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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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:
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?
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:Looking 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?
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:
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):
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:
Follow the same steps with the second oblong piece, and….
…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.
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:
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 the snow outside, it’s hard to believe March is here.
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?
A couple weeks ago Deb asked if I could make some nylon scrubbies for her – she said her “source” had dried up.
I’d made some a few years ago, mostly for the guys in the family since the guys are the official dish washers. (Except on Easter when I declared anyone who had helped me with repairs and painting didn’t have to do dishes. Even so, I swear they were looming over their replacement washers, mentally critiquing every move.) The idea of making Scrubbies again really appealed to me because I love the idea of transforming delicate netting into durable objects.
Deb sent me a pattern that was much easier than the one I’d used before. (Sorry, folks, I have no idea where she found it, so I don’t have a link. Maybe we can get Deb to post a link in the comments.)
Then you cut small holes in the ends and loop them together, sort of like slip knots. (It’s easier than it sounds.) You’re basically knotting strips together, but without leaving a a bulky knot. Maybe it will make sense when you see it….
The trick is to pull it taut without pulling so hard you tear the netting. If you do tear it, just snip off the damaged end of your strip and start again.
Once you’ve pulled it all the way through, it should look something like this….
With only a half-inch or so of netting sticking out, these knots are a lot neater than a regular double knot would be – and more secure, as well!
I kid you not when I tell you cutting the strips and knotting them together was the most time-consuming part of the project. It was also the messiest. See those tiny flecks? They’re itty bitty bits of nylon from the netting.
A couple yards of netting – enough for four scrubbies – resulted in this ball of “yarn,” so to speak:
From here on out, it’s all a matter of double crochets and single crochets. I used a “J” hook, but even a “K” would have been fine. You work a few rounds of double crochet, adding stitches here and there.
The cool part is when you stop increasing the next round becomes a side, or edge. Before long you’re making decreases on the reverse side! They work up really fast – less than an hour per scrubbie.
These scrubbies are slightly different, front and back. One side is all double crochet, the other is single crochet. The different size stitches offer users a choice of scrubbing oomph.
Once you’ve worked the whole way around, don’t worry about hiding the end of the “yarn” because you tuck it (and some scraps, if you like) right inside the scrubbie for a little extra strength.
Okay Deb, here’s a sneak peak at your new scrubbies:
While most people use scrubbies for, well, scrubbing, I know some people who swear by them as lint removers.
My favorite way to use scrubbies? Cleaning soap scum out of the tub using just a little water, baking soda and the scrubbie. Once you’ve used these scrubbies, you’ll understand why Deb needed a new “source.” They’re real workhorses!
What do you like about your scrubbies?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved the idea of making something from nothing. Well, maybe not from nothing, but by taking disparate elements and combining them into new and wonderful things.
Baking. Knitting. Writing. Felting. Crocheting. Scrap quilting. I enjoy all kinds of creative challenges, even when things don’t turn out precisely as planned. After all, creativity is a fluid thing so there’s always something to learn from a failed attempt.
I want this blog to be a place where we can share our creative pursuits, whatever they may be. I’ll post updates on my various projects and hope you’ll discuss yours as well.