In any case, what do you think of these flowers? Do you agree that the pink yarn looks best? Also, have you ever been defeated by your project? What was it? What did you do when you realized your yarn wouldn’t work?
I consider myself to be pretty good at crochet. I can figure out patterns and my stitch-knowledge is significant. I wouldn't call myself an advanced crocheter, but I’m comfortable saying I'm an intermediate crochet. After this experience, I have nothing but respect for hand crocheters of fine lace and I'm going to continue to encourage you to work with your yarn before you make your project.
As part of my 100 Days of Creating project, I decided I wanted to try something new. I decided to make a spiral flower with LB Collection Wool Stainless Steel. I’ve used fine and lace weight yarn before, but never something so thin. (LB Collection Wool Stainless Steel is more like a thread than a yarn.) Still, I felt confident, so I broke out my teeny steel crochet hooks (size US1/1.5mm) and got to it, planning on making a silvery spiral flower. I cannot believe how long it took me to make an ugly little flower. (Sorry, flower, it is not your fault that you are ugly, it is mine.) The pattern I was working with wasn’t terribly complicated and the yarn quality was great, but I couldn't do it.
First of all, I could barely see what I was doing. I made my crochet stitches by feel and muscle memory. But when I looked over my work, I'd see my stitches and I'd undo them. I started over and over. I was so unhappy with my work, but I persisted and over 2.5 hours later, I ended up with the poor little dud above. You couldn’t even tell it was supposed to be a flower -- it just looked like a thin, gray hairball. I was beaten. I couldn’t do it. And I cannot think of a time this has ever happened before. I’ve always been able to make something work usually through sheer, stubborn persistence, but not this time. So I have new respect for people who crochet items like this by hand. It is super difficult and time-consuming and should be very expensive because it can really only be done by masters. You can see more examples here.
I tried again using a thicker lace weight yarn -- Darn Good Yarn Recycled Silk. Using a US 1/2.35mm hook, I made the very same spiral flower. I accomplished this very quickly. I like how it looks although I’m not sure this yarn really shows off the spiral. Mind you, I LOVE this Recycled Silk, but I think the color changes distract from the flower shape.
Finally, I found some shimmery pink mystery yarn in my stash. I thought it suited this flower so well, I made another (although I slightly adjusted it -- can you see the difference?) The shimmery pink yarn shows the stitch details and highlights the spiral nature of this flower beautifully.
So, you know how you’re always told to swatch? You really should do it. Swatching gives you a feel for the yarn as well as how the yarn looks knit up and I strongly encourage it. However, if you’re not into making random swatch-squares, you can also make little flowers in the yarn. Seeing the same stitches in different yarns is a game-changer.
In any case, what do you think of these flowers? Do you agree that the pink yarn looks best? Also, have you ever been defeated by your project? What was it? What did you do when you realized your yarn wouldn’t work?
Currently, I’m working on making patterns for many of the items I’ve made. I absolutely love having an idea, finding the perfect yarn, and putting this idea into an actual garment or accessory. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as much fun to translate stitches into words as it is to knit and crochet yarn into garments. Putting my stitchy-thoughts into intelligible words is surprisingly challenging and, thus, something I’d rather procrastinate about. But I’d really like to share some of my patterns so I must get to it. I realized I needed something to keep me stitching, but wouldn’t be too intense so as to keep me from my pattern-writing. (Below is the Betsa Poncho. This is one of the patterns I need to get to work on.)
The solution came from Elise Blaha Cripe. Elise has a podcast called Elise Gets Crafty. I appreciate her sharing her creative process and enjoy her thoughtful interviews. (You should really give her a listen.) In episode 101, “On the 100 Day Project”, Elise and designer Allie Lehman discussed the challenges they set for themselves (Elise did 100 days of pep talks and Allie did 100 days of paintings) and how they felt during and after the completion of the challenge. While I enjoyed hearing about their 100 Day Projects, I wasn’t motivated to start one myself. However, Elise and Allie discuss their challenges further in podcasts number 119 and 125. Both felt the experience was sufficiently rewarding to commit themselves to another 100 Day Project. They also discussed how they limited their projects to prevent them from being overwhelming. This intrigued me and after thinking about how to keep myself motivated, I decided to start an 100 days of crafting challenge for myself. This way, I’d be able to keep crafting and stay active on social media, but not take too much time away from my pattern-translations and additional obligations. You can read more about the project on Elise's blog here.
So, my challenge is to engage in 100 days of Creating. I will make something every single day for the next 100 days. The projects will be small, allowing me to look at new patterns and learn new skills, but not occupy my entire day. I started today, August 5 and will end on November 12.
So, here is my first project. I made a few flowers. Do you like them? Which is your favorite?
Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day, started by Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr of JumpIntoaBook.com. I am pleased to be part of the blogger team supporting this. The mission is to raise awareness of the need to include kid's books that celebrate diversity in school and in the home. Please see additional details about Multicultural Children's Book Day at the end of this post.
Louise Bombay (but, please, call her Lou Lou) and Peacock Paloma Pearl (but please don’t call her Pea, only Lou Lou can call her Pea) are the main characters in this sweet and intriguing novel. Lou Lou and Pea are fifth graders who live in El Corazon. They are besties since they met in first grade and created a tradition of having a special, one hour and twenty-three minute, tea party, every Friday called PSPP (Post-School, Pre-Parents).
I have to admit, this beginning made me hesitate. Usually, a story about girls and tea parties will send me running in the opposite direction, but I continued and I’m glad I did! Lou Lou and Pea are interesting, quirky, and kind and are supportive of each other. The girls have significant differences, but more time is spent on how much they have in common and how accepting they are of each other’s differences. I appreciated how the author conveyed this acceptance in a gentle, but obvious, yet non-didactic way.
The story is told from Lou Lou’s perspective and we learn about her fascination with gardening, especially her camellia plant that she named Pinky. Pea, is a small, brown-haired, blue-eyed girl who speaks Spanish and loves creative arts. She is a touch fastidious, but always polite, and can get very excited about a color swatch book. Lou Lou is all about dirt, can get a bit messy, and often repeats “chrysanthemum, chrysanthemum, chrysanthemum” to calm herself down before she speaks or acts. The tips of her ears are often a good gauge of her mood. We also learn about their neighborhood’s culture and art. Many of the neighborhood walls are painted with unique, colorful and creative murals. Many of El Corazon’s residents are of Mexican ancestry and that many people speak Spanish and English. Lou Lou doesn’t speak Spanish, but is learning and Pea often helps Lou Lou with grammar and pronunciation.
Everything is lovely and idyllic in El Corazon as the residents prepare for Halloween and el Dia de los Muertos, but then someone deliberately ruins Pea’s cousin’s quinceañera dress and the girls notice that one of their favorite murals has been changed to include a forlorn, snow-white rabbit with amber eyes. The plot thickens quickly as more unusual events, including a planticide, unfold. For each unfortunate event, a change depicting it is painted into the city’s murals. Lou Lou and Pea decide to solve the mystery behind the events and the changes to the murals. And . . . no spoilers here. You’re going to have to read it to find out how the girls use charts, art, and deductive reasoning to try to solve the Mural Mystery.
I really enjoyed your book, Jill Diamond! The illustrations by Lesley Vamos are perfectly placed and charming. Even though they are not in color, they are lovingly detailed and you can easily imagine them as the girls see them. My daughter would have devoured this book in third or fourth grade. The mysterious events were interesting, but not too scary and the supportive friendship made it a fun read.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever hand-crafted?
I knit and crochet a lot, but by far, the most interesting thing I ever made was the Horseshoe Crab by Susan Burkhart/OohLookIt’saRabbit. (photo above)
In early 2012, my daughter was somewhat inexplicably obsessed with horseshoe crabs. I say somewhat inexplicably because my daughter loves all kinds of creatures and I’m not sure what triggers the fascination. This fascination leads us to the library and the internet. We’ve researched jaguars and other big cats, hyenas, anacondas, king cobras, seahorses, sea otters, fennec foxes, bats (especially fruit bats), raptors, and songbirds. One day, she became fascinated with horseshoe crabs and so, we started learning about them. We learned there are several different kinds of horseshoe crabs and that they are called living fossils because they have changed little since the triassic period 230 million years ago. They are mostly composed of a hard shell with a tail, and six pairs of legs. They are genetically related to arachnids and the females are larger than the males. The females lay eggs that are then fertilized by the males. The eggs are laid in a certain depth of water and are often called “egg purses.” These eggs are an important part of the diet of multiple species of animals, especially turtles and shore birds. Much of what we learned was from is beautifully illustrated and explained in Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds, The Story of a Food Web by Victoria Crenson and illustrated by Annie Cannon.
Eventually, we went to the New York Aquarium so that she could meet Limulus polyphemus, the local horseshoe crab species. We learned that our local Atlantic horseshoe crab was in peril. While they aren’t technically endangered, their number have decreased. Because horseshoe crabs and their eggs are an important part of the local food chain, this decrease negatively impacts the other species that rely on them as part of their diet, including the endangered Loggerhead turtle and the Red Knot. Measures have been taken by New Jersey and Delaware to try to stabilize the population of the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab and they appear to be helping. Here's a helpful resource for more information.
This brings me back to Susan Burkhart’s amazing Horseshoe Crab pattern. Towards the end of April, I was trying to figure out what to make for my daughter for her birthday. I don’t know how I came upon her pattern, but as soon as I saw it, I knew this was exactly the right gift to make. I still can’t believe how fantastic this pattern is. The detail that Susan Burkhart has taken to make this horseshoe crab authentic is startling. Not only did I make a fabulous horseshoe crab, but I also learned about its anatomy -- the carapace, the prosoma, the opisthosoma, the abdomen spines. And the pattern is excellent. The instructions are clear and explain how to perfectly assemble your horseshoe crab. The pattern is so lovingly detailed -- it even includes how to make perfect “eye brows” for your horseshoe crab and shape the legs properly. Despite the level of detail, the instructions are so clear and accurate, I was able to quickly crochet the horseshoe crab. When I gave it to my daughter, she was thrilled! She named it Xiu-xiu and it is often on her bed.
Thank you, Susan Burkhard. I appreciate the amount of work and detail you've put into your patterns. Susan Burkhard has an Etsy store called Oooh It’s A Rabbit where she sells wood toys, key chains, decor, jewelry, and many other incredible and detailed crochet patterns of amazing creatures! Go check her out!
Today’s Instagram Photochallenge subject is “tradition.” Merriam Webster dictionary defines tradition as: 1a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom); 1b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
2: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
4: characteristic manner, method, or style <in the best liberal tradition>
I understand the definition, but the concept of tradition is difficult for me because I often feel that I don't really have any. My family history with the US stretches back to the 1800’s, but this connection was through American colonization and my father was an immigrant. Because of this my connections to tradition are ... loose? frayed? disorganized? Complicated.
I’ve learned my latinx traditions second-hand, through the lens of an American-born child of a Peruvian father and a Puerto Rican mother who grew up in New York in a community where my family was 50% (if not 100%) of the hispanic community. I was raised bilingual and absorbed some tradition through language, but I had very little influence from society, my neighborhood, or community. When we would go visit my family in Peru and Puerto Rico, my family was welcoming and loving, but I was always different. I didn’t really understand many cultural references or slang. I didn’t know the popular music, the politics, or even how to go to church in Spanish. My family always traveled to see our extended families during the public school winter recess (alternating between Peru and Puerto Rico every year), so our family would be visiting during las navidades or pascuas.
I loved experiencing the holidays with my huge extended families. In Peru we kids would share a huge meal, drink chicha morada, play, and stay up until midnight on Christmas eve. When the clock struck 12, we’d all hug each other, one by one, (this would take a while), exchange gifts, and my aunts would bring out giant pots of hot chocolate which we would drink with paneton.
In Puerto Rico, there was also lots of food and family. The adults would all gathered together laughing and drinking rum, beer, mavi, or coquito. Eventually one of my uncles would break out the guitar. A neighbor or family friend would play cuatro. We kids would be given the panderetas (tambourines), and the guiro and we’d all clap along and sing villancicos and aguinaldos (holiday songs). Sometimes, we’d go to another home and sing at their door and then those people would join in our asalto or parranda (Puerto Rican caroling). There was music, laughter and celebration in the hot, Caribbean night.
When I came back to school, I was usually dark brown from the beaches and time outside in a climate with opposite seasons. My school friends were wrapped in sweaters and told tales of snowball fights and midnight mass and family traditions. No one knew what chicha morada or a cuatro was. People were interested in and mostly accepting of my family’s experiences, but, it was clear that even at home, I was different.
In Peru, almost all my aunts knit, crochet, and sew. My paternal grandmother fibre-crafted prolifically. La Mamama (as we called her) crocheted every one of her 25 grandchildren a granny square bedspread. I still have mine! I don’t remember seeing La Mamama without yarn in her hands, unless she was cooking. Here's a picture of the quilt with a horseshoe crab I crocheted for my daughter. (The pattern is by Susan Burkhart and is available on Ravelry.)
My mom and her mom sewed and crocheted. My maternal grandmother, Abuela Vera, also used to make lace from thin cotton fabric. It was amazing to watch her snip threads and then tie the loose pieces into knots and make elaborate patterns. She made personalized handkerchiefs for her family. I still have mine and my mom has hers. Mine is very wrinkled so I'll post a picture when I've smoothed it out.
I knit or crochet daily and I sew reasonably well too, but I didn’t learn any of these skills from my family. My Peruvian father could sew up a body, but his learning to knit or crochet was definitely not encouraged when he was growing up or at any point in his life. (At this point I should probably explain that my dad was a surgeon and learned to sew people up in medical school.) In any case, he couldn’t teach me. My mom never learned my grandmother’s lace-making and while she enjoyed sewing, she wasn’t interested in crochet. Because I wasn’t around my extended family often enough to learn any of their talents and my immediate family couldn’t teach me, the rich fibre traditions of Peru and Puerto Rico were lost to me.
So here I am, someone who has multiple heritages that are rich in tradition, growing up in communities with different traditions, who really doesn’t have any of her own. Complicated.
I'm a fast knitter so I always think I can knit way more than the actual number of hours in a day. In prior years, I made a goal of too many knitted gifts and spent many nights trying to finish and just barely, barely finishing on time. Since I really like sleeping (and to maintain family harmony,) I limit myself to a maximum of four knitted gifts. This year, I started early and I limited myself to only two holiday gifts. What could go wrong?
I decided to knit a pair of socks for Beloved. I absolutely loved the An American in China socks by Gryphon Perkins on Knitty. The socks are straightforward, but have a fantastic sole knit in a linen stitch. The result is a simple, but very comfortable sock with a durable, extra-cushiony sole. I started November 15 and knit leisurely, completing one sock in a little over one week. I started the second sock and when I was almost done, around December 17, I went to compare it to my first sock to ensure they were the same size. I COULDN'T FIND THE COMPLETED SOCK! I searched and searched and searched, but the sock was MIA. Normally, I would have had time to knit the first sock (again), but I was still working on my daughter's gift (details below). I ended up giving Beloved one sock and a promise for the next sock as soon as I could. If I were one to look at the bright side (which I'm not), I'd be pleased that the one sock fit him perfectly and he liked it.
For my muse, I decided to knit/design/write the pattern for a drawing she made of a knit skirt. I spent a lot of time thinking about the pattern before I even cast on. I had it planned out, did my math and even drafted a schematic. Because everything for the muse must be indestructible and the skirt must be long but still allow her to run and climb, I decided to add side panels in a different color. And this is where I got a little stupid. I was knitting the skirt top-down in the round and I didn't factor in the effect of stranding the main color across the panel. I spent a number of hours making sure the pleat was shaped correctly and finally found a solution for the pleat. (Thanks, for your help, Heather Madrone!) I didn't really like the way the skirt looked from the inside, but no one would see it, so I kept going. After quite a few inches of knitting, it dawned on me that stranding the main color across the side panels defeated the point of the side panels. Stranding makes knit fabric less stretchy, especially when you are using cotton. (Sigh.) I undid all my work and started again knitting back and forth. As you might imagine, I didn't finish on time. Fortunately, Beloved and my muse were very understanding.
It was late, but they both wear their hand knit items with pride. And that made all the frustrations (mostly) vanish. So much so, that I'll probably increase the number of handmade items I make this year . . .
What are you going to make for holiday gifts this year?
I have really enjoyed knitting Intoxicating by Kristi Porter. Mosaic knitting requires your attention, but isn’t difficult and it is so much fun to watch your progress. The lace sleeves also required some attention, but were also not too difficult and knit up quickly. Kristi Porter also added helpful details on knitting the parts and how much they should measure before and after blocking. This is really a great detail because pre-blocking, the sweater pieces looked very small, but I trusted the pattern and the pieces blocked just as Kristi Porter had detailed. Sewing the pieces together was not easy. I had to take the stitches out a few times, but I am very happy with my seams! (see my prior blog on sweater construction)
So, now to my very least favorite part of the sweater construction -- picking up stitches for the neckline. Like sewing up sweater parts, you have to be willing to undo your work until you are happy with the results. This can be very, very time consuming. I used to just pick up the stitches “intuitively”, but it turns out my stitch pick-up intuition is not good at all. I’d end up with wavy necklines and button bands because I’d picked up too many stitches. Other times, I’d find gaps in my work because I hadn’t spaced the stitches properly. It was terribly frustrating, but I’d keep taking the stitches out and starting over as many times as needed. You have to commit to this, really. If you're not happy with it when you've done it, you will never be happy with it so, work on it until you're happy with it.
I don’t remember where I read it, but eventually I learned to measure the area of stitches to be picked up and divide it in half and then quarters and then eighths in order to figure out how many stitches to pick up in each section. This works great when the number of stitches to be picked up are on even sides -- like a button band or a boatneck top. This method doesn’t work so well on scoop necks or v-necks, but it still can be done. In order to use this method where the front and the back of the neckline are not the same, measure from the center of the neckline (not at the neck edge). This way, you can divide by half to make sure you pick up the same number of stitches around evenly. Then you have to use the intuition method to pick up the stitches evenly. There’s a great article on knitty.com about this which helps clarify how to be better at being intuitive here. At the end of the day, the only way to do this well is to commit the time and patience and continuing to practice.
So, what's your least favorite part of sweater construction?
I taught myself to knit from a book in 2002. My very first project was a sweater. I realize it was ambitious to learn to knit by starting with a sweater, but I really wanted to knit myself an alpaca sweater. I’m stubborn and I won’t let the actual difficulty deter me from my goal. This continues to lead me into problems, but in this case, my stubborn-ness ensured that I was committed to learning to knit that sweater. I was also lucky that nobody told me I should start with something else. So, I have my alpaca sweater, knit on size 11 needles. It is bulky and mis-shaped, but I love it and I still wear it. It’s super warm and even if it’s ugly, I love it.
Despite my love for my sweater, I realized I could do better. Since I’d learned everything from a book (2002 is pre-Ravelry and YouTube), I decided to take a finishing class at my LYS (local yarn store). Petra worked at The Yarn Company when it was owned by The Yarn Girls. She was an amazing teacher and was always ready to help with a smile and practical wisdom. (Petra, if you happen to see this or if you happen to know Petra, I’d love to get in touch!) Petra taught me how to seam garments so that the sides matched perfectly and how to fudge a little when necessary to get excellent results. Probably, the most important thing she taught me was to pull out the seams if I wasn't happy with it. It took a long time, but a beautiful result makes it all worthwhile.
The finishing class with Petra was worth every penny. If you’re going to take the time to knit up a garment, then you should take the time to learn to finish it properly. A beautifully finished garment will make you happy when you wear it. Take the time to do it right, even if it means undoing some of your seaming work and restarting. It is time well-spent and you’ll enjoy your handmade item even more. Check out my flawless work below! Thank you, Petra!
I finished the knitting and blocking of Kristi Porter’s Intoxicating pullover. I think it looks great! I used the three-needle bind-off to seem the shoulders together and now I’m just waiting for the sweater to finish drying so I can put it all together and make the neckline.
Gente, mosaic knitting is so much fun. It’s what the Knitmore Girls would call “potato-chippy” (“betcha can’t eat [knit] just one” -- courtesy of Lays). Mosaic knitting is done with two colors in rows of two. I’m going to describe how to do it, but it reads a lot more difficult than it is to do it. You only need to knit, slip, and purl and you need two colors. With one color you knit the row and purl back. On the third row, you start it in a different color. In order to create the pattern, you slip certain stitches from the row below and knit some stitches in the second color. You purl back in the same knit and slip pattern as the row knit below. On the fifth row, you go back to the first color and knit some stitches and slip the stitches in the second color. The pattern becomes visible and it’s so much fun to knit two rows and it becomes harder to knit just one. Here's are a couple of photos closer and what it looks like from the right and wrong sides.
And here's Tiki who came to sit on my work as soon as I broke out the camera.
When Amy Singer wrote No Sheep For You (a wonderful reference and pattern book for people who want to knit with fibers other than wool), she included a section on bamboo fibers. She wrote that bamboo was “environmentally sustainable.” This was the prevailing opinion in 2007. Even today, if you search bamboo yarn, one of the first things you’ll see is the eco-friendly label. The “sustainable” label certainly fit given the information we had. Bamboo grows quickly with little need for fertilizers so there is less deforestation and chemical intervention needed. Bamboo can be used for many purposes from paper to furniture to flooring to yarn so there is less waste, and bamboo is biodegradable. These are all great properties, but in the process of making bamboo, many producers use toxic chemicals to process the fibers. It turns out, that unless you are working with bamboo that is organically certified, bamboo is far from eco-friendly.
To make bamboo fibers, the bamboo undergoes a process that uses carbon disulfide and sodium hydroxide. (I'm no chemist so I had to look these up.) Carbon disulfide, which is used to break down bamboo and many forms of viscose and rayon, has been linked to nerve damage and Parkinsonism. Sodium hydroxide is the chemical name for lye. Lye can cause burns and is classified as a hazardous, corrosive material. And, just for fun, Wikipedia defines corrosive material as: a liquid or solid that causes full thickness destruction of human skin at the site of contact within a specified period of time. Gross, right?
So, what to do? I really enjoy knitting with bamboo yarn and bamboo yarn blends. I appreciate the feel of it -- it is smooth, soft, and kind of fluffy. I also enjoy wearing the sweater I knit with bamboo and soy yarn. But I enjoy this material a lot less if my yarn is toxic to people and the environment. Until I can locate organic bamboo yarn, I won't be buying any new skeins. For now, I will be using the bamboo yarn in my stash.