"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Bit Out of Character

I know it's totally unlike me to post two entries so close together, but I can't help myself!  I'm really excited because I just finished posting my first "for sale" pattern to Ravelry and Etsy.

I couldn't wait to get started so I entered it on Ravlery (see it here) before I had completely translated it from my shorthand to an actual pattern that's user friendly.  I knew the translation wouldn't take very long, so I figured it was safe.  I labeled the title as "coming soon" just in case anybody found the pattern before I was through.

I wrote out the pattern, proofed it a number of times, and then listed it in my Etsy shop.  Take a look.  (LOL The poor, lonely pattern is the only thing listed there right now.)  THEN I returned to Ravelry to tweak the post there and add the link to purchase the pattern.  To my amazement, it had already been added to four queues!  Wish me luck; maybe it'll actually sell.

Anyhow, it's called the "Chubby Nubby Scrubby" and I happen to love it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm Not an All Out Tree Hugger, But. . .

I care about the environment.  I think before I throw away things that may be reused or recycled.  I've been leaning toward cotton yarns lately because the are not quite as harmful to the environment as the acrylics I've used for so many years.  True, many pieces I've made will last so long that they won't contribute to landfill issues for quite some time BUT the manufacturing of synthetic fibers is another story.

Unfortunately, your basic, everyday cotton yarn is no solution.  Of all natural fibers, cotton is the one that takes the harshest toll on the land.  It requires more fertilizer, more water, and more maintenance than most crops (read more here) and the manufacturing of cotton garments is no simple process (read more here).  That said, cotton yarn fits my budget and is still a step better than synthetic.  More eco-friendly organic cottons are still affordable, but they cost two to three times as much as my favorite go-to cotton, Lily Sugar 'n Cream.

So, if I'm going to double, or even triple, my budget to go green, why not truly embrace the program and drop the cotton altogether?  Bamboo and hemp are both lower impact and renewable, so are soy and wool but I'm allergic to those two and I'm not about to go shopping for non-latex gloves to wear while I crochet.  (Did I mention I'm allergic to latex too?)  How about alpaca?  Supposedly, organic wool doesn't affect many people with wool allergies AND wool would be a better replacement for the acrylic I've used for so long since it's got more loft to it than cotton.  Now there's something to think about.  Let's face it, a cotton afghan is not going to be as warm as wool or even acrylic and any stuffed toys I've crocheted from cotton simply haven't held up as well as their acrylic counterparts.

Finally, as I sit here and contemplate the great mysteries of the universe, I suppose I've found a new adventure:  I resolve to try a few new things in my craft.  I will try bamboo and/or hemp for a few household projects such as dish scrubbies and washcloths and I will try wool for my next amigurumi, or pillow, or both.

Here are two more articles that helped me write this post:
World Wildlife Fund
Talk to me about your favorite yarns.  Do you have a favorite "green" alternative?  I'd love to hear from anyone who can shed more light on the subject or who would simply like to offer an opinion.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Free Crochet Pattern: Big Girl Dish Scrubby

This pattern was inspired by my closest friend. She has three children (whom I adore) and seems to be constantly washing dishes. She uses kitchen sponges with one scrubby side for just about all of her kitchen cleaning. There are always two close at hand, one for washing dishes and one for wiping down surfaces. Following her example, I've adopted this practice.

The problem with these sponges is that they don't last very long. Once the "dish" sponge begins to wear, she throws out the "surface" sponge and replaces it with the old "dish" sponge. This practice serves two purposes: it saves her some money on sponges and it saves a bit of space in a landfill. Essentially she's throwing out one sponge when she could be throwing out two.

My issue is that cleaning with sponges doesn't always strike me as the most sanitary way of dealing with daily cleanup. Although we both pop the sponges in the microwave to kill whatever may be lurking, I still wonder what may be trapped in those sponges. Another concern is all those sponges. They're cheap and synthetic which means they don't decompose very quickly when they finally do reach the landfill.

That said, I offer you my kitchen scrubbie made of 100% cotton left over from another project.  You can throw it in the washer and dryer.  I plan to make enough for every day of the week and an extra just in case.
If you're not inclined to make one yourself, contact me.  I may choose to list them in my Etsy and/or Bonanzle shops. 

All instructions are in American crochet terms. I used worsted weight cotton and size 10 crochet cotton held together to make the example which measures about 4" x 5" x 3/8". This pattern has not been tested, so I welcome comments and questions. Please leave them here on this post so others can benefit from the answers as well.

You will need:
about 1 oz. worsted weight cotton yarn
equal length of size 10 crochet cotton
4.0 mm (size G-6) crochet hook
darning/yarn needle or smaller sized hook for weaving in ends

Design Note:  Most of this pattern is crocheted in rounds which is why the instructions specify "Row 1" but "Round 2."  You're working much of the pattern from the inside of the round, essentially making a tube that you will close with the last row (hence the instruction to work in the "inner loop only").  [Many thanks to my Ravelry pals for pointing out confusion with this technique.]

Ch 21

Row 1: sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch to end, turn (20 sc)

Round 2: ch1, sc in back loop only to end of row, turn and sc in remaining loops of same row, join in inner loop only of 1st sc (40 sc)

Round 3: ch1, sc in inner loop only around, join in inner loop only of 1st sc

Round 4: repeat round 3

Round 5: ch1, *sc in inner loop only of sc, dc in inner loop only of next sc** repeat from * to ** to end, join in inner loop only of 1st sc (40 st)

Round 6: ch1, *dc in inner loop only of sc, sc in inner loop only of dc** repeat from * to ** to end, join in inner loop only of 1st dc (40 st)
Note: That is not a typo. This row is begun with a ch1 not a ch3.

Round 7: ch1, *sc in inner loop only of dc, dc in inner loop only of next sc** repeat from * to ** to end, join in inner loop only of 1st sc (40 st)

Rounds 8 - 9: repeat rounds 6 - 7

Round 10: ch1, sc in inner loop only around, join in 1st sc (40 sc)

Rounds 11 - 12: repeat round 10

Row 13: flatten piece, ch1, holding front and back sides together sc in all 4 loops of 1st and 40th sc, continue across to end, fo (20 sc)

Weave in ends.
Note: I weave the ends in for about 1" then leave a tail measuring about 2" inside the finished piece.

About my work
Any pattern I design and post here is my property. Please do not duplicate my patterns for any reason especially to sell. Instead, please link to my blog or to the pattern page when referencing one of my patterns.
You are more than welcome to offer finished items made from my patterns for sale. I see no reason why you should not profit from your hard work. However, I’d really appreciate it if you gave me credit for the design; please reference my blog or the pattern page.
If you do make any of my patterns, I’d love to see your finished items; please feel free to email pictures to me.
If you are not interested in making your own pieces, I occasionally offer finished items in my shops on Etsy and Bonanzle. I also welcome special orders, so email me and let’s work together.

Added 10/17/14: I receive numerous questions regarding my patterns and I have one request for my readers. PLEASE, if you have a question, post it in the comments of the pattern to which it pertains, either here on the blog, or on Ravelry. That way, your questions and my answers are public and can benefit other crocheters. Sending me private emails doesn't do as much good. Thank you!

Happy Crocheting!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pattern Testing and Comedy Don't Mix

I've recently become hooked on ravelry.com (yeah, I couldn't resist) which is where I stumbled upon an extremely talented designer by the name of Donna Mason-Svara aka SmoothFox. Her blog and Etsy and Ravelry shops are packed with gorgeous patterns, mostly for motif squares. Her patterns are beautiful and versatile....Can you tell I'm a fan? I like to crochet motif squares to use as luxury washcloths for gift baskets, so I'm always on the lookout for squares that look great on their own and don't need to be part of a larger piece. That said, I must have about 200 total patterns saved on my hard drive and at least as many bookmarks, yet I continue to search for new and exciting items to crochet.

I began following Donna's blog shortly after I began writing this one. When I saw she was looking for testers for her newest pattern, I jumped at the chance to be one of them. The picture of her finished piece tugged at my heart. It was one of those projects I didn't just need to do; I needed to do it NOW! Little did I know....

As an experienced crocheter, I'm used to simply working through patterns at a breakneck pace. If there's a mistake in the pattern that I catch, I usually make a note on the pattern page (if I've even bothered to print the pattern) in case I ever make it again, then it's forgotten; I move on. When there's someone counting on you to edit a pattern, you must be more diligent. You're not just throwing together a quick project; you're helping someone fine tune their hard work.

Don't get me wrong, I found my experience testing Donna's two newest patterns to be invaluable as well as rewarding. I decided to offer my services (read that I would have BEGGED to test this pattern) because I had become quite a fan very quickly.

*Donna's patterns may be found on her blog: http://smoothfoxlover.blogspot.com/ and in her Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/SmoothFox*

I was smart about the first pattern I worked for her; I started in a quiet spot with no distractions because she warned that she had written the pattern "late one night" and she expected it may contain a lot of errors. Before I even began, I received another email with corrections for the first three rows. Okay, weeeeeelllll, we're off!

Because acrylic can be quicker and easier to work with than cotton, I opted to use an inexpensive, plain, white, worsted weight acrylic (Caron One Pound) so I could focus on the pattern rather than dealing with the friction and splitting sometimes associated with cotton yarns. Sure enough, there were several errors to be corrected, one of which was a simple omission that threw off an entire round. All in all, with interruptions and stretch breaks, It took me about four or five hours to complete one 12" square.

I was diligent about taking notes through the process so I wouldn't miss any subtleties that may not have affected me, but might throw off a newbie. I emailed her a few times as I crocheted and then when I finished so she'd have my input and my thoughts would be fresh. While I took my duty seriously, let's be real; it's just yarn. We may not be saving lives, but we may as well get it right.

The next day, I opened all the shades to let some light into the dining room and took a few shots of my finished project. I must say I was pretty darn proud of myself because it looked as good as Donna's original did. It also surprised me that the white photographed so well. I was able to get a nice clear shot in just daylight. Of course, being the Queen of Dumb Mistakes, I sent the email saying "look what I did!" without first attaching the photos..... DUH!

I wasn't really sure what I would do with the finished piece. There were quite a few possibilities that I toyed with including just taking it apart and reusing the yarn. In fact, the first photos I sent to Donna showed a loop still in the end of the square because I hadn't finished off the last row and woven in the end. It wasn't until Donna emailed me asking for a picture with the end hidden that I decided I definitely wanted to keep the square and expand on the project.

*Possible ideas for expanding on this square included:
-making 11 more and turning it into an afghan
-making 4 or 5 more and turning it into a scarf
-making 11 more different squares and making a sampler afghan*

A day later, I set to making the square one more time using the most recently revised version of the pattern that I received that morning from Donna. I really wanted to make this one in cotton because I've been using cotton almost exclusively lately and I saw so much potential for color in this pattern. I wasn't sure how much yarn I'd need for the cotton version and I liked the idea of mixing neutrals, so I pulled out a new ball of Soft Ecru and a new ball of Terra Firma (a variegated brown) by Lily Sugar 'n Cream. I was able to breeze through this one in just about 1 1/2 hours with no problems at all and not much left of those two balls of yarn. I loved the finished product; it turned out better than I expected. I was so excited to send the photo of it to Donna and even more excited to see it posted in her blog. (You'll find more of the finished squares and the free pattern here: http://smoothfoxlover.blogspot.com/2010/07/testers-pictures-of-foxs-amethyst.html)

And then it happened (queue the ominous music): Donna posted a request for testers again, this time for her "Ripple Star Square." Uh, oh. You guessed it... Thankfully, Donna still needed testers when I contacted her. The center star looked more like a snowflake, I thought, so I wanted to accentuate that point by doing the center star in white and surrounding it in rounds of red, white, and hot green.

I set about crocheting in my more standard way: butt on the sofa, laptop on the coffee table with the pattern on screen, and the TV on. This turned out to be a mistake for several reasons. First, my friend and I started watching Comedy Central at about 8:30 p.m. Jeff Dunham was on (I ADORE Jeff Dunham). Turned out they were having some sort of stand-up marathon for the holiday weekend. Second, I read through the pattern and THOUGHT I was following it to the letter, but I kept stopping to laugh, so I didn't make very good time. Third, I was wired on caffeine and determined to finish this block before I went to bed. I finished shortly after 1:00 a.m.

Except for a minor miscount of stitches, I found no mistakes in the pattern. (I did, by the way, reread it after I finished because I knew I'd been somewhat distracted as I worked.) I made one color change as I crocheted. If you look at the photo of my finished square, you'll see that the last round is white. Originally this was to be red, but I got about half way around and decided red/green/red made the square look too much like a man's tube sock, so I started at the next corner with white to see which I preferred. Needless to say, I ended up ripping out the red and finishing in white. In hindsight, the only thing I would change about the color choices is that I would use red where I used green and vice versa. I think the center star/snowflake would pop more if surrounded by red.

*When I finished making the center motif, I laid it out and thought it would make a great pot holder, so that may be my next project.*

I emailed photos of the finished square to Donna this morning who was concerned, after examining those pictures, that she'd made a mistake in the instructions. You see, I misread the instructions and my long double crochets in row 6 aren't long enough. Darn you, Jeff Dunham and Peanut! Darn you Larry the Cable Guy! Oh well, as I said before, we're not saving lives here; it's just yarn.