Happy Clappy Crochet

Celebrating Crochet with a Positive Spin

Monthly WIP Update – 2016 Edition

Last year I blogged about multiple works in progress as a way to hold myself accountable to get some things finished. However, I didn’t do a good job on that accountability and so projects didn’t get finished.

However, 2016 is a new year, and rather than dwell on what I didn’t get done, I’m going to approach this as a fresh start/new beginning. So last weekend, I reorganized my yarn closet. Yes, I said yarn closet. After organizing, I realized I really shouldn’t buy any more yarn until I use some of the wonderful stash I already own. With that in mind, it was time to look at stitching time.

Like many of you, I have a full-time job, so my creative time is limited to evenings and weekends. That precious time is further divided by designing tasks like creating new pattern proposals complete with blocked swatches, writing new patterns, and crocheting the new designs, as well as finding time for crocheting projects for donations or gifts. As a new designer, I also need to increase my presence as a designer, which means time spent creating and sharing blog posts like this one. I’m not spelling all this out in order to complain – far from it! I feel very blessed to have designed so many wonderful patterns for Cascade Yarns over the past several years, and I look forward to the new patterns that will be created and released over the coming year.

Since I’ve started designing patterns, my WIP pile has grown, and that is on me. One of my stitching goals for the year is to finish some of those items, and I’m going to use the blog to help keep me accountable. I am also going to use my weekly group stitch time as WIP time, so those projects get some dedicated stitching time.

With all that in mind, let’s introduce WIP #1 for 2016 – a blanket for my cousin Ruth.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Using Wash (worsted weight) by Willow Yarns, I am making my own pattern – Spirit Wave Stadium Blanket – in the colors she chose. The blanket is a (belated) wedding gift for her and her new husband. As they have kids, I wanted a yarn that was easy care, which is why I picked this anti-pilling acrylic yarn from Willow Yarns.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Currently, I am half-done with the blanket. If I continue to use the 2-3 hours that I weekly get together with yarn friends, I hope to have the blanket finished by Spring. It may be too late for this year’s football season, but I’m sure it will be welcome just the same.

 

What works in progress are you trying to get done? Share your progress with me and we can cheer each other on to completion.

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Stitching For Fun

Last year, my friend Jen Lucas discovered the fun of counted cross-stitch. I was quite happy to encourage her with this new craft, as I have been a cross-stitcher for decades.

After her first foray into cross-stitch, Jen decided that she wanted to try another project, but one that was a bit more complex. She picked The 2016 Pumpkin Passport stitch-along by The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. She posted about it, and last week I decided that I would join in as well.

Now you may be thinking, “Laura, don’t you have a crapton of crocheting to do? Do you really have time for another craft which will take away crocheting time?” I agree, those are valid questions. I hope the following is a valid answer.

When I started crocheting again about 15 years ago, it was for pleasure. I would make gifts for friends and family, I bought patterns and magazines and books, and started stashing yarn. Big plans were created for all the amazing things I would crochet. I started taking classes and learning new techniques. I found a local yarn store where I could hang our with others and play with yarn.

And then, about 5 years ago, things started to change. I started teaching at that local yarn store, so I needed to create patterns to use for classes. I was contacted by Cascade Yarns and started creating crochet patterns for them. As the years went by, I started a blog. I joined a crochet blog tour. I released my first self-published pattern. I launched a website. More and more, crochet became a business. While I still have fun crocheting, and most of my evenings and weekends are filled with crochet time, less and less of it was crafting time just for fun. I don’t know about you, but I really need that wedge of the self pie chart to be there, even if it is small.

Knowing I needed some of that crafting “me time,” I chose to join the stitch-along. It’s a mental health thing, and it charges the creative battery so I am able to do the crochet business work more effectively. What makes this a great choice is the time commitment. Sections of the pattern are released monthly, so there should be enough time to get everything done. The pattern itself (so far) isn’t too difficult skill-wise -no partial stitches, minimal backstitching – so the actual stitching goes rather quickly.

There is still time to join in if you are interested! All you need to do is either purchase a kit or a pattern PDF, gather your materials and start stitching away. It’s a matter of Ready, Set…

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

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January Hat Campaign for Halos of Hope

For the past several years, I’ve decided that the first crochet project of the new year would be a hat for donation to Halos of Hope. Why crochet a hat for donation? And why do it for Halos of Hope specifically?  The answer is a personal one. I am a cancer survivor – I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2008. It wasn’t at a stage where it was health threatening or life threatening, but having cancer before the age of 40 makes you sit down and think a bit. My mom is also a cancer survivor. She’s dealt with cancer three times, and it was during the third battle, which was the most serious, that I was introduced to the comfort provided by Halos of Hope. Not only was I able to get a couple hats from Halos for my mom, but I also used my time at chemo treatments with my mom to crochet hats for donation to others.  I also like the idea that the first thing I make isn’t for me, or someone I know, but for the comfort of a stranger, and I think that puts me in a positive mindset for the rest of the year.

 

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

This year, using scrap yarn donated by my friend Vickie, I used the Reversible Strands Hat crochet pattern by Nancy Smith (link goes to her Ravelry pattern page). I’m a big fan of this pattern, as it is easy to make and you can customize it quite easily. The hat I made uses three colors of grey yarn, from light to dark. Hat as shown is with the rib side out, but you can also wear the hat with the ribs on the inside and the smooth side facing out.

 

 

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

 

One of the things I like about this pattern is that you can change the ribs, so they can go straight down, like this hat, or you can have them spiral. Since I had more scrap yarn I could use for hats, I decided to try the spiral version and it turned out something like this. Three colors on this one again – mid and light grey on the increase section of the crown, and then a heathered blue for the body of the hat. As I was using yarn scraps, this is a smaller sized hat which would be great for a teen or child.

 

I had posted about my hat adventure to my Facebook page on January 1st, which in turn inspired my friend and local knit and crochet designer Jen Lucas to make a hat as well.

All this stripy hat making was a stroke of great luck, as Halos of Hope is currently running a January Campaign. Called the 7th Annual Stripe It Up January, it encourages crocheters and knitters to dive into that scrap yarn stash we all have and create some hats that will bring comfort and happiness to others. And, if you are unsure of your color pairing abilities, self-striping yarn makes a great hat as well. Check out the Halos website for yarn material choices and hat sizes. All the yarns used in the three pictured hats are acrylic.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

It’s not too late to join the campaign! I’d love to know what kind of hats you are creating.

ETA: Halos of Hope is collecting hats until the end of February 2016 for this campaign! Please check out their website for more information.

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Crocheting for myself.

(The text below contains my adventures of crocheting a sweater to fit my body. In no way am I disparaging the pattern or the designer, but rather explaining what it took to go from pattern to finished item with which I am happy.

Back in July, I found a sweater pattern that I really liked and decided that I must make for myself. The sweater is the Madrona Cardigan designed by Rohn Strong. I absolutely loved how this pattern looked, I loved the 3/4 sleeves, and I couldn’t wait to make it for myself. I ordered my yarn and when it came in, I was ready to stitch away.

The pattern itself did not provide a stitch count for the pattern repeat, so there wasn’t an easy way to make a gauge swatch. Rather, I used the hook as suggested in

©Laura Krzak

©Laura Krzak

the pattern and started stitching away. When I finally got to a section where there were no more increases, I was able to measure for gauge and hit my first road block. My gauge was way, WAY off. Like, two whole repeats off. This isn’t a good thing, because it meant I would use up my yarn too quickly and I wouldn’t have enough to finish the pattern. So, I did the only thing I could think of at the time and frogged it all.

Went down a hook size and re-crocheted up to the same part. Gauge was still way off. I realized that if I wanted to make gauge, I would have to drastically reduce my hook size, and if I had done that, I would be crocheting armor and not a sweater with drape.  So, I put things away for a mini time-out while I thought things over.

I decided the next day to order more yarn. Risky, because I could end up with totally different dye lots. I was very lucky, however, and got dye lots that matched what I had previously ordered. I also decided that I liked the look that the larger hook created, because I didn’t want a sweater with negative ease, so I knew some pattern adjusting would be needed. Frogged again, and put the frogged yarn into baggies to save it for making the sleeves. My other reason for using the larger hook was the armhole. Once again, I didn’t want something clinging to my arm, because I personally find that uncomfortable to wear. My hope was that the larger hook would net me a larger armhole, and a more comfortable cardi wearing experience.

After a solid time-out (where I was busy creating lovely new projects for Cascade Yarns), I came back to this puppy and started it once again. Used the 5.5mm hook and didn’t worry about gauge, because I knew it was way off what was stated in the pattern. Originally followed pattern, but added an extra increase row for the chest area, which made for 5 HDC between increase/decrease stitches, and that made the chaining for armhole change to 13. Originally stitched with three peaks for the armhole, but after doing several rounds for the body and trying it out, the back was too full and didn’t look right. So, ripped back to the row where armholes are created and went with 4 peaks for the armhole. This gives a fuller, almost bell sleeve, but that is more doable than the super full back. Stitched the sleeves with the yarn in pieces from my first two aborted attempts of the sweater. Added three more rows for the sleeve so it ends past the elbow, then did the edging. Didn’t like the look of the DC as called for in the pattern for edging, so went with Hdc for the first round, then crab stitch for the second. After finishing sleeves, went back to stitching the body of the cardi. Added 5 extra rows to increase length. Also changed pattern for bottom of sweater – did one row in pattern before doing one row to create flat edge, because sl st didn’t show as much against same color. Main portion of cardi is now complete. Need to weave in lots and lots of ends, then do edging. Once cardi is edged, will take it to local craft store to find the perfect buttons.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

I like the pattern, and I love how my cardi fits and looks on me, but it took A LOT of pattern adjusting to get a fit that I was happy with.

So why share all this?

Because it is okay to go off pattern when needed to make something that you will be happy wearing. Sometimes following the pattern exactly will make you a pretty garment, but if it doesn’t fit or look right, it will spend more time stuffed away in a drawer rather than on your body, and all that time you spend making it will have gone to waste.

For the most part, this is a well written pattern. It was easy to follow all the instructions. But if all I did was follow the instructions, I would have either (1) run out of yarn and wouldn’t have been able to make the sleeves or (2) made something that I spent lots of time on and wouldn’t be able to wear. It was worth it to “break the rules” and make personal adjustments to the pattern, because I love what I made, I know it is going to be the fit I wanted, and I can’t wait to wear it again and again.

 

Have you ever had to do this with a pattern? I’d be interested in hearing your pattern fit stories.

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Back To School Team Spirit!

It is back to school time across the country, with families gearing up to send their kids to grade school, high school, or even college.  Back to school also means the start of Fall Sports – Volleyball, Cross-Country, and Football just to name a few. So, I thought I’d highlight a couple patterns I made for Cascade Yarns to help show your school spirit!

The first is the Spirit Wave Scarf. This is a quick crochet project, easily done in two or three colors, and perfect for flashing your school colors at any sporting event.

© Cascade Yarns

© Cascade Yarns

The second item will keep you warm when you are sitting in the stands during playoff season, or need something to wrap around yourself as you cheer on your favorite runner as they race across frost-covered fields. It’s the Spirit Wave Stadium Blanket! Once again, it can be crocheted in two or three colors, and you can decide how thick or thin you want the ripples to be.

© Cascade Yarns

© Cascade Yarns

Surprise a super fan with one or both of these items, and its sure to be a hit! Looking for an End of Season gift for an awesome coach? The stadium blanket would be something they would cherish for a long time.

Let me know how you use crochet to cheer on your favorite teams!

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Friendship Shawl Photo Tutorial

This post will serve to show how to do the short row shaping wedge, featured in my latest pattern for Cascade Yarns – North Shore Friendship Shawl.

Follow this pictorial tutorial to make the first 5 rows of the gauge swatch as stated in the pattern.

©Laura Krzak

©Laura Krzak

Chain 32.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Row 1: Working into the back bar side of the chain stitch, half-double crochet (HDC) into the 3rd ch from the hook and in each ch across. Turn.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Row 2: Ch 2 (does not count as a stitch here and throughout the pattern), HDC in first 5 sts across. Turn.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Row 3: Ch 1, place stitch marker (sm) in back bar of ch 1 just made, HDC in 5 sts across. Turn.

Row 4: Ch 2, HDC in first 5 sts, …

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

back bar HDC (pick up back bar of the stitch markered chain, then insert hook into the top two loops of the next unworked stitch 3 rows down, YO and pull loop through top of st [3 loops on hook], YO and pull through all 3 loops), HDC in next 4 sts. Turn.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Row 5: Ch 1, place sm in back bar of ch1 1 just made, HDC in 10 sts across. Turn.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

 

Once you have completed all 13 rows in the gauge swatch pattern, your short row sample should look something like this:

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Use this swatch to make sure your stitching gauge matches the one in the pattern. I’m a pretty average tension – not too tight, not too loose – but if you do fall into one of those stitch tension categories, please adjust your hook size so you do get the proper gauge.

 

A quick note about gauge: Gauge is factored with this particular yarn (Category 3 – DK / Light Worsted), along with my tension and hook choice.  If you choose a different weight of yarn, please be aware that it will change the overall size of the shawl. That is why making a gauge swatch is so important. It will help you adapt your yarn choice to the pattern.

 

 

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Esme Tunisian Scarf Photo Tutorial

Welcome to the photo tutorial blog post for one of my newest patterns for Cascade Yarns – the Esme Tunisian scarf.

This scarf features Tunisian crochet, which is worked in two passes with no turning of the work. In the forward pass, you pick up the loops on your hook according to the stated pattern. In the return pass, you work the loops off the hook, until you only have one loop left. This tutorial will help you with both passes.

Please note: I am writing this tutorial with the expectation that you have the pattern from Cascade Yarns and so have the directions for the special stitches used. I will not be restating that info here.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

For Tunisian crochet, you will need a specialized hook – one without a thumb rest. The one I am using is made by Denise Interchangeable, but you can also find Tunisian hooks at your local craft store or local yarn store.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Chain 22

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Row 1 -Foward Pass: Going into the back bar of your chain, pull up a loop in the 2nd ch from the hook and in each ch across.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Finished forward pass should look like the above picture.

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Row 1 – Return Pass: YO, pull through 1 loop on hook…

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

YO, pull through 2 loops on hook …

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Ch 1, YO and pull through 4 loops on hook (Tunisian shell made), Ch 1…

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

YO and pull through 2 loops on hook, (follow as stated on pattern for completion of row).

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Row 2 – Forward Pass: (loop on hook counts as first st), TSS in next st…

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Insert hook into ch-sp and pull up loop…

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

Insert hook into top of shell and pull up a loop (follow pattern to last stitch)

Insert hook into chain, picking up two bars of the chain and pull up a loop.

Work Row 2 – Return Pass as stated in pattern.

After several rows, it should look like this:

© Laura Krzak

© Laura Krzak

 

I hope this tutorial helped and that this pattern will encourage you to do more Tunisian stitch work.

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Live and Learn

Okay, so the WIP CAL/KAL hasn’t been as popular as I hoped it would be. Only had two people participate in April, and none for May. So as of today, I’m ending it.

Thanks to the few who did play along – I appreciate it more than you know. Maybe I’ll try this again sometime in the future, once I’m a little more well known 🙂

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Yarn Explorations For Crochet

*Warning – this post is going to have lots of pictures, so it will probably be best viewed on a computer.*

 

As some of you may know, I have had several crochet designs sold to and published by Cascade Yarns. I am currently working on a project for them which uses a multi color yarn and that made me think about color changing yarns and which ones work well for crochet.

One of the main differences between knit and crochet are the stitches themselves. While both crafts provide hundreds of different stitch combinations to create different patterns and textures, knitting does with with stitches of equal height, while variations in crochet stitch height and combinations of stitch height means a crocheter uses the yarn differently.

When it comes to color-changing yarn, this can be a problem. If the color transitions are short, stitches can create an undesired blotchy effect with the fabric, often colorfully referred to as clown barf. Face it, it just does not look pretty, and we either give up on the pattern and the yarn languishes away in a forgotten corner of the closet, or the yarn is frogged and put away, never to be used again. We’ve all been there, and it is just a part of crafting. There is a way to deal with yarns like this and I’ll bring it up in a future post. However, today I want to talk about yarns that are not a problem.

Over the past several years, yarns with long color transitions have arrived on the market, and these are great for crocheters! I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorites.

 

The first three yarns are available in big box stores like JoAnn’s, and Michaels, as well as local craft stores in your area. They are Amazing by Lion Brand Yarn (top), Unforgettable by Red Heart Boutique (middle), and Midnight by Red Heart Boutique(bottom).  All three feature the slow color changes that work great for crochet.

©Laura Krzak

©Laura Krzak

©Laura Krzak

©Laura Krzak

©Laura Krzak

  ©Laura Krzak

An example of those slow color changes can be seen in this sample I stitched for a class, using the Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable. The color change of the yarn creates a striping effect when worked in the round, with the colors blending seamlessly from one to another.

©Laura Krzak

©Laura Krzak

 

Since I’ve done several crochet patterns for Cascade Yarns, I’m quite familiar with the properties of their long color changing yarns as well.

©Laura Krzak

©Laura Krzak

Casablanca was one of the first long color change yarns that Cascade Yarns introduced. While in skein form it may be hard to see how the yarn transitions, but once it is wound into a cake, you can get more of a sense of how the yarn will stitch up, as seen in the picture below.

©Laura Krzak

©Laura Krzak

Other yarns by Cascade that include long color transitions include, Souk, Tangier, and Pinwheel.

One of the newer yarns by Cascade that features a mid-length color change is Avalon Multi. I’m currently working on a new pattern for Cascade with this yarn, and they gave me permission to show a close-up of the stitch pattern to show you how the color change works with the stitches.

©Laura Krzak

©Laura Krzak

See how that lime green seems to zig-zag among the stitches? I love the interest it brings to the pattern.  How did I get it to travel like that? Swatching. It took experimenting with total number of stitches along with different hook sizes before I found what I liked with the stitch.

It’s that swatch experimentation that is some of the best advice I can pass along when it comes to color changing yarns. You have to see how the color behaves within the fabric you are creating to make sure it is what you want. A little (or a lot) of swatching at the start can save you lots of heart-ache later down the road when you just want to give up on a pattern because it isn’t right. Sometimes you may buy a yarn thinking it is perfect for a pattern, but after a quarter way through, you hate it. It isn’t the fault of the pattern, and it isn’t your fault either. It’s just that pattern and yarn aren’t a right fit. Swatching beforehand will help fix some of that, and will help you find the right yarn for the right pattern.

Whew – that was a lot to cover, so let me break it down…

  1. Yarns with long, slow color transitions work great with crochet because the color transitions don’t fight the variety of stitches that are used.
  2. Yarns will shorter color transitions can be used for crochet, but sometimes need to be modified (topic for future post)
  3. Swatching with your yarn in the stitch pattern will help you figure out if your yarn is right for that pattern, saving you lots of heartache later on if it isn’t.

 

Let me know if you have other favorite long color transition yarns to add to the list. I know I didn’t cover them all!

1 Comment »

WIP CAL/KAL – Start of Month Two!

WIP_Roundup_2+Image-large

Welcome to Month Two of the WIP CAL/KAL! I’m glad you are here and I look forward to all the stitching goodness we will finish over the next two months.

 

As a reminder, here is how you can participate.  Comment on this blog with your name and either a link to your Ravelry project page OR a note that you will be emailing the project information to me at decchilddesigns@gmail.com. Project information should include the following:

  • Project name
  • Pattern name (if applicable)
  • yarn used
  • hook / needle size
  • (if possible) a current picture of the WIP

 

At the start of each month, I will post a blog (like this one) to remind how to participate and to be a starting point for sign-ups. In order to be eligible for the prize drawing, you must have a comment on this blog with your starting info as well as when you post your finished item.  Once a week, probably on Sundays, I will have a progress blog posted.  If you have completed your WIP, you need to do one of the following:

  • Comment under the progress blog with your name and the Ravelry link to the completed item OR
  • email me at the gmail address listed earlier with your name, completion date for your project, and a picture of the finished item.

Once I have received both the starting comment (on this blog) and the completion comment (on a future blog), you will be added to the list for that month’s drawing.

 

What’s the prize for this month? YARN!!!

002 003

You could win one of these sets of Yarn – either Milky Whey from Kollage Yarns (50% Milk / 50% Soy) or Simplicity by HiKoo / Skacel (55% Merino Superwash / 28% Acrylic/ 17% Nylon). You will be getting the exact yarn sets as pictured – winner chooses which one they would like.

 

Join me on this journey to finish those projects and who knows? You might win some lovely yarn as well!

I look forward to seeing the finished items!

2 Comments »

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