"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

Friday, December 24, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This is not my favorite Christmas song.  I don't think I really have one, actually.  However this arrangement combined with the song and its sentiment IS my favorite.  So to heck with political correctness!  Merry Christmas to one and all.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's All Japanese to Me. . .Part Two!

slipper sock by sharon klinsky adjusted to fit my two year old niece
simple earth hat by laurie laliberte
Now where were we?  Oh yeah, so in the midst of entertaining myself with all these delicious hats and scarves and shawls (oh my!) the weather turned cold, not just autumn cold, New England cold.  I think I mentioned in my last post that the high would be around 25 degrees.  (Yeah, I'd never survive a winter in Minnesota without a big sheepdog and a husband.  ;oP)  So my darling eight year old nephew, N, asked me to make him a winter hat because his old hat had a hole and Mom tossed it in the trash last spring.  I spent a few days scouring Ravelry and Crochet Pattern Central and I found two patterns I liked.  I began working one of them but it just wasn't working out the way I wanted it.  The other really lent itself to a two color design, but I was trying to use up some of the navy left over from my own scarf and hat project.  N got home from school one afternoon and saw that I was in the process of frogging the hat I'd begun earlier that day.  He asked why I was taking it apart and I explained that I just didn't like it after all.  To which he replied, "What about one of your designs?"  (Well DUH!)  I swear, half the time this kid acts like he's only four or five, then he has these glimmers of maturity when he acts as though he's about thirty.  This was one of those moments.  I mean, the whole reason I made the two men's hat patterns that I sell in my shops is that I couldn't find any men's hats patterns I actually liked!  So, Auntie Laurie, why DIDN'T you just start with one of the hats you created?  I showed N the pics from the Ravelry listings of the two hats I offer and he chose the Simple Earth hat. To further emphasize my own stupidity, I should tell you that the kid modeling the finished example on Etsy and Ravelry is the nephew in question.  All I needed to do to shrink the pattern enough to fit him was work it with a smaller (G) hook.

slipper sock by sharon klinsky
pattern adjusted to fit me
Okay, done. . .finally time to just knuckle down and finish those slipper socks I started for myself back in October.  This is one of the most versatile and easy to adjust patterns I've ever worked. I'll tell ya Sharon Klinsky, their designer, is a GENIUS!  Adjusting the pattern to accommodate different sizes, widths, etc is so easy it's criminal.  No, they're not glamorous, but they're extremely warm because they're worked with two strands of yarn and they work up quickly because of the simplicity of the design.  In just a few hours I made a pair to give to my two year old niece for Christmas. I will warn you if you're prone to discomfort/pain in your hands for any reason, these can be tough to work.  My fingers are still stiff a day after finishing the pair I made for the little one (partially from the crocheting, partially from the weather).  Still, I'd like to make a few more pairs before Christmas, one for each of her brothers and another for myself so my feet won't be cold while I wash my first pair.

Somehow in this flurry of activity I WAS able to finish the cross stitching on the towel in my "Cross-Stitchable" collection.  I'm sure I'll be listing that before this post hits your screen, at least that's my intent.  I must say that I really like it and I'm darn proud of it because I've never written a cross stitch pattern before.  (Can you tell I can't wait to show it off?)  Anyhow, now that I've brought you full circle, perhaps I should get to the reason for these two posts. . .

plaits & bobbles hat by michele thompson
After seeing N's hat, his Mom asked if I had, already made, a hat in my stash that would coordinate with her winter coat.  Immediately I thought of one I made last winter that I absolutely love.  I originally made the pattern for myself a couple of years ago in a solid lilac acrylic.  I made it again in this aran fleck that just seemed to beg for this pattern when I picked it up at the craft store.
Note:  I searched everywhere so I could link this pattern, but it's nowhere to be found.
What better to go with a beige and chocolate brown coat, right?  Wrong.  Mom tried it on and wasn't crazy about the way it slouched on her. She asked for something more fitted.  So I searched. . .and searched. . .and I found a few styles that I thought would suit her simple/less embellished style.  We settled on chocolate brown for the color so I wouldn't have to order yarn before getting started and I pulled up my Ravelry queue to show her the styles I had chosen for her.  She stood over my shoulder as I clicked from one style to the next and suddenly I heard, "Wait, stop!  Click that one."  "THIS one?"  "Yeah, that one.  Do you have that color?  Not the blue, the green under it." She had spotted a pretty puff stitch beret/tam style I had queued for myself.  Well, it just so happens that yes, I DID have that color in my stash AND the pattern from Pierrot Yarns was FREE!  Within an hour, I was comfy on the couch with my laptop on the coffee table in front of me and the project begun.
In the interest of saving paper I rarely print patterns.  Instead I save them on my laptop so I can carry them almost anywhere.  However, I need to get around to creating a better filing system.
By the time dinner was ready I was tweaking the pattern slightly so it would better suit Mom's face shape vs. the Japanese model in the picture.  By bedtime the hat was done and it looked great. . .and great on her.  So why is this particular project blogworthy?  Because the doggone thing's in Japanese! Honestly, I believe the two most beautiful sources on Ravelry for free patterns are the Japanese companies (which I lump under one umbrella) and Drops Design.  Both have attention to detail that we Americans often overlook.  Of course, the drawback to each of them is that neither is written in American terminology.  That's why I hadn't made projects from either group until now.

oval tiny bubbles scrubby by laurie laliberte
When I first sat down to make Mom's hat, I groaned.  I had forgotten that it was a Japanese pattern.  Okay, deep breath. The All Shawl pattern was written AND had a chart.  Heck, I had WRITTEN a chart for my Oval Tiny Bubbles Scrubby so I could better visualize the end product.  (I later wrote the instructions by following that chart.)  I knew I could make the hat by working completely from the chart.  I just had to find a key so I could be certain I was reading it correctly.  I found a great conversion chart and set to work.  By the time I began the third round, I was able to follow the pattern without a second thought and it was a breeze.  All in all, I think the finished project turned out great AND it did wonders for my self confidence.  I still can't read Japanese, but now I know I can work any of the Japanese patterns available on Ravelry. . .and so can you!

As always, Happy Crocheting!

All of the items pictured in this article were crocheted by Laurie Laliberte using Lily Sugar 'n Cream except the slipper socks which were done in Pisgah Peaches 'n Creme 100% cotton worsted weight yarn.  All photos were taken by and are property of Laurie Laliberte.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's All Japanese to Me. . .Part One

waikiki scarf by marilyn losee
graceful soft mesh beret by kathy north
My most recent projects have been for myself and for friends rather than for public viewing, which is why you all haven't heard much from me.  As I was about to post a lengthy story on Ravelry documenting my latest adventure in crochet involving a beautiful pattern not my own, I realised that the story involving this particular item is simply too lengthy to sum up on a project page.  Besides, I thought giving this one a bit of space on my blog would help any of you who are now in the same spot I was when I began this project.  Enough with the foreshadowing, read on. . .

grandpa's sweater towel by laurie laliberte
This autumn has been full of newness for me and a sort of coming out of my comfort zone.  It actually began with the creation of my "Grandpa's Sweater" kitchen set patterns.  Although I've used front post and back post stitches quite a bit, and really enjoy working them, I don't recall ever working crocheted cables before.  That made developing the Grandpa's Sweater patterns quite a challenge.  I had a vision of what I wanted to do, but I had to actually learn how to do it properly before I translated it into a workable project for selling.  I researched the technique and found it to be quite easy, but not so simple.  Anyhow, I was finally able to develop a design that made me happy as well as proud.  Still, when I look at the photos of those finished pieces, I feel a sense of accomplishment because the finished pieces are beautiful translations of my initial vision.

cross-stitchable towel by laurie laliberte
Next came a set that's still sort of in the development stages. . .the "Cross-Stitchable" set.  The initial examples are crocheted and photographed, but I still need to cross stitch the designs on some of the pieces and finish writing up the patterns for the pot holder and scrubby.  While I am by no means new to cross stitch (if you read my last post, you know that all too well) I was nowhere near an expert with Tunisian, also known as Afghan, crochet.  I suppose I won't be rushing to develop tons of new patterns involving the Afghan technique, but the process of re-learning how to do it and putting it into practice got me to appreciate the finished project more than I did before.  It also sparked a curiosity.  I sought out and bookmarked some very pretty Tunisian lace patterns thanks again to Ravelry and actually crocheted a Tunisian lace scarf in a rich chocolate brown.  The pattern is by Elisa Purnell of Yarn Tails.  (In addition to beautiful patterns, her stories about her granddaughters make her blog a must-follow.)  Talk about being out of my comfort zone!  I don't think I've ever been so nervous when beginning a project.  Anyhow, it turned out to be pretty easy and, I believe it's one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever made.  Of course, no scarf should stand on its own, so I had to make a hat to coordinate with it.  I tend to avoid matchy-matchy clothing so I found a hat, designed by Ashley Kaye, that's got a similar feel and made it in the same chocolate brown with accents of sage green.  Mittens may be next, that is if I can find the time to develop a mitten pattern because I think I may want them to match the hat. . .We'll see.

all shawl by doris chan
Somewhere in this time frame, my old buddy Meghan over at Crochet Every Day posted the All Shawl by Doris Chan as one of her projects. Now, I HAVE worked lace before, but only in smaller projects/quantities.  I did a Christmas stocking a few years ago that had a lace cuff worked in the same worsted weight yarn as the body of the stocking and, more recently, I completed a scarf by Marilyn Losee with which I fell absolutely in love.  Honestly, if you've never worked lace before, either of these two would make a great first lace project.  They can both be worked beautifully in worsted weight yarn with average size hooks, so you can concentrate on the pattern rather than teensy stitches made of thread.  (My eyes and hands can't do traditional lace, so you'll never see it on my hook.)  Both patterns are also surprisingly simple and easy to follow.  Of course, my intent with the All Shawl was to wear it as an extra layer around the house, but it needed a hat for when it goes outside on my shoulders.  Fortunately, I found one on Ravelry by Amanda Muscha.  It's meant to be a hybrid with the band worked in a simple knit and purl rib, but I can't purl, so I used a basic front post/back post instead.  I have yet to look for and find a hat pattern to match Marilyn's design.  Any suggestions?

crocheted mesh scarf by heidi hirtle
Moving on. . .My newly developed obsession with lace and openwork led me to this simple but luscious  scarf designed by Heidi Hirtle.  Of course, I'm not one to wear a short scarf, so I didn't stop until this one measured about seven feet!  There's a method to the madness there. You see, this finished scarf measures about sixteen inches wide which means it would make a lovely summer shawl if worked in a lightweight worsted or sport yarn, but it's cold here in New England right now (today's high will be around 25 degrees), so bunching it and wearing it doubled as per the recent trend in scarves makes it so cozy warm that it can be worn in this weather with a proper hat.  Which brings me to. . .this fabulous beret by Kathy North.  I know, I know, a mesh hat's not really going to keep my head warm, but I have tons of hair so I'm not really concerned with that.  I just made certain to work enough rows in the band so my ears are properly covered.

combination summer hat by amanda muscha

puff striped slouch hat by ashley kaye
Whew!  Here I go again offering up paragraph after paragraph and project after project. Meanwhile, I haven't even touched upon the reason I began writing this post in the first place!  Oh well, you'll just have to wait until next time. . . (Insert evil grin here.)  While you're waiting, why not check out some of those terrific patterns and designers for your next project?  You can also see more photos and details about my finished projects by taking a peek at my Ravelry projects page.

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tunisian lace scarf by elisa purnell
All of the items pictured in this article were crocheted by Laurie Laliberte using Pisgah Peaches 'n Creme 100% cotton worsted weight yarn.  All except the cross-stitchable towel were laundered before they were photographed which adds some loft to the finished product.  Some were blocked; some were tumble dried to add more loft.  All photos were taken by and are property of Laurie Laliberte.