Octopus for a preemie donating to a local hospital

New Year, Less Stash

Octopus for a preemie donating to a local hospital

Two octopuses for preemies donating to a local hospital.

Hello and Happy 2018!

Time is marching on and the new year is here.  Time to reflect on the past year, soak in the good times, let go of the bad, and resolve to make changes for improvements in your life.  One of my goals/resolutions is to reduce current yarn stash.  I’ve been called “the anti-hoarder” before and feel weighed down by stuff.  I have been working on reducing stash for a long time.  A couple years ago I “trained” myself to only buy yarn for current projects if something appropriate wasn’t already in my stash.  It was hard at first but now I can easily walk past a yarn sale and not linger.  However, I still have a lot of yarn.  Too much yarn.  Approximately 12 paper boxes full of yarn.    For some, that may not seem like a lot but for me, it is still too much.  My goal is to work it down to 6 boxes at the most by the end of the year.  Once I get there, I will work on reducing it more.  I want to have an amount of yarn that can be easily access and store in one place.  So, how do I get there?

1. Crochet more!

A lot happened in 2017 which prevented me from crocheting near as much as I would have liked.  A number of new designs were halted or not started as planned.  I also did not get to do nearly as much charitable crochet as I would have liked.  So, the number one way to reduce stash is to use it both in new designs and charitable crocheting.  2017 brought the shutting down of a wonderful group, Halos of Hope.  I’m sad to see them close but happy for the founder as she has decided to focus on her family.  2017 also brought to my attention the Octopus for a Preemie movement.  This is a great international organization.  Check out the Official Octopus for a Preemie-United States group.  I am fortunate enough to know a woman who works in a local NICU.  She collects these octos for the babies in the unit.  A good bit of stash will be used making the octos for her.  The two in the photo above were finished last night!  I also enjoy making lapghans for the local senior center.  I made two in 2016 but was unable to make any in 2017. Some stash yarn has already been earmarked for this 2018 project.

In addition, I have some personal projects I have been wanting to make forever.  One in particular is a rug out of felted sweaters.  I have one box full of felted sweaters.  If I could FINALLY make that project, it will clear out one of the boxes!

I also joined a monthly potholder swap group on Ravelry.  I’m excited for the monthly exchanges, making the potholders and seeing what arrives in the mail.  I’ll be sure to update the blog with both what is sent and received.

And of course, design more.  I’m hoping 2018 won’t be as crazy busy and I’ll have more time to design with the yarn on hand.  When I wrote the Yarn Stash and the Anti-Hoarder post 3½ years ago, I had LESS STASH than I do now!  UGH!  I know this is due to my ordering yarn in early 2017 for planned designs that just didn’t happen.  I am determined to reduce the stash this year, not gain.

2. Donate yarn.

A good bit of the yarn that is not appropriate for planned personal projects, designs or charitable projects will be donated.  I did a pretty thorough clean out a couple years ago but it is time to revisit the stash with this goal again.  Expensive and specialty yarn may be listed for sale or given away.  Most of my yarn isn’t fancy or expensive and therefore, most that isn’t planned to be crocheted with in the very near future will be donated to the local thrift store.

I love hearing about other crocheters’ new year goals.  While writing this post, I learned about the 365 Days of Granny Squares.  Very cool.  I also love the idea of a temperature blanket.  This is on my future to-do list.  Do you have any crochet related goals for the new year?

Happy New Year and Happy Crocheting!

Darleen

Winter Sky Cowl, crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins

Crocheted Aliens in the Western US

Annie’s Adventures

Annie the Alien went on an exciting adventure this past summer. She joined us on our road trip from Georgia to Las Vegas, NV and everywhere in between.  From the bright lights of the Vegas Strip to some of the most breathtaking vistas in the United States, Annie enjoyed them all.  She wanted to share with you some of her favorite sites.   Psst! See below for a special offer in honor of National Crochet Month, 2017!

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Somehow a pink alien fit right in at infamous Las Vegas!

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Annie the Alien LOVES Bryce Canyon.  She didn’t want to leave…. Annie will be back.  I’m sure of it.  And she will bring her brother Arnie to see it all.

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Annie the Alien enjoys the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  The North Rim is so peaceful.  We saw very few humans at the overlooks.   BTW, the black bean soup at the little snack bar at the North Rim Visitor’s Center is REALLY GOOD!

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Another view of Annie the Alien at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. WOW! It is AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL and OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!!!

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Annie the Alien started this hike at 6am to avoid the 110 degree weather. Boy, was it worth it! The arch is HUGE!!!!!  Do you see the person in the middle of the arch and one on the left side?

Want to make your own Annie (or Arnie)? You CAN! In honor of National Crochet Month, 2017, the Arnie and Annie Baby Lovey Crochet Pattern is FREE with any Crochet by Darleen Hopkins purchase on Ravelry. Yup! With the purchase of any of my self-published patterns on Ravelry and coupon code “AnnieNatCroMo2017“, you can get the pattern for free. Happy Crocheting! Valid during the month of March 2017 only (expires 3/31/2017 11:59 PM EST)  Use this link to get started. The pattern and the coupon are already added to your cart.  You just need to figure out what other pattern you would like by clicking on “View all available items” at the top of the page. ENJOY!

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The Christmas Pickle, a fun holiday tradition

The Christmas Pickle

Every family has holiday traditions; some large, some small.  Some traditions focus on family gatherings; Easter egg hunt at Grandma’s after a sunrise church service, travel to visit family every year at Thanksgiving or a large Christmas dinner for fifteen with the in-laws (be sure to bring your famous mac-n-cheese!).  Some traditions are smaller, more personal to mom, dad and the kids.  Maybe you decorate your Christmas tree together on Thanksgiving, celebrate half-birthdays or hide some really hard to find Easter eggs with special prizes inside that take a good hour of searching to locate.  One tradition I have enjoyed is making my boys a special, crocheted Christmas gift.  Over the years I have crocheted stuffed monsters, cats, gnomes, popular characters, and most recently, stuffed dragons playing my kids’ favorite sports.

christmas-pickle-holliday-tradition-crochet-patternThere is one holiday custom I recently discovered that I believe will become a new tradition in our home.  The Christmas Pickle.  This custom is so silly that I feel it will be welcomed with open arms in my household.  If you haven’t heard of it, it is pretty simple.  A Christmas ornament in the shape of a pickle is placed upon the Christmas tree.  The first child to find the ornament on Christmas morning receives a special gift or will have extra good luck for the year.  That is it.  The pickle, being green, is hard to see and therefore a type of treasure hunt.   But why a pickle?  That is what is so silly.  What do pickles have to do with Christmas?  There is no connection to the religious celebration for Christians or the Santa Claus/St. Nick aspect of it.   It is totally random.

Surely there must be a reason for the pickle.  A quick internet search will yield a few different theories as to the origin of the custom.  It was originally thought to be a German tradition but that seems to have been disproved.  One theory as to the origin is about a dying prisoner of war who asked a guard for one last pickle.  His wish was granted and the pickle gave him enough strength and the will to live.  The prisoner survived and was able to return home to his family.  True or not, it is a touching story about how a little act of kindness in an awful situation could inspire an individual.  Another theory is that the custom was fabricated by a creative glass Christmas ornament salesman in the late 1800s in order to sell his pickle shaped ornaments!

I don’t know what the origin of the custom may be.  I do know it can be a lot of fun to hide the pickle and have the kids search for it.  Something silly and quick that they will look forward to each year.  I am really excited to introduce The Christmas Pickle to my family.  I love the story of how one individual’s kindness in a horrific environment inspired a man to survive.   It is a tradition that at first seems a little silly but has meaning that will inspire.  I hope my boys enjoy the story, the pickle and the hunt, and continue this family tradition for many years.

It is never too late to start a new tradition with your family.  You can buy a Christmas Pickle ornament, or like us crocheters love to do, make your own.  Choose a yarn that is as close to the color of your tree as possible.  Or, if you tend to have a different live tree every year, make a couple of pickles in different shades of green.  You will always have one that can be easily camouflaged deep within the branches.

The Christmas Pickle would make a fun gift for new families just starting out.  Perhaps a family member or close friend was recently married or engaged, or maybe a new baby arrived.  Make your loved one a Christmas Pickle ornament, enclose the story of kindness and continue the tradition.

The Christmas Pickle Gift Set includes both a crochet pattern and a gift card explaining the tradition.  Print the included Christmas Pickle story and enclose with your hand-crocheted Christmas Pickle ornament.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_pickle

http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/christmaspickle

http://german.about.com/library/blgermyth11.htm

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Family Fun on Christmas Day

Family Fun on Christmas Day

I just love Christmas stockings.  As a kid, I remember mine and my sibling’s stockings being filled with lots of candy and a giant peppermint stick.  As a parent, I love to fill my children’s stockings with candy and some surprises too.  I have the best time picking up small gifts to stuff in the stocking and surprise my boys.  And every year I pick up too much and the stockings end up overflowing.   When they were little we would put in giant bouncy balls, wind-up toys and silly putty.  As they have grown into teens the surprises are less toys and more unique or fun gifts.#familyfun crochet pattern for tic-tac-toe travel game
Something that would be a lot of fun to make as a stocking stuffer would be the #FamilyFun travel Tic-Tac-Toe game.  The board turns into its own travel pouch keeping all the pieces secure inside.  And check out these tic-tac-toe tips .  How fun will Christmas Day be relaxing with family and friends while enjoying some competitive tic-tac-toe game play!

The holidays are coming!  Get your crochet on with some festive Christmas Crochet.  All three patterns featured here are including in the 2016 Gift-A-Long.  Join in the fun and win some prizes too.

Crochet pattern for a Christmas tree by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

Table Top Holiday Tree

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Elf Socks Stockings

Christmas Bib Set Crochet Pattens by Darleen Hopkins

Christmas in September?? and Holiday Bibs: Santa, Snowman, Elf and Gingerbread Baby

Celebrate Christmas in September with New Holiday Bib Patterns

I live in a cute, small town. We have a well preserved town square with lots of specialty shops surrounding an old courthouse. It seems like every month there is a festival or a parade or some other hometown event. It is not unusual to see someone sitting on a bench in town playing a banjo, guitar or harmonica. And since we are located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, we have a great combination of southern and mountain small town charm. Something straight out of a Hallmark movie, literally.

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photo by Gayle!

This past week, Hallmark has been filming a Christmas special in our town. A beautiful white building with a gorgeous front porch, located across from where I work, has been covered in fake snow all week. Last week I saw some of the crew carving snow drifts out of blocks of white foam. And every day when I drive home via the square I get this feeling that something isn’t quite right. Then I hits me, oh right, the Christmas decorations in September and the signs that say, “to set” and “base camp” on every corner. And now they have decorated for nighttime scenes too!  This is the second time Hallmark has filmed here.  It is fun to see the filming process and we are happy to host them.

Christmas in September is a little odd, unless you are a crafter.  As crafters we have to get started early on all our holiday gifts and decorations.

Christmas Bib Set Crochet Pattens by Darleen HopkinsFor all you holiday crocheters, I am please to announce my latest patterns, a set of holiday bibs for baby.  A Christmas Elf, a Gingerbread Baby, a Button-Nose Snowman (my favorite) and of course, Santa.  Each is available for individual purchase or as collection with a discount in Crochet Christmas, The Bib Collection.  If you have a heavy drooler (like one of my boys was) make yours in cotton or cotton blend yarn for maximum absorbancy.  Or stitch in acrylic yarn for easy care.  Either way, baby will be super festive for all you holiday events.

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christmas-snowman-baby-bib-crochet-pattern-by-darleen-hopkins #CbyDH

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Crocheted toy from child's drawing.

Designer Interview: Martina Gromova

Martina Gromová with Kid’s Creations

When I first saw Martina’s crocheted toys, I actually squealed with delight.  They are adorable.  She takes a child’s drawing and turns it into a toy.  Adorable.  So sweet and so special.  I immediately contacted Martina and asked her if I could interview her.  I was delighted she said yes.  It turns out she is as sweet as the kids’ drawings. Crocheted toy from child's art.Please, tell us about yourself.

08 09I am married and I am  mother of four wonderful children.   I live in the most beautiful city in Slovakia, Bojnice (I have to add some photos, because it′s really stunning)  I work as a professional soldier in the armed forces of the Slovak Republic. I love my job, but I miss that creative activities.  Therefore, in my spare time, but especially during evenings and nights, I’m turning into a creative person with a high addiction on crochet. I love to crochet and I feel nervous when I  am not holding a crochet hook. I love to crochet while watching TV, listening to the radio while traveling, during my lunch-breaks and also while breast-feeding.

Crocheted toy from child's drawing.How long have you been crocheting and how did you first learn?

I started to crochet 7 years ago, when my twins were born. I wanted to use the time in addition to breastfeeding, and at the same time to make something nice for my kids. I knew how to knit since childhood. Maybe I tried to crochet as a child, but I do not remember it now. Mama led us (me and my twin sister) to handicrafts. I can cope with sewing, embroidery, macramé but also with cooking and baking, and I am open to other techniques and skills.Crocheted toy from child's art.How long have you been converting children’s art to adorable dolls and what led you to this business?

I have started with crocheted toys from drawings and photos just last year. It came as request from my son who wished for his birthday only one thing and that was toy from his drawing. It was a figure of  “Boxie” as he named him. I enjoyed this work very much and, of course, the same request came from the rest of my children. It was so funny to crochet these toys from drawings and based on this, I decided that this is the right work that I enjoy and that fulfills me.

Crocheted toy from child's art.If someone wanted to order a toy, what is the process?

I have a Facebook fun page named “From Drawing to toy”  and also I have a second fun page named “el.key handmade”. The second one is for other crocheted items I am making – clothing, toys, accessories, crocheted jewelry.

If somebody is interested in converting a drawing into a toy, he only needs to contact me via personal message on Facebook page “From Drawing to toy” or via email: elkey.handmade@gmail.com

I have no problem with international shipping, it depends on customer whether the postage isn′t too expensive. But I think the postage is ok (for example from Europe to USA 5-10 euro).

I′ve already sent some items all over the world, and there was no problem.

The price depends on “difficulty of drawing” and required size of toy. Just send me the photo of drawing or any photo you would like me to crochet and I will answer  you back with price offer.Crocheted toy from child's art.Why crochet? What is it that interests you?  What do you enjoy most about the craft?

I love crochet for its form-ability, usage, also for the use of math when creating patterns. For its compactness, you don′t have need anything, just one tool – crochet hook and one skein of yarn. And also nearly no mess remains. You can use any material and crochet around things. In event you are shipwreck on the island, crochet can help you in many cases, you are able to crochet various baskets, clothes, shoes …

What other crafts do you enjoy? or is there another craft you would like to learn?

From other crafts I like also knitting, sewing, baking. But in crochet craft there is freeform crochet I have already tried, but would like to learn much more. I’d like to make more crocheted art instead of common crocheted items. I would like to try convert some famous paintings into crochet…but it´s just the plan, what I need the most is the TIME.

Crocheted toy from child's art.What challenges do you face when converting the drawings and how do you overcome them?

The best challenges for me are the drawings from the littlest ones. These are so cute, but sometimes you have problem to understand what child wanted to draw. Because of that parents usually attach remarks about drawings.

What is your favorite drawing to doll, why?

My favourite one is “Person in shoes with little whale friend”. This drawing drew Caleb 4 year old from Arizona. It´s my favourite because of its cuteness and the challenge itself – how to deal with this drawing. It was just in black and white. But I am proud of every one toy from drawing.

I am the most proud on toy from drawing that I mentioned before (Person in shoes with whale friend). But in case of crocheting from photo I am the most proud on crocheted accordion for my son and purple car from photo.  The accordion pattern is available in Slovak, contact Martina if interested in English 🙂

Crochet toy from children's art.

Person in shoes with little whale friend.

Crocheted accordian from photo.

Crocheted car from a photo

What other types of crochet do you do?  How many WIPs do you currently have and do you think you will ever finish all of them?

I was crocheting almost everything but because of lack of time I limited my crocheting to crocheted toys from drawings and photos and any special crocheting instead of common crochet. I’d like to improve myself and need to try other techniques of crocheting and that is not possible while crocheting same items and items following patterns.

I don’t like to have many WIPs. I don´t like to start new crochet thing unless I didn’t finish previous WIP. But sometimes it’s impossible and I have the most of 2 WIPs.

What was the last thing you crocheted for yourself?

The last thing I crocheted personally for me was this summer top and some necklaces.

Crocheted necklace pattern, Roses in Bloom by Martina Gromova.

Roses in Bloom, pattern by Martina Gromova

el.key handmade crochet

Martina’s summer top. Adapted from Slovak chart (center panel) and free handed design. Gorgeous!

What are your favorite stitches?

My favourite stitch is single crochet for its use in amigurumi. But I like bobble stitch, popcorn stitch and also crocodile stitch.

What is your favorite crochet tool or notion?

My favourite crochet tool is crochet hook, I need new one every time. I have a little case with approximately 100 hooks in various sizes.

When you aren’t crocheting, what are you doing?

When I am not crocheting I usually spend time with my kids and family. And there is a lot of work around the house, like cooking, washing, tidying up and so on.

Where can we find you?

I don’t have a website but planning to have in future. At this time I have only two Facebook pages, first for crocheted toys from kid’s drawings https://facebook.com/fromdrawingtotoy/ and second for other crocheted items and my own patterns https://facebook.com/elkeyhandmade-796329807074848/

You can also find Martina on Ravelry as El.key Crochet.

Thank you so much, Martina!  Love, love, LOVE these toys from drawings. I can’t wait to see what else you make 🙂

#familyfun tic-tac-toe game board crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

 

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What a month-lots of miles and lots of new patterns

Road Trip and New Patterns – June, 2016

Last month was busy, very busy; both in crochet and personally.   My family and I took a 13 day road trip.  My husband’s goal is to have my boys see the US.  So far, we have been to 46 states!  Last month we drove from Georgia to as far west as Las Vegas.    The trip consisted of sites of such extremes, from the massive natural beauty of The Grand Canyon, to the engineering marvel of the Hoover Dam, to the paleontological with preserved prehistoric dinosaur footprints, to the astronomical with the Meteor Crater in Winslow, AZ.  (I can’t read, “Winslow, AZ” without singing “The Eagles, Take it Easy” in my head!)  The trip was amazing and exhausting.  We drove 5,291 miles.  My husband drove the entire time and because the driver is in charge of the radio, we listen to RUSH, the entire time.  That’s OK, the boys and I are fans too.

slot canyons escalante UTThe trip was exhausting.  It. Was. Exhausting.  We got up early to avoid the heat and pushed ourselves with many hikes.  We hiked The Narrows at Zion national park, hiked for hours at Bryce Canyon national park, hiked at 6am to avoid the 110 degree weather at Arches national park.  Even that early it was hot.  And we spent a few hours in the heat exploring the slot canyons in Escalante, UT.  This was probably my favorite hike of the entire trip.  It’s hard to compete with Zion and Bryce.  But my husband and I had been to Zion and Bryce 17 years earlier so the slot canyons were a new experience for us.  And the boys loved it too.  And every muscle in my body hurt after.  Even muscles I didn’t know I had hurt.

Because this trip was exhausting, extremely enjoyable, but exhausting-did I mention that?-I didn’t crochet too much.  I had big plans.  I brought yarn to make a number of hats for donation.  I brought yarn to work on a new design for a fall decoration and I brought yarn to finish up a sample for another design that was 99% ready to go.  I did finish up the sample and was excited to publish Arnie and Annie, Baby Alien Loveys when we returned home.  The rest of the yarn just went on a very long road trip and returned back home unused.

In addition to Arnie and Annie, Baby Alien Loveys, last month I was able to self-publish The Littlest Ladybug, Bib and Rattle set, #familyfun, Tic-Tac-Toe travel game and Blue Rivers Hat.

PHEW!  I need to spend July resting.

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