The Great Crochet Adventure

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The last time I tried to crochet, it did not go well. My mother tried to teach me how to make a granny square, but we quickly realized a right hander teaching a left hander is beyond tricky. On top of that, I had no real basis of understanding how crochet works, so a granny square was probably way beyond my skill level.

I was going to let crochet go until I decided to launch a major project at work. In response to students wanting to learn how to knit (several come to see me for help) and craft in general, I am organizing an after school program that teaches students crafting skills. In addition, our little collective is going to have a community service component. Some of what we make will go to charitable organizations. We’re going to make and donate everything from chemo caps to kennel blankets!

In the midst of organizing everything, I found out a lot of kids want to learn how to crochet. Yikes! It’s kind of hard to teach them how to crochet when I don’t have a clue. So, last week I set upon teaching myself some basic skills – things like how to hold the hook, the yarn, and some basic stitches.

Due to a weekend of no internet, I ended up teaching myself using an ancient Reader’s Digest book, The Complete Guide to Needlework. The pictures weren’t the best, but it was enough to get me started. Seeing as the last time my left-handedness was a major obstacle, I decided to try learning right-handed. After several hours of epic failure – my right hand was fighting me the whole way – I finally managed to make a little 4×4″ swatch using a single crochet stitch.

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Hooray!! The little victories are the best, aren’t they?

Emboldened by my tiny success, I decided to make a set of coasters as a means to practice the single crochet stitch and to find my groove in holding the hook and the work yarn. Like knitting, there is a method and rhythm to manipulating both the hook and yarn.

Just like the first go around, there was plenty of failure, (and hand cramping – my right hand does not like all this work!), but the repetitive nature of the project paid off. I ended up with a cute set of coasters and the “groove” is falling into place. My fingers are naturally finding their grip on the hook and I’m finally able to regulate tension on the yarn without overthinking it.

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Not bad for a few hours of self-instruction. Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it! Even if failure is a given. I’m not a genius at crochet, but I’ve at least got enough to be able to teach students the basics. As I learn, so will they. If anything we can laugh at our mistakes and cheer our victories together.

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c.b.w. 2016

Knitting With Scrap Yarn

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After just a few years of knitting, my scrap yarn basket has started to overflow. I suppose its inevitable for every knitter. Projects rarely use every last bit of yarn, so we are left with partial skeins of all different sizes and colors.

Some would say just throw it out, but like most knitters I can’t bring myself to do that. I love yarn and put a lot of effort into picking just the right fiber and color. I can’t just pitch it like it means nothing! Instead, I take the overflow of scrap yarn as a challenge. There’s got to be a creative and productive way to use the leftovers hanging out in my yarn basket.

Inspiration came calling when I heard my very old dog snoring in his bed. He is 14 years old and struggles to get comfortable. His favorite blankets are knit and crochet blankets I purchased at craft fairs or made myself. However, his favorite blankets often end up in the washer due to old dog “issues,” which means he is often without them. There simply aren’t enough crochet or knitted blankets in our collection! Sounds like a job for scrap yarn!

I sorted my scrap yarn according to weight and then sorted them into color groupings. From there, I selected a baby blanket pattern that matched the yarn weight in the first pile. I settled on Size 8 circular knitting needles because most yarns in the pile recommend a 7, 8, or 9 needle – I figured 8 was in the middle and would likely accommodate the  different types of yarn I had in the pile.

The first blanket I made used six different yarns! I slightly modified a car seat blanket lace pattern, (Car Seat Blankets by Leisure Arts) so it would fit my dog’s orthopedic mat with enough left over to scrunch it up the way he likes it. The result was better than I expected, given the wide variety of yarn that was used to make the blanket.

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The funny part is I know where all the yarn came from – there are leftovers from 2 hats, a pair of socks, and 2 scarves.

I had so much fun making the first blanket, I decided to make another using the yarn I sorted into the second pile. This time around, I went with a pattern called the Maxi Cosi Blanket. It’s also meant for a baby car seat, but I’ll modify to fit one of my dog’s smaller beds (maybe 20″ x 20″). It’s not finished yet, but it is coming together nicely …

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So far, yarn from a pair of socks and a hat are in play. The fisherman’s wool (beige and cream) is a skein that just won’t stop giving … I’ve used the same skein in several projects including a scarf and a hat. This will hopefully be it’s last project!

When this blanket is finished, I’m planning on adding a flannel backing. I’ve never attempted to sew anything onto a knitting project, but I think it’s about time I got brave enough to try!

My scrap yarn basket has a lot more room in it after these projects, but there is still quite the stockpile of sock weight yarn. I’m on the lookout for the perfect project to put this part of my scrap yarn stash to good use.

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c.b.w. 2016