Reducing the stash … the struggle is real

What makes the acquisition and accumulation of large quantities of beautiful, soft, squishy yarn so addictive? For me, it’s the promise of what could be, the potential to create for others and sometimes because, well, it’s pretty!  

I’ll admit that when I hear the word “addict”, I don’t want it associated with me. According to Wikipedia – addiction is defined as “a brain disease that is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences”.

Can I get on board with that definition?  Sure!  I have an insane addiction to all things involving yarn and the many accessories that go with it.  I was giddy at the thought of Baad Anna’s winter yarn sale a few weeks ago.  I showed up 30 minutes early before the opening and joined a few ladies waiting in line!  I’m rewarded with new additions to my ever growing yarn stash. I met a few new people, got to spend some quality time with a close friend….what’s not to like?  

My yarn stash is out of control and my cart continues to fill on LoveKnitting and KnitPicks.  You would think that with five projects on the go, I’d be satisfied with what I have to work with but…um, nope.   I still find myself searching for those one or two skein projects thinking I’ll use up that yarn I bought ages ago and ultimately just end up picking out new yarn because I find a few more half dozen projects that I’m dying to work on.  Does this sound familiar anybody?

I used up over six skeins of yarn making winter hats with pom-poms for a local shelter.  I have the best of intentions.  I’m trying to reduce the stash, really I am, but within a couple weeks those six were replaced by six more new ones.  I assembled knit project kits with patterns, needles and yarn for donation.  I crocheted some washcloths for my sister to use up some of my cotton stash – now that one has stuck, I haven’t bought more cotton to replace what I used…..not yet.

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Travel also adds another dimension to the stash — Is it bizarre that when I booked a trip to Iceland with two of my dearest friends, the first thing I thought of when booking the airfare wasn’t “how am I going to afford this trip?”, it was “do I need a second bag to carry back all the Lopi I’m going to buy in Reykjavik?”, “will I see sheep? cause, crap, we’re missing the spring round up” Sad? Perhaps. Neurotic? Maybe.  Just please don’t show me your judgy face.  As an aside for anyone interested in visiting Iceland, they sell yarn in the grocery store! Now that’s my kind of country!  While in Iceland, I was quite restrained and only picked up one of these fabulous mittens kits.

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We were in England last fall for our friends’ wedding.  I just had to pick up these beauties while touring through York.

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I attended Vogue Knitting Live in New York in January this year – WOW!  Too much fun and look what I got – yarn on right is pure cashmere bliss.

Really, the only adverse consequence of my addiction to yarn? I sleep less because I knit more.  My family is doing fine, they just have less storage for their “stuff” and one less arm chair in the living room because the baby blanket I’m making using the Intarsia technique, with seven balls of yarn in the works, has found a home there (separate post coming on that project – it’s coming along beautifully).  I can’t clean the blinds because I have a couple hanks hanging that need to be wound.  So I took up an entire closet, do I apologize for this? Heck no, I own the house!  My kid doesn’t starve — in addition to my love of knitting, I’m also a self-proclaimed fabulous cook.  If my daughter is watching a little bit of TV, I hang out on the couch with her, albeit with yarn and needles in hand, but hey, I’m there and she’s excited to be on the receiving end of another pair of fingerless mitts to go with the new hoodie she got for Christmas.  Are tiny pity violins playing yet?  Nope, don’t hear them and everybody’s looking pretty happy to me.

Yes, the stash costs but I like to justify my knit expenses by comparing them to the cost of all the other useless items I could put in my house.  When I think on it, I’m usually making gifts for other people.  I can count on one hand the projects that I keep for myself so really I’m actually saving money and encouraging cottage industry!  Now I don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of hats, scarves and mitts for my kid, boyfriend, his kids and myself each year.  We all have a fabulous collection growing ~ whether they like it or not! Ha!  

I take comfort that I’m not alone with my shamefully over sized stash.  Facebook is full of posted one liners about the neurotic behaviour of us fibre artists out there – my friends pepper my page with them.  They’re funny because they’re true!  

“It’s not a pile of yarn, it’s a pile of potential”

“My greatest fear is when I die my husband will sell my yarn for what I told him it cost”
[this is soooo true]

“Some might call me a yarnaholic fibre whore and they wouldn’t be wrong”
[my personal favourite]

“I’m not addicted to yarn, we’re in a committed relationship”

Be aware though of this potential downside to the stash!  Family and friends, who may or may not be knit worthy, could become wary of you.  You morph into the crazy aunt or eccentric friend who’s always whipping up something fuzzy for their head, to wrap around their neck or shove on their hands.  What begins with “oh my goodness, so beautiful!” becomes a wry “wow, you made another one?”  

I haven’t travelled down the road of making jumpers that will ultimately get stuffed into the bottom drawer, after receiving a somewhat genuine “gee, that’s great, thanks!”, along with a rather indiscreet eye roll which screams “OMG! She made another one!”  I’ll save that for when I’m a granny! 

 

Poor little dishcloths

My crocheted dish cloths are the most loved and the most abused of all my crafting creations.

Before…..

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After…. (I was kind to viewers and washed them first before photographing them):

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Now my faded and worn crochet dishcloths say a couple of things to me: 1. I do a lot of cleaning …. sigh; and 2. These are amazing little work horses.  While the colour may fade after a ton of cycles in the washer, the cotton doesn’t fray and the stitches hold their shape.  I’ve even had mine stuck in the garburator but that poor thing did land itself in the garbage bin after that incident.

The above cloths were made alternating rows of single and double crochet.  I’ve tweaked that a little and below is now my standard dishcloth and washcloth pattern using Bernat Handicrafter cotton:

Using size H hook, chain 26

Row 1: 1 sc in the 2nd chain from hook, 1 hdc, [1 sc, 1 hdc] repeat [ ] until one stitch left, 1 sc;
Row 2: Ch 2, 1 hdc in 3rd chain from hook, 1 sc, [1 hdc, 1 sc] repeat [ ] until last stitch, 1 hdc;
Row 3: Ch 1, 1 sc in 2nd chain from hook, 1 hdc [1 sc, 1 hdc] repeat [ ] until last stitch, 1 sc;

Repeat rows 2 and 3 for pattern until fabric makes a square.  Weave in ends.

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Above is Bernat’s Handicrafter cotton in Earth Ombre.  The light, concrete colour blue adds some coolness to the warm browns  – this is my favourite of Bernat’s variegated cotton yarn.

I love to give these as house-warming gifts or  as part of a spa gift.  If you’re ever in a pinch for a quick crochet project, these are easy, versatile and a stash buster!

Happy crochet!

 

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

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!

 

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
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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!

To Crochet Infinity and Beyond

The Infinity Scarf ~ A Wardrobe Essential

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE infinity scarves! I have a ton of them in a variety of different fabrics – crocheted, knit, silk, linen, wool, cotton etc.

I have one for every season as there is never a wrong time or place for an infinity scarf. On a late summer evening, once the sun goes down with a little wind rustling, a light scarf adds warmth and comfort on the patio.  In the worst, spine numbing cold a thick, wool infinity scarf can block out chilling winds keeping your neck and chest area toasty warm.

I recently made these two crocheted infinity scarves for a very happy customer.  These two wrap three times around for a super cozy look and feel.

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Both are made with an acrylic/wool blend in a simple pattern  of double crochet stitches into the back loops to add a ridged texture.  The scarf is crocheted in the round for as many rows as you want for the desired width.

I am currently working on putting the pattern on paper, or I should say Word file, so I can share with you all.  Stay tuned!!!

 

Banana Bread …. It Feeds the Creative Mojo

Getting the creative juices flowing and pouring hours into crafting is hard work and you need a break to re-fuel every once in awhile.  When I am working on a project, be it with hook in hand or on my sewing machine, there is a favourite go-to snack.  In my house, we call it “B Bread”, there’s no need to mention the full word “banana”, that’s wasting time that could be better spent eating.  Pairing beautifully with a tea or coffee, this banana bread is flavourful, moist and you can’t stop at just one slice. As soon as my kid sees a group of three bananas browning on the counter, she gets giddy.

Where did this recipe come from?  Sad to say I didn’t think this beauty up myself.  Back in the early 80s, my elementary school published a cookbook as a fundraiser with contributions from various families.  My mom gave me her copy years ago.  The cover is long gone, her notes are in the margins of food stained, dog-eared pages — all the signs of a much loved cookbook.  It has become a family heirloom of sorts.  With everyone remaining anonymous, I wouldn’t have a clue who the baking goddess is who came up with this recipe but whoever you are, kudos to you!  I’ve tweaked a few measurements and added a couple new ingredients over the years with the same results ~ yum, yum, yum!!

So here you go….

  • 4 tbsp margarine
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed (if on the smaller size, add another banana)
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt (table or sea salt will work)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • (optional) ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (toasting the nuts first adds a richer, nutty taste)
  • (my optional my add-in) ¼ cup dark chocolate chips  (sometimes I just sprinkle these on top of the batter before it goes in the oven — satisfies the chocolate craving but doesn’t overpower the banana-ness of the bread)

Note regarding using margarine over butter =  I’ve discovered you can substitute unsalted butter for the margarine, the difference in taste is negligible but even as a staunch butter-lover, I am convinced the margarine does taste better.

Preheat oven to 325ºF, with a rack in the centre.  Using either your stand mixer or hand mixer, cream margarine and brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy; add the beaten egg and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Alternating, add dry ingredients and the mashed bananas in thirds to the creamed mixture mixing each to just incorporate the ingredients, be careful not to over mix.  Use spatula to scrape every last ounce of batter goodness into a well-greased and floured loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes.  I like to run a knife through the batter to get rid of any air bubbles before baking.  It’s ready when an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.  Leave the loaf in the pan to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack to let cool completely.  I don’t think I’ve ever made it to that point without cutting a slice — it’s really tasty still warm but easier to cut a room temperature. Enjoy!

If you have a favourite banana bread or similar loaf recipe, please share! I am in search of a zucchini loaf!