Time Made Tangible

My days are filled with the ephemera of spreadsheets, memos, emails, phone calls and presentations, all so easily lost and forgotten with the flick of a switch. All transitory. With evening comes balance and recovery. Most evenings after all my work and teaching and chores are done and the kids are in bed, I sit down on the couch, put my feet up, and choose a knitting project to work on. Knitting transforms spare time into a tangible, useful object, solidifying the ideas and effort expended. There are several on the go; a quick dishcloth, a shawl, a sweater. Small, medium, large; easy, intermediate, advanced. Which one wins depends on my mood and how much time is left before bed. The texture and colours matter. Maybe a bright pick-me-up, or a soothing neutral shimmer, or minimalist monochrome. Instant gratification of quick completion usually wins. After that, the satisfaction of finishing touches.
Meanwhile, on go my headphones with the latest audiobook, (this week it is Fierce Conversations by Susan Craig Scott M.D.), or the classical playlist of the month from Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton-Hill. Perhaps some moody piano by Chilly Gonzales or a sacred mass from the Renaissance, or a guided meditation. Washing away the arguments and egos of the day. Recovering a sense of capability and accomplishment.

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(This post was originally published on my writing blog, Tea and Quiet.)

Quick Velvet Scrunchies

Need a quick gift for the holidays or a birthday? Try this super-quick pattern for Velvet Scrunchies.

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Materials:

1 ball of Bernat Baby Velvet yarn (or scraps – one ball will make many, many scrunchies!)

Crochet hook size 5.5 mm

Thick hair elastic (pony-tail holder), any brand, standard size. I used dollar-store elastics.

 

Instructions:

You will be covering a purchased hair elastic with crochet stitches.

Round 1: single crochet

Make a slip knot, then slip-stitch into the ring (elastic). Chain 1. Work at least 40 to 50 single crochet (sc) into the ring, filling it up as much as possible. Tip: work over top of the loose yarn end to cover it up. Stop after every ten stitches and push the stitches together. When you get all the way around the elastic, slip stitch to the first sc.

Round 2: Double crochet

Chain 2 (counts as first double crochet (dc)). Work 2 dc into each sc around. Slip stitch to top of first dc. Fasten off and weave in ends.

Wear as a bracelet or a hair scrunchie. Enjoy!

Waffle Stitch Dishcloth (knit)

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I love crochet. Well, I also love to knit. Here is a simple pattern for a knitted dishcloth. The stitch pattern is a multiple of 2, so feel free to adjust the width to your taste. It would also make a fabulous dish towel.

Why bother knitting dishcloths when they will just be used to scrub dishes? Here are some reasons:

  1. They actually work well.
  2. You can make custom-size, custom pattern versions. Harry Potter’s face? Bumblebee? The classic garter stitch on the bias? Easy peasy.
  3. You can make a swatch to test out a new stitch pattern, then actually use it for something.
  4. Hand-made dishcloths are a cult fave (I’ve seen people search for them on Facebook). Everyone took them for granted while their grandmothers were making them, then missed them once Grandma passed away.
  5. They’re great gifts! Whip one up as a hostess gift or make one to put in a spa gift basket.
  6. They are a quick project that can be completed in one evening. It’s a nice break from a larger project that’s taking forever.
  7. They are somehow just satisfying.

 

Pattern

Materials

Knitting needles, 3.75 mm*

Bernat Handicrafter cotton (medium #4 weight) or your favourite cotton/cotton blend yarn. (Kitchen Cotton, Dishie, Scrubby Smoothie, etc.)

*Although gauge is not crucial, using smaller needles gives a good, firm fabric that won’t stretch out as much when wet. You could even try 3.5 mm.

Directions

  1. Cast on 50 stitches
  2. Rows 1-8 (lower border): Knit (makes 4 garter-stitch ridges).
  3. Rows 9-10: Knit 1, purl 1 across. (2 rows k1-p1 rib.)
  4. Rows 11-12: Knit.
  5. Repeat rows 9-12, 18 times or until dishcloth is nearly the desired length, then work upper border. This is the waffle-stitch pattern.
  6. Last 8 rows (upper border): knit.
  7. Bind off and weave in ends.

 

Feel free to use this pattern to make dishcloths for sale. Please give credit! Thanks and happy crafting.

The $500 Doily

I make a lot of doilies. There’s a collection of them on our dining table, and we use them as place mats and coasters.¬†Yesterday after my daughters finished the dishes, I found one of the doilies left on the counter, half-wet, with rice stuck to it. It was made with moss-green KnitPicks Curio size 10 thread, a daisy design, not particularly difficult, but striking.

“Just throw it in the washer,” someone said.

“No! That will shrink it and ruin it.”

“So, just make another one.”

…!

This doily took several evenings to finish. If I had to tally up the hours, probably 12 hours¬† in total. I prefer quality over quantity – other crocheters might be faster. The faster I go, the worse my stitch quality gets. It’s not a race unless you’re Lily Chin competing for the World’s Fastest Crocheter title.

With all those hours and at my usual professional rate, that’s about $500 worth of my time. That’s a $500 doily! Only to me, obviously.

It’s amazing how little value is placed on these beautiful objects, works of art that take so much time and care to make. In my view, it is a reflection of the minimal value placed on women’s time.

Yarn Cravings and Amazon Adventures

Happy January…I’ve been battling an illness for the past month, and am still not well. The bugs swirling around in winter at schools finally caught up to me. The past 2 weeks it’s getting progressively worse. You know I’m sick when I miss my precious ski days! It’s depressing. On the bright side, I have had extra time for net-surfing, reading, writing, and knitting. Surfing for patterns and yarn, of course. Here are some of the goodies I found and the adventures along the way.

Since finishing the Baby Surprise Jacket (see last post), I started an adult-sized version for one of my daughters. It is progressing nicely. Here’s a photo of the work in progress. The yarn is Elann Peruvian Highland Donegal in Oatmeal and blue, with bits of Patons Classic Wool in blush, and a Caron Cake in Rainbow Sherbet.

While knitting I was also surfing, planning out the next jacket, and browsing through more garter stitch patterns. Here’s one I absolutely drooled over: the Hue Shift Afghan from KnitPicks. Wow, it’s stunning, and it’s offered as a kit and a pattern. Although the kit is low-priced, it’s from the USA and I would have to pay exchange and duty. I may just get the pattern and shop for yarn in my stash or LYS.

Shop local is my mantra (I love my LYS), but I just couldn’t help myself with this one. There is a yarn supplier & pattern designer I’ve been a fan of for years, Elann, based in Vancouver. (So, they’re kind of local.) Elann now outsources their shipping to Amazon.ca. Anyway, I ordered a 5-pack of the Meander wool in the Bohemian colourway. It arrived last Friday as promised, but when I opened the box, my order was sprinkled with, of all things, SOY SAUCE. It was actually spilled inside the box. I guess the Amazon warehouse order-picker-packer was eating his lunch while he packed my box. Thankfully the yarn was packaged in a plastic bag, so it was not damaged, but it stunk like soy sauce. Awful, except, Elann’s customer service was fast and amazing. They replied to my complaint within a couple of hours, and offered to replace the yarn and give me a free pattern. I decided to keep the yarn (the smell will easily air/wash out), and chose the Pinwheel Sweater pattern. You can find Elann on Ravelry, and on Amazon. Check them out. I am still a loyal customer thanks to their fabulous customer service. The Meander yarn is delicious and is destined for my next project, probably another Surprise Jacket, or a cozy “swoncho” (poncho-sweater-thing, thanks Knitting Daily emails for the name).

What are you working on? Feel free to post links in the comments here.

I hope you are all healthy and well. Happy knitting and crocheting!

Rediscovering Garter Stitch

Happy 2018! It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on my site, because…well, life happens. My husband suffered a major, life-changing injury at work in early 2015, and is still recovering after several surgeries. He now lives with PTSD and a permanently damaged hand. It has been a struggle for him, and for the whole family. I haven’t had the energy to write for a while, but I’m back now. Here are some of the designs I’m coveting and working on.

My LYS: Unwind Yarns

There’s a new LYS in town, called Unwind Yarns: More Than a Yarn Store, and I love it! I bought a set of Kollage interchangeable circular needles, with square needles. Square needles are so easy to work with, and so far I haven’t had the aching hands I usually get from knitting. Unwind stocks good-quality, gorgeous wools and other premium fibres. Here’s a multi-coloured cowl I made using the “Waves” stranded colourwork pattern (Alterknits Stitch Dictionary) and Drops Karisma superwash wool. I’m not completely happy with the colourway, because it doesn’t quite have enough contrast to show clearly.

Here’s the toque I made for my husband’s birthday present, also in Karisma. I adapted a mitten pattern from Drops website, using five repeats, and even used the mitten top shaping as-is for a unique top.

Danish Modern: Hanne Falkenberg

Crochet has been the theme of this blog, but I also love to knit. Lately, colourwork with stranded knitting and stripes has captured my interest. While leafing through old back issues of Vogue Knitting magazine, I re-discovered a designer whose work fascinates me. Her name is Hanne Falkenberg, and she designs what she calls Danish Modern garments for women. Visit her site here: http://www.knit.dk/index_uk.phpMs. Falkenberg’s designs are not available for sale as patterns only. She sells them as full kits, complete with her own wool, a fine 2-ply Scottish Shetland wool. The designs are coveted by fans, who consider a completed Falkenberg to be quite an accomplishment, requiring dedication and perseverance. In North America, the only distributor is Sedona Knit Wits at https://www.sedonaknitwits.com/collections/hanne-falkenberg. Right now I am coveting the Mermaid jacket, Blues Vest, Drip Drop and Da Capo jackets. My need for instant gratification couldn’t be met just yet, and I wasn’t quite ready to commit to a full-scale project like those just yet. So, I searched for some more accessible projects to achieve a similar look. Purl Soho has several garter-stitch projects that feature simplicity and clean lines, but they weren’t quite what I wanted for now.

Schoolhouse Press and E.Z.

Garter stitch is so simple and under-appreciated, knit every row, and for the longest time I avoided it because it looked too simple to me. I’m drawn back to it now because its simplicity can be so beautiful. It shows colourwork well, it lays flat and doesn’t roll, and it’s so springy and squishy. If it’s done in good-quality wool, it is spectacular. While searching for patterns in garter stitch, I found the Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket and Adult Surprise Jacket pattern on my bookshelf. I ordered it probably five or six years ago from Schoolhouse Press, back when they only sold hard copies of their patterns (no pdf downloads at all!). By the time it arrived in the mail, I had moved on to other projects. This project had everything I was looking for: mitres, potential for striping patterns, a more sophisticated looking garter-stitch garment. Schoolhouse Press now offers digital products including pdf copies of patterns and streaming videos, and an online calculator for custom-sizing the Surprise Sweater. It’s a literal treasure trove of knowledge (E.Z. was a genius, and her equally-talented daughter Meg Swanson and grandson Cully continue the tradition.) I bought the Surprise Sweater streaming video, which features Meg Swanson demonstrating the techniques. Thanks to the video, I finally tried the i-cord bind off and it was a success. Meg recommends making the Baby Surprise Jacket first, before trying the adult size. I just completed my first one tonight.

My next project will be an adult-size version of the Surprise Sweater, and I’m just choosing what wool to use. I have some tweedy wool in beige and denim blue to use up, but it’s not superwash treated. Maybe that’s okay, because I can just soak it to clean it.

What’s on your needles (or hook)?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Blueberry Creek Crafts

Have a wonderful holiday season, whatever you celebrate. Best wishes to you and yours!

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This week I’ve been busy wrapping gifts, finishing off hand-made items, and mailing parcels to family and customers (the last one went to New York). I hope all the yarn snippets are picked up – one gift had so many ends to weave in that I lost count! It’s a flurry of yarn and thread here.

Hopefully, the freezing rain outside today turns to snow flurries. Ski trails, here I come!

I’ve just posted two new patterns for mason jar cozies, inspired by vintage doilies: the Blooming Shells cozy, and the Lily of the Valley cozy. They are available for purchase in my Ravelry and Etsy shops.

Lily of the Valley

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Buy all three patterns and get 25% off regular price!

Doily Redux: Modern Thread Crochet for your Home

I’ve taken a short break from frantic slipper-making to indulge a creative whim: designing thread crochet candle holders. Well, they’re actually Mason jar covers, and I hope to use them as pendant lamps. Equally gorgeous as tea light holders, these covers are basically cylindrical doilies. I’m fascinated by the interplay of light and shadow created when it’s lit from within by a candle.

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Light up your home this holiday…also, DIY wedding alert!

This is my latest design: the Foxgloves Lace mason jar cover. The base of the cover is a floral design, making it perfect for a hanging pendant lamp.

Foxglove-bottom

Without a candle, it’s still a lovely piece. Filled with peppermint candies, it would make a nice quick gift. It only took a couple of hours to make this one, so a determined crafter could make several in one day. (Unless you suffer from hand pain like I do – then I recommend taking frequent breaks.)

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Because of my hand pain problem, I need to alternate between larger yarn and smaller thread. (Just another excuse for having several projects on the go at once!)

Anyway, if you’re planning a DIY wedding, get started on these now! You can make a bunch for centrepieces or favours.

The pattern is available for sale in my Etsy shop and also on Ravelry and Craftsy.

Since I first wrote this, I’ve written two other mason jar patterns. You can purchase them individually or as a collection (save 25% off individual prices by purchasing the collection). The collection is available in my Etsy, Craftsy, and Ravelry stores. On Ravelry, add all three patterns to your cart and the discount will be calculated automatically. Etsy and Craftsy have a separate listing for the pattern collection.

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Houndstooth handbags for Christmas

Houndstooth handbags

For the past week I’ve been whipping up these houndstooth handbags to give as Christmas gifts. I LOVE the pattern, which is by Jennifer Pionk of A Crocheted Simplicity. It’s available to buy on Etsy and on Ravelry. Check out her website for more cute patterns.

I made it in three different colour combinations: tea rose (peach) and white, navy and white, and turquoise blue and white. I used the optional bow embellishment on the tea rose version, and may add a flower to the other two. They look chic without an embellishment.

The tea rose version is made following the pattern exactly, including the separate crocheted belt and bow, which are sewn on afterwards. The houndstooth stitch pattern is a simple two-row repeat. The key to getting the houndstooth checks to pop is to turn your work at the end of each round. Otherwise, it will just look like stripes. It also has a sturdy base made of linked dc which I have not tried before. The other two have slight modifications based on my personal preferences. Instead of a separate belt, I made the contrast stripe part of the bag top, and used single crochet instead of linked dc. The linked dc is easy to do and looks very nice, it’s just that I prefer the single crochet. Also, I’m not a fan of sewing. That’s just me!

The navy bag is made with acrylic yarn, not cotton, and I’m pleased with the results. It’s substantial and looks more suitable for winter because of it’s woolly texture. The turquoise bag is cotton, with a Tunisian simple stitch base. I chose Tunisian for this one because I have trouble counting the rows in linked dc – they blend together too much for my eyes. Tunisian rows are easy to count and easy to crochet into all sides. Christmas is only 3 weeks away, and I have a need for speed right now!

Here are photos of the different bag bases: the linked dc, and the Tunisian. Both make a dense fabric suitable for a bag. (Edit…2018…the other photos have somehow been lost from my media files. Not sure what happened there.)

My daughters want to use their handbags as lunch bags. Although the pattern doesn’t call for one, a lining would help keep the bags clean. I agree that a lining isn’t really necessary, but it would also help the handbags look more finished.

Overall, I give this pattern two thumbs up and will be making many more houndstooth handbags! Next up is one in Mod Green and White, using Lily Sugar’n Cream cotton, then a Holly Berry Red with white using Red Heart With Love.