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  • Revamping a Classic, Part 2

    About a year ago, I wrote a whole post about some of creative and fascinating ways crocheters modify the  Rainbow Crochet Set afghan.  It was a blast because the research involved me looking through Ravelry project pages and messaging super talented folks who talked a little about their tweaks and additions to this classic pattern.  I loved it!  I love Ravelry, I love seeing what people can do with their yarn and their ideas, and I apparently love finding out what new ways people will find to modify the Rainbow Afghan.  I've been digging a little bit more lately, and thought it was definitely time for another post.  Because wow.  If you know me at all, you know I love a good mod.  But these crocheters are unbelievably fantastic and go way beyond anything I could ever dream.

    One of the things I like the most about this pattern is that so many people want to make in a heavier yarn.  The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn, and yields a baby blanket that's, well, baby-sized.  So why not pick some other pattern written for worsted weight yarn with larger dimensions? Because this pattern is just so great.

    This is Thaila's Shroud by Incantrix.

    She used Stylecraft Special DK yarn, and I love how gradually the pinks turn to reds.  This is incredibly striking!

    Bluefrog62's Jason's Purple Rainbow floored me.  These purples are incredibly dramatic, and she mentioned in an email that she makes an afghan for her husband each time he's deployed.  She used Red Heart yarn and a Size L (!!!) hook, and finished made this large afghan in two weeks!  I'm amazed by this, for plenty of reasons.

    Up next is Spring is Coming! by bethintx.  She used Vanna's Choice and an I hook, and this is a square of forty-five inches.  She made this in less than a week.  What are you people doing?

    I was really interested in how variegated yarn is used with solid colors and I like what it does with the striped borders.  I'm betting it's a little brighter in person, and probably very, very springy.  I love it!

    Just as quick and just as springy is PurpleSpongeBob's Crocheted Rainbow Blanket.  This is so bright!  It makes me think of dyed Easter eggs.

    I especially love the granny squares in the corners.  Using a different color for the center is something I haven't seen much of for this pattern, and I think it's beautiful.

     How badly do you want to see this under a blacklight?

    I promise I'm not making fun of this.  I love it so much!  This is LaraKN's Rainbow Square Round Ripple.  She used an I hook and worsted weight yarn and made this in ten days.  I don't know why I'm so fixated on these Ravelers' start and end dates, but they seem worth mentioning.  Maybe it's because some of these folks are efficient on top of being just plain amazing.  Also worth mentioning: she added a third ripple and omitted the squares in the corner.  This afghan is 52" and so full of color I can barely stand it.  These bright tones contrast wonderfully with the black.

    Cheyennedoodles' Baby Blankie in Greens is a baby blanket in greens.  I'm not sure what size it is, but I think I like it when people leave off the granny squares in the corners.  Blankets don't have to be square.  I also like the simple, clean look of having a solid granny square in the center.  And I'm sorry this is so obvious, but I like all the greens!  This is a really green blanket!  I think the different greens would be wonderful for a gender-neutral baby afghan.

    TychaBrahe's Rainbow Afghan makes me think of Care Bears.  Or jelly beans.  Or strawberry ice cream.  It's very cheerful, and very pink.  She used Red Heart worsted weight yarn to make this blanket for a veterans' hospital.  She also crocheted three colors in the color rows instead of six.  This is wonderful.

    The last afghan I wanted to show is still a work in progress, but I don't care.  Seriously, when I asked its maker if I could feature it and she said it wasn't finished, I emailed her back and said "I don't care."  I tend to get a bit abrupt when I'm excited.  Because finished or not, I think you need to see aussie8964's Green Bedspread.  Look at these colors.  Look at them right now!

    She's using an H hook and DK weight yarns--of different brands and different fibers!  Super creative and super brave.  I can't wait to see how this looks when it's all done.

    Update: I forgot one!  Here's the Baby Turner Blanket by rainingpez:

    She used Loops & Threads Impeccable Solids, which is a worsted weight yarn.  I love the way she used variegated yarn with the solids, just like the Spring is Coming! project. The variegated sections really stand out.

    Okay, that's my afghan pattern mod post for this year! I hope you liked looking at these as much as I did.  Because I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  A big, fat, effusive thanks to the wonderful crafters who allowed me to use their photos and link to their project pages.  You're so cool!  I love your creativity!  You make truly amazing things.

  • Knitting a Prayer Shawl: What it is, What it Does, How to Get Started

    I've been reading a lot about prayer shawls recently, and I thought I'd talk about it.

    A prayer shawl ministry's website explains that prayer shawls can be used for comfort during times of loss or stress, or for celebration, or to mark an important transition: "Shawls can be used for: undergoing medical procedures; as a comfort after a loss or in times of stress; during bereavement; prayer or meditation; commitment or marriage ceremonies; birthing, nursing a baby; bridal shower or wedding gift; [or] leading ritual."  I like the sound of that.

    I've seen books and patterns for prayer shawls in stores or on Ravelry, and occasionally I'd overhear someone in a yarn store mention making one, but I hadn't given them much thought until a month or so ago.

    First, I read a post on The Rainey Sisters' blog about a program in their area which counsels women grieving after infant loss that needed more donations

    I'm not in a place to donate money to anything right now, but thinking about losing a baby really got me.  I was blessed with an uneventful and joyous pregnancy, followed by a safe birth, and now I have a beautiful and healthy little girl.  She's the very best part of my life and I can't imagine life with her.  I can't imagine what it would be like to lose her (and I have to admit, I haven't tried very hard to think about it because it's just, well, unthinkable), and I wanted to donate a shawl to the program.  They linked to the Wrapped In Care program's free pattern (PDF), but I cast on the Sideways Shawl from Shawls, Wraps, and Ponchos.  It's not described as a prayer shawl, but I noticed the directions included thinking warm thoughts about your recipient as you worked through your rows and that was good enough for me.  I actually didn't notice that little instruction until I had already started.

    Then, Lion Brand Notebook began a series about prayer shawls.  This week's post seemed especially helpful because it addressed that weird area of when you aren't religious, but still want to make a prayer shawl for someone you love.  People who don't pray are obviously still capable of sending good wishes and gifts to others who are hurting.  When my grandfather died, one of my favorite things anyone said to me was when a friend wrote simply, "I'm holding your family in my heart right now."  I thought that was a wonderful sentiment, and could be something worth repeating as you work.

    And then my knitting newsletter from Leisure Arts featured their prayer shawls books.  Knit Prayer Shawls, The Prayer Shawl Ministry, and The Prayer Shawl Ministry Vol. 2 are all available in ebook form now along with 20 other titles--and that includes crochet patterns.

    By the time I'd started reading the Lion Brand posts, I already knew the shawl I'd cast on was going to be much, much, much too large.  The bulky weight yarn I was using hadn't seemed too bulky, until all of the sudden it did.  So it had been sitting in a corner for a little while before I decided to try again with some Caron Simply Soft that I had on hand.

    The sideways shawl is pretty simple, and I like the look of it.  I think I'll take my bulky yarn and try it out again on the Knit Triangular Prayer Shawl (Ravelry download) that has been published by several people, including Leisure Arts.  It's a free pattern and has a good rating by Ravelry users, so it's a good place to get started even if you've never made a shawl before.

    If you're considering making a prayer shawl for a loved one or a charity, a few last thoughts:
    -Use yarn that's easy to care for, preferably something that is safe for machine washing and drying.
    -I've read that most people recommend solid colors.
    -Using needles a size or two up from the recommended size will give the shawl extra drape, and hug its wearer a little more easily.
    -Think good thoughts.

  • Color Choice in Knitting Makes a Difference: A Guest Post by Designer Debbie Trainor

    Hi, I'm Debbie, the designer of the dishcloth dress knitting patterns.  Jen has posted on my blog Knitting and Sewing My Way Through Life and I'm here as a guest on the Leisure Arts blog.  Today, I'd like to share a variation on the Company's Coming Dishcloth Dress pattern.

    The pattern calls for a solid color yarn and a variegated yarn.  This is the same pattern using a solid color yarn as the base (cream colored) in place of the variegated and three additional colors in place of the solid.  To create this and use some of those leftovers from your stash, use a solid color in place of the variegated and each time that the pattern calls for the solid green, knit the two rows with one of your favorite colors.  The colors featured here are some of my favorites and are featured on the cover of the Knit Dishcloth Dresses pattern book in the Happy Day #1 dress.

    Just so that you can get a good look at the different effect, here's Company's Coming in a variegated and a solid pink.

    Don't forget to try these patterns in holiday colors, too.  These make great gifts.

    One more tip: some knitters don't care to crochet the hanger.  Here's an example of one that is knit.  When you get to the last stitch on the shoulder, just cast on eleven more stitches, attach to the other shoulder and then cast off back to the beginning.

    Have fun with your favorite colors and be sure to share pictures of your projects.  If you're a Ravelry member, consider joining the Knit a Dress Dishcloth Group and add your projects to Ravelry.

  • FO Friday: Say 'Yes' to More Yarn Things!

    I know some people like to slow down their knitting and crocheting in the summer months, but I get really excited about yarny projects this time of year.  I don't know if it's because most woolen accessories aren't needed and that takes a lot of pressure of me, or if it's because summer heat almost always ensures that I'm going to pick small projects (that finish up pretty quickly), but I really get excited about knitting and crocheting in the summer.

    Fine.  I'm always excited about knitting and crocheting.

    But!  Still!  It was a pretty fun couple of weeks for knitting and crocheting.  There's a secret project that I just finished, but can't talk about because it's my sister's birthday present.

    Sidenote: Hi Laine!  Thanks for reading and I hope you have a fantastic birthday!

    The other projects, though, are up for discussion. 

    My four-patch version of the Nine-Patch Dishcloth from Dishcloths was really fun to work on, and it helped me get the hang of crochet clusters.  It's not the quickest project because of the seaming, but it's not the worst project either.  Working on squares when you get the chance makes this a pretty laid back project.  And one that's just plain pretty.

    I also made my very first Crochet Surprise Sweater, and I really enjoyed it.  Crocheting a sweater that was all in one piece blew my mind just a little bit, and resulted in a really unique sweater.  I can't wait for it to reach its intended recipient and I'm already thinking about my color options for another one.

    After a few false starts, I triumphed and made the Simple Beanie from Crochet Slouchy Beanies and Headwraps.  We're not nearly far enough into summer for me to start pining for chilly winter weather just yet, but I am excited to know this pretty hat will be waiting for me this fall.  I love these circles, man.  Love 'em.  Let me say for the millionth time how much I love blue yarn.  L-O-V-E.

    And even though I realize winter is far away, I wanted to get a jump on my gifts early this year.  I crocheted the Quick and Easy Twist from Crochet Cowls in a ridiculously short amount of time last weekend.

    Then I overheated.  Super bulky yarn will get you every time.

    Which is why these next couple of  knitted projects are not modeled.

    I knitted the Ribbed Hat from Expand Your Knitting Skills in the Child and Medium Adult sizes.  I'm going to give them to my dad for Father's Day so that he and my little girl can have matching hats when they have outdoor adventures.  The pattern is just K4P4 ribbing in worsted weight yarn and Size 7 needles.  It's simple perfection.

    And this is another Sockhead Hat (free Ravelry download) I made because I like slouchy hats, and because I've had this yarn for far too long.  I used Size 1 needles and a little over a skein of Red Heart's Heart and Sole sock yarn.  I still have some left, and I'm using that to make a smaller version for my daughter because I kind of want in on this matching hat action as well.

    And now I'm out of projects.  A mini-Sockhead Hat aside, I don't really have any active projects on the hooks or needles and it creeps me out.  I'm freed up from gift knitting and crocheting for at least a month or two, so I think I'll take this time to knock out some hibernating WIPs and try out some patterns I've been chickening out on trying lately. 

    Goodness knows I need to do something.  I'm feeling twitchy without having much to work on, but at least I have a lot to look forward to. 

  • Crocheting the Baby Surprise Jacket (Yes, CROCHETING!)

    For most knitters, trying out Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket is a rite of passage.  I think everyone gives a shot at some time.The Baby Surprise Jacket is an odd little garter-stitched creation that's knitted in one piece and stitched together at the sleeves.  It's the wildest thing, and the end result is an adorable little baby sweater.  I've attempted the project a couple of times and it hasn't gone especially well, so I was interested in trying out the crocheted version.
    It went especially well!
    Like its knitted predecessor, the Crochet Surprise Sweater is made in one piece from single crochet stitches.  There's two points in the fabric where you decrease, and then you increase at those same points to make sleeves.

    There's a little bit more to it than that, but not much more.  When I first wrote a post about this sweater, I looked at a lot of project pages on Ravelry of some very creative and talented crocheters.  Several of them mentioned that you just had to trust the pattern, so I did.  That little bit of advice really helped whenever I wanted to second-guess things. 
    This is a sweet and simple sweater, and I really loved knitting it.  I used some Loops & Threads Impeccable Solids because it's an acrylic yarn that gets really soft after you wash it.  This is going to a not-so-yarny family, and I like for baby things to be easy to wash and dry, anyway.  The green edging is some Vanna's Choice that I had left over from another project.  I really liked the brown and green together, and the morning I finished this up my husband had brought home donuts for breakfast.

    I felt reassured about my color choices after that.  I followed the Basic Sweater pattern--for the most part.  I left off the ties because they didn't seem very boyish, and I don't think the look would match the sweater colors.  Also, the pattern didn't call for extra edging around the wrists, but I wanted to spread out the green a little bit.

    The more I stare at pictures of the sweater, the more I'm convinced that I had an extra stitch or two on the right side of the sweater so I'm going to stop looking at it.  I'm pretty sure no one will notice the difference this fall when the sweater is wrapped around a happy and healthy baby boy.  I really love baby projects because they're small and quick, but also because you get to try styles on babies that you wouldn't think of placing on an adult body.  Babies are just the cutest human beings, and I love to give them a little extra boost at the first of their lives.  A little bit of love and time worked into something cute and warm just seems like such a great boost to me.

    I'm still waffling on whether I'll place some little buttons on this guy or not.  I think I'll save that kind of thinking for the weekend.  I hope yours is lovely and that you and your loved ones are safe from the storms right now.

  • Organizing Crafting Supplies

    Consider this New Year's Resolution Update #1.

    I'm not the biggest resolution-maker.  I've given up on the ones like "eat better" or "try more yoga."  I may attempt both of those things, but they're not going to be items on a list because I can't check them off until the end of the year.  And even then, I'd have to think--really think and examine my practices--about whether or not I've improved my efforts.  Thoughtful self-awareness has its place and all, but I like checking things off of lists and seeing immediate results.

    Ten days later and I have some results!  At least a little bit.

    If you remember, my plans were to bring some order to my craft corner (and some mostly un-mentioned and definitely un-photographed areas that I'll try to get to later) and knit through at least half of my stash. 

    So.  My craft area:

    I really dislike this picture.  It looks gross and a little trashy.  The worst part is that is disorganized.  I could give a pretty good guess as to where most things were, and I could see my pattern books, but that's about the nicest thing I can say about that.  And even then, I couldn't find what I needed and there was a good chance that stack of books (on the right side of the photo) would slide out of order if I needed to pull out one from the middle.  It was a out of control.
    And now, it looks like this!

    It's not perfect, but it's a definite improvement.  Pulling everything out into the open was a little scary.  I'd stashed so many things into a too-small space.  I found a lot of yarn labels to used-up yarn, quite a few receipts and empty bags from craft stores, some items that had been accidentally washed and felted that I'd saved for ...... something, "stitch markers" (baby pony tail holders make excellent stitch markers. Tell your friends!), books my husband would throw behind The Wall to hide from our daughter when he was tired of reading them, TWO Size 15 16" circular needles, and The Art of War.


    There were also some stray bits and bobs of yarn.  Or maybe whole skeins.

    This bit of housekeeping was very needed.

    The bags went under the kitchen sink, the receipts and felted items went in the trash, the pony-tail-holder stitch holders were safely corralled, and all the books went on all the shelves.  I felt one moment of guilt for have 2 sets of the same needle, but then it passed because sometimes I have a hard time finding larger needles and I might need a second set if I was already working on a bulky yarn project.  I like bulky yarn, so it's a possibility.

    A half-opened bag of stuffing went to the back of my closet because I don't have many pillow-type projects, but it's right where I can find it.  A lot of my stuff is still stashed into bags, but I feel better the more of my yarn and supplies I have out in the open.  I thought I'd be happier with everything tucked away in its own hidden container, but that's not the case.  Being able to find something makes me more likely to use it, and being more likely to use my needles and yarn makes more likely to be happy.

    Throwing out the things that were cluttering up the space helped, but the shelf is what really makes the difference.  I had this shelf out at my parents' house because I thought we didn't need it in our new apartment.  It's a lightweight metal shelf that I dragged home from a neighbor's curb (don't judge), and I was afraid that  someday my daughter would pull it onto herself.  But we still have The Wall in front of it, so she should be safe.

    My favorite part of the whole thing is that I have all of my needles where I can see them. I just saved myself hours of hunting in the new year.  I had previously kept my needles in a bag.  It kept them safe and relatively in one place, but finding a new pair was a ridiculous ordeal sometimes.  Now all of the straight needles are in a Mason jar so I can get a good look at them.

    My DPNS went in some garage sale pottery.

    My circular needles can be reached from my spot on the couch (cue the angel choir).

    Crochet hooks and cable needles go in a jelly jar, and I decided to stick my Knook in a new ball of yarn so that I can just get straight to work on my next dishcloth whenever I'm ready.

    Several of the books and magazines are too tall to be arranged standing up, but I can still read the titles and the two smaller stacks make searching much easier before.  Another bonus was that I had enough space to pull my larger books off of a regular bookcase and arrange them over in my corner.  It saves time, and it gives me a little thrill to see all of my crafting books all together in one place because this is apparently the sort of thing that gives me a thrill.

    A few folders, books, and project bags go on the lowest shelf, along with some yarn.  That part of the shelf isn't as organized as it will be when I'm completely finished, but I'm incredibly excited with how it looks so far.  There are a few boxes with supplies I don't use often, but don't want to put away completely that are stored underneath the shelf and I can get to them easily enough.
    But where is the yarn, you may ask?
    Oh, you know.

    And here.

    And also there.

    Which brings me to my other resolution: knit through half of my stash.  This was my yarn collection a few months ago, but I've used up some of it.  I've also bought more, though, and discovered some stowaways when I was cleaning up everything.

    Thus far, my valiant stashdown efforts have resulted in......two-thirds of a hat.

    Baby steps, okay?  One of the few pieces of resolution advice I actually follow is to turn a goal into some sort of challenge.  So I joined a group on Ravelry challenging people to knit 13 items in 2013 from their stash.  Actually, there are a lot of groups on Ravelry doing this.  I'm just participating in the group challenge "Use it or Lose it" that's run by the podcasters of Stash and Burn.  It's fun because there's a chance to win prizes, and because I get to see what other people are working on.  I have a really good feeling that I'm going to be able to stick with some gift knitting throughout the year this way.

    That blue hat is my January project.  I'm knitting the Starter Cable Hat from Expand Your Knitting Skills.  I knitted the brim longer than the pattern called for because I like to be able to roll my hat brims and/or pull them down way past my ears, and because that uses so much yarn.  I'm also using a yarn that's not quite as bulky as what the pattern calls for, so the extra-long brim will keep me covered if it's not quite long enough. 

    I have nearly 2 skeins of it, and I'm currently going through so much of it you'd think I was crocheting.  Score! I couldn't be more thrilled to start using some of my beloved yarn, and I'm also really excited to get a hat!  Best New Year's resolution ever! 

    Bonus: I think the hat for myself will take just a full skein.  I have about 70% of another skein that I probably won't need, which means I'll probably have more than enough for a baby version of the pattern.  Yes, the pattern comes in baby, child, and adult sizes.  And yes, I am one of those mother-daughter matching outfits people.    

    How are your resolutions going?  How do you organize your stash?  How do you keep all your supplies from dying in between the couch cushions? 

    I like to ask the important questions.

  • Learn to Knook: Purl 2 Stitches Together Through the Back Loops

    It's time for more decreasing tutorials!

    Purling two stitches together through the back loops is like purling two stitches together through the front loops (just to be painfully obvious), except it will pull the stitches in a different direction than a standard P2TOG would.  The result can be very pretty.  Or at least not lopsided.

    Here's the video, which can also be found here.

    I haven't had a chance to try out purling stitches together through the back loops, but I'm sure I will soon.  I'm starting another dishcloth tonight, and I think I'm going to check the patterns in the book to see if any of them feature that technique. 

    I love when patterns let you know what stitches and techniques you'll need to use to work the pattern.  It's a great way to find something to make that lets you seek out something new you want to try--or to avoid something you dislike.  I tend to get in a rut (I'm knitting my seventh toboggan from some old pattern I found last year as a Christmas present.  It's my third hat like this for just this season!), so I have to use those guides pretty carefully or I'll just seek out the same techniques over and over.

    But there's not a lot wrong with that if you're trying to finish up those holiday gifts.  Or that's what I keep telling myself.  Christmas Day is one week away from today, and I hope you're happy with your holiday crafting progress.  And if you're not, I hope you have a solid back-up plan.  Mine is gift cards and some jars of dry soup ingredients that my husband put together.  The soup jars look hearty and folksy, and I've noticed that Ravelry has a few cute ideas for making gift card holders.  Be sure to select the 'knitting + crochet' option just so you can check out all of the cool ideas people have.

    Best of luck to you in this final stretch!

  • Tips for a Better Holiday Knitting Experience

    (Disclaimer: whenever I write "knitting" I mean "knitting or crocheting or Knooking."  But knitting is my main craft and so that's what I usually type out by default.  But if you want to read the word "knitting" and replace it with "weaving" or "making those giant wire mesh wreaths" or "baking and painstakingly decorating 250 Christmas cookies," that's fine.)

    I've already talked about how taking some names off your holiday knitting list makes things a bit easier, but even if you halved your list of recipients you'll still have a bit of work ahead of you.  So here are some thoughts on how to make your holiday knitting a little more pleasant and efficient.  Pick and choose (or ignore!) as you see fit:

    Be realistic.  Now is not the time for afghans.  You could probably whip out a shawl or two if you have magical powers but you'd still lose a lot of sleep, which is going to make your breakdown all the more painful when you realize you misread the chart in a sleep-deprived stupor--20 rows back.  Not that I'm speaking from experience.  Look at your life, look at your choices.  Try to figure out how much time per day you can spend on knitting and try to plan your projects accordingly.

    Stick with what you know.  Most of us have some favorite patterns, or go-to items for making a quick and simple gift.  Mine is an old-fashioned toboggan pattern that I've made at least 10 hats from in the past 2 years, and I have plans to make 2 or 3 more before the month is over.  Haul out your favorite books or pamphlets!  Enjoy those familiar patterns and save yourself some confusion and frustration.

    Check your stash.  No, really check it.  Take a good hard look at what you have before you get started on a project.  Do you think you have 3 skeins of that yarn you need, or are you just mostly sure you saw it around somewhere?  I was convinced I had two skeins of red yarn, but didn't.  I forgot to update my stash page on Ravelry, and I saw it so many times on my page that I thought I'd seen it somewhere in my home.  But it was already crocheted up into a little sweater for my baby.  Oops.  There are few things worse than interrupting your precious knitting time to run out and buy yarn.  Unless we're talking about buying yarn from a different dye lot, or that the store may not carry anymore.  During Christmas.  I went to my local Michael's last weekend.  I'm not going back (for a while).  Dig in.  Dump out.  Burrow.

    Ravelry.  Ravelry is my solution to just about everything.  It's just awesome.  If you do knit something new because someone asked for something specific, use the advanced pattern search to narrow down your options.  And always click the "Has photo" box.  There's no way you can try to knit your friend that hat she saw in the ad if you can't see a picture of it online.

    This is one of my favorite parts about the pattern search options on Ravelry.  You can check a box for how much or how little yarn a pattern requires, and see the little arrow?  That's where you can select patterns that use yarn you have in your stash (assuming you keep your stash more current than mine).  It takes a lot of guesswork out of things when you're searching through patterns and trying to figure out if you can wiggle around the gauge guidelines by using what you already have.

    Check your other stash.  My stash is just a small collection of baby hats and a couple of scarves, but maybe you have a little more foresight than me.  You probably do.  Is there something you made for someone who is no longer on your list?  Assign it to someone who is.  What about something you've had just hanging around?  This morning I made a cowl from......a disaster.  I knitted a short scarf a couple of years ago out of some beautiful multicolored mohair yarn.  I can't unravel it and re-work it, though, because after a natural disaster damaged some of my things my parents washed some of my wool items.....and then dried them. (I might have told them it was okay to do so. I was pretty distracted at the time.) My dad even mentioned ironing some things.  So I took this very dense and very clean little scarf, sewed the ends together, and bundled it up for a friend's birthday.  It's not the best thing ever, but I'd tried and failed 4 times to make this person a cowl and it just wasn't working and was really setting me back on my knitting schedule.  Try re-working what you have into a gift or two.

    WIP it.  WIP it good. I'm really sorry about that pun.  Wait, no.  I'm not sorry at all.  What do you have on your needles that you could finish up for someone?  Was there a scarf you started for yourself and then ignored because it just wasn't your style?  Would your sister like it instead?  Then pick up that work in progress!

    Gift cards.  I know, I know.  This is about holiday knitting.  But if you're taking care of a baby who won't sleep, a spouse or parent who's sick, or your own injuries or illness,  then just tuck some money into a thoughtful card and start planning your birthday knitting.  You may as well enjoy the season, and I hope that you do! 

    Happy crafting!

  • Giving Thanks

    I'm thankful for many wonderful things in my life, but I thought I would make a list here about all of the craft-related things for which I'm truly and deeply grateful.

    • I am thankful for grandmas who taught me to knit and crochet.  Working with yarn has always been a great way to express my creativity, and working a simple pattern when I'm stressed or anxious never fails to make me feel calm.  Those women gave me a big gift when they taught me how to keep my hands busy.
    • I am thankful for parents who didn't know it was weird to let an eleven-year-old knit in public (or at least they acted like they didn't), and who always encouraged me to explore interests that made me happy.
    • I am thankful for granny squares.
    • I am thankful to live near a really great local yarn store.  That's right next to a Starbucks. 
    • I am thankful for the knitting group in my area.  That meets in a place that sells lots of baked goods.
    • I am thankful for a husband who has stopped asking "When are you going to have all the needles?  How many sizes of knitting needles can there be?"
    • I am thankful for a beautiful little girl.  She is sweetness and joy and every day of my life is better because I know her.  I am also thankful for how quickly tiny baby items knit/crochet up (usually).
    • I am thankful that my beautiful little girl will keep those handknit hats on her head (again, usually).
    • I am thankful for Ravelry.  It's really made my year so much better. Seeing how other people use their yarn and patterns, and getting to talk to some of those people, has been absolutely awesome.
    • I am thankful for family and friends who appreciate the time and effort I put into handmade gifts, and who wear the hats and scarves and cowls with pride and enthusiasm.
    • I am thankful for alpaca.
    • I am thankful for the chance to talk to you here.  Carrying on and on about craft-related awesomeness and hearing your stories is, well, awesome.  I hope you're having a happy holiday with people you care about, and that you have much to be thankful for.
  • Surprise Crochet Sweater for Baby: Let's See What You Can Do

    Hey, remember that time I wrote a post about the Rainbow Crochet Pattern Afghan and I got to talk to some really nice Ravelry users about their afghans and then I showed you their cool pictures?

    That was a lot of fun for me, so I decided to write another post like that.  This time I picked the Surprise Crochet Sweaters for Baby projects.  These are crocheted sweater modeled on the knitted Baby Surprise Jacket.  As someone who's tried (and failed.....twice) to knit a Baby Surprise Jacket, I was really interested in the idea of a crocheted version and I really liked the look of crochet stitches for the project rather than the garter stitches of the knitted original.

    So once again, I looked through people's project pages and sent messages to some talented crocheters who got really creative with their use of color.  Everybody I talked to was very nice, and now I get to show you their handiwork! 

    HelenJHarris named her project the "Joyful Baby Surprise" which seems beautifully appropriate to me.  All of the pinks and purples remind me of Care Bears, and this seems like a socially acceptable option for when you feel like dressing your little girl up like a Care Bear.  (I know I'm not the only mom who has those days.)

    This is brooklyncowgirl's version of the jacket.  She wrote in her project notes that she wanted to taper the sleeves and waist a little so if you're not a big fan of the boxy frame, rest assured that it's simple enough to do if you want to try it.

     Here is GrannyMax's Ruffled Sweater.  I'm usually not a fan of super-bright pinks for babies, but something about the yellow ruffles evens it out to be cute and vibrant.


     I also love the blues and yellows in the yarn.  So beautiful.

     HoosierLady's jacket really reminds me of Thomas the Tank Engine.  I'm not sure if I'm conveying this very well, but I mean that in a complimentary way.

    I love all the red stripes!

    She also stuck with the basic sweater pattern for this Girly Girl version, and just added ruffles after the fact.  And now I'm thinking about Cabbage Patch dolls.  Maybe it's something about the pastels. Whatever it is, I love the little touches of pink here and there.  It's so precious!

    This is Mariposalila's Little Owl Sweater, and it kills me every time I look at it.  And I don't mind telling you I've looked at a lot lately.  This is just too ridiculously cute.  I'm having a hard time handling it.

    I mean, there's an owl applique to go with the tiny baby owl buttons!


     Maybe I'm starting to get Christmas on the brain, but meripurdy's collared version looks incredibly festive to me without being over-the-top about it.  The browns and reds make it look so warm!

     I love merryknitter's use of primary colors.  So cheerful!

     I was really excited to see how many of these sweaters could be for a little boy or a little girl (I think handmade baby gifts should be passed around to everyone), and I think this is a perfect example.

    I do love the soft blue of Nobe's little jacket, though.  The light blue is just so classic (and would look precious on a boy or a girl), and the model is gorgeous!

     This is RockportMo's ruffled version of the pattern.  The book offers some different stylings of the jacket, and I really, really love this one.  Little baby girls covered in little frilly ruffles are just adorable!

    This is vibeskat's take on the pattern.  I really love all these warm colors, because this looks like the perfect fall sweater for some little person.

    One of the things I really liked about this version's stripes is how well they help you see the jacket's construction.  Just lovely.


    If you have a Ravelry account, click here to view all of the projects for the Surprise Crochet Sweaters for Baby book.  I really love this adorable pattern and I had a blast seeing what other people did with it--it's #3 in my queue now!  After seeing so many interpretations that made me think of beloved childhood toys and characters, I'm strongly tempted to make something in Bert or Ernie colors. Also, if you want to be friends, I'm jenandstuff on Ravelry.

    And if you want to buy the book, click here to buy the epattern.  Several people mentioned finishing this little sweater over a weekend, and it could make a sweet little gift for a sweet little person this Christmas--while taking care of some leftover yarn.  Everyone's happy!

    *A very big thanks to all the lovely crocheters who talked to me about their projects and let me use their pictures.  You're super creative and super sweet to let me show off your work.  I loved talking to each of you and looking through your pictures.

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