The Annual Trek To Book Heaven

Standard

There’s nothing more a bibliophile loves more than a HUGE used book sale. Every year, I get to bask in the largest book sale in the state and it never gets old.

I arrived with empty bags and a lot of hope that I’d find something good. However, I had to somewhat behave this year given the fact that I just decluttered my bookshelves. I didn’t want to just fill them right back up again and undo all of my decluttering progress!

My first stop was the craft section. Over the last couple of years, I’ve come home with some amazing finds in knitting patterns – especially vintage. This year was no different. I found a great array of knitting magazines, but also a sweater pattern book and needlecraft how-to guide from 1945. The patterns in these books are pure gold as they are simple and timeless.

20170215_163620-1

The selection of knitting books was a little more sparse this year, but I still found a few good ones. My favorite is, Knit Your Own Dog. I’ve seen this book before and always wanted it.

20170215_163946-1

While I was combing through the rest of the craft section, my mom was in the collectibles section. She spotted this great visual reference guide for collectible Barbie and held onto it for me. It is beyond amazing!

20170215_164704

I hit the fiction section next. This is where I really had to control my inner urge to snap up any book that looks remotely interesting. That’s tough to do when most are only $3 or less! I decided to only pick up books that are on my to-read list or can pass the first page test (i.e. I can’t fight the urge to turn the page and keep reading). I ended up with small, yet intriguing group of books.

20170215_164550-1

Last, but not least, I hit the poetry section. My goal is always the same: haiku anthologies. They are tough to find! At the same time, I was looking to find anything inspiring or interesting in short verse poetry. Two of the books I found are pictured above with my fiction finds. Art and Wonder pairs poetry with famous works of art –  I can’t wait to read it!

In the haiku realm, I managed to find two anthologies and a couple of interesting takes on modern Japanese poetry. Flipping through them, I can see they are inspired by haiku, but other forms as well. I’m looking forward to exploring them.

20170215_164747

The grand total for my treasures? $24.25. All in all, it was a great day at the book sale!

– – –

c.b.w. 2017

Addicted To Granny Squares

Standard

It’s official: I’ve fallen under the spell of granny squares. Nothing about them is remotely cool, except for the fact that they are ridiculously fun to make.

It all started when I decided I wanted to make a new throw blanket for the winter. I sat down with a set of instructions and made about 10 billion mistakes before I finally ended up with a semi-functional granny square. From there I practiced a bit and settled on a pattern I liked to make a 6″ square.

My mother always told me the best yarn for an afghan is Red Heart, so I got three skeins each of Burgundy, Hunter Green, Soft Navy, Coffee, Cafe Latte, and Aran Fleck. She’s right, by the way. Red Heart yarn is sturdy and can handle repeated failures!

It took a couple of months, but I made 14 squares for each color of yarn. From there, I laid them out in a diagonal pattern

20161102_173045

Joining the squares turned out to be the hardest part of the process because I couldn’t decide what method to use. I ended up stitching a single-crochet edging on each square with the Coffee color. Then, I did a back-loop slip stitch. This created a thicker color border and sturdier bond.

20161111_111038

I edged the entire afghan with two rounds of a single-crochet stitch, so it would match the width of the square borders. All in all, I happy with the result. I finished it just as the weather turned colder and it is very warm!

20161111_110048

I made a matching pillow with some of the leftover squares – I’ll post pictures of it soon, along with tutorial on how I made it.

This little pattern book gives great visual instructions and includes the pattern I used for my afghan.

unknown

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

Knitting A Scrap Yarn and Flannel Blanket

Standard

Over the summer, I started two scrap yarn knitting projects as a means to clear out my growing stash of leftover yarn, (see Knitting With Scrap Yarn). The first blanket turned out great and my little dog is snuggling up in it every night.

The start of the school year pushed my second project, the Maxi Cosi Blanket, to the sidelines for a spell, but I’ve finally finished it. In many ways, I think it turned out better than the first. The smaller size gave me a great opportunity to experiment with a new finishing technique for knitted blankets.

After blocking the blanket came out at 25″ x 27″. This turned out to be a perfect size for a little corner of the bed where my cat likes to sleep. She’s already claimed it as her own!

full-blanket-1

The yarn came from four different partial skeins leftover from two hats, a scarf, a cowl, and a pair of socks. I let the amount of yarn dictate stripe size, however I was careful with the oatmeal color so I could carry it all the way through end to end, (I only came up 3 rows short, which I supplemented with a cream-colored yarn scrap I thankfully had stashed!).

For finishing, I decided to add a flannel backing. I saw the technique on Pinterest and knew I had to try it. Luckily, my local craft store was having a sale on flannel fabric and it just so happened to have the perfect print. It was meant to be!

flannel-backing

To attach the flannel and keep it from “tenting,” I employed an old quilting technique (thanks for reminding me, mom!) of using yarn ties. Once again, I went to my leftover yarn stash and found a great partial skein of variegated woodsy colors.

The grid  of the knitted pattern made it easy to space yarn ties about 2″ apart. First, I tacked the flannel to the blanket using safety pins to mark where the ties would go. I worked from the center out to the edges. Second, I loaded a yarn needle with a double-strand segment of yarn. I came up through the bottom (the flannel side) and back down through the top (the knitted side), making as small a stitch as possible in the garter stitch sections of the blanket. This hid the yarn tie on the front and added the tie detail to the flannel backing. Lastly, I tied each section and clipped the ends.

To secure the edges, I sewed a basic blanket stitch using DMC pearl cotton embroidery thread. This thread is thick and sturdy, which makes it perfect for stitching together folded flannel and worsted weight knitted yarn.

blanket-stitch-detail

The result is a smooth edge that is decorative and not bulky. The edges are fully secure and the stitch adds to the rustic quality of the pattern and flannel print.

Not bad for scrap yarn, eh? See what’s hiding in your leftover yarn stash – it’s amazing what you can make with even the smallest scraps of yarn!

Happy Knitting!

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

The Great Crochet Adventure

Standard

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.

20160911_194411-1

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.

20160915_203324

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.

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

Knitting With Scrap Yarn

Standard

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.

20160910_131908

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 …

20160910_132202

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.

– – –

c.b.w. 2016