Squeezing in the Yarn Time

It doesn’t feel like a Tuesday because we’re now in school holidays, so we have no routine, only chaos πŸ™‚ The German (my husband) has the first week off so we’re enjoying some good family time, which is great. They’ve all gone down to the river in the village this morning though, while I get through the laundry backlog. So I’ve quickly bunged in a load, and here I am, pretending there is no ironing to do πŸ™‚ I have to catch my yarny moments while I can in school hols; I’m sure all crochet mums (and dads?) relate.

So, first up! An update on my longest running wip ever: a thirty block crochet blanket (pictured above) using patterns from the Look At What I Made 2014 Block A Week CAL, that I’ve been working on for three and a half years! I’ve finally joined all the squares and completed the base round. Now I’m choosing the border. I absolutely LOVE ‘Around the Corner Crochet Borders’ by Edie Eckman. It’s a book I return to over and over, not just when I need border inspo, but well, just to flip through and now then – so much pretty! Incredibly inspiring, too; I’m starting to feel the urge to design my own border one day, something which Edie absolutely encourages. The book not only contains 150 different border designs – including charts for each one as well as written instructions – it also contains lots of technical notes such as explaining stitch count maths – finally, I get it!! – and even tips on design concepts and troubleshooting problems. Five star review from me.

In learning to knit news, well…I can say I have persevered. I managed to finish a dishcloth, after a great deal of ripping and re-catching of stitches. I have since been assured that ripping and re-catching of stitches are very necessary knitting skills, so I suppose I am making progress? I bought ‘More Than A Dozen Dishcloths’ by Lisa Carnahan with the idea of learning new techniques and stitches in small, manageable projects. I have started and abandoned a few already truth be told, and I feel that this is not a book for beginners. Or at least not this beginner! While the patterns are pretty, and I will keep at them for sure, if you require any illumination at all regarding stitches or techniques, it is not to be found within these pages, you must go elsewhere.

So, in knit conclusion for this week, I remind myself that it took me many frustrating attempts to learn to crochet, and the key is to remain calm and persevere. So I shall continue to intersperse my obsessive crocheting with a little knitting, and we shall see!

Finally, as we all know, you can never have too much yarn, and I have been on a self-imposed ban since my pilgrimage in February all the way from here on the Mid North Coast, New South Wales, to Bendigo in Victoria, for the express purpose of visiting Bendigo Woollen Mills (1,376km by road; thankfully we flew!). It is therefore high time I added to my stash, no? πŸ˜€ I have been hearing great things about Paintbox Yarns, so I’ve now got some on order. Yah! I decided to give the dk cotton a try, cotton being my fave fibre here in the subtropics. I will report back. Have you used any Paintbox yarns?

I also couldn’t resist a wee browse on the Knitpicks site. They always have great yarn-related bits and bobs that The German for some reason deems absolutely unnecessary, but which add an extra ray of sunshine to my life, such as amusing tote bags and mugs. I also ordered a storage case for my new Knitpro Zing circular needles, as I don’t like the case they come in, and this one has extra pockets too. But I will share more about that when my happy mail arrives and I get a proper look at it all. I cannot wait!!

Final news for this week is that I have at long last designed a new 8 inch (20cm) afghan square. I loved putting it together and I’m super excited to say that it is being tested right now as I type, in several different countries, and in both UK and US terms. I hope to publish it via Ravelry very soon. Meantime you can download my other square pattern for free here. It is lonely there, I feel, my one little square to date. But, there will be more!

I think this has got quite long, so I shall stop now. I’ll be back next Tuesday with more happy hooking vibes. Remember you can subscribe via email (there’s a button at the top of the sidebar) should you so wish. Only one email per week, on a Tuesday, containing that week’s blog post.

What’s your longest running ever wip?

Do you knit as well as crochet? Which do you prefer?

Bye for now, and I wish you happy hooking! ❀

P.S. I have created a Facebook page for Hooks and Hills, if you are of the Facebook persuasion and would like to pop over and say hi. I am very active on Instagram too. Much more so than Facebook, but perhaps it’s easier to get a multiway convo going on a Facebook page? I don’t know. We’ll see πŸ™‚

~This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commision if you choose to purchase a linked product~

LoveCrochet

Crochet Gnome – I finished something!Β 

For what feels like first time in yonks I have something to share for FO Friday, woot! He is only little but here is my friendly gnome.

I am new to amigurumi, and after a whole day working him, truth be told he didn’t even look like a gnome to me by the end! However, the next day I liked him much better – some time apart did us good haha.

The pattern is from a cute book called Crochet Your Christmas Baubles, which just arrived last week. Mr Gnome is worked in the (recommended) Stylecaft Special DK. Some of the other patterns recommend DMC Natura Just Cotton, so I’ve ordered (from Love Crochet – 15% off voucher here if you’d like one!) plenty of Christmassy colours for the Santa, elf and reindeer included in the 25 patterns. I’m working on an owl from the same book at the moment. There’s also a cute fairy and a couple of Elsa-type projects (hello fellow mums of Frozen fans!) so the book goes beyond just Christmas, which is added value I reckon. I am managing the patterns fine as a newbie to amigurumi and there are some helpful little notes at the back, too. The patterns are sorted into themes: Santa’s Grotto, Frozen Winter Wonderland, Fairy Tale, Scandinavian Style and White Christmas – definitely something to suit all tastes!

In other news, while looking for black acrylic dk for owl eyes in my stash, I found some variegated cotton worsted. I immediately forgot all about the eyes and accidentally started making a bag – oops! Yes, my motto is, You Can Never Have Too Many Wips (or bags) πŸ˜‚

Unfortunately now I’ve started working up the sides, I’m just not feeling the way the variegated is working up. So I’ve added some solid stripes but I’m still a bit meh about it…can’t decide what to do! It’s just not to my taste – but it would still probably make  nice library / treasure bag for one of my daughters. Hmmm…

If you’re not loving a project, do you quit or do you see it through?

And are you crocheting for Christmas yet?? πŸ˜€

Freeform Crochet – the Adventure Continues!

wp-image--1172129344I wasn’t going to write another post until I had something finished to share with you, but I have since realised that this might mean no blog until Christmas or some such, so here I am with some work in progress πŸ˜€

Last month I started experimenting with freeform crochet, or scrumbling. I completed a piece for a local yarnbombing and my interest didn’t wane so I ordered another book on the topic (any excuse to buy another crochet book!). Freeform Crochet with Confidence by Carol Meldrum is just lovely!! Areas covered include patchwork and spirals, organic patterns, openwork and lace, trims, edgings and fillers. I’ve dived straight into some spirals, offset circles and spikes, and basic organic motifs. The instructions are very clear and the reader is encouraged to use all the information as a guide from which one’s own creations can be adapted. I’ve found the section on filling in the gaps to be the most useful and interesting at the moment, and I’m having a great deal of fun patching holes in my new freeform project, using combinations of stitches worked together.

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So my current active WIP is a small and entirely experimental piece – a freeform crochet pouch, to be worked onto an inner pocket from an old shoulder bag. Freeform and upcycling fun! To me, it is a bit like painting, especially as I fill the gaps with colour – it’s like making brushstrokes. Not that I paint! But you get the idea I hope πŸ™‚

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Are you a fan of freeform crochet, either in your own work or pieces you’ve seen by other people? There are some wildly incredible freeform crochet artworks out there, it is quite hard not to be intimidated and just give up entirely lol. I love it all πŸ™‚

The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Workshop Chapters 1-3

I purchased The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Workshop by Dora Ohrenstein last year and while I have enjoyed simply browsing through it very much – nothing like a good crochet book and a cuppa, with or without a hook! – it’s time to up my game and read it properly and with intent.

There are over seventy-five swatch patterns included in this guide to honing one’s crochet skills, and I already love this hands-on approach to learning. The book has had rave reviews and Ohrenstein is clearly very highly regarded within the industry. She’s also easy to read and her tone is warm and encouraging to boot.

Chapter One is all about yarn for crocheting – its history, the varied sources, manufacturing processes, spinning, twisting, weights, specialty and hand-dyed yarns, fabric and drape. A wealth of information! There is clear discussion about how best to select yarn for a project based on its properties and the desired outcome in terms of drape. I have learned so much, and I thoroughly enjoyed hooking the Medium and Very Open Lace swatches that the author uses to illustrate this point.

Swatch patterns throughout the book are presented in both written and chart form. I am less familiar with charts but nevertheless found myself using the chart only by the end of the second swatch. There’s no doubt that the ability to read charts is extremely useful – not least if the project you long to attempt is written in Japanese only and that’s not one of your languages, for example! – and being able to learn to read charts while making these many small swatches is to my mind a fabulous added bonus.

Chapter Two is all about the tools of our addiction πŸ™‚ The author explores the anatomy of the hook and the many choices we have in terms of the materials they are made from and the variations in shape of the component parts. I myself prefer ergonomic handles, and most specifically Clover Amours, or as a reasonably close second, Knitpicks ergonomics. I’m awaiting delivery of an Addi Swing ordered recently on a whim and am excited to try it. Ohrenstein encourages us to try different hooks before becoming too set in our ways, so I’m already heeding that advice! I’d love the fancy blocking board described in this chapter, but for now I’m managing ok with my DIY effort – a kids kickboard and bamboo cooking skewers πŸ™‚ I have never heard of the T-pins detailed here – certainly they are more pleasing to the eye than my skewers! Something else for my ever-growing crochet wish list…

Chapter Three is all about tension. I was most encouraged to read that one’s tension can be adjusted, it is not a style set in stone! I struggle with too tight tension in more intricate stitch patterns and I am already managing to loosen it by adjusting how deep onto the hook I pull the yarn. Focusing on the minute maneuvers that make all the difference – for example swiveling the hook so it points down – has neatened my starting chains too.

Hand health is also covered here, such an important topic for the addicts amongst us. Having been forced to go crochet cold turkey for a few months recently due to RSI, it’s a topic I will cover in more depth in another post. However, right now I’m returning to Chapter Four, Fundamental Techniques. There are a fair few very interesting looking swatch patterns in this section, which I hope to be able to share with you very soon πŸ™‚

You can purchase The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Workshop from all good online bookstores. I always buy from Book Depository, so that’s where I link to. I am not affiliated with the author or publisher in any way. I do receive a small commission from Book Depository for any sales resulting from this post. I put it towards more lovely crochet books πŸ™‚