Mastering Crochet the slow and steady way.

I had the most inspiring day today. I am giddy with pride and excitement.

I’ve hosted a monthly knitting/crochet group for a local service organization for the last year or two. In that time I’ve offered a few tips and gotten a few newbies started with either knitting or crochet and I love every minute of it. I love the camaraderie that happens when you get a group of yarn-lovers together to share their knowledge or show-off their WIPs (work in progress) with pride.

I love that I can encourage and motivate others to embrace this passion of mine.

Sometimes I am so busy jumping from student to student that I barely get time to chat. Other times like today I get to work one-on-one with a longtime student and finally help her break through a barrier.

My good friend, Sara Nantz, has been a consistent face at Knit Wits for the better part of a year now but has not been able to graduate from a basic single crochet swatch. At first her 10 stitch swatch would loose stitches on each row. Then she been to gain stitches and I could tell that although she wanted desperately to learn, she really struggled with her stitch count and turning properly after each row.

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I tried everything. I explained how to count her chains from the hook in order to find the starting stitch. I showed her the little “bumper” that appeared at the end of each row that would tell her to stop. Nothing was working. I was grateful that she kept coming back to the club but unsure how to help her past her hurdle.

Then it happened. She showed up at Knit Wits today with her starter project in hand. 4 inches of beautiful, consistent, and STRAIGHT crochet fabric. I was (sorry Sara) shocked. Completely flabbergasted and secretly dancing inside myself with excitement.

I thought I had better get this lady started on her first actual project before something happened and the magic wore off. She decided on a cowl in a beautiful deep purple and I wondered if I dare explain a double crochet. I knew it would make her piece softer and help her feel that addictive sense of accomplishment faster. After spending the better part of a year teaching her how to get 4 inches of single crochet straight would I overwhelm her and jinx the whole thing?

I decided to give it a shot. I showed her the double crochet over 3-4 stitches and then handed over the yarn and hook. A few “oh, don’t forget to wrap first” and “through the work and then through 2” comments during the first 3 stitches and she finished the entire row herself. I held my breath and watched her turn chaining two like I had explained, turning the work like the page of a book so she could count her chains and find her starting stitch for the way back and insert that hook exactly where it belonged. SHE DID IT!

Then I asked her if she wanted to work her cowl as a long rectangle and then sew it together or if she would rather avoid turning each row by working it as one long and (almost) endless loop. Can you believe she told me she wanted to keep practicing turning and she thought she should do it the “hard” way so she could make sure to learn it properly? I THINK I LOVE THIS WOMAN!

Today I feel like a Momma Bird who watched her little baby fly for the first time. It took her monthly visits for over a year and while other students came, mastered the swatch test and moved on to numerous project by now while she still had the original mustard-yellow swatch with wavy edges that she kept working relentlessly. I am so glad she never gave up. I’m so glad she kept coming back. I not only gained a success-story but I gained a friend.

Inspiration Hits Anywhere – just be glad it does.

When I first moved to Germany a year and a half ago I pictured a small fiber industry with agri-tourism opportunities. What I have found instead is a thriving fiber industry with high-quality and amazingly innovative yarn brands on a much larger scale.

My most recent discovery is the Zauberball by Schoppel Yarns. I LOVE this yarn. It was sitting (with a few of its friends) on a table at a local craft fair and I had to have it. Like most yarn in my stash, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it but I HAD to have it.
It sat in my corner hutch where I stared at it for months. Then inspiration hit and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.
 
I had been inspired by the long, narrow shawlettes that are becoming popular on sites like Revelry and I wanted to create a version in Entrelac that had the same shape. My first attempt years ago resulted in a shawl. Still beautiful and stunning but NOT what I was trying to accomplish.
I looked back on that “failed” shawl and dug out my old notes. I picked up a grid notepad and tried again, mapping out how I would move from one square to the next and I developed Christine.
Christine was my happy accident, she isn’t what I originally intended but after she was “born” I fell in love. You could say I was obsessed. She starts out pointed at one end and grows thicker (and more intense) as you get to the end of your yarn. An 100g Zauberball is the perfect length and I used 2204 – Grüne Woche (Green Week) Zauberball from Schoppel yarns. I excitedly posted her to Revelry and was overwhelmed with the response. 
 
But I still wasn’t satisfied. I hit the notepad once more and tried to figure out a way that I could gain two squares on one end and lose one square on the other. I wanted there to be a point in the middle like a shawl but have a thin piece that you can wear like a scarf instead. These little arrows made sense to my brain so I gave it a shot. Take a wild guess which yarn I decided to use for my test-knit? You bet! Another Zauberball.

Finally – I had my Carrie. By now you may have figured out my naming scheme. Most of the time I was working on these projects I was also listening to audiobooks and Stephen King has always been my favorite. I’ve heard a story (probably from one of his prologues or author’s notes before an audio book) that when he wrote Carrie – he threw the manuscript in the trash. His wife, Tabitha, came along and fished it out to take a peek. After reading what he had thrown away – she urged him to keep going. She felt he really had something special.
Carrie is my something special. She is light enough to wear year round – but with her thick pointed middle she can keep you snuggly in the chilly Bavarian winters. For her, I used a Zauberball in Monochrome Color#2263
I am so thankful that I picked up my Zauberball at that little craft market last year. It was my Tabitha and it sparked intrigue and inspiration enough to pick up my discarded notes and try again. Carrie was finished a month ago and I quickly added her to my Ravelry Shop as well.
If you are interested in either of these patterns you can find them here:
If you would like more information about the Schoppel Products, You can see all their colors and yarn brands on their website: https://www.schoppel-wolle.de/en

First Projects are NEVER Perfect: It’s not their fault (or yours)

First Projects are NEVER Perfect:

It’s not their fault (or yours)

It has taken me 6 years to amass a collection of finished products and last spring I had a chance to sell some at the Hohenfels Community Spouses’ Club Spring Craft Fair. The day was a blast and it was a real learning experience to host my first booth for Yellow Ribbon Crafts.

 

I couldn’t believe how many people were interested in my dishcloths. I tried to have a selection of items that could fit any budget and my dishcloths were one of the lower-priced items so it was nice that so many people could take home a piece of Yellow Ribbon Knits!
What was baffling to me was how simple and quick a dishcloth is to knit. Why would all these shoppers be enthralled with an item that is usually the first item that new knitters master??
I think it is because many times a facecloth is the first project someone will tackle when learning to knit and it doesn’t always go well. I don’t know why one student will thrive and another will flounder
but typically there is a facecloth test for many new knitters. If they like the finished results – they continue. If they don’t – they stop. Perhaps those that have tried and failed in the past see these simple cloths with appreciation that others don’t have.
But to all those out there who knit an ugly facecloth the first time around – KEEP GOING! I spoke to a gal I’m helping the other day who was frustrated by her cloth progress.

And it is true. My first wash cloth was horrid. Twisted stitches, dropped stitches, uneven edges, curling ends, It was a real disaster. But I noticed that the top of it looked much better than the bottom. Instead of stopping, I tried again. I probably even ripped it out so I could use the yarn again because I’m thrifty that way 😉 The good news is that the entire second cloth looked a lot like the last half of the first – much better.
But I really wished I had kept my first cloth. I wish I could show anyone who is struggling that NOBODY knits a perfect first project. Martha Stewart would probably never want anyone to see her less than perfect first attempt but I guarantee that it was a disaster. Guar-an-tee!!
On a side-note – I’m trying to tell myself that this fits Yoga class all too well. Nope – I can’t do all the moves or hold all the positions the full time – YET. But my next class will be a little bit better than my last. So although it may be embarrassing and everybody gets to see my “Martha’s first cloth” moments during class. It is OK. Because each class there is someone else new who is in the same position I was and I can appreciate my progress and myself for not giving up. They might not know they are inspiring me but they are. We all inspire each other.

Ninjago Lunch Bag Challenge

My obsession is knitting but my son’s obsession is Ninjago. Lego Ninjago from Cartoon network with new episodes every Wednesday night. OK maybe I’m a little excited about these five ninjas and their quest to defeat Lord Garmadon. “What’s the best way to defeat your enemy? Make him your friend.” Ahh who wouldn’t love it with great messages like that.

Well it’s a little harder to love when your 6 year old is asking for a Ninjago lunch bag for school and there are none to be found. No that’s a lie – search on EBay and you’ll find them. For $20-30 bucks. I’ll do a lot for my kid but I am NOT spending $30 or even $20 on a lunch bag.

Not gonna happen when I have a stash of red and yellow yarn left over from the angry bird I crocheted for him last year. No he was going to have a Ninjago lunch bag – it just wasn’t coming from Ebay..

Now I can do a lot of crafty things but I am no artist. Not as far as pencil to paper anyway. I did not inherit that gene from my Mom. I did inherit the gene of collecting project materials and never actually finishing (or starting) any of the projects that I have such good intentions of completing some day. But that’s the topic of a different post.

This post is about how this mom found a way to make a pattern without the ability to draw. It is called Photoshop. Well a free copycat version from the Internet that is actually called Pixlr.

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 I used their pointinize filter to turn my picture into a series of dots. First i took out all the shading and colored all the red-red and yellow-yellow instead of shades of yellow and red. I did the same with the black and the white until my final picture was just black yellow or red dots.

Unfortunately a knitting stitch is not the same dimensions as one of these dots so when I made my first set of ninja eyes they were twice as wide as I wanted. I adjusted my size by taking out a few columns from either side and in the middle and transferred my pattern onto some graph paper.

My new pattern is available for purchase: Ninja Eyes at Ravelry

I decided to make my bag out of a circular tube. I thought I could just knit along happily on circular needles and life would be grand. Guess I missed the chapter in my Knit ‘n Bitch book that talked about why it is an awful and terrible decision to knit in the round when you are doing Intarsia or stranded knitting. That chapter is there by the way – I have now read it.
You can’t possibly carry your yarn around to the back side of your project for every row and I ended up with about 300 strands needing to be sewn in or – yes I’ll admit it – tied off with a knot. Next time I will knit two sides and sew them up with a mattress stitch and save myself at least a couple hours worth of tying up ends.
To make the bottom of my bag I found the sides and pinched about an inch on either side and sewed it together to give the bag a bit of a flat bottom. Doing this first made it easier to center my handles later. I knitted up in the round until past the pattern and then found the center of my bag above my ninja eyes.
I estimated about 15 stitches to make a good handle and on my next pass I bound-off those stitches on the front and the back. On my next pass I cast on those stitches and then went on knitting on the other side of the new “hole” I had just made. I bound off after about another 8 rows and had just 2 feet of red yarn left. Talk about a stash buster.
 
It’s about 18 hours until school starts so I just made my deadline but I guarantee my kid will be the only kid in school with a Ninjago lunch bag. Well unless their parents were willing to pay the $30 to order one from EBay. Me – I prefer the free yarn in my stash and a good challenge. I’m still putting off that black angry bird he has ordered though.
To get a chart of these eyes you can click on the link below and finish your purchase at my Ravelry store.