Crocheting can renew the spirit and calm the mind.

Yarn and crocheting with cat on porch to calm the mind and renew the spirit.

Crocheting can renew the spirit and calm the mind.

It is late summer and in the southeast and that means thunderstorms with threats of severe storms and tornadoes. More often than not, the threat is just that, a threat and we only have a mild storm with a brilliant show of lightening high in the sky. I look forward to rainy days and often find myself sitting on my screened-in-porch during these thunderstorms. I turn on my twinkle lights*, put my feet up, crochet and listen.

I relish the sound of the rolling thunder in the distance and when the rain comes, the sound as it falls through the trees. My cat joins me on the loveseat, curls up next to me after receiving her mandatory three minutes of petting, and falls fast asleep surely dreaming of the yarn just out of her reach. The sounds of her purring and the rain, combined with my silent counting, calm me and quiet my mind. All the stresses of the week fade away and I lose myself in the repetition of the stitches.

It is in these peaceful and meditative moments that I am able re-center myself and restore my energy for the busy weeks ahead. Like the trees and all the natural beauty that surrounds us, I, too, am renewed by the rain.

Before I know it the rain begins to subside and the summer bugs and birds return to their songs. I’ll hear the muted television from inside where my husband is on the couch most likely sleeping through a televised sporting event. And I’ll hear an occasional laugh as one of my sons plays video games online with a friend, and the chink of weights while the other son is working out. Now I am not just renewed but full of love and thankfulness for my amazing family.

I have spent many weekends on my porch crocheting and working on new designs. It is the one place where I sit and am able to concentrate on my projects without the distractions of dishes in the sink or paperwork next to my computer. Many of those weekends have been spent listening to not just the sounds of the rain but the neighborhood as well; grass being mowed in the distance, an occasional dog barking and the abundance of wildlife with buzzing cicadas, birds singing their mating songs, squirrels chattering and leaping through the trees, and the deer rummaging for food while crunching the leaves beneath their hooves.

I am so very thankful for these peaceful moments in my life. It is precious time to reflect and time when I can stitch my designs with love and happiness in my heart.

Happy Crocheting,
Darleen

*If you keep clear holiday lights up year round they are called twinkle lights.

Crochet pattern for a fruit fly trap

The Prettiest Fly Catcher EVER!

Crochet pattern for a fruit fly trap

Crochet a Fruit Fly Death Trap

Every summer we have an issue with fruit flies. As soon as the weather turns warm POOF they appear. And this summer was no different. Most years they aren’t too bad but for some reason they were worse this year. I did some research online and found a few do-it-yourself options for fruit fly control. One that stood out was to make your own trap with apple cider vinegar. The site suggested pouring apple cider vinegar in a bowl and adding a few pieces of fruit. It then said to cover the top with saran and poke a couple of holes in it. The idea was that the vinegar and fruit would attract the flies, they would enter via the holes and then get stuck. Well, this worked for a few days and it seemed like the flies were going away. Then we started seeing more and more and more flies. What the heck? So I looked at my “trap” and realized I WAS BREEDING FRUIT FLIES! The buggers had laid eggs on the fruit and enough had figured out how to get out of the “trap”. So much for that idea. At this point the amount of fruit flies in my kitchen was so bad that I broke down and purchased fly ribbon. You know the stuff. Flies are attracted to the icky sticky goo on the ribbon, get stuck to it and die. Tacky, both literally and figuratively. But desperate times call for desperate measures and I hung a couple strips up in the kitchen. Within 24 hours they were full. Thankfully I was able to get rid of most of the flies but the sight of those nasty strips was beyond GROSS. So I had to come up with a better solution. And back to the inter-webs I went. This time I found a site that suggested a similar method but omitted the fruit (duh) and added a couple drops of dish soap to the apple cider vinegar. I tried this method and it worked! This time the buggers drowned, sorry little guys, and most certainly were not breeding. Yippee! But it was still ugly to look at. Not near as bad as the fly strips, but still, ugly. This is where crochet comes to the rescue.

The Zinnia Votive is a pattern for a sleeve that covers a small jelly jar. I pulled mine off the shelf, replaced the votive inside with apple cider vinegar, added a couple drops of dish soap, covered the top with saran, secured with a rubber band, poked a couple holes in the top and now I have a the prettiest fruit fly death trap that has ever existed. 🙂

Fruit flies enter this pretty trap and never, ever leave.

I keep my Zinnia Fruit Fly Death Trap on my kitchen counter, just behind my bananas. Every couple of days I check it and sure enough, there are fruit fly corpses floating in it. I change the solution inside weekly because dead flies are gross. And I put in just enough solution to catch the files but isn’t visible above the bottom band. If you find yourself with one too many fruit flies in your home, you may want to give this pretty trap a try.

Happy Crocheting,
Darleen

Organizing Scrap Yarn

Organizing Scrap Yarn for Easy Use

I’ve mentioned before that I am trying to use up my much too large yarn collection. While I’m not near the end of it yet, I had noticed I was getting more and more partial skeins and bits and pieces. I also had a collection of swatches, unsuccessful design WIPS and projects that were abandoned when I realized I didn’t have enough yarn to finish. So I took some time this weekend to work on my scrap yarn stash. I pulled out all the scraps, partial WIPS, design fails and swatches of yarn that had been discontinued. Everything was frogged and balled up. I’ve been inspired by Grace’s Bits and Bobs Mother Bears so I put all the tiny scraps in one bin and the even tinier ones in another. I’ll need to make a magic ball with them at a later date. It was like going down memory lane frogging some of those items. Some dated back to my very first published design, the I Do Blanket, where I was working out different ways to attach the rings.

I’m excited to have this section organized. When a yarn is discontinued, I won’t use it for a new design. The discontinued yarn is what I use when I make Mother Bears or other small items for personal use. Having them all together and ready to use will make it a lot easier when I’m ready to start a new project. I haven’t yet dived into the partial skeins, unsuccessful design WIPS, abandoned projects or swatches of current yarn, but I’ll get to it. For now, they are in the appropriate stash box with full skeins of the same yarn.

Happy Crocheting!
Darleen

using scrap yarn for a crochet embellishment

A Crocheted Tribute to a Loved One.

Memorialize a Loved One with Crochet.

I belong to a few groups on Ravelry. I love how groups have themes and I love when someone in the group starts a thread with a theme. In honor of Earth Day, one of the groups started a thread called Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and I was super excited to see what others would post. I wasn’t disappointed when KristyRecycles posted about three hot pads she made out of tarn (T-shirt yarn = tarn). While I have seen a lot of projects made with recycled t-shirts, I was really touched by her motivation for the project.

After my Grandma past away (a few years ago), my aunts, mom, and I were going through her things. Any t-shirts that didn’t have a side seam I took home and made tarn out of. When not working on it, I kept it in a sealed bag so that her smell stayed on it. I made these hot pads from one of the shirts, and gave them to my mom and 2 of my aunts for Christmas.

Hot pads Kristy made with tarn from her grandmother’s clothing.

I asked Kristy if she would like to interviewed for my blog and she graciously said yes. Please read about this eco-concious crafter.

How long have you been crocheting and/or knitting?

I have been crocheting for 33 years, knitting for 17 years, and weaving for 24 years.

Was your grandmother a crafter?

My grandma was a quilter and a sewer. I own a couple of quilts that my great-grandma pieced from my mom and her siblings’ clothing, and my grandma quilted. My grandma sadly had to stop sewing when her arthritis got to bad. When she passed away, the family agreed that I could keep her mother’s singer sewing machine, because I am the only quilter in the family (blood relative that is…and it’s a very large family). One of my childhood memories is of her letting me raid her fabric stash, which I made some Barbie clothes and clothes for myself from.

What was your inspiration to make the hot pads from your grandmother’s t-shirts?

The day after her funeral, my mom, some of my aunts, and I went to her trailer and were going through her bedroom. We were sorting items to be given to different family members, to be donated, and things to be thrown away. There was a shirt that didn’t have any side seams, which is perfect for making tarn (t-shirt yarn) from. I asked if I could have it, which got a few surprised looks from my aunts (because who asks to keep a brown t-shirt). When I told them that I planned on making something from it, then they put aside all of her t-shirts for me to pick through before adding them to the donation box. Sadly I think that that was the only non-seamed shirt in the bunch.

Do you use the hot pads or gift them?

I was only able to get 3 hot pads out of the tarn that I had made, so I was only able to gift them to my mom and 2 of my aunts. My mom is one of 8 surviving siblings, so I had some unhappy family members that Christmas.

How else have you incorporated Reduce, Reuse, Recycle into your crochet or knitting?

For Reduce, I try to only buy yarn and craft supplies as I need it and not buying it just because. The exception to this is souvenir yarn, but I do have a go-to pattern for that yarn (and I usually make it soon after the purchase).

For Reuse: I do a lot more sewing projects under the Reuse heading, but I think that my use of scraps might fit in this group. Not only do I save all of my “too small to use” scraps of yarn, but my friends and crochet students save theirs for me as well. On a weekly to monthly basis I use them as stitch holders. Around Christmas I put them into clear ornaments and give them to friends and family. During the off season, I like to add them to shadow boxes to make fun pieces of art for my home.

After Christmas I like to crochet around my Christmas cards and turn them into ornaments. It’s a great way to have the card and to see them (and the sweet words written in them) every year. I use the inside of the card as the back of the ornament.

One trick that I learned from some knitters at the yarn shop that I use to work at (and which I have passed on to a lot of other people) is to reuse the plastic bread tags to wrap up my yarn tails so that they stay out of the way. This prevents me from accidentally working with the tail instead of the ball of yarn. I make a lot of amigurumi which require me to start with a long tail to use when the section is finished (for sewing with).

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I’ve used found sticks for weavings and for coiling string and embroidery floss around. I have also used cardboard food boxes to create the cards used in card weaving, and shuttles for weaving with. Once I even made a weaving shed out of a coral box.

For Recycle: For a while recycling was a big part of my crafting world. I even had a local t.v. show based on it. I use recycled materials in all sorts of crafts. For knitting and crochet I mainly focus on making and using plarn (plastic bag yarn) and tarn, plastic bottle caps, metal jar lids, plastic bottles, pull tabs, plastic bottle rings, corks, and toilet paper tubes. I have knit and crochet plarn bags, a hat, and an amigurumi jellyfish. I really like spinning with it, especially plying novelty yarn that I no longer care for with it, because the crochet bags from it look really cool. Since moving to California I haven’t made any plarn, because plastic bags are hard to come by here. With tarn (t-shirt yarn) I have crochet bags, a walker bag, hot pads, and a rug. With the pull tabs I have crochet bracelets, purses (one used over 800 tabs), earrings, flowers, and garland. With plastic bottles, I have crochet drawstring bags where the top is crochet and the bottom is the bottle. I have also made a tool caddy out of several 16 oz soda bottles. With the plastic bottle rings (that are just under the bottle cap), I crochet around them to create mini wreath ornaments and brooches. Those rings and the pull tabs also make great ways to hang the wreaths that I have made. I have knitted little hats and outfits to put on the wine corks so that they look like little people. My husband and I don’t drink, but I have a large collection of corks because of friends and family. Right now I actually keep them and the pull tabs in shadow boxes so that they can serve as a fun decorations until I get around to crafting with them. Last but not least are the plastic bottle caps and metal jar lids. I don’t actually knit or crochet with them, instead I make pincushions out of them which I used daily. The caps and lids are the base of the pincushions. I sew felt around them, and have the stuffing (inside of felt) on top of them. The jar lid ones I use for my sewing pins, and the bottle cap ones I use for my yarn needles. The bottle cap pincushion that looks like a mushroom is the one that is in my yarn tool kit that goes in my current project bag. I like to make hat ornaments with the toilet paper tubes. They aren’t knitted or crochet, but they do use yarn and make great gifts for my yarn friends.

How else have you memorialized someone with your crochet, knitting or other crafts?

A friend had asked me to use her grandmother’s nightgowns to make pillows for her and her family members as well as 2 little purses for her daughters.

I’ve used the buttons off of my grandpa’s shirt to use as eyes on a sock plushie for my youngest son.

When my grandma passed away, I got back most of the things that I had made for her (crochet and sewn). In a way that is a memory in and of itself. Every time I see them I think of her.

In college we learned how to make paper. I embedded some childhood family pictures in the paper. You could still see the image.

I have a box of t-shirts that contain their own memories that I plan on turning into a quilt.

A few years ago I started knitting a California King sized afghan. It’s one of my movie watching projects. Each colored stripe is a whole skein of yarn. It is actually inspired by a crochet afghan that I remember my mom making for years when I was a kid. She would crochet the length of the blanket until she ran out of yarn, and then she would start with another color. It became this warm colorfully striped afghan on my parents’ bed. She still makes versions of this on a wooden knitting board. She doesn’t really care about if the colors match or even if the yarn weight is the same, its about the process for her (about relaxing). I can’t be random like her, but this afghan is an ode to her.

Once I did an exquisite corpse drawing of my grandma with family members. I’ve drawn and painted lots of pictures of friends, family, and myself over the years.

I still think of a college friend every time I look at some small woven bags that I made in college, because I used her waste yarn (cut from the warp) from a hand dyed floor loom project that she did. I used my tiny table loom to weave the scraps with.

I have also dedicated several bears for the Mother Bear Project to family and friends. The one most like the person is my Swiss Bear, which is named after my dad. Once he saw the picture of the bear with his forever friend, he asked me to make him an identical one for his birthday.

What is your environmentally favorite crafting item (crochet/knit/other)?

My favorite one to craft with are pull tabs. I love it when people don’t realize until closer inspection that that’s what the metal part is. But the 2 things that I use the most when crafting are bread tags and my bottle cap pincushion. They are a staple in my yarn tool bag.

What else have you made with tarn?

Here is a link to the tarn items on my project page. There aren’t too many things, because shirts that work the best, and that you don’t mind cutting up, are not usually easy to come by. I have made a large market bag (my favorite one to use), hotpads, a walker bag, and a rug. Surprisingly the tarn rug is not very absorbent. I do plan on making a dog toy out of tarn in the future.

Any tips or tricks when working with tarn?

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When making tarn (t-shirt yarn), look for a shirt that does not have a side seam (see the first 3 images). Also when it is time to cut the inch of the un-cut t-shirt so that you have a continuous piece of yarn, I like to lay that part on my leg so that the cut lines are very clear (See images 6 & 7). A suggestion when making the tarn is to make it outside while wearing clothes that you don’t mind changing out of afterwards. This is because little bits of the t-shirt (like fuzz) go all over the place, especially when stretching the tarn and winding it into a yarn cake. 

Thank you Kristy!! Kristy is VERY EXPERIENCED in the world of eco-crafting. She sold her eco-crafts at different craft fairs for years, had an environmental local tv show for a few years, ran her town’s Earth Fair for 5 years and several years ago was the runner up in an environmental contest run by TerraCycle!

You can find Kristy on Instagram and Facebook as Textiles4you. And she has a recycling tab on her Ravelry project page.

Happy Crocheting!
Darleen

crocheted eyeglass case used to hold plastic utensils


The Secret to Great Granny Squares

The Secret to Great Granny Squares

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Grannies, aka granny squares, are the epitome of the awesomeness that is crochet.  They can be big and bulky, fun and quirky and even sleek and elegant.  I remember the first time I saw a granny square.  It was one my sister made.  She signed up for a beginning crochet class at the local library the summer she was 10 years old.  Once a week that summer she rode her bike back and forth to the library to learn the craft.  One of the items she made was an afghan for her bed.  The afghan was a giant, purple and white granny square.  I loved it.  And in true big sister fashion, she shared with me the skills she had learned.  We had some challenges, one was our age and two, she’s a lefty and I am a righty.  While I managed to learn the basics I never really did much with crochet back then.  Over the next couple of years my sister’s interest in crochet faded.  Fast forward 40+ years and I’m crocheting constantly now.  And I have never forgotten that amazing gigantic purple granny square.

So what is the secret to great grannies?

1.       The beginning.  My preferred method is to use a magic circle/adjustable loop to start a granny.  This method allows you to pull the center tight.  Unless, of course, you want a space in the middle then, by all means, start your granny with a joined loop of starting chains.  It is your granny so start it the way you like for the look you want!

The granny on the right was started with the magic circle/adjustable loop method.  The granny on the left was started with chaining four and then joined to form a ring.  Neither have been blocked.secret-to-great-granny-squares-crochet-by-darleen-hopkins-2

2.       Yarn and hook selection.  While granny squares are versatile and look great in any yarn or thread, it is important to always work with a hook that is appropriate for your yarn.  If your hook is too small for the yarn, your granny might cup, curl or lose the defining spaces.  If it is too big, your granny may be floppy, sloppy, or be too holey.  You also want to use a yarn that is appropriate for the project.  If you are making a scarf or a baby blanket, use yarn dk to aran weight.  If you are using your grannies in a dressy headband, you may want to use thinner, delicate yarns like fingering or lace weight.

The granny in the middle was crocheted with the yarn label’s recommended hook size.  The granny on the left was crocheted with a smaller hook while the on the granny on the right was crocheted with a larger hook.  Neither have been blocked.

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3.       Color selection.  Ahhh, this is where the granny square shines.  There are infinite possibilities for the colors of your granny.  Use up scraps and make each round a different color.

*TIP! Vary the corner where you add and end your new yarn.  This will prevent all the ends from being woven in at the same location.

So how do you know which colors work well together?  Some people are gifted with an innate ability to blend colors.  Other people need assistance.  If you feel you are one of those who needs help grouping colors together, try what I do…learn by what others have done! No need to reinvent the (color) wheel.  Take a look at other crocheted projects and see what color combinations appeal to you.  Find something you like and make note of it. Find something you don’t like and make note of that too so you don’t make the same mistake.

Dora's UnSquared Granny Scarf, crochet

Dora’s UnSquared Granny Scarf.  She used up three different color changing balls of yarn (Boreal in Fireweed, Beaver and Taiga).  Every other round is solid off-white to tie it all together.  Perfect!  Ravelry members can view her project here.

Another option to use are free online sources.  Do an internet search for “color wheel” and you will find a number of sites dedicated to helping you select colors that look great together.  A couple combinations are contrasting colors; opposites sides of the color wheel, monochromatic colors; different values of the same color, and analogous; colors that are adjacent on the color wheel.  The better you understand the color wheel, the easier it will be for you to visualize colors for your projects.  Once you select the colors you like, do an internet search for “random stripe generator”.  There are a number of these available online for free.  Some are simple and some are complex.  Play with them and get some ideas of how you want to space out your selected colors.

Last, in regards to color, remember to have fun with it.  If you are making a project with a number of grannies, make each granny slightly different.  For example, maybe you picked out four analogous colors for a granny square blanket.  One option is to make a number of small grannies, randomly using only three of the selected four colors for each square and then stitch them all together.  If you are staying within the same color scheme, the squares do not have to be identical to work well together.

4.       Blocking.  Yes, this is an important step and should not be overlooked.  You should block your grannies.  This will give them shape.  And if you are joining grannies together, you want them to be consistent in size.  This will make it a lot easier to join.  A simple way to block your grannies is to block them all together, one on top of the other.  And remember, always block your squares with a method that is appropriate for your yarn.

*TIP! Measure the distance between your blocking pins for a perfect square.

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Get creative.  You can make so many different things with the simple granny square.  Whether you choose to make one gigantic granny square or join many grannies together, the possibilities are endless. Make a pillow, an afghan, a scarf, a blanket edging, a headband, a bag, a belt or a baby blanket. Who knew you could make so many beautiful items out of something so simple?

Happy Crocheting!
Darleen

PS: Once you’ve mastered the Granny Square, have some fun and try patterns that use the iconic granny formula but mix it up a little.

Tea-for-Me-Mug-Cozy-crochet-pattern-by-Darleen-Hopkins-squareCrochet-pattern-UNsquared-Granny-Super-ScarfAlien baby lovey crochet pattern

 

New Pattern Alert! Textured Christmas Tree Pillow

Textured Christmas Tree Pillow crochet pattern now available!

Textured-Christmas-Tree-pillow-crochet-pattern-by-Darleen-Hopkins-webThe Textured Christmas Tree Pillow crochet pattern is now available.   This is the second tree shaped pillow pattern in the Christmas Tree Pillows set. The pattern is written for heavy worsted, aran weight yarn.  I used Lion Brand’s Vanna’s Choice for the sample.  Adjusting the yarn will result in a different sized pillow.  Just be sure to use a hook that yields a tight stitch.  You don’t want stuffing creeping out of your pillows.

You can find out more about the pattern here: Textured Christmas Tree Pillow Pattern

Check out the set here: Christmas Tree Pillows

Crochet pattern for Christmas Tree Pillows, set by Darleen Hopkins

This pattern is included in my Buy 2, Get a 3rd for FREE sale! No coupon needed, Ravelry will automatically deduct the lowest priced pattern from your purchase.

Happy Crocheting and Happy Holidays!

Christmas stocking crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins

New Pattern Alert! Striped Christmas Tree Pillow

Striped Christmas Tree Pillow crochet pattern now available!

Striped Christmas Tree Pillow crochet pattern by Darleen HopkinsThe Striped Christmas Tree Pillow crochet pattern is now available.   This is the first of at least two Christmas Tree pillow patterns.  I hope to share the second one with you soon. The pattern is written for heavy worsted, aran weight yarn.  I used Lion Brand’s Vanna’s Choice for the sample.  Adjusting the yarn will yield different sized pillows.  Just be sure to use a hook that yields a tight stitch.  You don’t want stuffing creeping out of your pillows.  This pillow also looks great crocheted in one color and decorated with buttons.  OR for a large pillow, crochet with two strands held together.

You can find out more about the pattern here: Striped Christmas Tree Pillow Pattern

This pattern is included in my Buy 2, Get a 3rd for FREE sale! No coupon needed, Ravelry will automatically deduct the lowest priced pattern from your purchase.

Happy Crocheting and Happy Holidays!

Christmas stocking crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins