learned from their mother or grandmother.

Below I’m going to give two examples of crochet and knitting, respectively, to demonstrate how you can put these videos to good use for language study and expanding your knowledge of your favorite craft. After you check this blog post out, hit YouTube and start doing some searches in Spanish (or whatever language you’re studying) and have fun making your new discoveries! Hint: If you’re not sure how to say or write a search term in the language, look it up in a bilingual dictionary. A useful online, multilingual dictionary is http://www.wordreference.com

Two Crochet Videos

“Trinidad Tejiendo de Corazón”

I discovered the Crochet instructor Trinidad while searching for Tunisian crochet videos. This teacher has a ton of content. Her YouTube channel is like a big, interactive stitch dictionary. She also has some instructional videos that help people to make her very own designs. She does not write patterns for projects. Instead, she explains the pattern in the video while demonstrating each step. I used her “Mantita de bebé 2” instructions to start my Tunisian crochet afghan I posted about previously. I’ve altered the pattern for a larger afghan, but you could make a baby blanket just like Trinidad does in her video, too!

This video showed me a concept that was new to me: Crochet squares while joining them at the same time. If you’re curious, check out the video. It’s interactive, linking you to different supplementary materials from her web page as she goes.

“Tejiendo Perú”

The video below is a fine example of how a lot of new tips and tricks can be learned in a brief clip:

Knitting

“Tira del Ovillo”

Knitters abound in the Spanish-speaking world and often their shop owners make videos to feature the products they have available for their customers to purchase. This is a great opportunity to learn vocabulary related to knitting tools. In the video below the owner of the online shop Tira del Ovillo gives a visual overview of some of the knitting needles she has for sale:

“Romi W”

This YouTuber demonstrates an easy way to count the number of rows you’ve knitted if you’ve lost count:

Go for it!

So, what are you waiting for? Get on YouTube and start discovering a whole new world of knitting and crochet in Spanish or any other language. You can watch a video that shows you how to do something you already know how to do to practice vocabulary or you can exercise your ears and try to learn a new technique or follow a pattern.

Crack that WIP!

It’s Wednesday. Time to WIP it good.

I have no idea if I was just a genius or absolutely, positively unoriginal, but I just couldn’t help myself. And now, for the WIPs. I’ve been working on two. I am really having so much fun working on them that I am indeed WIP-ing it good. So good, that while I’m working on them I keep thinking about how I want to make a million more of them, with different colors, with different yarns, with different “hacks.” I’m like gushing every time I pick them up and work on them.

First up is my “Alec XL” which I’ve been dying to cast on since I bought the pattern. I ordered some blue Rowan Pure Wool Worsted for it a few months ago and it’s been sitting in my stash. It’s still in my stash because, after Christmas, and with all the sales on Love Knitting’s online shop, I talked myself into buying some Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted to make another one. I managed to talk myself into the purchase by saying, “this one will be for José and in reality I’m being generous because he’ll get a nice new sweater out of this even though I need more yarn like I need a hole in my head.” Oh, how evilly twisted the yarn shopping mind will be. I bought it because I want to play with the yarn and the pattern twice. There is no selflessness going on here. The really twisted thing about it is that José will think, “awwww, he made me yet another sweater! how generous.” Mwahahaha.

Here’s my progress so far. It’s a top-down sweater, my favorite kind to make.

photo-jan-25-12-03-29-pm

The sweater is very intelligently designed, with a front chest area sporting a nicely textured stitch pattern that is a two-row repeat. The back and lower part of the sweater – along with the sleeves – are stockinette. I love the color way, too. It’s called “Green Wash” and it’s light enough to show off the stitch pattern and interesting to knit with on the stockinette parts. It’s a good sweater to knit at a knitting club meeting, while traveling, binging on TV shows and movies, etc. because it’s pretty simple. I just might have to adjust the shoulder part at the top for sizing because I wanted to leave about 4″ of ease but the wearer’s shoulders are a bit narrow. We shall see. It’s top-down so all it will need is a quick try on to make sure it has the right fit.

What can I say? I want to knit a bazillion of these. I know I’ll knit at least one more and it will be for me because I already have the yarn for that in my stash.

In my never ending quest to play with my new Tunisian / Afghan crochet hooks I started an afghan. This afghan is super cool: The squares are crocheted one at a time but they are crocheted together at the same time, not sewn later. This means that, when I finish the afghan, there will be very little finishing to do. I can even weave in ends as I crochet. It is like a magical afghan. I’ve made one of my own personal changes: I’m making a bigger one because the original pattern is for a baby afghan. I got the pattern and learned the technique from a Spanish-language YouTube video. I will link to the video very soon because either on Friday or on the weekend I plan to blog about videos, so keep your eyes out for that. Anyway, I’ve digressed. Here’s my progress on this afghan that I want to make thousands of with all kinds of different color combinations:

Making this afghan is also a fulfillment of one of my life-long wishes. I’ve known how to Tunisian crochet since I was about 14 years old but never actually had the chance or time to sit down and make a big project with it. I’ve made some small projects, but ever since I was a kid and learned how to crochet Tunisian Simple Stitch from a stitch dictionary lying around the house I’ve wanted to make an afghan. I was always told, “well, it uses up too much yarn, yadda yadda yadda.” I’ve stopped caring about how much yarn it uses up. It’s worth it. I feel like I was born to Tunisian crochet and I’m having so much fun with this project I wish I had got around to doing this sooner.

I hope you’re having as much super awesome fun as I am with your WIPs. I haven’t felt this energized while knitting and crocheting for quite a while. I must say it has its drawbacks. For example, when it’s time to make dinner I don’t feel like it because it takes time from my working on my WIPs.

Terminated Tuesday

On Thursday I talked about my FOs and WIPs and complained about how I, the weather, the time of day, and the stars did not coincide correctly to get some nice photos suitable to use in this blog. If I couldn’t have my complete “Friday FOs” post last week, I’ll make up for it this week with a “Terminated Tuesday.” I actually got my prettier photography done on Sunday, but you know, I have a day job so I have not, until now, been free to blog.

To review: Last Thursday I said I had finished a crocheted sweater and an afghan.

I’ve never discussed the afghan on the blog. This is mostly because it isn’t much to write home about. Or so I thought when I was very slowly working on it. You see, the yarn is very cheap acrylic from the dollar store. It’s rather chunky and makes for quick work. When I was crocheting the squares and looked at them from time to time I said, “meh” to myself. They’re just plain, old-fashioned granny squares. But then I put the squares together and I said, “I love this afghan!” You decide, my dear readers. Does this afghan make the grade or does it look like a cheap old acrylic beast?

afghan

It took me about six months to finish this thing, but it really shouldn’t have. I didn’t enjoy crocheting it much so I often set it aside to work on things I liked. I only got excited about it when I stitched the squares together.

About two days after I returned home from America I finished the crocheted sweater I had started back in Maine. I’m late calling it “finished finished” because I waited a week and a half to block it. It’s a Peter Franzi design and I blogged about it last month. I had plenty of nice, cozy sport weight wool to crochet it with from the stash formerly known as mine – I passed a good portion of my American stash to my sister when I moved to Spain. Since I had so much extra wool, I decided to give the sweater about eight inches of ease because I could just imagine myself wearing it over several layers of clothing on an icy day taking a walk. I haven’t worn the sweater yet, but I have tried it on and I think I can fit maybe three or four layers under it comfortably. Here it is in all its large glory:

crochetedsweatertoblog

I can’t wait to go hiking in this comfy warm wool sweater.

Things Thursday

Yesterday I wanted to post something along the lines of “Wednesday WIPs” but the weather did not cooperate. I feel like I live in Mordor. Gray gray gray. No matter how I tried I just didn’t manage to successfully photograph a WIP.

Last weekend I was happy to use some Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted to cast on an Alec XL sweater for José. If you check out my Ravelry project page for it, you’ll see that I took a pic of the work in progress, but there isn’t much to deduce from the photo because I live in Mordor. I took a picture for the Ravelry projects page just because I hate creating a new project there without something visual. If I look at my projects on Ravelry and some are lacking photos I think my projects page looks sort of sad and incomplete with all those gray squares under the titles.

Also, I’ve decided to retrieve my crocheted afghan of hexagons from the dark recesses of my UFO bin area. While doing so I decided to clear out a cupboard in the living room for it, along with all the yarn I’m using to work on it. That way I can just grab some random colors and crochet a motif or, if I’m in the mood, grab the afghan and the gray yarn and join motifs.

I have FOs to share, too, but again, the weather is not cooperating. I finished my crocheted sweater about two weeks ago, and just two days ago I finished an afghan that I was crocheting and actually never talked about on the blog. The crocheted sweater was quite an achievement, given that I started it back home in Maine with some very ancient stash I had given away only to have it returned to me in a bright idea my sister had. I’ve always knitted my sweaters and so this was a famous first for me crocheting the sweater. Also, it came out exactly how I wanted it: super over-sized. After blocking it, I tried it out and yes, indeed, I can wear at least four layers of clothes under it, so it’s sort of like a pullover coat. Hopefully the Hobbits will soon complete their mission and throw the damned ring into the fire and the darkness of this world shall dissipate, allowing me to photograph my projects in a pleasant and accurate manner. At this point, even if I dragged all my knitting and crochet outside the photos would be more suitable for a horror movie than a blog about crafting and yarn.

I’ve also been shopping for yarn again. After my last class I walked directly to an LYS in this gloomy city to buy some yarn for an afghan project I’m itching to begin. It’s yet another excuse to play with my new afghan hook set.

Cheap and Easy Hooking

If I were a conformist, I suppose this would be an “FO Friday” post. I think the allusion to Debbie Stoller is a bit more fun. It also captures the essence of what I’ve done which is a lot less naughty than the tired old pun I’ve used.

In my last post, I talked about how I found some Caron Cakes on sale. For anyone that is unaware, a “Caron Cake” is a yarn made by the Caron yarn company that is self-striping, plentiful, and is regularly priced at $7.99 at Michaels craft stores. Its fiber content is 80% acrylic and 20% wool. I bought two cakes at $5.00 each, which is even cheaper. A single cake is enough to knit or crochet a scarf.

One of the drawbacks of using this yarn, as I mentioned before, is that the stripes are extremely long and the patterns provided by Caron are rather uninspired and boring (for me). I made up my own basic scarf pattern, or perhaps better said “pattern,” so if anyone wants to have a go at using the yarn in an alternative way, here’s what I did:

First of all, I thought long and hard about whether or not I felt like knitting or crocheting my scarf. I have some new interchangeable afghan crochet hooks so I opted for Tunisian crochet to play with my new toys. Using the interchangeable hook also allowed me to have a very long cable, so I could make the stripes run the length of the scarf instead of the way Caron yarns thinks it should be done. From here I chose a stitch pattern. I decided on Tunisian mesh stitch.

Using the hook size recommended on the yarn label (US H, or 5 mm), I stitched up a gauge of 3 stitches per inch. I wanted my scarf to be 70 inches long, so with a little third grade math I determined I needed the scarf to be 210 stitches long.

This is why there is no real pattern for making this scarf. I’m too lazy to write it up. All you do is buy a Caron Cake at Michaels and, using a size H afghan hook with an extra long cable, chain 210 and crochet Tunisian mesh stitch until you get to the beginning of the last color change in the yarn. Then, instead of binding off, just standard crochet half double crochet (British: half treble crochet) stitches all around the scarf making sure that you half double crochet three in each corner. You will be left with a yarn tail about 5″ long. All the yarn gets used up, basically.

If you want to learn how to do Tunisian mesh stitch, look no further than this video tutorial:

I suppose I should warn you that you will have to aggressively block this scarf when you finish crocheting it. Tunisian crochet just loves to curl up. The nice thing about it is that blocking will flatten it out very nicely and, since Caron Cakes are 80% acrylic, you can steam block it permanently. I have found that wet blocking the scarf first, and then steam blocking it after it has dried completely, is the best way to do this. I tried steam blocking it before washing it and it was too tedious a task to complete. A good washing and drying did the trick.

I wore the scarf this morning. It’s very warm and cozy.

wearing

The thing I absolutely love about Tunisian mesh stitch: the right and wrong sides of it are completely different and pleasing to look at. The wrong side, in fact, looks like knitted garter stitch.

The above photos, as well as the one below, demonstrate that blocking the scarf will make it lie flat.

rotated

Box stores can be fun

One of the things that I don’t get much of a chance to do while in Spain is to buy craft supplies at big box stores.  That’s because in the city where I live there aren’t any big chains that carry craft supplies. I am probably the last American knitter and crocheter on earth to discover Caron Yarn Cakes which can be found in Michael’s craft stores. I got lucky and found some on sale after Christmas for $5.00 a “cake.”

This yarn could disappoint a yarn snob. As a borderline yarn snob I admit that the 80% acrylic, 20% wool sort of made me frown for a moment but the self-striping colors were enough temptation in the end. Rather than take a picture of the ones I bought it could be fun to just click over to the informational link about them: https://www.michaels.com/caron-cakes-yarn/M10481921.html

The link referenced above also provides another link to a PDF file with patterns to knit and crochet with the yarn. If you take a look at them you will see that the stripes are quite long and, so, using the very basic patterns may not exploit the yarn’s color qualities the way you would like. A Michael’s employee, in fact, expressed her opinion to me: ” I’d prefer something more variegated than this so I was slightly disappointed when I knit up my project.”

I decided to buy two cakes anyway because I want to make up a couple of my own designs using this stuff. I’ve noticed, for example, that the patterns in the PDF are written for making something from the bottom up. Why not make something from side to side? You could also divide the cake in half knitting or crocheting stripes alternating one end of the skein with the other. I see lots of possibilities with this yarn and I can’t wait to get it home and play with it. Of course, I will enthusiastically share my results. 🙂

Another of my box store guilty pleasures are the skeins of Lily Sugar n’ Cream cotton yarn. I bought four skeins to add to my collection. 

Also, I discovered that Boye crochet hooks are still just a dollar and some change so I decided to see if I could collect all the letters for the metal hook sizes. In case you didn’t know and read this blog from somewhere not American (as I usually write it!), U.S. hook sizes are lettered if they aren’t for lace or thread. I discovered that the letters go as far as “Q” but at that size they are plastic and pricier. On this trip I have managed to collect sizes B to I to accompany their J and K cousins at home. Who knows? They probably have twins, too. Unfortunately I did not check my hook collection before I left home.