Monday, December 21, 2015

Snowflakes and a Couple of WIPs

In past years we've made paper snowflakes, and I've saved them. I put some on the windows. Most of them were made by Peter (my husband).

This mandala is a WIP, a work in progress. The pattern is Mandy's Mega Mandala from RedAgape Style and Design. Unfortunately it is a pattern for a cushion, so it becomes convex at the edges. I'm in the process of trying to figure out how to make it flat without making it wavy. I think I'm near a solution, but it will have to be blocked. It is a lovely pattern as is clear from the picture, and it was just perfect for what I wanted to make - a rainbow mandala with many colors. Link to the pattern here.

The big news is that I've started to join my Circle of Friends Squares. I'm using the continuous flat braid join from babylovebrand at Cypress Textiles. Link to the tutorial here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December Finishes IV - Crochet Hook Case

This crochet hook case was an exercise from Hook to Heal by Kathryn Vercillo. The idea was to crochet something that I need. The act of making something so nice and also useful for myself was moving. Also it challenged my capabilities. I make lots of round things and lots of granny squares, but I didn't really know how to crochet a rectangle by turning the work at the edge. In fact, the cover is wrong in this respect, but the red border hides the edges.

 Here's the cover in progress
The inside consists of a lining, which I did correctly (except it was too small and needed an extra border), and a pocket. I divided the pocket according to the pattern, and it turned out absolutely perfect. It was almost scary how well it turned out. Between the lining and the cover are two pieces of mat board to stiffen the case.
The final touch was a flower closure with a loop of chain stitch to hold it closed. Even though I have crocheted many complicated flowers, I was at a loss how to do this one. I looked at all kinds of directions on the internet and didn't find any that I liked. Finally I just did the best I could, and I think it turned out fantastically well. Definitely a growth experience in many ways.

December finishes III - Tie Dye

This Christmas my tie-dye aspirations were ambitious. Normally I only tie-dye towels for one set of nieces and nephews. But this year I am mailing them to the El Paso crowd and also making them for the Everett offspring. Then I also wanted to make some shirts for my sister, and when I went to fetch the dye supplies, I found a few things I had set aside to dye when I got around to it.

I found a couple of pillowcases that I had bought for my camping trip in September. I made sure to get white cotton so that I could tie-dye them later. The colors are the Dharma Trading Company Fall 2015 palette.
These are a couple of shirts that used to be white. Left is mine and right is my husband's. I love these colors, also from the Fall 2015 selection.
This is the shirt I made for my sister using the same colors. She better not be reading this and she better love it.
Here are six of the towels. I added the bright blue ("sky") and lime green.
Here's a composite picture of all the towels. I was worried at first because the wet dye was very dark. Also, the twelve towels were arranged on the table together and were hard to saturate. Normally my tie-dye doesn't have any white left in it, but there was no way I was going to get through all the towel fabric. I had soaked it in soda ash in the washing machine and then used the spin cycle to get the excess water out. This left the towels a little too dry. But in the end it worked out very well. I don't think these would have been as spectacular without the white.

December finishes II - Flower afghan and snowflakes

I only have one picture of these snowflakes, so I'm combining them with the second flower afghan that I made for my mom. They're from Martha Stewart. They're on our Christmas Tree.
A few posts back I wrote about the flower afghan that I made for my mom. She wanted another one, so I made her another one.
This one has less vegetables in it. Actually it doesn't have any. The first afghan that I made had carrots (from the book), zucchini and summer squash (adaptation of poinsettia), and string beans (adaptation of dandelion fluff). This one has the actual poinsettia and dandelion fluff (down 4 over 5 and down 6 over 2). This one has all the berries and more fruits (lemon, orange, and watermelon).

Detail of the border showing briar rose, daisy and cherry blossom.

December finishes I - Mandalas

So far this month I've finished a lot of projects that I started.
This thread mandala was almost finished in September, but the last round where it attaches to the steel ring was very hard. So at some point I decided to finish one point a day. About three weeks later, it was done.
I wish I could figure out how to arrange these in a square. Anyway, above is an experiment in asymmetry. The idea was to use up small amounts of yarn. My oldest kid really likes it, so it's for them. I love the colors, but I don't like the asymmetry.
Here, I started by using up small amounts of yarn, but I made sure the result was symmetric.
Forget using up small amounts of yarn. Above is planned from the beginning. It's good for Christmas.
Now this one is great. I planned it very well. It's on its way to El Paso as a gift for my little sister. I don't think she reads my blog, but she does look at my Instagram feed, and it's on there. But she doesn't know it's hers. I believe she likes these colors.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Circle of Friends Squares, Part V

I have many irons in the fire right now, but I have finished the Circle of Friends Squares this week, and they're even blocked. But I am going to wait to join them until after I've finished making presents for my family.

I took a few pictures to record their origin and otherwise keep track, though when I arrange them into a blanket, I don't plan on preserving the order in which I made them.

Here are squares 46 to 54. Top left is from a skirt I saw on a silly YouTube video. Next is my kid's teal leopard pajama pants with a blue and purple tie-dyed top, and after that one from a fuse bead creation. Second row: Summer garden colors, grand canyon colors, and last summer's tie-dyed shirt colors. The last row is all from tie-dyed shirts.
At this point I was done with random ideas, so I took the next eight from my unfinished granny square quilt.
For the last square, I chose colors to represent the flowers that had been keeping me company all week.
Here are the last nine squares (55 to 63), being blocked on a tie-dyed towel.
Actually this is the original bouquet. The picture I showed next to square 63 is after I took out a few faded flowers.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Hook to Heal and the Rustic Lace Square

Kathryn Vercillo of just published a book on personal creative growth, Hook to Heal. It consists of exercises and explanations for various categories of personal growth, such as mindfulness and letting go, along with recommendations about how to go about implementing a program of creative expansion.

The reason that I'm crocheting now is partly because Kathryn started a project to honor the memory of Wink, who died of depression, and to raise awareness about depression. While looking for flower patterns, I found her blog and a description of Wink and the Mandalas For Marinke project. My donations to the project are detailed in earlier blog posts. So I was predisposed to like this book, but I wanted to describe how it's working for me so that my praise won't be easily dismissed as flattery.

The first exercise in the "letting go" chapter is to make something with a wildly different hook and yarn size than the pattern requires, with the point being that the item is then, in a sense, useless. I want to make a v-stitch blanket, so I decided to apply the project to the v-stitch blanket and make one from cotton thread with a 1.5 mm steel hook. The start of the "blanket" is the colorful strip in the picture. Below the "blanket" is my rustic lace square project.
Above are my current thread projects. The rustic lace square motif is a popular design on Instagram, and I wanted to use my gray thread to make a small piece using the motif. The large incomplete panel in the center of the picture consists of six of the rustic lace squares joined together, and the centers of the other three are placed where they are supposed to end up, once they're finished. Unfortunately I didn't read the instructions correctly, and the wide quarter circles in the corners of the motif didn't meet properly. I decided that to redo the outer round of six little squares was not a big deal. So I frogged the outside rounds, which separated them at the same time, because I'm joining as I crochet the outer round.
Here are my squares, partially frogged. These squares have other problems that I didn't fix. I have two different sized hooks that both say 1.5 mm. One or two of these squares have centers that were made with the smaller hook, so they are slightly smaller overall. When I found out there were two different hooks, I put away the smaller one and reworked what I could, but I didn't rework the differently colored inside, and it made a difference.

However here are the final nine squares, joined and pinned to a pillow. I blocked them by spraying them with water and ironing them, and then letting them dry like this. Much of the unevenness disappeared. What remains is to add a border. This is where the creativity exercise and other things I read in the book really helped.

I had no instructions for making a border. I've been making my own borders for the granny square flowers, but this was more difficult. I had a picture of another rustic lace square project similar to mine that had a nice border, but it didn't make sense to me to imitate it, because it would have pulled the corner quarter-circles along the sides to the edge, and I wanted them to "float" the way they do on the inside.

So I used the strip of my v-stitch "blanket" as a kind of ruler to figure out how many stitches to put in the border. Being able to think of myself as creative was incredibly helpful here. I realize I don't call myself an artist. In my Instagram profile I say I am an art student and a "polycrafter." I often say, I'm not creative, I'm just good at following directions. One of the things Kathryn says early on in her book is that we must claim the title of artist. I have been turning this idea over in my mind for a few days, and it gave me the confidence I needed to design a border for this lovely set of rustic lace squares.

The picture above shows the first round of the border. In the lacy part of the border, I put two sc stitches in each loop and one in between loops and at the ends. I put one sc in each point where two corner points come together. I put a sc, ch 2, sc in the corner points at the outside corners. Between the lacy sections and the points, I made 12 chain stitches. I wasn't sure whether 12 was the right number, but the first round looked OK, and after I added the second round, I wasn't about to start over to make additional adjustments. I will be blocking the piece again and possibly starching it, so it doesn't matter that much if there is some give here and there.

In this picture I've added two more rounds of sc in two different grays, and I'm making a v-stitch round in the silvery gray of the central flower motif of the rustic lace square. I would not have thought to do this, and I would not have been able to design the border at all, had I not started the v-stitch "blanket" exercise.
Finally, here's a picture of how I plan to finish the border. After I make the v-stitch round I will add three more rounds of sc in the reverse order of colors as the first three rounds. I thought at first that the border was a little overpowering, but I think that's only because I've been staring at the rustic lace squares for so long that they're not interesting anymore. That's not the case. It's a beautiful and complex pattern, and the border will do it justice. It's a bit time-consuming but if I work at it I can probably finish by the end of the week while still making time to move some other projects forward. (I've edited this post to show the finished piece at the beginning. The border turned out slightly wavy in spite of blocking, so if I ever make another one of these again, 12 chain stitches is a bit too much to connect the parts of the squares that are at the edge.)