Getting ready for Halloween

As many of you know, a lot of people tramp through my house because I tutor them in English in my living room. Well, after two years, I’m tired of looking at this leisurely work space. I need to add new colors and patterns to perk it up.

I’ve decided that it would be entertaining for the students to see festive decorations during particular key seasons for Americans: Halloween in October, Thanksgiving in November, Christmas in December, etc. So, I’m getting ready for Halloween by planning and creating little things to put out here and there in the living room. I’m pretty sure I’ll knit and crochet some things: how about some knit throw pillows with Halloween-colored stripes and some amigurumi bats? I’ve also decided to cross stitch some things to hang up.

This week I’ve started cross stitching some pumpkins I found in Just Cross Stitch. There are six different ones. I haven’t decided if I want to stitch all of them because I might like to mix them with other Halloween-themed items. I’ve finished one pumpkin and started another one. Here’s the one I finished this morning:

pumpkin

I like them because they aren’t the typical Jack-o-lantern, although I plan to stitch up one of those, too. Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. How about you?

I can talk about my WIPs on a Wednesday

This morning I actually caught a break from working and had time to photograph my WIPs with some good quality sunshine. I’ve been knitting, crocheting, and cross stitching.

My sock made with Cascade Heritage Prints is taking its time. You’d think I’d be pumped to finish the first of the pair since I’ve already finished the foot and most of the leg. But, nope. My hands get too sweaty in this 90 degree (F) weather.

sock

The background for my sock is my crochet tablecloth, which is also progressing slowly because I only work on it for maybe twenty minutes a day. Again, it’s the uncomfortable feeling on my hands in the hot weather. Cotton breathes but while it’s doing that it suffocates my hands!

Anyway, as you can see, it is approaching the correct size of its intended wearer, which is the table that it is resting on. When I use up this second skein of cotton it will be time for me to start a nice border for it with skein 3. I’m thinking about using a filet pattern.

tablecloth

My crochet “Telegraph Sweater” designed by Peter Franzi is also coming along very gradually. If the cotton is uncomfortable in my hands, just imagine how the wool feels. Anyway, this garment can take its time. I’m in no hurry just yet to wear it, considering it’s July and I wish it wasn’t necessary to wear clothes.

Cross stitch – for the most part – has cured my need to create in uncomfortably hot Castilian weather. I’m glad I’ve got back into this pastime. I’ve been spending most of my free time cross stitching and less of it knitting and crocheting. The pattern I’ve chosen, which is Joan Elliott’s “Celtic Wheel Cushion” from her book Magical Cross Stitch, is a delightful challenge with very fine color details. The rose and the bunch of grapes you see have three or four shades. If you think the fruit and the flower look awkward you have a good eye. There is a lot of backstitching to complete for outlining things as well as to add stems and other little details. Right now the poor rose’s leaves are just suspended in midair and disconnected from the flower.

crossstitch

I have already become an over-enthusiastic cross stitcher and ordered more stuff for future projects. I’ve got plenty of Aida cloth in different colors and I’m waiting for some seed beads, floss, and Kreinik metallic threads to arrive in the mail. Yeah, you bet, when I’m in, I’m all in. After placing my order I forgot that I wanted some gold-colored Aida cloth for a bookmark I’d like to make, so I’ll have to buy some more supplies soon.

I can’t wait for the end of the day when I finish work and relax with a little WordPress browsing so I can see what you’re up to with your WIPs.

 

Tardy Thursday

I missed WIP Wednesday. I didn’t forget, I just had to work. Also, I’ve been swatching a crochet stitch pattern that I wanted to get “just right.”

This week, as last, crochet has been the dominant craft. I have plenty of knitting to do, I’ve just been distracted by crochet. I think the weather is helping direct my attention to crochet, because I typically find it more comfortable for hotter weather. This week has brought some seriously high temperatures so I’ve been working a lot with cotton.

Mostly, I’ve been crocheting my table cloth and my green “Telegraph Sweater”.

The work on these projects got sidetracked, though, because in my free time, on Monday, I started getting obsessed about a Schöppel Lace Ball that’s in my stash. It has many shades of blue so it has my sister’s name written all over it. It could have my name written all over it, too, because my favorite color is blue as well, but I haven’t made my big sister a shawl in a while. She is big on crochet, so I thought I’d crochet the shawl, and I decided it had to be covered in pineapples. Do you know a crocheter that doesn’t need a pineapple shawl? I thought not.

The problem was finding an appropriate pattern. The “Ananas Shawl” by Zsuzsanna Makai caught my eye, but to wear it you have to have the tropical fruits running sideways. I just know the wearer will want upright pineapples. Some other designs drew me in, but they weren’t triangles. My sister doesn’t do giant shawls. When I make her one, she most often uses it like a big scarf. Long story short: I had to work out my own pineapple pattern.

How do you crochet a triangular fabric covered in pineapples? With lots of planning. These fruity things are not exactly simple to design with, even though following a pineapple pattern is really easy. After a lot of trial and error, and browsing my doily patterns, I realized that you basically need to think about your pineapples in panels. Double-v stitch is the most common thing to frame them with, and happily they can force a fabric to take on just about any shape you want: triangles, circles, squares, and so on. I swatched away with some cheap dollar store yarn and finally, after trying to learn how to use software for making crochet charts, I now have a game plan.

What could be harder than designing with pineapples? Figuring out how to use computer software to create crochet charts. Yes, I could have written the pattern out line-by-line, but I was experimenting and swatching, so I was desperate for a quick visual. Here’s my horribly messy, unprofessional chart, that will work just fine for me when I start this shawl:

pineappleshawl

I really need to practice more with this crochet charting program, which is really wonderful and convenient. Right now I’m pretty sloppy, but it’s just for my reference so, why worry? If you’d like to give the application a spin, it’s available for free.

This chart is not a pattern, really, it’s my personal record of what I need to do when I get going on the project. If you want to use it, feel free to do so at your own risk because I was just looking for the repeat for the increases. To understand how to make the pattern continue and grow larger, just pay attention to the increases. The double-v stitch panels are increasing over several rows. So, what will happen is that you will add many pineapples to the pattern at once. You start with one, then stitch two, then four, etc. The number of pineapples increases rapidly because they depend on the increases done on the double-v stitch panels. Really, it’s nothing special and this type of thing can be found in a lot of patterns, especially for doilies. The trick is to remember to start increasing for the new pineapples that will come later while still finishing off the old pineapples.

Some old, some new

The WIP saga continues and the FO story seems to have slammed into a wall. Guess what FOs I’m sharing on “FO Friday?” Did you guess ZERO? Dingdingdingding!!!!

Since I seem to be dragging my rear through my WIPs, I’ll just remind you of what I’m working on: Dewdly Blue Knitted Lace Scarf, Crochet Afghan Made of Hexagons, Tunisian Crochet Afghan, Arne & Carlos Self-Patterning Socks. I could link to older posts about them all, but who cares? It’s too much work for you to click on them and I feel too lazy to link to them. If I’m going to drag my behind, I’m going to do it with an “all in” attitude. That includes not bothering with photographing them all. I dare say, though, that I should take pride in the Dewdly Blue Lace Scarf because the ball of yarn has got a lot smaller and the scarf has grown considerably.

To make the WIP experience less drab I’ve started a new WIP. It’s a crochet table cloth:

fans2

It could look complex to a casual eye, but it’s wicked easy. The square gets bigger by repeating the same pattern over and over, adding more and more fans. The fans are sort of like truncated pineapples because that’s how a lot of pineapples begin to develop in a lot of patterns, starting with the famous row of clusters. I got the idea from a YouTube video from Milagros Ena’s channel. It’s in Spanish. I’m sorry if you don’t speak Spanish.

This square can also be turned into a triangle to create a shawl, as Milagros demonstrates in another video:

So, as you can see, often a repeated stitch pattern can be used in a variety of ways to create different shapes to suit your needs. I think this would look fantastic as a shawl with a self-striping yarn with very long stripes, like in the popular Lace Ball, which is made by the same company that produces the Zauberball sock yarn.

Autopilot crochet is my therapy this week, I think. The best part is that my dining table is a square most days. Once a year it gets expanded into a rectangle. So, when I feel like making the living room look super cool I can throw this table cloth on it. That is, when I finish this thing.

This is so autopilot that I can crochet it while thinking about which border I want to finish it off with!

I hope you have had time to play around with your yarns and threads this week. 🙂

Pattern or tutorial?

It’s WIP Wednesday! I have totally abandoned my knitting momentarily and have started crocheting some things with cotton. I’ve made up these things on my own and now I’m wondering what to do for FO Friday. I mean, they’re more than likely going to be done by Friday. I can’t decide if Friday will usher in a couple of patterns or a “how to.”

The things I’m crocheting are place mats. I’m tired of buying them and trashing them so I decided to make a bunch of them in 100% cotton. My plan is to binge on this crocheting activity and stockpile them. Place mats eventually bite the dust and we use place mats every day at my house for a variety of reasons, one of them being that a table cloth is not helpful for our quotidian habits. You see, store bought place mats are often made with synthetic materials which means they stain pretty much permanently and live shorter lives. Cotton can be washed and chances of stain removal are far better, which means they will last longer and in turn I’ll get more for my dollar, I mean Euro. Here’s my progress on a green one and a blue one:

There is really nothing special about these. They’re crocheted rectangles. Which brings me to a funny anecdote and the reason why I can’t decide if I want to write up a pattern or a “how to.”

A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I met up for coffee and we were looking at crochet patterns on my friend’s phone and we were laughing at a lot of them saying, “That pattern costs €7? Seriously? I can make that without the pattern!” We said that about a lot of the things we saw, which included some baby clothes, a baby blanket, and some place mats. Consequently, I am absolutely uncertain about whether or not I should write a row-by-row pattern to show people how to crochet some monochrome place mats to lay on a table under a plate. I most certainly wouldn’t charge any money for such a pattern (never mind €7, ridiculous) but I keep thinking about how it isn’t necessary to write a pattern for such a thing. And then, we must remember that I only write a pattern if I think it could help somebody. A pattern for some rectangles isn’t all that helpful. Finally, I remember Elizabeth Zimmerman and how she wrote up knitting patterns and other directions. Her books definitely instilled in me a certain independent confidence about my knitting and, by extension, crochet. (Anecdote: the first yarn craft I learned was actually crochet, I learned to knit about ten years after that).

A “how to” post would probably be more useful. Leave the gauge up to the crocheter and focus on more important points: how to make the rectangle actually be a flat-lying rectangle despite the fact that the main stitch patterns are dense front-post and back-post double crochets which distort shapes, and how to make the rectangle be its shape without having to block the living daylights out of it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d find a place mat very helpful for everyday use if I had to starch it, dry it flat and pin it carefully like a splayed-out taxidermy project, to only then iron it, just so it could be laid out on a table waiting for food to spill onto it.

Not to mention, I was quite clever and used a pattern to manufacture one of my place mats, which is in fact finished. I made some squares from a book about motifs and crochet patterns and sewed them together in a clever way that I could include in a “how to” but not a strict pattern.

I think I just wrote my way through a self-convincing post about how I’m going to write up a “how to” about how to crochet practical place mats for everyday use instead of writing up a pattern with a set gauge, recommended yarn, row-by-row boredom, and so on. This calls for a “how to,” right? If it doesn’t, please let me know. The more I write this the more I feel the spirit of Zimmerman and her pithy directions for knitting. I’d just be sourcing this spirit for crochet. Did you know that Elizabeth Zimmerman was of the opinion that crochet had no place in knitting? Ironic, considering that she has impacted my attitude about patterns in general, knitting, crochet, or not!

By the way, last week I was browsing through my magazines looking for place mat patterns and I actually found one that called for merino wool. Can you imagine? Merino wool place mats. Yeah, that’s not going to happen at my house, not even if everyone at the table maintains their pinkies extended throughout the entire meal. How about at yours?

I don’t think I should write a formal pattern for these place mats. There’s nothing special about them. Yet again, a pattern would be helpful for new crocheters, right? I think I’m back to where I started. I can’t decide.

The WIP Report

Aside from the blue scarf I posted about over the weekend, I’ve been making progress on my socks and I have another Alec XL started.

Last night I turned the heel on my neon self-striping sock and over the weekend I completed the first of the pair of red cabled socks and casted on the second one right away. On Saturday morning I casted on the Alec XL sweater. The yarn of choice for the sweater is Rowan Pure Wool Worsted in the Oak color way. The socks, as you might recall, are Gründl Hot Socks (the self-striping ones) and the red socks are Opal 4-ply in a very cheerful red color way.

I have not been keeping to my “one pattern repeat a day” obligation, having skipped every day this week in favor of socks and my sweater. The reason is that I feel a bit too tired at the end of a working day to concentrate on the lace chart. I will persevere, though. Tomorrow is a pretty easy day of work so I think I’ll make up for my lost pattern repeats.

So far no crochet activity, but I keep thinking about doing some crochet, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be cracking out the Tunisian crocheted afghan soon enough.

One pattern repeat a day

This week, from roughly Wednesday to Saturday, I followed a mantra for my lace scarf: “I will knit at least one pattern repeat a day.” Today I skipped, so I think the mantra shall forever be revised to be this: “I will knit at least one pattern repeat a day, BUT NEVER ON SUNDAYS.”

This mantra of mine is — as I have learned the hard way — like selling your soul to the devil. By Friday I found myself knitting one pattern repeat and then I said, “I will knit the first row of the next pattern repeat and then that will get me ahead on the next day’s pattern repeat. Indeed, the chart’s pattern repeat is rows 23 to 38. On Saturday I felt a bit better about knitting my one pattern repeat because I was ahead of the game and only had to knit rows 24 to 38.

The scarf in question is Inna Voltchkova’s “A Man’s Scarf in Blue to Knit” which is the most beautiful scarf intended for men that I have ever seen in my life. If I were a religious man I’d shout “Hallelujah!” because honestly I have grown tired of knitting lace just to give it away to women who can pull it off wearing it. My readers may question Ms. Voltchkova’s decision to market her pattern as “lace for dudes” but guess what? That’s their problem. I am totally on board with wearing this puppy and I will eventually wear it. I just have to finish the darn thing first.

I took the scarf to knitting club yesterday and tried to knit some of it, but I just couldn’t focus to get it right. As a matter of fact, as soon as I started working on row 25 of the pattern repeat a friend at the table said, “what are you knitting?” and I said “something that takes some concentration, I’ll show you once I get through this row.” I showed her my WIP and she almost spit out her coffee. Really, that’s how gorgeous it is. Really, that’s how challenging it looks to knit. She said, after swallowing her coffee, “why on Earth did you bring such a difficult thing to knitting club?” I answered with the truth: “Everybody says all I bring to knitting club are garter stitch things or stockinette in the round, or socks, so I decided to knit a row of this, put it away, and then proceed with a self-striping sock.” That’s exactly what I did. I knitted row 25, put away the lace scarf, and took out my neon self-striping sock project to “kkkkkkkkkk” away on.

Mind you, this scarf, in reality, isn’t really all that hard to knit, but you have to pay attention to the chart. Remember, the repeat is rows 23 to 38, which is a repeat of 15 rows. To add some fun there are two cables and the middle is a zig-zag. The relief comes with the fact that the middle, although zig-zag, is garter stitch, so every even-numbered row is k all the way through the middle, with a chain selvedge edge and k1p1 on the cables. To refresh your memory, here’s a photo of the project (imagine it 70 rows longer):

blue-lace-scarf

My reason for selling my soul to the “one pattern repeat a day” devil? I have found that I start making mistakes after one pattern repeat. If I try to knit more than that, I get to my second pass through rows 23 to 28 just fine, and then I mess up and have to tink because maybe I didn’t yarn over, or maybe on my way back on an even-numbered row I let a yarn over fall off the needle without noticing (usually the latter more than the former). So, one repeat a day, but never on Sundays.

I absolutely am 100% certain of one thing: I’m going to finish this scarf. It’s lace for men to wear! Finally! I want to wear this so bad. It is also part of my evilly selfish scheme to have a million handmade ways to accessorize my Levi’s blue denim jacket. Just imagine, it’s beautiful lace, it’s complex, and it’s “for a man to wear.” I mean really, this scarf was designed for me and only me. BY THE DEVIL.