Monday, December 31, 2007

New Yarn's Resolutions

The good hookers over at the Crochet Liberation Front have been discussing their New Year's resolutions in relation to crochet. Luckily, I've been thinking about mine for a while (as they are ever so much more interesting than the usual resolutions that I break by January 5 when I realize yet again that living on spinach makes me crazy. I mean crazier).

The Mad Crocheter's Crochet Resolutions for 2008:
  • When purchasing yarn, there are certain questions I will ask myself, such as "what will I use this for?", "do I like the color?", "am I already making something like this?", "do I have room for this?", and most importantly, "can I afford it?" I will consider the answers to these questions before buying because the answers are all more important than "WOOOHOOOOO!!! This is ON SALE!!"
  • When I am gifting someone with a piece of crochet, I will wait until I have actually finished said piece before telling them about it, lest I be greeted every time I see them with "where's my tarot bag, bitch?" (this resolution dedicated to Donna)
  • I will continue to work on designing original crochet patterns and finding publication options for them, even if it's just posting them here.
  • I will continue to do as many nifty things with crochet as possible, in interests of promoting the art and showing knitters that crochet doesn't have to suck.
  • If I crochet a gift for someone, I will keep perspective and not hover over them going "so, do you like it? Say yes you love it or I'm never making you anything again."
  • I will use up yarn in my stash, even if it is cheap acrylic crap I bought before I knew any better. After all, you can't make shelter cat beds out of cashmere. (Well, you could, but you would deserve a swift kick in the butt for it.)
  • I will actually finish the projects I've been working on forever, if only to mark them finished on Ravelry.
  • I will use Ravelry as the excellent organizational tool it is for matching up yarns and patterns so I won't have moments like the one tonight where I looked into a plastic bin full of yarn and said "I don't know what to crochet."
  • I will felt something. On purpose.
  • I will crochet some socks. Just to see what happens.
  • I will do something cool with lace, even if it kills me.
  • I will take pictures of my stash so I can stare at it lovingly when I'm bored instead of meandering onto yarn sites where I will tempt myself into breaking other resolutions.
  • I will do whatever my overlords at the Crochet Liberation Front tell me to do.
  • I will continue to seek out all the awesome there is to be found in crochet and share it here.
  • I will remember that this is crochet, not life or death. I will be unafraid to try new things, because in the end, it's all just yarn. What's the worst that could happen?

Saturday, December 29, 2007


This is actually related to a deeper thought, but why save it for the deeper thoughts when you've got a really awful (I mean awesome) one-liner?

For a long while now, StringTheory2 and I have been discussing the massive amount of planning involved in one of her knitting projects (go look at 'em, they'll blow your mind, her work blows my mind on a regular basis) versus the sheer spirit of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants that goes into mine ("Hey, that's not as long as the schematic says it's supposed to be. Guess I shoulda done a gauge swatch. Oh well, no worries, I'll just add on a few rows and figure out what to do with them later!"). After these conversations, I suspect that knitting appeals to the more orderly minds among us, the ISTJs, those whose brains, if brains were houses, would be neat small rooms connected by geometric halls, while someone like me, an ENFP whose brain resembles my desk, which is to say cluttered, with everything I own thrown in one big pile -- "and that reminds me of this! Which reminds me of THIS!" -- naturally prefers crochet, and clings to it stubbornly no matter how many cool things I'm told I could be knitting. (Might also explain why I sometimes confuse knitters -- while I'm merrily prattling away about what's going on in my tangential brain, the knitters are having to rush down that hall in and out of the different rooms of their brains to keep up with me, and who has time to do that while futzing with needles and charts? Yeah, I'll keep telling myself that's why I freak out the knitters. Yeah.)

So (and this is an awful lot of buildup for a joke that's not even that good), all of this came to mind while I was replying to a comment on Ravelry about how some fiber artists are dead-set on yarn usage -- i.e., if it's sock yarn, you must use it to make socks -- and the concept of rules in art, and what came out of my keyboard was:
Maybe it’s the same principle at work here – knitters seek rules, while crocheters say “really they’re more like guidelines”?

And then all I could hear in my head was Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush et al explaining that "really they're more like guidelines" and all I could think was "hey! We crocheters are the yarn pirates!! YAARRRRRRRRRRN!!"

I know. None of the knitters I know have ever insisted that sock yarn must be used for socks only and my entire orderly knitting vs. freewheeling crochet theory might not hold even a teaspoonful of water here, but let me have my delusions that I'm a pirate. If you need me, I'll be running around screaming YAAARRRRRN!!

Not for nothing does ST2 call me the Pirate Hooker...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

As promised, the incoherent (though sober) update.

Have reached the point where hat construction no longer makes sense (and neither does using pronouns). Have nagging fear hat may be too small. Cannot figure out how top of hat is supposed to go on. Too sleepy to care. Will try again in the morning. Praying cat does not eat hat in the meantime.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Procrastinators unite!... some other time.

Tomorrow I'm going to visit my family.

That means that tonight, I have to finish Lidsville.

I know, I know. I've been working on this damn hat forever... well, a month according to Ravelry, but it sure feels like forever. Oh look, and two weeks ago I posted that I was nearly done. Well don't I feel silly? I would, if I had time to. Of course, instead of actually finishing it here I am blogging and puttering around on Ravelry.

Don't ask me what happened with this one, because I'm not sure myself. I suspect it was a combination of "oh yay! I'm nearly finished! And I've got plenty of time! I can goof around!" and my utter intimidation over the construction of the hat. I've spent more time fretting over putting this stupid hat together than I have actually working on it. And what am I doing now, instead of working on it? Fretting on teh intarwubz. There's a lesson in this, but I don't have time to contemplate that even though it is totally obvious.

At least the Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk DK for the inner band was at the top of the yarn bin, so I didn't have to stumble around searching for it and waking up the Mad Husband.

...And then, as if on cue, my computer went down, forcing me to get to work. Computer has recovered, back to work now, cat is trying to eat the plastic canvas that's supposed to be the hat brim, expect an incoherent and possibly drunken post announcing success/failure around three in the morning.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to all...

Christmas is here, though I still must travel to my family to give them their gifts, and I've been thinking a lot about a comment cadnkat left on my last post:
I've just about decided that even though I take my family into consideration as to their likes and dislikes etc. That if they don't like the gift that I crocheted/knitted them, then oh well. At the very least it provided me with a few hours of entertainment. That and I try to only craft for people who really do "get" it.

The more I think about this, the more I think that perhaps I'm getting more out of crocheting these gifts than my family will get out of having them. Sure, my mom will have a pretty scarf she can wear a few weeks out of the year (Tennessee doesn't really get that amazingly cold), but from that same scarf, I learned how to make cables. Which one of us really gets more out of this?

This is one of those Christmas lessons, isn't it? Up there with "you'll put your eye out, kid!"

I wish you and yours a lovely Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas, here's your present and you'd better like it

This is the first year I've crocheted most of my family's Christmas gifts, and as the holidays get closer, I'm starting to get nervous, and it's not just because I haven't finished my dad's hat yet. (Maybe I should start being more nervous about that, but that's not much fun to blog about.)

It's hard enough trying to come up with suitable gifts, especially for family members who 1). already have most everything they want and 2). really don't need more crap. (Apparently everyone who knows my mom gave her a suncatcher for her birthday... seriously, she's going to run out of windows.) I hit upon the handmade-just-for-you idea a while back and tested it on my family back in August. To my pleasant surprise, my brother was the first one to say he liked the idea. I figured he'd be the one trying to hold out for a "real" present. Then again, he knows I can't afford to get him any really cool toys. When you have a GTO, I guess everything else is gravy?

Someone recently on a board pointed out that knitted gifts (of course they don't even show crochet!) get mocked in all the commercials around this time of year. Of course they do; commercials are trying to sell things. But because there's so much of me in these gifts, I really want them to be appreciated and valued.

And isn't that the rub? We yarners spend so much time and love on our projects, and the rest of society shrugs and wonders why we didn't just buy a sweater at Target. Not that I need society's approval, but this is why it's so important that we knitters, crocheters, and crafters in general stick together -- because we know. We understand.

My dad is a woodworker. I have a feeling he will be the one who likes his present the most, because he understands too. He'll sit there and watch me crochet and say things like "I could as soon walk on the moon as do that." And I could as soon walk on the moon as I could make his beautiful wooden bowls. It's nice that in an abstract way, we share this.

So all this is just a long-winded way of saying, if the Mad Family doesn't gush properly, they're getting crappy gifts next year. Like, I'm talking Chia Pets here! :P

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another one bites the dust

My brother's hat. Let me show you it.

This is the FlyFlap Cap from Laura Killoran, done in Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran in teal and sky blue. This should keep my brother's ears warm. I added a few extra rows because he's a big kid (6'4!). I did make an error thanks to not reading carefully enough -- the ties were supposed to be made as part of the last round, but I made them separately and attached them, which I worry will make them not as sturdy. Oops. Other than that, I'm pretty pleased with it. I'll even model it for you:
Hmmm. Possibly my new year's resolution should be less time crocheting and more time combing my hair.

Getting read the riot act

I should have known I was in for it with my post on lace, because someone read me the riot act last night for dismissing knitted lace. So I had to explain that I've seen some absolutely beautiful knitted lace in books, but rarely in person. I guess not many people make lace these days? Is it too out of style? Too tedious?

Of course, then we found a beautiful knitted lace shawl upstairs at Knitch so then I felt really silly. Okay, knit lace is beautiful, but I WON'T KNOW IF YOU DON'T KNIT IT. Sorry. Just had to get that out of my system.

In the midst of all this riot-acting, I found a small treasure that I just could not pass up:

It's the new lace-weight Malabrigo merino, and it looks even better in person. All the colors were lovely, but this is the 137 Emerald Blue and I thought it had the most life of the colorways available. It's silky-soft too, not that I expected any less from Malabrigo. And at almost 500 yards for less than $10, I think it's a great value. (Gee, can you tell that pretty much all my discretionary income goes into yarn?) I haven't exactly decided what to do with it yet, but I'm thinking some sort of lacy scarf. Designed by moi, of course. (Sorry. Miss Piggy moment.)

Also, it turned out I had more yarn than I needed for the family's Christmas gifts, so I traded it in for this beauty:

Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Alpine, and I have big plans for this too. So apparently, when I said I was sick of blue, I meant I was sick of quiet blue. Loud bright vibrant blue is just fine in my book.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oh happy day! The end is in sight!

I don't really have time to post this, but I'm doing it anyway because I'm so excited.

I'm nearly done with Lidsville! Thanks to two of the entities I rave about here the most. First, StringTheory2 helped my not-so-spatially-oriented mind see how the pieces are supposed to go together by basting them together in a contrasting yarn:

See, now it looks (kinda) like a hat! And she didn't even laugh at me when I asked for a definition of basting. Without her as my yarn mentor, I'd still be making nothing but really big afghans out of acrylic.

And then, the amazing folks at Knitch even dug up some plastic canvas for me! I am so excited to have this nearly done, and I can already tell my dad's going to love it. Now to get to Knitch before they close.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Take back the lace!

For a while now I've had intentions of taking up crocheted lace in the new year. There are multiple reasons for this, the most obvious one being totally ripped off from the Yarn Harlot in At Knits End:

The frugal knitter will quickly develop a taste for fine wool on tiny needles. There are many, many yards in those wee balls, and it takes lots and lots of tiny stitches to make anything. One hundred grams of chunky wool lasts only a few hours, but 100 grams of fingering-weight wool takes a good long time to knit up.

She's a smart one, that Yarn Harlot, even if she does hate crochet. (Why, Stephanie? WHY?!)

So anyway, I've been telling myself for a while that since I go through yarn so fast, the way to slow my yarn expenditures while still getting lots of yummy, yummy yarn to play with is to take up lace crochet. I've seen all the beautiful lace-weight hand-painted skeins at Knitch. Sure, that Claudia Hand Painted Silk Lace is 42 bucks a skein, but you get 1100 yards!! That would keep me busy for, like, a whole week or two.

Also, I think crochet is particularly well-suited to lace -- of course it should be, crochet was originally invented as a cheap fast way to make lace. (And we are convinced that the words "fast" and "cheap" explain why the knitters make fun of us.) I've seen some beautiful knit lace in books, but most of the knit lace I've seen in person was more loopy than lacy. Of course, this may just have something to do with the fact that I don't know many people who knit or crochet lace much at all. StringTheory2 (whose blog you totally oughtta check out) got some really nice alpaca lace-weight, but then she stopped mid-project and went back to sweaters. I think she said the yarn tangled. Which is why my new year's resolution here kinda depends on getting a yarn swift and ball winder for Christmas, because no way can I wind that stuff myself without losing the few marbles I have left. But I'm digressing.

So someone at the Crochet Liberation Front board on Ravelry observed that there seemed to be hardly any crochet lace shawl patterns around. And I realized she was right. If I search the "lace" tag in the crochet patterns at Ravelry, I turn up very little, and what's there isn't necessarily "lace" in the traditional sense. I think what Doris Chan is doing with bulkier yarn in Amazing Crochet Lace is pretty cool, but it's not what I'm looking for (mainly because bulkier yarns with lower yardage would defeat the whole point of my yardage conservation).

I'm really surprised there's so little out there. I know a lot of Irish crochet patterns were never written down and were lost to time, but there's got to be more lace out there. Hey, stitch guides pretty much tell you how to make as much of a given stitch design as you want, so how much harder can coming up with the rest of the pattern be? Uh oh. These are the words that will have my knitting group laughing hysterically at me in six months when I lose it and start ripping out my hair and screaming profanities at my lace.

Seriously though, there's so much we crocheters can do here, and our technique is made for lace! Personally, those loopy knit shawls have me suspecting that crochet may be better than knitting for making lace (don't worry knitters, you still have it all over us when it comes to socks). I'm really excited to see what we at the CLF can come up with. Lace revival? Hey, why not?

Context not given, but why would you need any?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Sooper Secret Project -- revealed!

Presenting my first original design... The Jester Bag!

This is what I've been up to with my Mountain Colors Bearfoot and all my hinting. I've been wanting some sort of small bag to hold my yarn so I can crochet standing up and keep it safe while I'm crocheting in bars. I saw a Lantern Moon bag I liked at Knitch, but then I thought, wouldn't it be more rewarding to make my own? There are some design elements that still need refining, but I've been just dying to post it!

The bag got its name from the edging I was puzzling over... finally it came to me as I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling thinking "no more shells", use triangles like a jester's hat and attach beads to the end. (I thought about bells, but decided I didn't want people to always hear me coming.)

I attached this loop underneath the "petals" so I can clip the bag to a beltloop with a carabiner, but you could just as easily leave it off. I had originally intended a longer strap but decided I didn't want to distract from the design with a large shoulder strap sticking out.

So many thanks to all the friends who have given me feedback and encouragement on this one. I apologize for not shutting up about it all week.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's my motivation? Never mind that, WHERE'S my motivation?

You know, when I got the idea to crochet my family's Christmas presents this year, I thought it was a great idea. And I still do. However, thinking it's a great idea doesn't necessarily translate to wanting to work on said presents. Not when I'm finding awesome patterns on Ravelry and sketching out my next project in my crochet notebook (I was so proud of myself, I'm tempted to scan it and post it here to bore the rest of you with it). At least my mother's scarf (to your left) is finished, aside from the pesky business of weaving in ends. (My secret to weaving in ends? Whenever I can, I try and grab the tail and crochet over it as I'm working. Helps a lot, but isn't always possible.) It was probably the longest of the projects so I guess it's good that it's finished already, except for the part about I learned how to make crochet cables doing it and now I'd rather be playing with cables.

Lidsville has me nervous. I'm pretty close to done with the crocheting, as seen at right. I just have the brim and inner band to go, I think (which means it's time to find that Alpaca Silk navy for the inner band). The crocheting has been very easy, but it's the construction that has me worried. At least my pictures match up with the wip pics that other people have posted at Ravelry, so I know I'm on the right track for now. I need to hurry up and get this one finished so I'll have a little time in case of emergency -- i.e. finished hat being too small for my dad.

Speaking of too small, I completely frogged my brother's Flyflap Cap at knitting group the other night -- the entire thing, there was yarn everywhere. I learned that apparently it's easier to frog in crochet than knit, which is another good reason for me to stick with crochet because the frog is my friend that I have to visit quite often. I've moved up to a K hook from the recommended I for my second try, and now at least I can get it on my head. Does that mean it will fit my 6'4 brother? Here's hoping. Laura Killoran hasn't steered me wrong yet.
Can you tell my family really likes blue? I'm so sick of blue. I need to do something in some really loud non-blue colors after I'm finished. Maybe something to take along while I'm visiting for the holidays. That way if a family disagreement breaks out, I can just put my head down and pretend I'm at a really difficult part in the pattern.
The photos aren't much, but now at least I have some pictures to go with my Ravelry project listings. I'm telling you, I got those first two hearts way too easy and now I'm constantly hitting reload to see if anyone else has favorited my stuff.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

First, the good news.

I did manage to finish the Sooper Secret Project last night, at least the crochet part. Now I just have to do the finishing, which will involve a search for velvet cord (can you believe Michaels doesn't have it? at Christmas?) and the ever-popular weaving in ends. *groan* If you see me tonight at Knitch, I might be persuaded to show it to you. And I made it without running out of yarn. I even have a little bit left that I'll probably have to talk myself out of using for some ridiculous embellishment. Which leads me to... The Bad News.

If You Want Crochet to Get Respect, Mad Crocheter, Then Why Do You Insist on Using Those Loud Variegated Yarns?

Afterwards, I took a picture of the almost-finished project with my cell phone and sent it to Natalia. Then I called her, eager to hear what she thought of it.

"It's very... bright."

Suddenly I'm flashing back to Project Runway, season 3, the couture episode, and remembering how much I loved Kayne's dress with the gold corset, as shown above.

And then I'm remembering how, after I'd gushed over the dress to my viewing companions, Tim Gunn delicately said of Kayne, "His taste level is just not there." And I was all OMG Tim Gunn is saying I have bad taste and now he'll never be my gay boyfriend.

I have always had a taste for the bright and gaudy. I remember shopping in department stores with my mother as a child and suggesting she try on the tops with spangles. Now that I'm grown, I may dress pretty conservatively, but it seems that now my taste for the loud has taken over my yarn shopping. And those hand-painted sock yarns look awesome as socks, but when I make something not covered by shoes out of them, do they look dorky? After all, mustard-and-avocado variegated yarn is part and parcel of the '70's crochet stereotype that's scared off so many crafters. (Along with bad acrylic and toilet-paper cozies, but we'll save those for another time.)

So, for the greater good of crochet, I wonder if it's time for me to embrace more... sedate color choices. I suppose the reaction to this project will help me decide.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm not a weaver... where the hell did this tangled web come from?

Last night while drifting off to sleep I thought up the perfect conclusion to the Sooper Secret Project, and luckily I still remembered it this morning. I checked with ST2, who is my go-to person when it comes to "be absolutely honest, does this look stupid?" and now that I've been reassured that it doesn't suck (I am such an approval whore, I need to kick that habit if I want to design) I'm trucking along on it. I should be finished sometime tonight... IF my yarn holds out.

Contrary to popular rumor, crochet doesn't actually use three times as much yarn as knitting; it uses a third more yarn. (Still, it does use more yarn. I have in the past tried to use this fact to convince myself I should be knitting instead, but then I looked at the prices of all those needles you knitters have to have, looked at my hooks, and kept crocheting.) Sock yarn seemed perfect for this project because it came in a nice fat skein, nearly 400 yards worth. Well... the closer you get to the end of the yarn, the faster it goes. Right now I'm doing my edging (probably in way too tight a gauge because I'm trying to stretch the yarn) while eyeballing the remaining yarn trying to figure out how much is left and mentally chewing on my fingernails. (If I did chew my fingernails, then I'd have yet another good reason to crochet: Keeps my fingernails out of the way. Hey, maybe someone should tell Lebron James to crochet on the bench instead of chewing his nails.)

To add insult to injury, somewhere along the way the remaining yarn got knotted. So I've spent an hour and a half of what should have been crochet time trying to untangle my yarn. Normally when stuff like this happens I try to untangle the knot for a minute or so, swear, get the scissors, cut out the knot and go merrily on my way. But I can't afford to waste an inch of yarn here, so instead I'm wrestling with this blasted knot. In fact, I'm doing it right now, in between sentences and while reading other people's blogs.

There is a way to fix this for certain. But it involves frogging, and I don't wanna frog!! And anyway, at this point I've already cut the yarn once for not-knot related reasons, so right now there's nothing to do but soldier on and hope for the best.

And if it doesn't work out, it's not the end of the world, right?


...Oh, who am I kidding. I WILL think it's the end of the world if it doesn't work out. Luckily, I am easily distracted, so someone can just wave a shiny skein in front of my face and I'll forget all about it.

In other news, I need to do something to liven up this blog. Right now it's all "Crocheted a hat and frogged it. Still not king."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The art of procrastination

I got some feedback from some uber-helpful friends on my Sooper Secret Project last night, and I feel pretty good about where it's going. And it's going there quickly, which is always good. I just did a little surfing to get ideas for edging, though I may need to wait till I'm a little fresher to start playing with those. I just know I don't want shells. I love shells, but I put them on everything, and I want to mix it up! Of course if I change my mind and use shells after all you are all encouraged to laugh at me.

Of course, all this enthusiasm for my new project means nothing is getting done on the Christmas crocheting for my family. Right now I'm telling myself that's fine, crochet is after all a quick art. Check back in a week to see if I'm still feeling so confident.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Baby steps

I'm still not ready to unveil what my new project is (though I'm toting it everywhere with me, so if you see me in person you'll hear more than you ever needed to about it), but I will say it's my first attempt at writing a pattern, and I'm learning a lot... mainly that writing patterns is hard. Everyone's got to start somewhere, right? I'm anxious to get my knitting group's opinion tonight.

Speaking of my knitting group, one of them made me all verklempt... see, knitters? Crochet can be your friend!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The siren seduction of the sock strands

Well, I had to do something to preserve the alliteration.

Every week at knitting group, at least a few people are working on socks. And man, do they love their socks. And who could blame them? They're gorgeous socks. Soft, with all sorts of pretty colors and textures and lacy patterns. I'm not even a big fan of socks, which I generally consider strictly utilitarian clothing, and I like these socks.

So the sock knitters are torn between trying to persuade me to learn to knit socks, because they're awesome, and trying to discourage me from socks, because that would mean less sock yarn for them.

Well, now they're doubly screwed, because I may not be taking up sock-making anytime soon, but I'm contemplating joining all the sock clubs just to get my hands on more sock yarn.

I went to Knitch today to check out the Be Sweet trunk show (lovely, lovely stuff, and you've got to love yarn that funds jobs and a school in South Africa), and while I was there I got an idea that I was too excited about to not get started on immediately, even with Christmas projects looming. I got some construction advice from Kim, and I was off and running with a skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Eureka. Which I am totally in love with, by the way. I understand why everyone's so crazy about the sock yarn now.

So what am I making? That's a surprise, but here's a hint... it's not socks.