The endless blanket….

When I first started crocheting last year, I had these fantasies of whipping up beautiful home decor items: throws for my couch, pillow covers, etc. etc. in a matter of weeks. I started with a relatively simple free pattern found on LittleMonkeysCrochet (Sweet Ocean Breeze Baby Blanket), changed the number of stitches to suit the size I needed and away I went.  Ha! I laugh at myself now.

The thing is, crocheting a blanket with a single strand of worsted weight yarn using an I hook takes what seems like FOREVER!!!  I began this blanket in March 2015 and my goal was to have it finish before March 2016.  I just wove the final end this morning – Hazaa!!!

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The finished product! So warm and cozy!

Now in fairness to me ;-), I’ve completed a ton of other projects over the past year, but this blanket just kept on going.

As an aside, if you follow my blog, you’ll know that I started my first knit sweater this January.  I ran into a snag with some dropped stitches and had to put it down out of pure frustration, which led to the accelerated finish of the endless blanket.  Now that I’m done, with a sense of accomplishment and feeling renewed confidence, I will pick up the needles once more to resume work on the shrug!

Back to the blanket, the highlight for me making this blanket was that repetition = excellence.  The longer I worked on this stitch combination and the colour changes, the better my stitches looked, with improved tension consistency, and my colour changes look pretty darn seamless.  Yes, I’ll pat myself on the back for this one.  The downside, as you’ve already picked up on, is boredom.  Thank goodness I like to have a few projects going at a time to switch things up.

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Stitch detail – simple and so pretty!

As mentioned above, you can find the base idea for the pattern from LittleMonkeysCrochet.  I just made it bigger and used Caron Simply Soft yarn (worsted; 4) rather than Bernat Satin – only because in Vancouver, Caron Simply Soft is well stocked at Michaels in a wide range of colours.  For whatever reason, Bernat Satin is only carried by Walmart (as far as I can find) and not the greatest colour selection.

Well, that’s it for now…back to the shrug I go!  Only now, I have a fantastic lap blanket to keep me extra warm.

Happy Monday everyone! 🙂

 

 

Fun and Cozy Knit Fox Hoodie!

As we entered the holiday season, my sister asked me to make a hooded fox cowl for Georgia, her 5 year old niece, for Christmas.  She had seen some pictures on Pinterest and thought it would make a great gift.  She asked if I was up to the challenge and, hello, of course I was.  Hoodies of the cutest woodland creatures are adorable!  

We found a pattern on Etsy that we both agreed would be super cute if it turned out.  “The Failyn Fox Cowl” designed by The Velvet Acorn (Heidi May) www.thevelvetacorn.etsy.com is absolutely fantastic and the instructions are well written and easy to follow.  Heidi offers a wide ranges of sizing as well from 12-18 months to teens and adults.  I made the child size which was the perfect size for Georgia.  The fox hoodie went on as soon as she ripped open her gift, it was a hit!  

Of course my daughter took one look at the hoodie before I wrapped it up for my sister and squealed “I want one too!!!”  Sarah is 11 so I made the hoodie in the teen size (she had a growth spurt lately and all of sudden is wearing my hats and is so much taller).  She love, love, loves it!  With winter in full swing, it will hopefully get a lot of use.  We headed out in the trails behind our home for a hike and photo shoot.  Thankful for the sun, she brought out the cool shades!  My kid is a total ham and loves the camera 🙂  

Having made two of these hoodies in different sizes and ending up with fantastic results both times, I am loving this pattern.  I added a listing to my Etsy shop for custom orders ~ it’s wonderful when you can work with a pattern that gives consistent results.  

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My niece took one look at the pictures of Sarah posing in her fox hoodie and shades and asked me to make her one that looked like a wolf, so I’ll be switching up the colour to a grey blend.  Stay tuned for pics of the wolf!

Have a wonderful week all!

Christine

2016 Challenge! My first knit sweater!

I’m all for personal growth, setting new goals and meeting challenges head on.  I’ve been dancing around the idea of learning to knit sweaters.  When I’ve looked at patterns, even for the most simple sweater, it seemed like such a daunting project – compared to hats and cowls, it’s, well, big!

With the New Year upon me, I’ve decided to man up and make my first sweater.  My sweet girl was so supportive, she bought me the Idiot’s Guide to Knitting Sweaters for Christmas this year to help me get started.  There’s a simple shrug pattern that I’m sure I can handle.  To add to the fun, my guy bought me a beautiful set of wood, interchangeable knitting needles – an absolute delight to use, with sharp points and smooth finish.  I could go on, but that’s a topic for another post.

I’m using Cascade Yarns Venezia (sport weight) which I mentioned in my earlier post today ~ I’ve almost got that tangled mess all sorted out.  A 70% merino wool and 30% mulberry silk, the yarn is soft, easy to work with and feels great against the skin.  .

I began the shrug yesterday evening and managed to complete the band which will become part of the collar and some of the body of the shrug today.  What makes this a sweet beginner’s project is that the knitted material is basically a large rectangle that’s folded and joining sides to create the arm holes.

A few things I’ve figured out after only a few hours of working on this project, which you may already know but I’m sending it out there for newbies like me:

  1. Read through the pattern in its entirety before beginning.  You will avoid any unwanted surprises.
  2. Using a pencil, circle the number of stitches that apply to the size of garment you are making.  It can be difficult to keep track of what you’ve done and what you need to do, with a long list of numbers to sort through.  I went through the pattern and circled the applicable number of stitches and underlined the type of stitch needed.  It’s been a big help to me.
  3. Double check the initial number of stitches cast and then check again after the first row – this was a total pain in my behind but well worth it as I accidentally dropped a couple of stitches when knitting the first row.

I’ll admit I got so excited finishing the 2 x 2 ribbing that I jumped right into the body of the shrug forgetting that I needed to switch the needle size up to the larger needles – doh!  Another lesson learned  – you could hear the “ribbit” as I frogged rows of stockinette.  On the bright side, I was able to salvage the ribbing and got some great practice putting stitches back on the needle, ever so carefully.

After all this, I’m emotionally exhausted. It’s time for bed. 😀

 

Yarn winder – a must or else you have….

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Yup, that was my Thursday night after being impatient and attempting to start a project without using my yarn winder.  I love the look of a hank of yarn before it’s wound.  The shape reminds me of the infinity symbol, representing endless possibilities of what can be created.  I bought two hanks of Cascade Yarns Venezia (sport weight) – it’s a beautiful, soft merino wool and silk blend – my post-holiday splurge.  It begs for knitting needles!

Now, had I just attached the winder to my kitchen counter, this would have been the initial result….

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Now doesn’t that look more civilized!

My guy is a saintly man, promising to help me sort out my pile of yarn disaster before I use up my current ball.  It reminds him of sorting out fishing line! Bless him!

Hopefully in a short time, this lovely yarn will be a beautiful, soft, knit shrug.   I’ll be sure to post pictures once completed!

Happy knitting and hooking all! 🙂

 

2015’s Perfect Christmas Present ~ Slouchy Hat

This holiday season just reinforced my love of all things warm, cozy and woolly and sharing it with loved ones.  My hands are happily tired from all the hooking and knitting but it was well worth it.

Of all the items made over the last couple months, my number one gift to give was the Macchiato Slouchy Hat designed by LittleMonkeysCrochet.  This hat is a fantastic accessory for the winter, a great gift for hat lovers.  Rebecca has once again picked the perfect yarn for this project – Lion Brand’s Scarfie.  The ombre effect is gorgeous and yes, the one ball can make two hats (just).  It is by far my favourite slouchy hat for winter and, pictured below, worn by one of my favourite people.

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I’ve also made it in black and white with a weathered red button for some “wow!” effect.  I love the splash of colour against the white and black.

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I have one more ball of Scarfie in black and dark raspberry pink – can’t wait to make a couple more!

 

The Chili – A Crafter’s Weekend Saviour

While the focus of this blog is primarily yarn related, a girl’s gotta eat!  This chili has sustained me through many a project, saving me from the hassles of cooking when I’m engrossed in far more interesting endeavours.

A few notes, suggestions, thoughts before getting started …..

I like to add the spices to the veggie/meat mixture and let it all simmer for a few minutes.  I think it enhances the flavours.  Please don’t ask why I add the corn at the end, it’s something my mother does with her chili and I’ve never really questioned it.  I just know it works and the corn is always sweet and crunchy.

Also, around the 1 hour cooking mark, I like to have a taste to see if I’ve made it spicy enough, does it need more salt, etc.  Check throughout the cooking to make sure it has the right amount of kick that you’re looking for.  I’ve found some days I want an extra tbsp of chili powder, some days I think another dash of cayenne is in order.  Chili is one of those fabulous dishes that you can easily adjust to suit your personal tastes.

Chili freezes beautifully when stored in proper freezer friendly containers.  I like to divide it up in meal size portions pulling on out the morning of the day that I’ll need it.

The Chili

3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium/large onions, small dice
small head of celery (remove leaves), small/medium dice
1 green bell pepper, small/medium dice
1 red bell pepper, small/medium dice

700 g (approx. 1 1/2 pounds) extra-lean ground beef

5 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp fresh ground kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

*combine these dry spices in a small bowl and set aside.

2 squirts of ketchup (approximately 2 tbsp)
1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 cup red wine (merlot, malbec)

1 – 796 ml (28 oz) can of whole, peeled tomatoes, with juices
1 – 796 ml (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes, with juices
2 – 540 ml (19 oz) cans red kidney beans, drained
1 – 540 ml (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained
1 – 540 ml (19 oz) can tomato juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 – 341 ml (12 oz) can Niblets corn

In a large dutch oven (this is where I bring out my bad ass Le Creuset cast iron pot – I cook everything in it).  Saute the onion and garlic in 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat until onion has softened.  Add celery and bell peppers and cook over medium heat until the veggies are softened but still on the firm side.  Add ground beef and cook until meat is browned.  Add spices and mix well to coat the meat and veggies.   Add the ketchup, Worcestershire, Tabasco and red wine.  Mix thoroughly.

Add the whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, red kidney beans, chickpeas, tomato juice and tomato paste.  Stir to mix thoroughly and increase heat to bring the contents to a boil.  Once the chili is bubbling, reduce to simmer and partially cover the pot.  Let cook for 2 – 2 1/2 hours stirring every 20 minutes or so.  Add the corn with your last stir of the pot and continue to cook until the corn is heated.

Serve with grated cheddar cheese, sliced green onion and a dollop of sour cream (full fat of course!) or just eat it as is from the pot.  If I’m feeling a carb-craving coming on, I make some garlic toast to serve on the side.

Enjoy!!!

 

Crochet Bliss! Chainless Foundation Stitches!!

I haven’t posted for awhile but am busily working on various projects for Christmas orders which led me on a hunt for a tutorial to learn how to do the chainless foundation crochet.

I’m currently completing an order for 4 crocheted headbands/ear warmers.   In the past, I’ve created the chains, trying so hard not to make them too tight and then go back and complete all the stitches only to discover in the next round that the initial row is tighter –that doesn’t happen using the chainless foundation stitch.

After scouring YouTube and Google and reviewing at least a dozen tutorials, I finally found one that I can wrap my brain around.  It’s not that it’s a hard stitch, but you need to see those loops to put the hook in to create the next chain — this has been my stumbling area.  

I encourage you to check out Crochet Geek by Teresa Richardson (www.youtube.com/crochet).  Teresa does a great job describing how to create the stitches.  What makes these tutorials stand out from others? She replays her instructions in slow motion!!!

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Foundation Half Double Crochet
Foundation Double Crochet

Now that I’ve spent some time practising, I’m in crochet nirvana! Yes, I’m being a bit dramatic but it’s already made such a huge difference to the projects I’m working on.  I dare you to try it and see the difference!!  I’ll be posting some finished work soon so stay tuned!!

Happy knitting, hooking and creating everyone!