Love Your Blog Challenge – Gratitude

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Last year around this time, I was up to my ears in yarn, having received three huge packages of it in the mail from crafters whose own stashes were overflowing. I was, to put it simply, incredibly grateful for it all.

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At the same time, they had passed their overflowing yarn stash problems over to me. A problem I actually quite enjoyed, of course.

A bag or two of yarn went to my grandmother, who knits and crochets for charity. A smaller box went off in the mail again. (If yarn could speak, it might say it was getting awfully tired of all that travel!) I used a good amount of the new yarn in projects that I gave away and I’ve since been plugging away at those granny square baby blankets that will eliminate a lot more yarn from my stash.

Back in January, I spent a few hours dissecting my entire yarn stash, reorganizing it into different bins, designating an entire 16 gallon (68 liter) bin for yarn that I’d be happy to see find a new home. Instead of vaguely telling friends I have yarn I think they might like, this bin lets friends pick through all the yarn that’s up for grabs and make their own choices, without the awkwardness of anyone asking to have yarn that I might already have plans for.

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Last Thursday, I was able send a good friend home with a grocery bag full to overflowing with wool and wool blend yarns in a rainbow of colors, all yarn that she never would have bought for herself. All gifts to me, now gifts to her. She’s inspired and said she’d spend the whole evening browsing Ravelry looking for new projects.

All in all, I’m grateful for giving – for the blessing of being a recipient and the joy in being a giver.

A Playful Day

Crochet (?) in the wild

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I’ve been staring at this shawl in two Taiwanese music videos and I’d like to hear what you think.

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It looks like a simple filet with alternating filled squares and empty squares, but the V shaped chains in the empty squares is throwing this off.

What do you think? Is there a stitch pattern that makes this kind of fabric? Is this machine crochet, which doesn’t use the same approach to constructing fabric as hand crochet?

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Image 1 source: CHTHONIC-Kaoru(acoustic ver.) Music Video 閃靈-薰空(民謠版) MV
Image 2 source: 閃靈、元千歲-暮沉武德殿(民謠版) CHTHONIC-Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace(acoustic)

Love Your Blog Challenge – Ugly

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Not all yarn is beautiful.
Not all crochet and knitting is beautiful.

For example, this is a project that's been abandoned to a bag buried in the back of my closet.

For example, this is a project that’s been abandoned to a bag buried in the back of my closet.

Even so, Pinterest is filled with gorgeous photos of potential projects, my crochet board included. So much beautiful stuff out there to make with beautiful yarn.

Take a peek at comments on craft blogs, Ravelry projects, r/crochet threads, etc., and look at the outpourings of positivity and compliments. The online craft world is overwhelmingly kind, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of that kindness.

Everything is lovely.

And when it isn’t, we say very little or nothing at all.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing.

Uninvited criticism on something someone’s spent weeks or months on making, someone who then has the courage to put it out there in the public eye, that criticism is uncalled for and unwelcome. So I will never criticize someone’s personal work on their blog, their Ravelry project page, or anywhere else they put it out there online.

Even when they're just goofily wearing hand-dyed yarn on their heads.

Even when they’re just goofily wearing hand-dyed yarn on their heads.

But sometimes I really just want to point out that some segments of the craft world are bonkers. Mostly the free patterns offered by large yarn companies like Red Heart and Lion Brand, where unlike a curated Pinterest board, the beautiful is mixed in with some head-scratchingly (literally, in this case I think) weird projects. I have a whole folder on my computer dedicated to “bad crochet,” filled with screenshots of free patterns that make me feel sorry for the models or the pattern testers.

I find (perverse?) joy in ugly/weird patterns, which sometimes I’ve shared on this blog

Indefensible crochet
Indefensible crochet: terrifying toys
A Book of Men’s Sweaters
Glorious (?) Crochet Sweaters
Oh. My. (<—-seriously, of all of these links, this is the one to click. you won’t be disappointed)

Writing this post sent me back to some of those free pattern pages, where to my great discomfort a “reviews” section has been added to the patterns. How can I make fun of a bizarre baby hat covered in worms when enthusiastic crafters are gushing about how adorable it is especially when you add more worms than the pattern is designed with?

Bonkers? Ugly? To me, yes.

But somewhere out there, someone is genuinely rhapsodizing about how exciting a pair of fun-fur bracelets look, or how dashing a granny square snuggie will look on the man of the house. Or about putting more worms on a baby’s head.

And who am I to judge? Maybe I need to revise how I began this post.

All yarn is beautiful to someone.
All crochet and knitting is beautiful to someone.

(Really, you must see these to believe they exist. I laughed so hard I cried when I posted it last year.)

A Playful Day

Crochet mischief (ongoing)

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Let me review earlier mischief involving my neighbors’ lawn ornament.

First, I made her a sunhat back in 2012.

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Then I made her a winter hat in 2013 and took the sunhat away to be bleached of the moss that had grown on and in it.

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Then last spring once it really seemed like spring was here to stay, I replaced the sunhat and retrieved the winter hat, throwing it away because its fabric had gotten rather gross and since it wasn’t white, I couldn’t bleach it.

When winter rolled around again last year, clearly I needed to make her a new hat, and I did, but then forgot to photograph it. Also, in my hurry to get the new hat on her without detection, I couldn’t untie the sunhat’s knots and so it ended up hanging on her single arm like a purse.

Earlier this week, I was incredibly amused to discover that my neighbors have apparently decided spring is here to stay and switched her back into her old summer hat, using the winter hat as her purse.  I may have to snag the winter hat, wash it, and think about what else I could do for her instead this year.    Maybe a real purse with some flowers in it?

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Also, someone that wasn’t me added the dinosaur.  I love it!

Love Your Blog Challenge – Beginnings

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Like many participants in A Playful Day’s “Love Your Blog” Challenge, I went back through my early blog posts while thinking about what to write this week in fitting with the “Beginnings” theme. Good thing too as I was able to fix a bunch of broken picture links from before I hosted my photos with WordPress. Aside from being reminded what it was like to be building a yarn stash rather than working through destashing, I didn’t find much inspiration there for this post, however.

To be honest, my mind has been on endings more this year than beginnings. Getting ever closer to the end of my graduate career with no new beginning in sight yet. Supervising the dissolution of what remains from a retired professor’s personal book collection. Groaning when the alarm goes off, always too early, at the beginning of the day and looking forward to it ending, back in my very comfortable bed.

How does craft fit in with all this?

Those little remnant balls of acrylic yarn, odd ends of old projects – others’ and my own, are finding their new place in a silly project I’m working on for an old friend, Shef.

Shef & I almost exactly 10 years ago.

Shef & I almost exactly 10 years ago.

Shef was one of my roommates during the first two years of college, back before all this graduate school and job hunt began. She was there when I was first learning to crochet and made a few ill advised projects, including a horrid looking coat-of-many-colors out of leftover yarn from my grandmother’s stash and a scary monkey doll.

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A couple months ago when that post about men’s shorts made from vintage crocheted blankets suddenly started popping up on all my social networks, I joked to Shef that in the tradition of making ugly things, I should really make her a granny square one. In all seriousness, she said that she’d love it, and so I began.

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It’s been hibernating for a month or so, but I’m confident I can finish it sometime this summer so that Shef can dazzle her friends and neighbors with its kitschy brilliance.

A Playful Day

Love Your Blog Challenge – Interaction and Community

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Two forces have come together to inspire my return to blogging.

First, yesterday Gene and I did some serious organization of some of my craft supplies, taking advantage of the little library card catalog cabinet I picked up (for free!) last Friday. After spending an enjoyable hour sorting and organizing, we ended up with this:

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Gene said I should post about it on Gossycrafts, and I replied that Gossycrafts was basically dead because I haven’t been making much lately. Which is really a pity, isn’t it? I still get traffic and I still enjoy thinking about crafting, even if I don’t give myself the time to indulge in it much anymore.

Secondly, Kate from A Playful Day is kicking off a “Love Your Blog” Challenge today, hoping to inpsire craft bloggers to fall back in love with their blogs, starting off with blogging about “Interaction and Community.”

When I started Gossycrafts ages ago (almost 5 years ago, I think), I hadn’t anticipated the kinds of connections I’d end up forming, and the immense kindness of the online crafting community. I’ve made friends (Quince Tart and Yulianknits come first to mind, but there are certainly more) , found new blogs to follow (including A Playful Day).

The connections I’ve formed have even inspired the projects I am (slowly, intermittently) working on over the past few months: Granny Square baby blankets

Inspired by the enthusiasm of Granny Squares of Love, and the joy I get from the simple, meditative process of making granny squares, I have been working to use up odds and ends of acrylic yarn on baby blankets, which I’ll eventually mail off to North Carolina. A connection I would not have found but for this blog.

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So far I’ve made four blankets (which are all roughly 30″ wide) and have started on a fifth.

I’m only using yarn in quantities that will allow me to make at least one complete row around the square, meaning I still have a bunch of little balls of acrylic left – for another granny square project that’s slowly coming together. More about that another day, I promise!

What are you working on?

A Playful Day

New life for old yarn – Oh, the possibilities!

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Sigh.  Being on the job market, trying to finish my dissertation, and slowly recovering from an RSI have wreaked havoc on my crochet productivity over the past few months. I made a few small things that I hope to get caught up on here. I crocheted only one (1!) Christmas present.  I have made no progress on my two long hibernating big projects – the lace weight red cardigan and the giant granny blanket.

Alas!

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about recently, however.

Below, on the left, is a grey 70% wool / 20% nylon / 10% cashmere sweater that I bought almost 5 years ago, right when I started getting into unraveling sweaters and working with recycled yarn, a little before I started this blog. IMG_1522

Along with a baby present – hat and pair of booties – see below for what else this sweater has since become:
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From head to toe:
Headband
Honeycomb neckwarmer
Button cowl
(both of the above cowls are also often worn as headbands, since I have too much hair for a hat now)
Ribbed cowl (meant for Gene, but he never wears it so I do when it’s awful out)
and, just finished yesterday:
Legwarmers

Yarn usage
Headband: 33g (includes weight of frog)
Honeycomb neckwarmer: 50.6g
Button cowl: 51g (this includes weight of the buttons)
Ribbed cowl: 96g
Legwarmers: 100g

I weighed the remaining two balls and found I have 110g left. What to make next? Should I be all matchy-matchy and make myself some mittens or fingerless gloves with the remainder? I’d probably still have yarn left after that. It strikes me an entire winter set in this grey might seem a little silly though, especially if worn all together.

Any ideas?

FO: Quinty Shrug

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Pattern: Quinty Shrug
Recipient: Mom

It’s been a long time since I’ve visited any crochet blogs, including my own. I’m a little behind on sharing completed projects, but the truth is that there haven’t been all that many to speak of. I’ve only just recently picked my hook and yarn up again after a long break.

In late August, I finished this shrug as belated birthday present for my mom. I didn’t ship it off to Taiwan until late September, which means my mom got it as a VERY belated birthday gift.

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I made this shrug out of recycled yarn from my friend Janelle’s old sweater, which I wrote about ages ago. The color is perfect for my mom, but the yarn was too thick, so the most fiddly part about the whole project was separating the two ply yarn into single strands to get the weight I needed. It was worth it!

Quinty is a great pattern. The only thing I changed about it was to add a little extra length to the sleeves by repeating the set up rows a second time before starting the lace. I like the effect enough that I’ll probably do the same the next time I make the pattern. And yes, there will certainly be a next time, if not many next times. I’m really happy with it and I hope my mom can find a use for it!

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You’ll notice I’m wearing a brace on my left wrist in the above photos. In mid August, I finally went to my school’s clinic to be seen about some pain, weakness, and tingling in my pinky, ring, and middle fingers that I’d been dealing with on and off since June. The initial diagnosis by a young GP was carpal tunnel, which made no sense to me because my thumb wasn’t bothering me at all. I dutifully wore that brace for ~3 weeks, including while I slept, before going in to get a second opinion from the school’s sports medicine physician because it wasn’t really helping.

Turns out the problem wasn’t in my wrist at all, but in my elbow. Somehow, I’ve ended up with a condition called Golfer’s Elbow. It’s not clear what caused it. I have a different brace now, a small one to wear below my elbow that’s surprisingly comfortable and helpful.

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Knowing to ice my elbow instead of my wrist has helped a lot too. I still wear the wrist brace when I sleep, but at my follow up appointment 2 weeks ago, I was told that I can begin tapering off both braces now that the tendon is showing signs of recovery. For now, I’m being very conservative about giving up the brace, as well as being conservative about how much crochet I indulge in. I spend all my days at a keyboard right now and no amount of stretching is able to make my wrists totally ache-free.

There are a couple things I’m still working on, of course, because totally eliminating crochet from my life would make me even more stressed than I already am with school. I hope to share them with you soon!

FO: Secret Project!

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Last seen on: Secret Project, with math!

For: Jan & Sara, just married in June.
Pattern: Jasper’s Chevron Blankie
(errata: “SK 3 ST” in R2 and every subsequent row should be “SK 4 ST” otherwise the gaps won’t be centered over each other.)

It’s not big enough for two people (which a friend pointed out doesn’t make it a very unity-inspiring wedding gift) but it’s perfect for one person to snuggle under for a nap. One or the other of them now, and maybe someday some adorable mini-Jan or mini-Sara.

Or some handsome cats.
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I’ve been looking over the math that I did before committing to making the blanket. It’s rife with bad lab practices – bad assumptions as shortcuts, dropping significant figures, rounding up or down for convenience – and it’s no surprise that the amount of yarn I predicted I’d have left over after finishing wasn’t all that close to what I ended up with.

To be fair, I did finish the blanket without running out of yarn, which is what I did all the math for in the first place. But, for example, I predicted I’d be left with 39g of blue yarn, whereas I actually only have 7g left. Yes, that last row of blue was a bit nerve wracking.

More weirdly, I thought I’d have 124g of the red left, but it turns out I still have 162g.

The biggest error I made, all the way back at the beginning, was taking my swatch, which had 4 rows of red, 4 rows of grey, and 1 row of blue, and extrapolating it out to a blanket that was proportionally 4 grey to 4 red to TWO blue rows. I doubled the amount of blue in the blanket while making the assumption that this extra yarn wouldn’t change the density of the overall fabric and that all the yarns had the same exact weight. I knew that wasn’t true, but I didn’t realize how significantly that difference would play out over the large size of the piece.

Earlier tonight, I tested this, weighing out 5 grams of each yarn before laying them down on the floor and seeing how much length there was per unit. The grey yarn was 74 cm longer than the blue and the red was 110cm longer than the blue. The weight of the blue, which was more than 1/9 of the weight of the swatch, caused me to overestimate how much of the grey and red I’d use and thus also underestimate how much of the blue I’d use.

The only thing I came kind of close on was getting the final weight of the blanket correct. I’d estimated 1073g and in reality the blanket came out to 987g. That’s only 8% error. Not too bad…

FO: Tea basket and mug case

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Last weekend, Gene and I went up to Minneapolis, MN for the wedding of my college friend Kat. I’d already ordered her and her husband a tea kettle that they had on their registry, but something about registry gifts feels so generic…

No, I didn’t make more mug cozies. I ordered some flavored black and green teas from a store another friend highly recommended (having now tried two of them myself, I am less than enamored, but I think I prefer strong, straight black or green tea to anything lighter and flavored) and then, taking an idea from my presents for Sara’s bachellorette, wrapped them in old maps and crocheted a basket as a gift bag.

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Pattern:Diamond Trellis Basket by Make My Day Creative
Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton, held double
Hook: J

My wonderful next door neighbors moved last week, which would be sad except that they only moved a block away. In moving, they found a pair of fancy Chinese tea mugs someone gave them, in their original packaging, which they’d never gotten around to using. Openly regifting it to us, we’ve now decided to regift it to my friend, having more than enough mugs for our own use. The mugs themselves are really pretty, so I also think they fit in with my tea-themed wedding gifts, actually bringing the theme together even better.

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The bride and groom bonded over their shared love of travel, so I made the case that the mugs came in, which was purple and decorated with Chinese Bronze Age drawings and had ugly yellow string handles, look a bit more appropriate. (It occurs to me only now that I probably should have gotten a before photo.)

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I added a couple maps to that too, along with some other cutouts from vintage books I’d saved from library sales for crafting purposes. I realize it looks amateurish, but I also think it’s much cuter than the original case. I hope my friend didn’t find it ridiculous. I think Gene’s too kind to tell me if it did, especially after I spent over an hour working on it.

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