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.

Stitch by Stitch 2

4 weeks in, 13 lbs down and loving the changes I am seeing…

The other day I felt my knee. The actual bone. I think it has been over a year since I could actually see it protruding from my jeans. The jacket I got for Christmas is getting a bit baggy. I’ve sinched up 2 belt notches and I have actually been enjoying morning runs (downhill to the next town – but we’ll work on getting up the hill next month). My swim workouts have expanded from what was an exhausting 500m with pauses every 25m to 1000m with some sprints worked in between and pauses every 100m (to start but again will work on that next month).
I still can’t break my knitting habit but then again I’m not really trying. Instead I figured out a way to make it a little healthier. Yes – they look at me funny and No – I don’t care. I spent an hour on the seated bike the other day and came home with fewer fat cells and a few more rows finished. LOVE IT!
I am very proud of myself for the major dietary changes I have made. I used to drink more Diet Coke in a day than water and it has now a month since I’ve had one. I have been allowing myself to indulge in one meal a week and I try to choose a food I’ve been craving all week. First it was Tex-Mex, then it was German Breakfast, last week it was Sushi. This week I haven’t had a craving strong enough to splurge on.
I used to stay up until the wee hours of the morning and snacking all the while. Now I go to bed early with plenty of energy in the morning and there is absolutely NO snacking after supper.
My skin is clearer than it has been in years. All the water I’ve been drinking?
With all these changes – I am still falling behind in the competition I entered. Another lady has taken a ridiculous lead in the local Lose2Win contest and has pretty much guaranteed that she’ll be riding “my”  sweet BMW bike come March.
In the next 6 weeks I may not be able to catch up but I am so excited about this new lifestyle that I have given myself. I have the money to buy my own bike but what I didn’t have was the motivation to make the changes I knew I needed to make.

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.

Learning Curves

Learning Curves

6 years ago I borrowed a friend’s crochet hook while she was in Australia and taught myself how to crochet. There were more than a few hiccups along the way. After I figured out how to keep the same number of stitches in each row I tackled my first blanket.

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I’m sure I didn’t take a picture of it and I’m not even sure what happened to it (I’ve been known to frog a whole project for MORE YARN). I finished the entire thing and then realized I had crocheted through the back loops of the entire blanket.
That taught me that it is important to be consistent. Nobody else knew it was a mistake. It is an actual technique after all. I guess I was accidentally ahead of the curve.
My next blanket was only a touch more successful. I was making each stitch correctly but my sizing was laughable.
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Soon I had mastered REAL projects. full baby blankets with appliqués of jumping sheep that each required 16 ends to weave-in and then sew in place. I love that blanket but that’s the only sheep blanket I will EVER make.
I would have loved to have made one more black sheep for my friend Amanda. She wanted one to sew on a pillow or a “jumper” for her little girl and it was a brilliant idea but I could not stomach the thought of even one more 16-ended sheep to sew on. Counting sheep became a bit of a nightmare for me after this project.
Soon after, I started experimenting with knitting. It was NOT fun. I kept crocheting for another year or so after I taught myself to knit because it was adding stress to my life instead of relieving it. If anyone would ask which I liked better I ALWAYS said crochet. I explained how you could make all kinds of 3 dimensional shapes easily with crochet and tried to convince anyone who asked how superior it was to knitting. I don’t think I would make the same argument today.
Deep down inside, I knew that I preferred the fabric that knitting makes but It was daunting and I didn’t want to put in the work to become good at it. Until I did.
I thought I liked crochet but I became obsessed with knitting. I wanted to knit faster so I spent a whole scarf forcing myself to use the Continental Method and at the end of the scarf, you couldn’t pay me to switch back to English.
IMG_0894I’m trying to remind myself that there is an “other side” of any learning curve as our family made a major electronics purchase yesterday and purchased our first Apple computer. I can’t get my son’s swimming time-tracking spreadsheet to calculate his “percentage improvement” anymore because apparently C4 contains a date instead of a number. Umm that might take a while to solve. But I will keep reminding myself that deep down inside I know I will love an Apple world. I just have to put in the work to succeed. It still beats weaving in 16 ends x 9 sheep on a baby blanket.
NEVER AGAIN

Slow and Steady wins the Race

Dongdaemun to Pfaffenhofen… By bike?

Wollmeise Spring Sale - Knit Wits on location.I may not have been blogging much lately but I’m still knitting. A lot. I have moved from South Korea to Germany. I traded rice for bread and Soju for Bier. I can’t take the train down to Dongdaemun fabric market on a whim but I can take the train to Pfaffenhofen to the Wollmeise Sale twice a year.

 

I miss Korea’s food and my family has made it a point to check out Korean BBQ restaruants in Nurnberg, Munich, and even Budapest. We have also tried our fair share of German bread and spatzel, and butter bretzen (pretzels), currywurst, oh lord – I’m going to miss the German food when I leave here. It is so good and fattening. I have finally decided that something must be done to counteract the effects of overeating in Germany.

Luckily the local gym has a Lose2Win program with a very nice BMW bike as the prize. I am determined that I’m going to win that bike! There are so many triails to explore in Germany and I don’t think my cute beach cruiser bike will handle the trails that are yet to be discovered.

Must have this bike!

I am trying to enjoy the weight-loss journey but it does not come naturally to me. I loathe every exercise class, every meal that does not include German bread, and every evening that does not involve a Radler (yummy beer/lemonade mix). I do think I will enjoy the results. And along the way I’m hoping that I come to love the energy and abilities I will have with my new body.

I imagine a lot of my knitting students feel the same way when they start. They want to be able to finish a fabulous scarf every weekend and have a wardrobe full of impressive pieces that they have made. The problem is – they want to be able to have the skills to make their dream accessories RIGHT NOW. Those that enjoy the process, the challenge of learning new stitches, new techniques, new patterns; those are the students who will become life-long knitters. One day they will pause and realize that they no longer find lace patterns frustrating and stressfull as they once did. They will not loathe ribbing as I loathe running. They will turn to it for relaxation after a hard day.

At this moment I cannot imagine turning to a nice long run for relaxation. I try to tell my students that knitting and crochet is about the journey. It is not about the finished product. If you do not enjoy the process of making the hat/scarf/sweater/blanket then chances are you will not want to make another one no matter how beautiful it is when it is done.

I want to win this bike. But I am also working hard to make sure that I enjoy my process. I want to want to continue after I have reached my goal. Otherwise I will not be able to enjoy my beautiful goal for long.

Trucker’s elbow stinks

Two weeks ago if you told me about the Ulnar nerve I would’ve thought you were just making up fancy medical jargon to impress me. Now I know that it is the nerve that controls your pinkie and ring finger and it runs through the outside of your elbow. I also know that if you damage or pinch that nerve you will not be able to feel your pinkie or ring finger and they will be a bit weaker. They call it Trucker’s elbow because it usually happens to truckers who lean their elbow out the window as they are driving. Maybe your recliner broke and you are more comfortable putting your feet up underneath you during a knitting marathon and leaning on the arm of the chair – yep that will do it too.

So I have damaged my Ulnar nerve. My right ring finger feels different. I can move it and I can feel with it but it is just different. Like I have had a rubber band around the first knuckle for the last two weeks. I asked the doctor about it and she says there is nothing that can be done but rest. i.e. no knitting. YIKES.

So it has been about 5 days now. No needles have touched my hands and no hooks have passed through my fingers. I did wonder if I could just switch to crochet but decided to just rest. And it is a horrible time of year to be yarn-free. I have so many present ideas that I’m itching to start but I can’t. If I had been smart I would’ve been working on presents through the summer too but I got wrapped up in my own projects and then re-doing my projects because I’m still working on my sizing to fit any presents in there. Now I’m paying for it.

On the bright side – I do think that my ring finger is slowly going back to normal. But at this rate it will be Christmas before I get to knitting again. Merry Christmas to me!