Something Old, Something New

Remember when me and the MR went to Costa Rica? We were exploring a wondrous place, visiting waterfalls, mountains, jungles, and beaches. It was amazing, animals everywhere, and during the afternoon siestas, I was journaling about our adventures, doing yoga on the beach, writing a bestseller? No, I was crocheting. I was trying to get the pattern just perfect for the local yarn shop tour held in Northwest Washington each May.

Crocheting and designing at the pool isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon. The MR is very tolerant, and the crochet pattern was a hit. We sold out of the yarn and handed out hundreds of copies.

And you’re saying what does this mean for you. Well, if you’re a crocheter, and you follow my blog, this is your lucky day. I’ve uploaded my pattern to Ravelry and added a code so you can get it for free. Just call it a little love from the Big White House on the Hill.

It’s the All Squared Up Scarf–LYS on Ravelry. Once upon a time, it was just the All Squared Up Scarf, but someone had the good sense to take that name before I did.

Oh well, we adjust. Here’s a peak at what you could be making.

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I’ve been super creative with the coupon code. It’s “Big White on the Hill”. I know, how do I think of these things?

One little trick or random side note, since you follow my blog, I can’t get the phrase “suck it in Fisher” out of my mind.  My mom was a wonderful lady, but when she’d take a picture, she’d say that to my dad. As a kid, it didn’t bother me; it was all in good fun. My dad was skin and bones when she married him. During middle age, they’d both gained a few pounds.

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As a grown up, I can’t imagine saying that to my husband. But this phrase echoes in my mind when I’m working this pattern. You totally have to see what you’re doing. Are the blocks falling into place? If not what do I have to do? Suck it in (tighten up the stitches) to make everything fall into place, or relax and be loose, so everthing falls into place? I’ve undone half a row, a whole row, 10 rows, more times than I’d like to get everything to magically fall in to place. Sometimes things are harder than they look.

Anyways, in other news, I’ve also been working on sharpening my skills with an interlocking crochet CAL. This requires a lot of thinking. Ilona Slow Life Creations on Facebook offers amazing tutorials. I really enjoyed this—sort of.

Interlocking crochet requires counting and attention. Sometimes I like to just sit on the deck and chat with the MR. Every week, Ilona released a new pattern, and I stumbled through the instructions. Unfortunately, some of my squares turned out larger, some smaller, but all were totally amazing. You be the judge.

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I worked the squares together in strips.

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And as you can see, they seemed to even out so much when joined. But after I sent the blanket through the wash, they were still a little wonky—that’s a technical term.

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So I folded my lap quilt neatly, and put it over the side of the daybed in the sewing room.

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I’m thinking of taking it a part and making it into pillow covers, but for now it’ll keep me warm. I have to decide how much I care. Sometimes, it’s about the finished project; other times, it’s about what you learn through the process.  Ilona Slow Creations on Facebook offers wonderful crochet-a-longs.

Other works in progress include a sample for the shop, a new pattern for the fall, and projects from the tour. Don’t worry; I’ll share before you know it.

What are you working on? Don’t forget to check out the All Squared Up pattern on Ravelry.

(I forgot to mention that the coupon code is only valid through the end of July. So as the saying goes: Get ’em while they’re hot.)

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It’s Just What You Do

The other day, I was chit-chatting with Sweet Miss. She’d been at a baby shower and was surprised that the only handmade present was the blanket I’d made for her friends. Then we went on to discuss whether it simply that fewer people are making things these days, or whether her expectations are skewed by having me as her mother.

When I hear someone is expecting, I start planning a blanket, or a sweater, or maybe a special hat for the baby. You present this precious new life a gift made with love–it’s just what you do.

In the last year, our friends have had a lot of good news in the baby department. I’ve made a hat, sweater and blanket for a new mom on her own, a hat and sweater for friends who adopted, a balnket for Sweet Miss’ friends, a hat and sweater for a sweet baby I get to hold at MOPS, and I’ve just finished a blanket for the MR’s cousin’s daughter’s baby boy who’s expected soon. All these babies have been keeping me busy, but this last project has been something special.

When me and the MR were first married, we celebrated his grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary with all his family down in California. His cousin’s daughter was seven and immediately adopted us. At the party, she told everyone we were her parents.So of course I knew I had to make something special for her when we found out she was expecting.

Her nickname is Desert Barbie, and her family likes playing at their property in the desert, so when I saw the Sleep Tight Teddy Bear Blanket on Ravelry, I knew I had a winner. This baby will be camping and enjoying the outdoors while still in diapers. The blanket features a row of teddy bears sleeping in faux sleeping bags; it looked simple enough.

The first hiccup was the stitch pattern that delineates each bear’s sleeping bag. It requires you to flip the blanket back-and-forth, back-and-forth over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, the pattern is simple, beautiful, and quite effective, but flipping a big blanket multiple times in a row gets tiresome.

Then came the color change from blue to white. I’d had a ton of Twize yarn from South West Trading Company, a variegated bamboo, on hand and thought it would make the perfect blanket for a baby boy. I wasn’t that worried about finding some 100% bamboo for the top and teddies; I guess I just didn’t think it through. I went shopping with Baby Girl, and we bought some acrylic at the craft store when bamboo was nowhere in sight–it would be fine. I was so wrong. I was going from drapey, marled bamboo to stark white, stiff acrylic. It looked awful.

With three-quarters of a blanket done–remember all that flipping?–I knew I needed some bamboo yarn. The due date is just around the corner. Well, while the Twize yarn is discontinued, I was able to find it for sale in a number of other people’s stashes on Ravelry. I really wanted a white as a backdrop for the sleeping bears, but Twize was all a brightly twisted jumble, maybe a solid would like strange? The pale gray had a pink tinge to it on the screen. So I went with the yellow/blue twist. It was a little bright, but it’d do.

The yarn arrived, and I forged on with the teddy bears. I made heads, and muzzles, and ears, and paws.  I took a look, and just said, huh? This doesn’t look anything like a teddy bear. It looked more like a sock monkey to me.

In for a penny, in for a pound. I just had to trust the process and keep going. I’m so glad I did.

 

I just needed to add a little embroidery and put all the pieces together.

And look what I ended up with? Sweet little teddy bears with lots of personality to match the rest of the family.

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It’s bright, it’s crazy, it’s fun. Perfect for them.

Here are a few of my other gifts and recipients just to bump the cuteness factor.

Do you have a go to gift you like to present to new babies? Any handmade specialties?

 

Won’t You Join Me?

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some of my knitting and crocheting projects. I have a pullover for Baby Girl that just needs to be sewn up, a cardigan and a vest for me that just needs a zipper and a little sewing, then there’s a baby sweater that needs some tweaking, and a sock that needs a mate, and yarn that’s bagged with a pattern just waiting for some time and energy, but all that’s been on hold for a bit.

I’ve been finishing up the Life of the Sky Crochet-a-long designed by Kate Veselunka. It is totally challenging, my first real foray into freeform crochet, and really cool. I’m quite happy with how my bag turned out.

I didn’t have access to the recommended yarn, so I used HiKoo CoBaSi and Zauberball Cotton. While both are great yarns, the CoBaSi is loosely woven and becomes more work when weaving in ends–let’s just say there are a lot of ends.

I’m excited to tell you we’re hosting a CAL at Quintessential Knits starting on February 20th. Sign up for the CAL on Facebook, and then stop by the shop for encouragement or advice. We’ve decided to feature a Hempathy for the CAL. I’m excited for take two. After working through it once, I have a few tips and tricks to share.

If our little corner of Washington state is hard for you to get to, I found the information on the Facebook page quite helpful, and I’m just one comment away. (Search for Life of the Sky CAL on FB to join.)

Sometimes I get organized and put a few posts together ahead of time. I’d forgotten that the pictures weren’t loading when I wrote this. Ahh, the best laid plans. Enjoy!

Those Fall Touches

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to add a little of that fall flavor to our decor. Back in the day, Halloween pictures plastered the fridge, school art decorated the cabinets, and a few pumpkins would have been mouldering on the front porch.

We’re off the beaten path and the girls are on their own, so we don’t have that big push to decorate the house any more, but a little somethin’-somethin’ here and there makes me smile.

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Sweet Miss texted the other night, so I’ve packed up a few things for her, so she can decorate her classroom. I’m not ready to give up the little squishy ghost one of the girls made once upon a time. Those crafts always looked so cute in the magazines–before the age of Pinterest.

In other decorating news, I’ve been busy picking herbs and gathering sticks to make wreaths for the front doors. There’s no way on earth we can use all the sage we grow, so I thought it would make a great decoration. I thought about wires and bundles, but that would look so ugly from the backside. Remember we’re hanging them on windows.

Out in the yard with my scissors and basket, I picked lots of lavendar twigs and flowersto go with the other herbs. Unfortunately, I didn’t pick enough for two, and then it started raining, and then the foliage dried leaving some gaps. So I needed even more.

It’s all a learning process. Note to self: next time you want to hang wreaths pick double what you think you’ll need and make sure you have the 3M hooks before you get started. Nothing like getting part way through a project and having to put it on hold.

Looks like Cocoa gives it her stamp of approval.

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The goofy dog doesn’t trust me out in the front on my own. She is good company.

How’s your fall decorating?

Giving In To Quirky

I’ve always liked the unusual. You might say I march to the beat of a different drum. I simply try not to take things too seriously. This has carried over into my decorating style.

It’s fun to have things that are a little different or unexpected. My brother and his family were over for dinner this summer when my neice picked up something off the table saying she was intrigued and asking what it was.

Why they’re cow hide coasters—doesn’t everyone have a set? We’d put them out on the table and hadn’t given them a second thought. They were a gift from the MR’s folks when they were visiting. MeeMee has worked for a friend at Cowboy Christmas in Las Vegas off and on and came across these in another booth.

With the holiday craft and bazaar season upon us, I want to encourage you to check out your local ones. You never know what you’ll find. People are amazingly creative, and it’s fun to support them.

At a little bazaar on the way to Chichen Itza, we picked up this black stone that shines like gold in the sunlight. I like decorative items that remind me of our travels.

Quirkiness helps keep our home from being too stuffy or predictable.

What inspires your decorating?

Giving Back

Me and the MR have been traveling a bit. Earlier this month we moved Baby Girl into her townhouse down at school. We’re lucky that she’s only half a days drive from home but with 10 hours round trip, it still makes for a lot of driving.

Since the MR prefers to be behind the wheel, I try to make sure I have a project or two for our days on the road.This last trip to Oregon, I brought along purple yarn for baby hats.

Recently I’d heard about a program educating new parents about the fragile nature of infants. Click For Babies seeks to reduce shaken baby syndrome through awareness.

I love my girls, and I also know how hard it can be to deal with a crying baby when you’re sleep-deprived and haven’t had a minute to yourself in what seems like forever.

I made a hat, a sweater, and a blanket for the MR’s friend at work, and it gave me a great idea. The hat was super-simple to put together. I could take all the bits and pieces of purple yarn from home on our drive and still chit-chat with the MR over endless miles without missing a stitch.

By the time we got home (a short 606 miles back and forth), I had quite a collection going.

I do believe a few flowers are in order to spruce these up a bit. Then I need to figure out where to send them.

I’m finding ways to decrease my stash of yarn and maybe make the world a better place. Wish me luck.

What’s your favorite charity project (knitting or not)?

The Right Fit

Sometimes, you buy something, you have a plan, and it’s going to be amazing; till it’s not.

A few years ago, I was up in Bellingham on the Local Yarn Shop tour and was totally drawn to this sock yarn with beautiful torquoise, and brown, and carmel, and cream. I was going to make the best socks ever. Then as I was paying for my yarn, the man behind the counter proudly showed me his socks and told me this is how the yarn was going to knit up. Hopefully, I kept a smile on my face and didn’t look totally crest-fallen. His socks looked brown. I wanted cream, and carmel, and pops of color. How could it all go so wrong?

Perhaps that’s why the yarn sat in my stash for two, three, four years? I didn’t want to ruin the illusion. Then I heard people talk about the Sockhead Hat. This might be the answer to my problem. I could make a hat, and it would look totally different than that nice man’s socks. So I got to knitting.

While me and Baby Girl did have fun at Molbak’s last Christmas, my hat was still quite brown, and I’m not really the sloppy hat kind of person.

So what could I do? Stick to my plan and make socks? or go another way? I decided this yarn would be great for the Hexagon Sweater. So I forged on and made a motif. The color runs of yarn were just too short. All of the motifs would look totally the same. I needed to think some more.

That’s when my brand-new, amazing crochet stitch dictionary arrived with oodles of inspiration. OK, that could be a bit of an oversell, but Sarah Hazell has put together 200 stitch patterns that go from the ordinary to holy cow! (It’s available on Amazon in case you were wondering.)

Maybe I just needed to make something that would pool the yarn more, so that’s just what I did. I made a simple rectangular scarf using the Crosshatch stitch pattern (#169 if you’re counting), and finally have the effect I was looking for. By adding two buttons and matching buttonholes, my scarf works as a poncho/shawl/cowl/scarf. Four for the price of one—not bad.

I know I look crazy, but this is as good as it gets running back and forth, setting the timer, and taking pictures of myself. You get the idea of how the scarf works. Next time I’m going to put the MR to work.

And now for a side by side of the two applications. One skein was knit the other was crocheted, and yes this is the exact same yarn. I think knitting using the entrelac technique could create a similar effect as the crocheted project. (This is Sweet Georgia Yarns Tough Love Sock in Bourbon.)

So you may be wondering why in the world I’m going into all this—especially if you don’t knit or crochet. Don’t worry. This isn’t about yarn; it’s about having a vision and making it happen. Maybe your first attempt doesn’t work out; rethink, replan, retry. You’ve got this; I have faith in you and a new scarf.

Happy creating.