Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twas the night before Christmas (Juniper Place Yarns style)

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Place, no needles were clicking, not even a trace.   The mittens were hung by the front desk with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.  The customers were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of yarn cakes danced in their heads.  With Mom in her sweater and me in my shawl, we had just settled down for a long winter's sprawl.

When out on the sidewalk there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter. Away to the door I flew like a flash, brushed aside the scarves and put aside my stash. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature UPS Truck , and eight tiny reindeer, with a little old driver so lively and quick I knew in a moment, it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than Quicksliver his reindeers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name. Now Katia! Now Sirdar! Now Ella and Rae! On Araucania, on Noro, on Debbie and Bliss! To the top of the yarn swift , to the top of the shelf, now dash away, dash away, dash away all!

Into a parking spot the reindeers they flew, with a UPS Truck full of yarns and St. Nicholas, too. He spoke not a word, but went straight to his routines, and filled all the shelves with gorgeous new skeins.  Then he turned with a jerk, laying his hook aside his nose, and giving a nod, out the  door  he goes. He sprang to his truck, to his team gave a twitch, and away they all drove, like the speed of a dropped stitch.   But I heard him exclaim as he drove off in a flash, Merry Christmas to all and to all Good Stash!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mastering Marshmallows

After having so much fun with Flounce, I thought it was time I tried Marshmallows.  For those of you unfamiliar, this is one of those “Pom-Pom” yarns, only this one has Pom Poms that are oblong – like Marshmallows!  Hence the name!    In between each marshmallow is a strand of yarn about 2 inches long.  It’s this strand that you knit with, skipping each pom pom, and only using the strand.  Talk about instant gratification!   In less than an hour,  you have a super soft, squishy Marshmallow scarf!  So easy and fun – it’s only 4 stitches across!  Or you could make it wider for a super plush wrap.
I’m sorry to say that this one is probably just for knitters.  Beth and I have tried every which way to next Sunday to crochet with this yarn, and we have found that the length of the smooth strand in between the pom poms just isn’t long enough to form a crochet stitch.  I won’t actually say you can’t crochet with it,  but the results are not pleasing – it’s just solid marshmallows.  I even tried Tunisian crochet, and the results were the same. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Flirting with Flounce

In case you haven’t heard, anything with ruffles is THE hottest trend right now, and last weekend we all learned how to knit and crochet with Flounce.   Oh boy, what fun!  It ruffles automatically - how cool is that?!   This fun yarn is actually a mesh that you open up and poke your hook or needle right through it instead of “yarning over” with the whole strand.  Do not be intimidated, it’s easier than it looks!  Trust me, if my 76 year old mother can do it (you know, Old Dog/New Trick!), you can too!
My mind is racing with all the possibilities!  While a ruffled scarf is the obvious choice for this yarn, there are so many other things you can do with it, and I can’t wait to try it as trim around the  neckline and cuffs of a sweater.   Other trim ideas are:  around a pillow, blanket, mitten cuffs, around the top of a felted bag.  It also makes a really cute barrette, brooch or hair scrunchie!
My supply of Flounce is literally flying of the shelf, and I am getting inquiries from all over the country!  Hurry and get yours before it's gone.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yarn Bombing for a good cause

Last night, my friend Lee and I took to the streets of downtown Quakertown and “tied one on” – actually, to be exact, we tied 41 on!  Scarves, that is, for our first annual (hopefully!) Project Chase The Chill event.   My husband drove us to town, and I teased him about being our “getaway driver”!  I quickly realized his ulterior motive:  he wanted to be there to watch over us and make sure we were okay.  I hadn’t even thought of this, but in hindsight, there we were:  2 woman roaming the streets of Quakertown in the dark armed  with nothing more lethal than a crochet hook and a large box of scarves!  It was nice to know he was keeping an eye on us – thanks honey!
In keeping with the whole spirit of Yarn Bombing, I decided to distribute our scarves under the cover of darkness and with stealthiest.  My vision was that people would come to town on Saturday and see that the “scarf fairies” had come in the night (you know, like Santa and the Tooth Fairy, to name a few)!   My partner in crime and I worked our way up Broad Street leaving scarves hanging on parking meters and railings, and it was so much fun!  It was REALLY fun!   There we were, skulking around in the dark like criminals – working as quickly as possible (it was COLD, brrr!).  My husband wasn’t the only one watching either – I could see people driving by  in their cars looking at us, and I could imagine them saying things like “what are they doing?”.    A few people found out firsthand what we were up to – one fella was walking by and saw the tag on the scarf inviting him to take it.  He did and exclaimed “My wife is going to love me when I give this to her!” Later,  I had no sooner tied the last scarf on a parking meter, when a car pulled up to the curb, and a woman jumped out, grabbed a scarf and drive off before I could even tell her to enjoy it!  Cool!
I drove through town this morning on my way to the shop, craning my neck looking all over (trying not to cause a traffic accident!) to see how many scarves were taken.  To my absolute astonishment, I couldn’t see any left!  This was confirmed to me later when a press photographer and several reporters showed up at the shop and asked me “where are all the scarves?”  They looked everywhere and couldn’t find a one!    Holy cats!  All 41 scarves were gone in less than 14 hours!   I had hoped that Project Chase The Chill would be a success, but this exceeded even my wildest dreams.  I’m uncharacteristically speechless!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First Place Winner!

Polly, our yarn lovin' scarecrow took First Place in Quakertown's Autumn Alive annual Scarecrow Contest!  YAY!  Stop by to meet her in person - she'll be hangin around the shop for a few weeks.  Many thanks to Beth and Lavanya for "Hair and Makeup"!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fashion Forecast

I went shopping a few weeks ago looking for some basic turtleneck shirts to wear under my sweaters.  After consulting my existing wardrobe, I decided I needed some pastel colors – pink definitely (my favorite), and maybe light blue and soft yellow.  Much to my surprise, when I walked into the store, there was not a pastel color in sight – in ANYTHING!  Everything was bright jewel tones.  Hmmmm.   Well, okay, I like the jewel tones too – maybe pastels will come back in the Spring. 
Another thing I noticed was that knitwear was HUGE!  Lots of chunky vest-like sweaters, either sleeveless or with cute little cap sleeves.  Perfect to wear over turtlenecks – YAY!  The other trend I saw was ruffles and  big necklines such as exaggerated cowls or collars.  Then, just a couple of days ago, I saw Cecily Tynan on Action News wearing a cute sleeveless knit with a huge drapey cowl neck practically down to her navel!  Not sure I could pull that off ;-)
Faced with having to switch gears from pastels to brights, I’m thinking I’d like to try some new colors for myself – Teal and Orange (maybe even together!).   So many colors to explore – so little time!  There are also a few new Doris Chan crochet patterns I’d like to try (one with a cowl neck, and one with a large shawl collar).  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dusting off the knitting needles

Everyone knows I’m a crocheter (otherwise known as a “Hooker”  - YIKES, please don’t call me that!  Someone might not “get” it!), but you may not realize that I also knit occasionally.  It’s not that I don’t like knitting, there are just so many things I want to crochet that I don’t have the time it takes to tackle a knitting project.  I have to be really drawn to it. 
I received a new book in the shop the other day called Knitting At Home: 60 Classics from Ella Rae Designs.  I figured I should acquaint myself with the pattern selection, so I started browsing.  I truly was not on the search for a new project for myself (I have WAY too many projects on my plate already!), but I found myself getting sucked in and irresistibly drawn to a pair of Fingerless Mittens.  So lovely in their simplicity!  No cables, ribs, bells or whistles.  No extra gee-gaws or wing-dings – just plain stockinette stitch with a real thumb (not just a gap in the side seam!).   
I just finished a cool weather cape/shawl and thought a pair of fingerless mittens would be perfect to wear with it!  I’m reminded of that TV commercial for Target where the lady tries on a hat and wonders if she is a “hat person” – She imagines herself strolling through an orchard wearing her fabulous new hat.  I can just imagine myself flouncing around town in my cape with my jaunty new fingerless mittens to complete my ensemble!  Am I a cape/fingerless mittens kind of person?  I think I am!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What’s in a name?

Have you ever wondered where they got those crazy yarn weight names?  Worsted weight??  Who came up with that?  I think they should have named it Bested weight.  And DK – how do you figure that??  I’ve been wondering the same things, so I set out to get to the bottom of this.  Easier said than done, my friends!    Here’s what I found:
First of all, the standardized yarn weighting system (found here: http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/weight.html)  doesn’t necessarily refer to how much the yarn actually weighs, but rather the thickness of the yarns within each category.  The thickness is determined by wrapping the yarn evenly (with each strand being butted up next to each other – not overlapping) around some kind of gizmo and then measuring an inch of this and counting the number of yarn strands it takes to make up an inch.  Hence the term; Wraps per inch or WPI.
A few yarn weights are pretty self-explanatory, and I think we can all figure out that Lace is a very thin yarn and Bulky/Chunky is a very thick yarn.  And then there is the Granddaddy of them all:  Super Bulky.  Let’s move on to the not so obvious ones.
Worsted was named for the village of Worstead in Norfolk, England. As far back as the 12th century, this town was the leader in producing smooth, even yarn.  Pretty much the only kind of yarn back then, and these guys had the manufacturing process down pat!   This involved two important steps which contributed to the smoothness and tensile strength of the yarn. The first was the selection of long fibers, and the second was the combing of these fibers to make them straight and parallel. During the spinning process, worsted weight yarn was handled carefully to ensure that the fibers stay straight, which kept the finished yarn very smooth.  Of course, times have changed, and  worsted weight yarns can come in all sorts of textures and fibers.   Worsted is right in the middle of the thickness scale, being thinner than Bulky/Chunky but thicker than DK.
DK stands for "double knitting."  The term "double knitting" originates from Great Britain and refers to a weight of yarn commonly used there.   DK yarn is thinner than worsted weight yarn, but thicker than sport weight yarn.  The reason it’s called Double Knitting weight is it's actually double fingering-weight.  Meaning, if you held 2 strands of fingering weight yarns together, they should equal  1 strand of DK weight.
The name given to sport weight yarn has nothing to do with athletics, but rather is named after women's sportswear because the thickness of the finished pieces is similar to fabric used to create casual women's wear.  A Sport weight yarn is thicker than Fingering but thinner than DK.
This brings us to  Fingering weight.  I’m sorry to say I haven’t a clue as to why it’s called that, and Google truly let me down this time!  Maybe whoever came up with this wacky name won’t fess up to his (or her!) reasoning.  I can tell you that it is also called sock yarn (Gold star for everyone who guessed that this yarn picked up its extra moniker because it’s the appropriate thickness for making socks!).  Fingering/Sock yarn is thicker than Lace weight but thinner than Sport weight.
So there you have it!  If you happen to know why Fingering is so named, please speak up!  We need to know!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Afghan - The Pattern

Once the decision to make an afghan was made it was time to find the right pattern. Anything with a monstrously long row is out of the question! I KNOW I won’t stick with it if it takes forever to complete a row. Squares are also out, since the thought of weaving in all those ends is enough to give me an eye tic - not to mention having to sew them all together! I hate sewing! Strips I think I could manage. Each one would be a relatively minor time commitment, and finishing each one would give me that satisfaction I need. Plus, I could crochet them together instead of sewing. We’re only talking about 9 strips – I think I could do it!

When I first learned to knit and crochet, I spent many afternoons in the yarn department of AC Moore and Michaels searching for fashionable clothing patterns, and I remembered seeing something called a “Mile A Minute” afghan. Hey now - that sounds right up my alley! I should have that baby done in no time flat! One for each of us! ;-)

Way back when I was only interested in clothing patterns and I scoffed at the thought of making an afghan, It seemed to me that the Mile A Minute was everywhere I looked (mocking me!). But now that I wanted it, I was finding the one I had pictured in my head to be rather elusive - Who knew there were so many iterations of the Mile A Minute! I’m starting to feel a bit like Goldilocks – “this one has too many skinny strips” or “to much like a granny square” – I was looking for one that was “just right”! I finally found it right on my own bookshelf: Crochet for Today

Friday, August 20, 2010

Baby Blocks!

Baby Blocks came out WAY too big! I can't even pick one up in one hand - Maybe suitable for GIGANTOR Baby ha-ha! Oh well, they were fun to make. Pattern from Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Crochet Today.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

First Afghan - The Decision

Being an avid crocheter, people are constantly surprised by the fact that I have never made an afghan. It’s true! I have always been a fashionista wannabe, and my motivation for learning how to knit and crochet all those years ago was to make all sorts of cool clothing for myself. Somewhere along the way, I’ve changed. I’ve started to expand my horizons a bit with some non-clothing projects. Last year I made a Gingerbread House and had so much fun making it, I made another one and sold it (even after making all those gumdrops!). At the time, I also discovered the joy of the hot glue gun – What Fun! I can’t believe what I’ve been missing out on all these years! Since then, I find that I really enjoy making all sorts of other things such as pillows, handbags, toys and even food (have you seen my cookies and pizza? They make me laugh). Animals are especially fun to make, and once you put a face on them, they get a little personality.

I have heard that most crocheters actually “cut their teeth” on afghans, and do one for their first project – YIKES! I’m not sure I would still be crocheting had I attempted an afghan as my first project. To me, the prospect of all those stitches and billions and billions of rows is too daunting. It would take FOREVER! (I need to chain HOW MANY?????!!!!!!) Maybe I have commitment issues when it comes to my projects – I get bored with big projects and fear that I might not have what it takes to finish something this big in my lifetime. Over the years I have learned that it’s okay to have many different projects going at the same time. For me especially, if I get bored, I switch to something else I have going. However, I have to try really hard to not get too carried away! I NEED the satisfaction of finishing things. Therefore, the strategy I’ve developed is to work on a variety of projects at the same time – some large-ish projects such as clothing (to feed my wardrobe), and smaller things that are quick (to get my finishing satisfaction). With all these thoughts in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time for me to crochet my first afghan!

I really love using an afghan (I call it the “Snuggle Factor”) and in fact my whole family does too. We have this really old ratty one that I knitted many years ago on my knitting machine (I know, I know! I made it, but I’ve never crocheted one by hand), and we all fight over who gets to snuggle under it at movie night in my house. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had our own? Whoa – slow down there Rambo – one at a time, and then we’ll see!