Finished Crocheted Shawl

Crochet Shawl 3Here it is! My first finished crochet project in . . . well, a very long time. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I made it for a friend who has cancer. Her favorite color is yellow, and I am hoping this will wrap her in a bit of sunshine and warm thoughts as she recovers from surgery and goes through a second round of chemo.

Crochet Shawl 2I ended up using all five hanks of yarn that I purchased for the project. It’s 19 inches wide by 55 inches long and has a good bit of stretch to it. It’s not very fancy and has a good number of flaws, but hopefully it will bring her a smile and a bit of comfort.

The part of the process I was most worried about was blocking, as I hadn’t done that for any of my projects in the past. Blocking is the shaping of the piece, while it’s wet, using pins. I layered several fluffy towels on our laundry table and blocked the shawl on that. The towels were thick enough that the T-pins I used to hold the shawl stuck in nicely.

Crochet shawl blocked 2

Crochet shawl blockedI’m not sure, now, why I saw blocking as such a hurdle. I guess just the process of getting it all set up seemed daunting. But now that it is set up, I blocked a few granny squares. And I need to weave in the ends of a few more squares so I can block those, too. I think I see more finished crochet projects in my future!

Crochet Shawl 1

Crocheted Shawl Halfway

Shawl halfway

As promised, and to keep myself on track, here’s how far I got with my crocheted shawl this past week. I took this on vacation with me and used up all the yarn I had brought along. So just two (out of five) hanks left to go!

For me, crocheting is the perfect craft to take to the airport, to do on the plane, and to keep my hands busy while visiting with family. It continued to be difficult to think exclusively of good intentions for my friend as I crocheted, but I think the overall vibe of the shawl will be pretty good.

Next week, I hope to show the finished shawl!

Shawl halfway 2





Crocheted Shawl

Crochet shawl

I’ll admit I don’t have the best track record when it comes to finishing crochet projects. Part of it is I haven’t yet blocked any of my projects, and I have a reluctance to try (for no good reason).

But this one I am really going to finish. This shawl project is for a friend who just started cancer treatment. Her favorite color is yellow, and she’s already cold all the time. So I’m going to send her this sunny shawl to wrap up in.

I had intended for it to be a prayer shawl (where you say prayers or think of positive intentions for the recipient as you make it), but I find I have to think about the act of crocheting too much to think of anything else. Maybe once I get the pattern down better I’ll be able to think positive thoughts for her.  In the meantime, I’ve just been singing church songs in back of my mind as I crochet.

I’ll be taking a few days off for a long weekend, and I hope to get a lot done on the shawl. I’ll report back next week!

Gifts Received

Crocheted cowl neck scarf

In this last post to wrap up the Christmas season, I wanted to share some of the crafty gifts that were received by me and my family members over the holiday. First, although this wasn’t part of my official Christmas present from my sister Brenda, she did make this cowl scarf for me. Before Christmas, Brenda was trying to learn to crochet on her own by watching YouTube videos. At Christmas, she watched me crochet the first row (always the trickiest) and practiced making a coaster. By the beginning of January, she was whipping up scarves like this! Amazing! And even more amazing, this matches every piece of clothing I own.

Sew Steady

Greg gave me a Sew Steady extension for my sewing machine. The Sew Steady extends the surface of the machine throat and makes machine quilting much easier. Or that’s the plan anyway—I’m trying it out for the first time this weekend and can’t wait.

Fabric and Wonder Clips

Mom gave me a goodie box of sewing stuff for Christmas. You know how some people just can’t take apart a jelly roll because it’s so pretty? Not me. I couldn’t wait to dig into this thing. I’ve pulled out all the greens and blues for the quilt I’m working on now, and I know I’ll find a good home for all the rest of the colors, too. The Wonder Clips are a notion I’ve been meaning to try a while; they should be great for holding together the layers of my next sewn handbag and for holding down the folded binding on a quilt.

Emma Quilt Book

And Christmas is the perfect time to share crafty gifts with the next generation, too. Mom got Emma a quilt book and a walking foot. (Emma’s brother Jacob, in the background, is holding up a watch and iPhone speaker. He’s also wearing the footie jammy suit Greg and I gave him.)

Stella and Emma

It does an aunt’s heart good to see these two cousins crafting together. Stella made Emma a bracelet from the beading kit she received, and Emma is busy coloring with the markers and coloring book she received. I love knowing the craft genes will carry on with these two girls.

I hope your Christmas was a crafty one, too!

The Need to Make

crocheted wrapMan, was I in a bad way last week. I don’t know if it was the steroids and antibiotics I was taking for my sinus infection or the fact that the week started out with my husband enjoying MLK Jr. day off while I worked away. But I was fussy and annoyed all week. By the time Thursday rolled around, I found myself thinking, “If I could just sew…” or something, anything, that was real.

I’m lucky that my job does involve making things: books and online classes. But still, books don’t become real until well after I’m done with them. And online classes get posted, but it’s not like I can touch them. After a hard week of making virtual things, I needed to make something that I could touch.

Friday night I finally got my chance. I worked on the crocheted wrap above while we were watching TV. As I was happily going along, I actually found myself thinking, “Oh, I’d better save.” But that’s the great thing about making something real. You don’t need to save! It’s right there! Yeah, it took me a while to get out of the work frame of mind.

Saturday, I finished sewing the rows onto my yellow and pink plus quilt top. It’s not squared up yet, but another big check in the “done” column.

Plus top on chair

And I was still so intent on working with my hands that I actually started working on my T-shirt quilt again. I had started quilting it at least 6 months ago, but I had decided I needed to start over. And unsewing the quilting is the worst, in my mind. It seems like such a huge step backward. But the quilt was going to sit there until I did.

T_shirt quilt portion Once the old quilting was out, I re-basted it, and started again. For right now, I’m just quilting around the blocks of fabric (be it T-shirts or other). I’ll go in and add a bit of quilting to the T-shirts (I got the idea to use a decorative stitch to tack down the T-shirt blocks here and there from a blog post by Nancy Zieman). And I may add some more quilting lines to the fabrics, too.

T_shirt quilt quilted

There’s still a long way to go on all of these projects. But, man, did it feel good to work on them.

A Crafty Take on Our Beach Vacation

We’re back after a glorious week on the island of Grand Cayman. You can see a photo gallery of all the vacation highlights, including a trip to the beautiful Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and a few iguana pictures, here. But on the blog, I wanted to share a craftier take on our trip.

First, above is the long-promised picture of me in the skirt and bag I made for the trip. The bag handles held up very well (you can read about the changes I made to the pattern to make them sturdier here), but the fabric-covered button broke in the first few days. The shank of the button fell off the button back. Luckily my husband and craft hero stepped in and improvised a fix with some picture hanging wire and a pair of pliers. He’s a good guy to have around.

For beach fun, I brought my coloring book and colored pencils, and it turns out the colored pencils I am using for coloring love the warmth of the Caribbean! The wax in the pencils must have melted just enough to give a lot of color with very little effort. So I can highly recommend coloring on the beach.

Crocheting was my other primary beach activity, and I finished several more granny squares. I decided to alternate the outside color on the squares, so that I can get a nice pattern once I put them all together. It turns out, though, that making granny squares on the plane doesn’t work as well as I’d hope because you really need scissors to cut off the yarn after each color change. But I’d packed scissors in my checked bag, so once I got to Grand Cayman,  I could really crank them out.

On the sewing end of things, my mother-in-law, Susan, was kind enough to help me track down a few sewing stores on the island. The two that we found were both geared to the local garment sewers, so there wasn’t much in the way of quilting cottons. But I did find some iron-on transfer embroidery patterns at one of the shops. I’m sure these are available in the U.S., too, but I picked up a few here as quirky reminders of our stay.

Finally, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by the lack of craftiness amongst the people we interacted with the most. No one else was crafting on the beach or expressed any interest in handmade (except, of course, for my always supportive husband and mother-in-law). I’m guessing that it had a lot to do with our location (an attempt to find an apron in the condo complex was unsuccessful, too). But that just makes me all the more grateful for my crafty family, friends, co-workers and blog readers. Your support and encouragement mean more than you know. So let’s all keep supporting our crafty comrades—wherever we go!

Crocheting a Granny Square

Several years ago, when the publishing company I was working for started creating knit and crochet project books, I asked my mom to teach me to crochet. At the time we had several talented knitters on the team, but crochet skills were a bit lagging. So while I was home for vacation, she taught me three stitches: chain, single crochet and double crochet.

As those versed in the world of crochet know, those three stitches are just the tip of the iceberg. And yet, even without being able to read patterns, those three stitches got me pretty far.

Here’s a baby blanket I made for a little girl named Stella.

And here’s a purse I made in which the inside and the strap are lined with fabric.

But in preparation for this beach vacation, I wanted to up my crochet skills. I wanted to learn to make granny squares.

Why? First, I love having a crochet project when I’m traveling. It’s so easy to crochet in the airport, on the plane and even on the beach if you don’t mind a little sand in your bag. Too, I see so many great crochet patterns, and I simply don’t know how to work them. So I thought a granny square would be a great place to start reading patterns. Finally, granny squares are cool.

I went online for a tutorial, and after a couple of missteps, I came upon this granny square tutorial that clicked with me. It was written a few years ago for the Purl Bee blog, and the pictures and instruction just make sense (to me anyway).

But that doesn’t mean all went smoothly. For my first attempt, I thought I’d use just one color yarn for both of the first two rounds. Wouldn’t that be easier than trying to switch colors right in the middle of learning this new pattern?

No. No, I don’t think it was easier. In fact, it kind of made it harder to see what I was doing in the second round. So I switched to two colors.

OK. I was improving. This one at least had a granny square look to it. The stitches are a bit neater. But there’s something going on where I joined the two colors of yarn (on the left).

Attempt number three (at least of those that were worth keeping) shows my progression to a third round.

Alrighty. The transition from gray to green is still a bit wonky. But I completely tied off the green before starting the blue, so that transition is much smoother. Stitches are still OK. Only OK. But OK.

After taking a break over the weekend, I picked up my yarn and hook again on Monday, and plowed right through to the final round.

Transitions are pretty smooth. The stitches are not bad. The overall shape is really not perfectly square. But I think it’s a keeper! I’ll make a few more before the trip, just to stay in practice, and then I’ll figure out what to do with those I finish when I return. So more granny square goodness to come!

If you’re interested, for the granny square samples, I used Lion Brand Cotton Ease yarn and a Susan Bates bamboo handle crochet hook (size H).