Category Archives: crochet

Review: Lion Brand’s US Flag Afghan Kit

Knowing how much my cousin and her husband love Americana, when a Lion Brand newsletter arrived last summer featuring several red, white, and blue knitting and crochet kits, I sent her the link and said if something struck her fancy I’d be happy to make it for her.

As it turns out, we both liked the same one. The U.S. Flag Afghan.

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The finished flag afghan in its new home.

I hate to admit how long it took me to finish what’s a fairly straightforward pattern.

Under normal circumstances I probably could have finished crocheting this in a couple of weeks. But pretty much the day after buying the kit I injured the tendon running along my right wrist from my thumb almost to the crook of my elbow.

I’m right handed. And as fellow crocheters know, you move your wrist a lot when crocheting.

Than meant I could only do at most a row or two at a time.

Once my wrist and thumb began to heal I was able to increase how much I could do at once. I finished crocheting it in time for Thanksgiving, and over the extended holiday my cousin helped me place the stars. I only got a few firmly attached, so she said she’d ask her mother-in-law (a fellow yarny!) to help attach the rest.

Now for the review:

If you can double crochet and follow simple instructions for basic increases and decreases (which form the peaks and valleys of the ripples), you can make the body of the afghan.

The stars are a little more challenging since they’re worked in the round. I found using stitch markers helped me “see” the chain 1 space where the base of each new point joined the round. The stars are a combination of single crochets, slip stitches, chains, half-double crochets, and double crochets. But the design is so logical that after making two of three I didn’t need to check the pattern.

The only criticism I really have of the pattern is the vague instructions for changing colors where the blue field meets the stripes in the body of the flag. All it says is, “When changing color, drop, but do not fasten off the old color,” and later, “Change to color C” —or A or B, depending on the row you’re on.

It was only after a few rows that I realized sometimes I twisted the yarns, sometimes I didn’t, so the joint was more obvious on some rows than others. I finally discovered I could help hide that little bit of transition yarn by working it into the first stitch after the color change. (Sorry that’s so vague. It’s probably also why the pattern didn’t suggest it. It’s difficult to explain.)

As for the kit itself… I don’t often use kits, but the sale price was far less than buying the yarn alone would be, so it made sense.

I love the softness and thickness of Lion Brand’s Heartland yarn, and the almost time-worn look of the colors included in the kit were perfect: “Redwood,” “Acadia,” and “Olympic.” Being acrylic, it’s also easier to care for than wool.

Before beginning the afghan I did three gauge tests: one for the stars and two for the body. The stars were pretty close to gauge, but my first swatch for the body was a little large so I switched to a smaller hook and my second swatch matched the gauge.

My biggest complaint? By the time I reached the final two rows I was worried I wouldn’t have enough blue to finish the afghan. I started crocheting a little tighter—hoping to stretch out what little yarn remained—but only had maybe 10 inches of yarn remaining after the final stitch. And I even used the yarn from my blue gauge swatch. That’s a little too close to comfort for me.

There wasn’t much white yarn left after I finished the flag, either, so I opted to use an even smaller hook to make the stars. Because I was so short on yarn, I tried to keep the tails to about two inches when starting and finishing each star, barely long enough to secure the stars to the afghan. I only had about half an inch of white yarn left to tie off the 12th and final star.

Thankfully there was more than enough red yarn, especially since one skein was wound in a double strand. I’ve never seen that with any yarn before, so I’m sure it was just some manufacturing fluke. It looked fine from the outside, but when I tried working from one strand the other one kept knotting up. (I’ll just save that skein to use on a double-stranded project.)

If I were to rate Lion Brand’s U.S. Flag Afghan Kit using a scale of 1-5 stars, I’d give it a solid four stars.

Offering more details in the instructions for switching yarns where the stripes meet the blue field would boost the rating by half a point.

No one likes nearing the end of a project only to realize they might not have enough yarn to complete it. I’d suggest Lion Brand alerts crocheters that nearly every inch of blue and white yarn will be used so they won’t get too anxious when it starts running low. Knowing that before buying the kit would also give crocheters the option to buy more yarn (from the same dye lot, of course) or use a smaller hook.

Overall, those are minimal quibbles.

The recipients love the finished project, and that’s the only thing that really matters.

 

Scrappy New Year!

Don’t even bother denying it. Every knitter, weaver, and crocheter has a yarn stash. Some are big, some are small. Mine is somewhere in between. I’d guess about 80% of my stash is leftover from completed projects and the rest is either for projects I plan (or planned) to make or yarn that I bought because it called my name.

Over a year ago, a couple of my cousins volunteered to have a garage sale to help their older friend—once prolific knitter—unload a lot of yarn, needles, and patterns. They sold a ton of yarn. I’m not kidding: They sent me a photo of their grown daughter sitting on top of a massive pile of garbage bags all filled with yarn.

Their sale was a success, but I never want to have to divest myself of that much yarn at once. I’d rather use it.

Last summer I burned through most of my cotton yarn by making myself a new bathmat (and another for a friend who requested one).

But to use up a lot of mismatched yarns, I decided to make a large, double-stranded scrappy blanket.

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The blanket is made from three panels: two using white, off white, cream, tan, and light gray yarns as a grounding color to be double stranded with random lengths of various colors of yarn scraps, and the middle panel uses black, charcoal, and dark gray as the grounding color.

To ensure the scraps don’t become untied, I held two strands parallel (as opposed to end-to-end) and knotted them with a loop so the harder you tug on the yarn, the tighter the knot becomes. Unless, of course, you pull so hard that the yarn breaks.

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Because there are so many colors, I used a medium gray to stitch the dark and light panels together.

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Each panel was 32 stitches wide and worked on size 19 needles, but I could have gone with 17s or even 15s and had a slightly denser fabric. Instead of counting rows I just tried to knit all three panels to approximately the same length.

I intentionally left the scrappy ends sticking out. First, there are so many that weaving them in would take forever. Second, if you do that in time they’ll work loose eventually anyway. Third, it adds more texture.

On a whim, I stranded the random scrap yarn with some red that was leftover from the flag afghan and crocheted an edging along all four sides of the blanket. That was so last-minute that I didn’t get a photo.

The beauty of a project like this? If the blanket snags or frays you can quite literally use any color/size/fiber of yarn to knot it back up.

Oddly enough, I made this for the same cousins who held that yarn sale! It was a thank-you for hosting the extended family at their cabin. But it’s really a memory blanket since it includes scraps from pretty much every item I’ve made for family members over the years. My sister-in-law donated some of her own yarn scraps to the project, too!

Making this blanket led to my New Year Resolution:

No buying new yarn until either my stash is gone or the calendar says 2018—unless it’s needed to make a gift or special project for someone else. (Every good resolution needs a loophole!)

What are your crafty resolutions for 2017?

 

 

Stitch it Forward

I kid you knot not. Today is I Love Yarn Day. Appropriately enough, the official tagline for it is Stitch It Forward.

It’s no secret. I really do love yarn. Bulky yarns, fine yarns, ombre yarns, worsted yarns, roving yarns, even t-shirt yarns.

But this I Love Yarn Day is a little bittersweet. A lingering bout of tendonitis in my right wrist/thumb is making it difficult to knit or crochet for more than a couple rows at a time, even with a not-so-festive splinted wrist brace.

Another obstacle? Since the weather has begun to cool off, a certain puppy likes to climb on my lap every evening when I’d normally be knitting or crocheting:

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Sadie on my lap the other night, paws crossed.

That’s why it’s taking me longer than normal to finish crocheting an American Flag afghan for my cousin and her husband. The kit, from Lion Brand, includes a pattern that’s essentially a ripple stitch with strategic color changes every so often. I started working on it in July. This is where I was on July 31st:

Progress as of July 31

Normally, it might take me a couple weeks to knock this out, but it wasn’t until September 6 that I reached the field of blue.

Progress as of September 6

I think I’ve got about 15-20 more (long) rows to finish, then I can make the stars, which my cousin and I will apply later so they’re exactly where she wants them.

If Puppy Sadie allows, I hope to work maybe one row per day until my wrist and thumb can handle my usual pace.

This is the first (hopefully only) bout of tendonitis I’ve ever had. As far as pain goes, it’s minimal but annoying. The most frustrating part is not being able to play with yarn as much as I want—especially now as the leaves are turning and the temperatures are dropping.

But have no fear: I’ll work a bit on the afghan at some point today just to celebrate National Yarn Day.

 

Do you have a favorite yarn? Let us know!

 

 

Yet Another Bathmat

When you’ve made a lot of cotton dishcloths over the years, you tend to buy colorful cotton yarn when it’s on sale, and always wind up with leftover bits. Like these:

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Earlier this summer I turned some tee-shirt yarn (aka “tarn”) into That Darn Bathmat. It’s a little smaller than ideal, but I love it. The only problem was I didn’t have enough tarn left to make a bathmat for the other bathroom.

I decided to rectify the situation over the long weekend. I pulled out my box of cotton yarn—puppy Sadie sniffed it, but managed to leave the contents alone after I said “Leave it.” (Apparently puppy school is starting to pay off!) The problem was I didn’t have a pattern.

Cotton yarn is thin, so I decided to double it. I tested a couple different crochet hooks to see what felt best with two strands of cotton. The L-size hook won out. Because I had so much white, I used that as a through color, and double stranded it with one color after another.

At first I tried single crochet. It was fine, but slow going. I wanted to work in rounds, but that made it hard to know where to add stitches so the rug would be flat. That’s when I decided to shape the corners kind is if I were making a granny square, by working 2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc into each corner opening. After all, granny squares are always nice and flat.

I had a few false starts with the bathmat because the corner where each row stops and starts is slightly different; the rows start with ch 5 (which equals one dc and the ch 2), so the row ends with one dc into that starting hole. It took multiple attempts to figure that out, but once I did I finally managed to get all of holes created from the corner increases to align, basically creating mitered corners. I’m not quite sure if I did it correctly, but it worked for me.

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It’s not perfect, but it’s a big improvement on the old white/seafoam/pink store-bought woven cotton bathmat that was so faded and tattered it looked off-white!

If you’re a knitter or crocheter, how do you like to use scrap yarn?

 

 

That Tarn Bathmat!

Remember when I went crazy and made all that t-shirt yarn—aka “tarn“— last summer?

This weekend I turned several balls of tarn into this funky, textured bathmat:

That tarn bathmat!

This tarn bathmat measures about 17″ x 26″

The colors aren’t quite true, since this in an interior bathroom lit only by two wall sconces with “warm” LED bulbs. (The tile and tub are actually white.) But this is scrap art, made from several random old t-shirts, so it’s not like the colors actually matter. Your own mat will vary depending on the colors of any old t-shirts you have on hand.

You can knit or crochet tarn, but the knitted swatches I made last year all curled under on the edges. Since I wanted my finished product to lie flat, I broke out my massive crochet hook (the size isn’t even marked, but it’s roughly 1/2″ in diameter) and chained 26 so I’d wind up with 25 stitches per row. Next time, maybe 30 stitches.

I also wanted my mat to have some texture, so instead of working the mat in single crochet, I decided to crochet in the back loops only. That’s as simple as it sounds.

See the texture

Look closely and you’ll see how every other row points up a bit, like the reddish-orange section. The edges sticking up slightly are the front loops; the row above recedes a bit because it was worked into the back portions of those loops.

Now that you’ve seen how I worked the rows, let’s jump back to where I decided to change colors. I joined new colors using the same technique succinctly demonstrated in this brief You Tube video I ran across. Initially I wanted to start new colors at the end of each row, creating true stripes. But it took several attempts to get the second color to start at the end of the first row, and by the time I switched to a third color I gave up and went with random lengths of tarn.

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That third shade of tarn wound up joining a couple of stitches into the third row.

Knitting or crocheting with random colors can be tricky, since you still want the colors to be evenly distributed—unless you want a lopsided look—so instead of creating a giant ball of tarn scraps, I decided which color to add as I went along. I kept going until I ran out of tarn, but always planned to end with a row of the same color I started with. Here’s what I had after one evening of crocheting:

Quick work!

Quick work!

The best part of a project like this is you’re upcycling old t-shirts into something fun and practical—and you’ll still have the sleeves to use for dust rags.

You can make a rug or bathmat any shape or size you want, as long as you have enough tarn.

What would you like to make from tarn?

 

Upcycled Bag

Here’s a little experiment I tried with some of that t-shirt yarn (aka “tarn”) I made a few weeks ago. All I did was coil it and secure it into place with single crochet stitches and cotton yarn.

Drawstring tarn bag

Drawstring tarn bag

Well, that’s how I built up the sides.

I started working the bag at the bottom, and added a few chain stitches here and there to increase the diameter of the spiral. Once it was the width I wanted, I switched to single crocheting thought the spaces (as opposed to through the loops like a standard single crochet).

Adding chains between some of the single crochets allowed the coil to get wider

Adding chains between some of the single crochets allowed the coil to grow wider

Since I wanted random colors, I used shorter scraps of tarn and several colors of cotton yarn leftover from other projects.

The drawstring is simply tarn that’s been chained. I made slots for the drawstring by skipping six stitches (evenly spaced around the bag) and adding an extra chain stitch over each gap. Then I worked a couple more rows, adding those skipped stitches back by crocheting into the chain spaces. (Trust me. That will make sense to crocheters.)

Some people tie strips of tarn together with knots, which adds more texture. Others sew one piece of tarn to another. I chose to join them as if I were linking two zip ties together. It’s faster and easier than it sounds:

  1. Fold the end of a strip of tarn over by about 3/4″ and make a tiny cut at the fold. (I discovered the smaller the cut the better, since the opening can stretch larger when you pull the tarn through.)
  2. Do the same thing at both ends of a second piece of tarn.
  3. Slip the second piece of tarn through the hole in the first, then through the hole at the opposite end and gently pull it tight.
  4. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

If that’s not clear, here’s a link to another blog that beautifully illustrates all three joining techniques. (And yes, I plan to make their tarn Swiffer Duster cover next!)

I love that this fun and funky bag was made entirely of scraps. It’s really the epitome of this blog – creating something out of virtually nothing.

I Love Yarn Day

I love yarn, but you already knew that.

For some of us, every day is I Love Yarn Day. We see a world of possible projects in every skein of yarn and can’t wait to start a new project.

Some knitters and crocheters will have several WIPs (Works In Progress) at any given moment, but I try to focus on one project at a time. I wish I could share photos of a couple of my more recent works, but I’ve already begun my holiday knitting and some future recipients may be reading.

Instead, here’s a photo of the Colorwork Cowl I recently completed…it’s my last non-Christmas project for the next few months:IMG_1345Looking back at that post, called “Early Signs of Autumn,” it’s kind of funny that the past few days the temperatures have been in the upper 70s. Anything but autumnal. But that didn’t stop me from knitting.

What do you love about yarn?

Summer Knitting (and Crocheting)

Just because the weather heats up doesn’t mean the knitting has to stop. I usually switch to making smaller things with lighter weight yarns.

Over the years I’ve crocheted a lot of different dishcloths. But my hands temp to cramp up if I crochet too much, so I looked around for interesting knitted patterns and found The Hive Knitted Dishcloth at BeingSpiffy.com, a site that has a different dishcloth pattern for every week of the year. It was a quick project, but turned out a little smaller than I’d expected:

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I love the honeycomb texture. I’ll try it again on slightly larger needles, but worst case scenario I’ll just add one pattern repeat to the width and length.

Another dishcloth design I couldn’t resist making is this fun (and sometimes frustrating) new crochet pattern I found called Sailor’s Knot Dishcloth (free registration required to download the pattern):

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Some patterns are available in both knit and crochet versions, but I couldn’t find knitting instructions for this one. The blue, green and variegated one above was my first attempt. I used different colors to better see how the pieces are woven together. Now I’ll show you how a Sailor’s Knot Dishcloth is assembled:

Start with the square loop...

Start with a square loop…

Then make two oblong loops...

Then make two oblong pieces.

Weave one oblong piece over and under the square loop as illustrated in the pattern.

Weave one oblong piece over and under the square loop as illustrated in the pattern.

Follow the same steps with the second oblong piece, and….

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…you have a large, thick dishcloth that looks more complicated than it really is. The great thing is the designer planned it out so the ends of the oblong pieces join right where they meet the cross pieces, so the seams are nearly invisible.

The dishcloth is reversible.

Here’s the flip side. The dishcloth is reversible.

Since the guys do dishes in my family (at least for family gatherings), I couldn’t resist making this for my Canadian brother-in-law:

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From the front or back, this clever pattern looks like a red and white striped square. But viewed at an angle, like above, you see the maple leaf. The colors are reversed on the flip side. The illusion is created with strategically placed knit and purl stitches.

Dishcloths are great projects to test new stitches and learn knitting and crochet skills, but they also make doing dishes a little more fun.

With all this snow I forgot it was March

With all the snow outside, it’s hard to believe March is here.

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View from the front door. This is the neighbor’s car before it got plowed in. Taken mid-way through a storm that left another 11 inches of snow.

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The growing pile of snow out back. After the storm and final shoveling, the pile nearest the camera was about 4 feet high. Even Doggie Lily walks around it.

You also wouldn’t know it’s March by looking at my last blog post. It’s from February. Shame on me – especially considering March is once again both National Craft Month and National Crochet Month.

I wish I could say I’ve been so busy crafting and crocheting that I lost track of time, but the truth is I’ve been knee-deep in both snow shoveling and work lately. When you’re self-employed you have to tackle assignments as they come in, even if it means 10- and 12-hour work days and working through weekends and/or evenings to stay on top of things.

The other day I realized I haven’t knitted, crocheted or done any fun crafty stuff in weeks. While I’d love a day off, I’m glad to be this busy. It’s so much better than those dreaded lulls when you find yourself with no paying assignments. (Of course, freelance lulls are busy, too, since it takes effort to drum up new business!)

Stay tuned, though. I have some fun ideas for future blog post. I just need to find time to try those projects. What’s keeping you busy these days?

I Love Yarn Day

Happy I Love Yarn Day, everyone! It’s like Christmas for knitters, crocheters, weavers, felters and anyone who enjoys working or playing with yarn.

I am a yarn-a-holic.

The first clue? As a kid my favorite Dr. Seuss book was A Big Ball of String. (Second runner up: One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.) What can I say? I never liked eggs or ham.

What do I love so much about yarn? Aside from obvious things like textures and colors, I love how each skein of yarn holds multiple possibilities.

Some yarns tell you what to make with them. Others sit there a while before you think of the perfect uses for them. Sweater. Scarf. Throw pillow. Afghan. Mittens. Hat. Wrist warmers. Cowl. Headband. Shawl. Lacy curtains. Toys. Bedspread. Table runner. Place mats. Socks. Dishcloth. Decorations. Even jewelry.

Yarn can be made of nearly any fiber. Some are natural fibers – cotton, wool, alpaca, soy, silk, even bamboo – others are man made. Some are blends. There are even yarns made of recycles fibers.

Along with macrame-ing the pool table pocket nets from worsted wool, here are a few things I’ve made from yarn in the last year or so:

Wavy scarf (Alpaca blend)

Dan’s hockey socks

Felted Easter eggs (worsted wool)

Barbie’s “mink” (made of extra long fun fur / eyelash yarn)

My favorite afghan, then on the needles (wool-acrylic blend)

Reese’s hat & scarf (bulky wool roving)

A pile of Bohemian shawls (acrylic-wool blend medium weight roving)

Aidan’s knitted/woven toy ball (self-patterning acrylic yarn)

Sweater coat I’m wearing as I write this (super bulky acrylic)

Yarn is incredibly versatile stuff. No wonder I love yarn.

What are some of your favorite things made from yarn?

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