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  • Five Father's Day Gift Ideas

    Father's Day is coming up in less than 2 weeks and if you haven't figured out what to get your special dad person, I'm here with some ideas.  For me, celebrating Father's Day means spending time with my dad and my husband--two of the best guys I know.  I also used to send cards to my grandfathers, and my family has celebrated with beloved friends and neighbors before as well.  It's just a nice way to honor the men in your life for, well, being such a great part of your life!  Here are some ways to show your appreciation. 

    1. Coffee mug and a tie.  Some things are cliche for a reason.
    2. An experience instead of an object.  I know I mentioned this when I wrote about gifts for Mother's Day, but I think dads like experiences too.  Last year, my husband took our little girl to the park on Father's Day.  He put a hat on her for sun protection, packed a diaper bag, and off they went--just the two of them.  She was just getting old enough (she was a little over a year old) to enjoy playing at the park, and he was thrilled to do something incredibly dad-like.  I have a hard time getting excited about the idea of a Mother's Day where I wind up taking care of kids all by myself, but I'm sure there are moms who'd love that.  Which means there are probably dads who like it too.  Miniature golf, museums, zoos, hiking--take your dad somewhere nice!
    3. Dad music.  You know it when you hear it.  It's whatever your dad person really likes to listen to and it's probably not your first choice.  For my dad it's ZZ Top, Journey, and Riders in the Sky.  For my husband, it's Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, and pop punk bands that have probably broken up.  It's music they love to listen to, and they really love cranking it up in the car with their offspring.  Go ahead and give him Bob Seger's greatest hits, go for a drive, and roll down the windows!  Maybe even make the promise to refrain from rolling your eyes and cringing if you're stuck at a stoplight and people are staring.
    4. Matching outfits.  Why should mothers and daughters have all the fun with their matching Laura Ashley jumpers?!  Match your dad! Whether you're an adult who wants to be just like dad, or trying to find matching clothes for the dad and his special little people, the possibilities are so great for this one.  Matching camo gear.  Matching t-shirts for sports teams.  My husband always thinks it's really cool to wear his Batman t-shirt when he dresses our two-year-old in her Batman onesie.  Matching plaid shirts, matching hats, matching pajamas.  I'm not even joking.  This is really fun.
    5. Something he likes.  I realize that's pretty similar to #2, but this is pretty much the wild card of gift ideas.  Does he like motorcycle rallies?  Classic car shows?  A nap on the couch while golf plays in the background?  Whitewater rafting?  Eating at that restaurant that everyone else in the family hates?  Browsing a comic book store?  Do that!  It's his day, so you may as well let him know how much he means to you by doing something important to him. 

    My dad always asks for handmade cards and plenty of time with all his kids--3 daughters, 1 son, 3 sons-in-law, and 1 granddaughter.  So we give him cards and get together and shout over one another and he sits there and takes it all in with a grin on his face like he's the luckiest guy ever.  I'm pretty sure we're the lucky ones.  I hope you're lucky enough to have some special father figures in your life, and I hope you have a great time celebrating with them this Father's Day.

  • A Summery Granny Square Dishcloth

    If you've been reading this blog for any span of time at all,  you probably picked up on the fact that I love granny squares.  Really, really love them.  I like that you're crocheting in the round, but getting a flat square.  I love the shells.  I love granny squares--period.

    And because I've been trying to learn new crochet techniques by trying out several of the patterns in Dishcloths, I thought it was high time to make the Nine Patch dishcloth.

    You may have noticed that there are only four patches.  You seem sharp like that.

    I've made one and one-half of the granny square dishcloths in Dishcloths and let me tell you, those patterns are for some extra large dishcloths.  If that's your thing, awesome.  In that case, I cannot recommend the giant granny square dishcloths enough.  But if you want a dishcloth the size of your standard knitted or crocheted dishcloth (6" or 7"), then you may want to skip some rows or squares.  So I stopped after four squares and then pieced them together and crocheted two more rows around the whole thing.

    So here we are.

    About three-fourths of the way through the seaming process, I realized the reason I probably have so many granny squares piling up in little hiding places is because I love to make granny squares, but piecing them together is so far down on my list of crafts I enjoy that......I probably don't enjoy it all.  And I'm not very good at it.  But I'm hoping a few washing and a few uses will block things right out and this won't be quite so 'bubbly' in the future.

    I wasn't very familiar with making clusters before this (I think I'd tried it once before), so this was great practice for that technique.  Plus, I really enjoyed making the squares.  I thought it would be pretty to use pinkish variegated yarn surrounded by green to look like flowers in a garden.  I'm not sure if I quite got it, but I do think this is a nice little dishcloth and I'll probably use this project again because it's such a great weekend pattern!

    In the meantime, this little guy is sitting in my gift stash and I know how to crochet clusters now. Win win!  

  • WIP Wednesday: More Progress than Work

    It's WIP Wednesday and I'm once again blathering on about my works in progress.  Most of my projects are, well, progressing.  Hooray!

    Here's another Sockhead Hat.  I cast on 20 or so fewer stitches because I think this hat is for me, and the last one of these I made was pretty roomy.  Which was fine for my brother-in-law's big head and long hair, but there's 'slouchy' and then there's 'swallow your head whole.'  This has been my car knitting for the past few days and I'm always excited to see what color comes up next.  I'm using Size 1 needles and a couple of partial skeins of Red Heart's Heart and Sole sock yarn.  I've had the yarn for a few years and I'm happy to move it out of the stash.

    Up next is....another hat!

    I know this looks a bit small, but it's going to turn into yet another slouchy beanie.  This is the Twisty Cables beanie from Knit Slouchy Beanies and Headwraps.  I'm using Size 6 and 8 needles, which is a size down from the recommended for gauge, and more cotton yarn I got from a friend destashing her cotton.  I'm only two rows in, but I already like all the twists and turns on this.  I think it's going to be a lovely hat, and I'm enjoying knitting and crocheting hats this summer.  It's a nice way to test out some patterns, get some cute hats for myself, and when it's time for gift knitting I'll have some go-to projects! Best. Feeling. Ever.

    On to the crochet projects!  This little guy:

    is going to turn into a Basic Sweater from Surprise Crochet Sweaters for Baby.  How?  I don't know--that's part of the surprise!  I love this crocheted version of the Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmermann, and I'm getting to the part where I makes sleeves.  I don't really know how that happens, but I'm grateful for the clear instructions.  I'm a hardcore EZ fan, but her directions are a little more like recipes and I think I've tried (and failed) to knit a BSJ two or three times before swearing off the whole affair.  Even when I liked this pattern enough to talk to other crocheters about their projects and write about it and buy the book for myself, I still waited nearly six whole months to give this a shot.  But I like it!  I'm pretty confident that this will turn into an adorable gift for a friend of a friend.

    (Confession: I was initially too nervous about how this would turn out to try it for someone I knew!  I know that sounds terrible, but I'm relieved to report that I like this pattern and I think it's safe to say that this is turning out pretty well.)

    Lastly, I have this little square.

    I'm supposed to make eight more of these for the Nine Patch pattern from Dishcloths, but this is looking a bit large.  Since the crocheted fabric seems dense enough to make up a serviceable dishcloth, I think I may crochet three more squares and begin the piecing.  We'll see.  I wouldn't mind eight more pieces just like this.

    And when I catch myself thinking that I wouldn't mind making more objects just like the ones I already have on hooks and needles, I know I have some good projects! 
    I hope you're enjoying your own projects and that you're feeling the 'progress' part of things a lot more than the 'works.'  Back to work for me!  Be sure to check here tomorrow for a different kind of post!
  • Crafting Owl Finger Puppets with Felt

    Sometimes I like to try crafts that don't involve yarn.  They're not always my most successful attempts at crafting, and knitting and crocheting are my absolute favorite activities in the world. But I had so much fun making a tutu for my daughter last weekend that I thought I would make her some finger puppets this past weekend.  Sometimes it feels a little silly to work so hard to craft something for a person with pretty fickle tastes, but the little creature is my very favorite person to craft for.  So craft for her I did, with a little help from Crafting with Felt

    I loved the Owl Headband, but figured finger puppets would be a better bet.  My little girl is two, and I've noticed her putting lots of things on her fingers lately.  All I had to do was cut out an extra body template for each owl when I was cutting out the felt pieces.

    I don't quite have the dexterity to cut big ol' owl eyes out of felt, and so I decided to embroider some eyes on the 4 little owls I made.  Since there were 4 faces to play with, I gave them different expressions just for fun.

    After embroidering on the eyes, I stitched the two pieces of felt together around the edging and just left the bottom part of the owl open for a finger.  I made sure it would fit my fingers in case I ever had to play along, but forgot about my husband (he is not a small man).  I'm sure he'll be fine.

    There are no pictures of the parts where I used a glue gun to attach the beak and wings because using a glue gun gets me pretty tense and I was mostly focused on not smearing hot glue on the owl faces or my fingers.  I was pretty lucky on both counts.

    I think there are plenty of great crafts in Crafting with Felt, and I really enjoyed making these owl puppets from the Owl Headband template.  I would absolutely recommend the Owl Headband if you were crafting for a head that belonged to a much less headstrong person.  My person has a pretty intense dislike for headbands. 

    But when she saw the owls?

    Ugh, it was just so cute.  I wish you could have seen her grin from ear to ear as she reached out for these little guys.  "Baby chickens!" she exclaimed.

    Wait, what?

    Once she said it, though, I could see the resemblance. 

    She likes them so much that I'm going to go ahead and call them baby chickens.  The kid loves chicks, and if this is what a crafting win looks like, I'll take it!

  • FO Friday: Satisfactory Summer Projects

    It feels so good to finish things, doesn't it?  I love it!  I think I especially enjoyed finishing these projects because they were fairly varied and I had other, non-yarny projects, to make as breaks from things.  So I'm feeling a lot happier about my finished objects than I did last time.  I'm also just now realizing that everything I made this round has been cotton.  Wow.  It's officially summer.

    First up, is this little sweater.

    It's the 5-Hour Baby Boy Sweater, and it's a free download from Ravelry.  I made this for my sister's friends, who are having a little girl this summer.  I'm still trying to figure out if I'm going to add a little button to the top, but I think I'm leaning toward just leaving it as it is.  It's probably going to go over a cute little dress that will need to be show off, and it seems impossible to keep little babies buttoned into jackets and sweaters anyway.  I knit it with Size 8 needles and a skein--exactly one skein!--of  Cascade Yarns Sierra Quatro (191 yards).  This probably took me a little longer than 5 hours to make, but it probably wasn't that much longer.  I don't know if I'll knit this again, but I did like the sweet little yoke.

    And here's a Fast Favorite from Dishcloths!  Finally!  I used about half a skein of Sugarn' Cream in Hot Blue, and then edged it with some scraps.  I think that's Tangerine.  Lovely.  I like it because it's summery and bright.

     And here's the textured wonder, the Crisscross Dishcloth. 

    This pattern is also in Dishcloths and now that I've made this I can confidently say that I know how to work the crochet cross stitch.  Which is a pretty satisfying thing to say, as it turns out. 

    Both of these dishcloths are now tucked away with their friends in my dishcloth gift stash (also a really satisfying feeling.  I love knowing that I have gifts on hand!), and this guy:

    is probably going to live in my purse or my car for the remainder of this summer.  This is currently my favorite hat, because right now it's my only summer hat.  (Yes, someday I hope to make myself several summer hats.)  This is the Basic Beanie from Knit Slouchy Hats and Beanies, and I wrote it about it just the other day.  It is knitted.  It is basic.  It is, in fact a beanie.  A very slouchy beanie.  Using cotton yarn makes it a little lighter and more breathable, and it should wash pretty well if I need to clean it up a little this summer.  I love it.  I know I've said it before, but I do!  I'm always on the lookout for a good hat!

    So there we have it.  I have a gift that will be mailed out soon, two gifts that don't even have recipients yet because I'm just that ahead of the game, and a hat that I'll probably be wearing this very weekend.  I'm going to enjoy it.

    I hope you also have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!  I also hope there's a little time for you to finish your objects! 

    Happy weekend!

  • Making a Patriotic Tutu

    I don't know why I feel the need to preface today's post with a disclaimer, but I do:

    I am not a tutu mom.

    I'm just not.  I pick out baby clothes that are not especially ruffly, I have weird rules about animal prints for my daughter, and when my little girl was an infant she never had one of those headbands with the enormous flower on top.  I like simple onesies and thrift store shorts and organic cotton unisex t-shirts.

    But it turns out I have a tutu daughter.

    I don't know if I should blame the aunts and grandparents for buying her pinkpinkpink merchandise, if I should rail against the insidious marketing monsters who have convinced my child that we have to read princess books every day, or if I should shrug my shoulders and accept that my sister's genetic predisposition to loving purses, shoes, and statement jewelry pieces have been passed on to my kid.  For the last couple of months, I've been choosing the last option.

    Whatever the cause, the girl's just fancy.

    Fancy little girls need crowns and bright pink clothes and princess figurines that are stored in glittery purses.  And tutus.

    So when I saw the book A Tutu for Every Occasion, I said a silent prayer of thanks that we made it 2 whole years without a tutu in the house and checked the shopping list for the Patriotic Tutu in time for Memorial Day next week.  I decided to skip the Patriotic Headband because my little creature has mixed feelings about headbands, and I also decided that rhinestones on the felt stars might still pose too much of a choking threat at this stage in the game. 

    Other than that, I made the tutu following the directions exactly.  I don't know if my sweet girl will wear this on Memorial Day or if she's going to wear it every day forever.  It's looking like it might be the latter.  But I liked the themes in A Tutu For Every Occasion, and I appreciated the clear instructions.

    It's pretty great for $20 of supplies and 30 minutes of work!

    And I must say, she looks so darn cute in her patriotic tutu.  She was absolutely delighted to see it when she woke up from her nap and immediately had to wear it all night.  She was more than willing to put it on again for a few more pictures the next day.

    If I could offer any advice about this quick little project, it would be to buy tulle.  Just tulle.  Not glitter tulle as the instructions call for.  Because glitter tulle sheds more glitter than I could have ever thought to dread.  And every time the tulle moves, glitter falls like a gentle snow.

    I put the tutu on a two-year-old, though, and the glitter blizzard has not been kind to our carpet. Still, our lovely little American enjoys her new 'skirt' and I had fun making it.  I think she'll get a lot of wear out of it this summer.

    It's almost enough to make me think about making the Princess Ensemble.....

  • When Bad Gauge Happens to Good People

    You will notice that this is not a hat.

    I nearly typed "good crocheters" in the title space, but realized good crocheters probably crochet a gauge swatch.  So I'll go ahead and call myself a good person who is having some bad gauge problems at the moment.  Be nice to me--I had to unravel an entire hat.

    A very, very large hat. 

    "You're not too big!" I told it a few short, naive days ago.  "You're just big-boned....."

    I was working on the Basic Beanie from Crochet Slouchy Beanies and Headwraps.  I like the pattern, I like the way the hat was looking, and I like the yarn. 

    But I completely missed the little note about crocheting a swatch to determine gauge.  I did, however, assume that since my gauge normally tracks with the requirements of a pattern that I would be fine using the crochet hook size in the book.  And you know what happens when you assume: you wind up with a hat far too large for any healthy human head to ever wear and you unravel a few days' worth of work.

    I had wanted to give the hat the benefit of the doubt because it is supposed to be slouchy, but once I hit the decrease row and the poor thing still looked like a freaking storage basket I knew it was all over.

    So what do you do when bad gauge happens to you?

    Well, for starters you make improper gauge sound like something that just happens instead of being something you do to yourself through careless impatience. 

    Then, you examine your project to see if it will fit someone smaller or larger than the intended wearer if you're making some kind of wearable item. 

    Otherwise, you unravel the poor wretched creature as quickly as possible in the hopes that this will erase the memory of this great tragedy (or, you know, mildly frustrating experience.  It all depends on the kind of day you've had, I guess) and then you take that ball of yarn and you re-check your pattern and you get to work on that gauge swatch!  You will rise above this!  You will shake your crochet hooks defiantly at the sky, gather up your supplies to try again, and then tell your loved ones that this is completely acceptable behavior!

    Optional: whining about it on the Internet. 

    Ugh, it still doesn't fit!

    That last step isn't especially helpful, but I highly recommend it.  It's good for the soul.  Or your gauge.  Or something.

  • FO Friday

    Normally, I feel a thrilling sense of accomplishment whenever I look at the projects I finished.  This time, I just feel bored.  It's not the fault of the project, or the pattern--it's me.  Whenever I like something, I tend to like it a lot.  I'm one of those people who gets sucked into a book and ignores everything around me until I finish it.  I'll listen to the same CD in my car for months at a time.  And when I find a pattern I like, I tend to use it a lot.

    A whole lot.  Maybe to the point of excess.  I like to have a standby pattern for certain projects, but lately I've made those trusty standbys frequently in the past couple of weeks and I'm a little burnt out.

    But!  I made some gifts and some people are happy and I can move on to something else.  The world feels so wide open with possibilities I'm not even sure what will happen next.  But let's talk about what's off the needles.

    First up: A Baby Sophisticate sweater.  I made it in the 6-12 months size, and it used slightly more than one skein of Cascade 220 Superwash.  I dug some blue buttons out of my stash, sewed them on in the nick of time, and wrapped this up in some tissue paper from my filing drawer about 30 minutes before a baby shower for a coworker.  She was thrilled and I got to feel proud about my work.

     Sweater #2 (which is actually my fourth Baby Sophisticate in 4 months) was a little less thrilling because I made it 2 or 3 days later.  At this point I can nearly knit this sweater in my sleep, but I hope I won't have to.  Same as before: a little more than one skein of Cascade 220 Superwash, size 8 needles, made for a little boy 6-12 months old with stylish parents.

    Looking at this photo convinces me that one sleeve is longer than the other and I'm going to try not to think about it.  Ack!  It should look better once it's washed.  As a general rule, I don't wash yarn gifts for babies because most new moms want to use their own soap on the little creatures' clothes.  (And yes, I always give gifts that can be machine washed.)

    Once again, I finished the sweater just in time and the mom-to-be was thrilled at the prospect of putting this on her little boy next winter.  I'm thrilled at the prospect of the pictures!

    And, well, that's it.  I've worked on other projects, but I haven't finished them.  Now that I'm done with gift-making for a while, I can get on with other projects.

    I want to make some hats, and some different dishcloths.  Maybe even some crochet.  I'll bust out of this rut and I'll have some more interesting things to say when I do!  And a better variety of FOs to boot.

    Oooh, maybe I can finish the booties!

    Man, my weekend plans just get more and more exciting.

  • In the Middle

    In college, I agonized over writing papers.  A-G-O-N-I-Z-E-D.  There was a lot of desperate searching for adequate research sources, forcing myself to read things I didn't care about, falling down a rabbit hole reading up on things I was interested in but weren't quite relevant to my topic, and writing and deleting and then re-writing the very same sentences all over again.

    It's kind of like what I do now, only yarncrafting is involved.  I'm not sure if that's for better or worse.

    But the part that absolutely slayed me was figuring out a title.  Okay, that and writing my introductory paragraph.  And also sometimes the conclusion. 

    I think I'm saying I don't especially enjoy writing sometimes and I have trouble doing it.  Or that's what I can gather from reading over these sentences.  Eh, moving on....

    The part of writing that I was comfortable with, and could perform with some level of competency, was the middle of things.  If I could pretend that a thesis statement had been dispensed with and I'd described why I thought the reader should care about that thesis, I was off and running.  There were quotes and insights and even a witticism or two!  I am cringing just thinking about some of those witticisms, though.  Fortunately, I can't remember them very well because I was typically sleep-deprived and writing them in a frenzied effort to turn them in on time.  Also, I think my brain is protecting me and the memories of my literally sophomoric attempts at cleverness are repressed. 


    Or so I pray.


    This self-indulgent ramble is my way of saying I have no way to set up this post which lets you know that I poke around the Internet far too much when I find cool yarn-related things.  I want to share them with you, and when I tried to write something other than "Here are some links to things you may have already seen, but I think about them so much and really like them so I want to pass them on in case you haven't!", I wound up typing out a portion of my memoirs.

    Right.  The links.

    I don't remember where I first saw this, but I am completely transfixed by Shana Richardson's imagination and the sheer volume of her art.  Her Crochetdermy series is blowing my mind.  Her pieces are so detailed and lifelike!  The Monkey is my favorite.

    If you've ever wondered what your amigurumi animals were missing, the answer is apparently glass eyes and teeth.  I can't get over this!

    I've seen this make the rounds on a few social networking sites, but I'm telling you about the New York Times article on Orly Genger anyway because it would be a disservice not to.  She crochets and knots rope into unbelievably huge pieces that she drapes all over the place.  She did this in Madison Square Park:

    I love it.  I feel pretty inadequate and also inspired whenever I see it, but I love it.

    Lastly, I've just gotten sucked into the excitement of The Fiber Factor.  I really don't want to compare this to Project Runway, but it's a contest for knitwear designers to complete a series of themed challenges.  So I guess it's kind of like Project Runway for knitting designers.  (Sigh.)  I'm so hooked.  A friend had mentioned that the challenge was going to happen, but I didn't realize there would be videos where contestants show their projects and explain their inspiration!  It's like an online show with knitters!!!  The contestants are at a skill level I can barely comprehend, but I try anyway.  The first challenge is Knit Your Life, which kicks my imagination into overdrive trying to think of how I'd even begin tackling a project like that.

    I'd probably want to start in the middle. 

    How about you?  Are there any Internet things, crafty or otherwise, grabbing your attention?

  • WIP Wednesday: All the Small Things

    I'm just in the mood to make small things these days.  I want to make things, but I don't want to make anything too very large.  If you like instant gratification as much as I do, then we probably have no business being yarncrafters.  Or we should stick with small projects.  If I can't knit something up instantly, I can at least knit up something small.  Lucky for me, there area  few baby showers coming up soon, and I've been getting ready for them with some sweet little projects.

    I love baby projects.  They're adorable--and often very quick--little projects that make prospective parents so very happy.  Plus, there are no cuter models than babies.  None.

    First up is this Baby Sophisticate sweater.  

    I knit it in the 6-12 months size, and it used up a little more than a skein of Berroco Vintage.  I got a little confused about some of the increase rows, and so the body may be a bit rounder than intended.  However, babies tend to be a bit (or a lot) round around the middle.  So I think this will be fine, and I'm even hoping that this lasts through two winters.  We'll see once it's on the little fella. 


    The only other modification other than the accidental increase stitches on the ends is that I knitted the sleeves flat because I don't like working with double pointed needles.  This made the project a little easier to travel with, and I was going to have to stitch up an extra bit of a hole in the underarms anyway.  This just saves me the trouble of weaving in ends around the wrists where a baby can chew on them.  All I have left to do after that is find some little brown buttons and I'm all set!

    But since I'm just not in the mood to do that last little bit of finishing up, I went ahead and cast on another one.

    It's just like the green one--6-12 months, Size 8 needles, and some medium weight yarn.  I had a couple of skeins of Cascade 220 that weren't working out for my intended use for it, and I really like how it looks as a little baby sweater.  So squishy!

    Both of these sweaters are 'due' by the end of the week, so I'm glad to have a go-to pattern.

    I'm also crocheting these booties with Debbie Bliss Eco-Baby.  They're not due any time soon and I don't really know why I'm making them other than I've wanted to try this pattern for a while and I bought the yarn this weekend.  

    It's incredibly soft, and this pattern is incredibly cute--this is the Buds and Blooms booties from Crochet Wraps & Hats for Baby.  The pattern calls for an E hook, but I'm starting to think I need to start over with a larger size.  I'll try a few more rounds before I decide one way or the other.

    And of course, I have another dishcloth.  I'm in no hurry to finish this up because I'm trying to figure out if I want a green border or a red one.  I'm running out of cotton yarn in solid colors, so I may need to stop this crochet crazy train.

    Or I may just have to check which stores are having a sale this weekend so I can make even more.

    What are you working on right now?

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