23 November 2013

From Nature

For the past month, as many of you now realize, I've been completely obsessed with dainty crochet snowflakes. I'm, however, also very picky about the patterns I chose to use in making said snowflakes. Well, the day has come when I have run out of patterns and diagrams that I absolutely love. What to do?

A few weeks ago, my husband (bless his heart) had suggested that I make my own pattern/diagram based on macro photos of snowflakes. They are absolutely gorgeous, and I am still convinced that he over estimates my creative capabilities.

Well, I tried it, anyway.

First, I found a photo I liked that looked simple enough. I didn't do a screenshot. Instead I took a photo of the laptop with my phone, because of the other steps I took in my creative process. I found the photo in this article.
Isn't it stunning? Check out that article. They are all so beautiful.
Did anyone else have one of those Fischer Price desks that had the back light in the tabletop? I LOVED that thing, and would just sit and trace for hours. My daughter now has one, and the desk is from whence I drew my inspiration. I turned up the brightness of my monitor, and set a piece of notebook paper over the screen.

After that, I just doodled over the traced image in order to try to decide what sort of stitches to use.
It . . . sort of worked . . . kind of . . .
I then decided to make what I doodled, doodled some more as I went, and wrote the pattern along the way.
Note to self: do not judge how easy or difficult creating a pattern based on nature by how simple the object appears. Recreating snowflakes from nature is the most difficult process I've ever encountered.

Do not; I repeat, do NOT follow this pattern. You will inevitably create what looks like a shrunken captain's wheel.
In my daughter's words, "arrr, my matey!"
BRKLAHKGT E;AWI F!!!! I was frustrated. So, I just set it aside, did my chores and errands, and went to sleep. I showed it to my husband today. Then, for whatever reason, as we were laughing at my failure, the correct way to make this just hit me. Of course, the crocheted version of this will most likely not look anything like the photo, just because it's physically impossible to recreate those gorgeously fragile crystalline walls with crochet thread. But, I think I came pretty close this time.

Here is a photo of what I have soaking in starch at the moment:
Much better, am I right?
Photos of the blocked version will be coming soon. I have also written the pattern, and it will be available within the next week, hopefully along with a diagram (ooooh, aaaah), and that diagram decoding chart I mentioned in my previous post. Until then, be inspired by nature, but be humble enough to know that God's works are infinitely better than man's.

As always, happy stitching! xo

16 November 2013


I've known how to crochet for 17 years. My Nana, whom I love very dearly, taught me how to make basic stitches. I never really did anything with it until nearly ten years after she taught me those stitches, though, and even then, I was very stubborn. I did not want to learn how to read a pattern. It was not until I moved out on my own that I learned how to do so, as I no longer had her wisdom at my disposal. I quickly latched on to the jargon and abbreviations commonly used by pattern authors.

A few years after figuring this out, I saw something very adorable that I wanted to make. The problem? There wasn't a pattern. Only a diagram. This was about 3-4 years ago, and I, in all my stubborn glory, was too lazy to learn how to read the diagram. It seemed too confusing.

I mean, look at this nonsense.
For the past month, however, I have had a ridiculous obsession with crocheting snowflakes. I do believe that literally everyone on my gift list will be receiving one this year, just because I really, really do not want to make anything else. Luckily, there are a plethora of snowflake patterns on t3h interwebs. However, I ran across the same problem I did a few years prior.

The cutest of snowflakes were (of course) written in Japanese originally, but had diagrams included in the free patterns. (Have I ever mentioned that "free" is my favorite four-letter word?) It didn't help that the website where I found these diagrams via Pinterest is written in Russian. I don't speak either of those languages! WHY couldn't it be in some other language that I could figure out? Remarkably, most German is so similar to English that I can figure it out. Italian and French are likewise close enough to Spanish that, using the bit I know of the idiom, I can figure them out, as well. But, no. It has to be in Russian.

Looking back, I'm really appalled at my failure to think of using Google Translate. Sigh.
So, I set about remembering how to read the diagrams. Just as when I finally learned to read patterns, I found that not only was reading diagrams surprisingly easy, but there are SO MANY benefits from doing so, and therefore so many reasons I love reading them now. Here's a list of why:

  • You can see where you are in the pattern much easier than in a written pattern.
    • Only 2 of these are from a written pattern.
      Can you guess which ones?
    • Instead of reading through lines of text to remember where you are (since you can't keep your finger on the page while crocheting), you just have to remember where in the picture you are. For many, like me, this is much easier.
  • You have a clearer vision of the big idea.
    • I like to change patterns slightly to suit my style and the taste of the recipient. By seeing where I'd like to change the pattern in a diagram and how the author accomplished what they did, I can make better decisions about the best way to go about my changes.
  • Diagrams break language barriers into tiny little bits of dust.
    • Seriously. I. Cannot. Read. Russian.
  • They often make prettier patterns. 
    • This obviously is not always true, hence my use of the word "often." However, I seem to like the products from the diagrams better.
By the way, I do plan on making a nifty little chart in the near future for reading diagrams.

Written pattern or diagram: which do you prefer, and why?

Happy Stitching! xo

12 November 2013

Dina the Dino!

Christmas prep is in full-swing here in our home! I'm working on finishing up an advent calendar for my daughter, and working on crocheting all sorts of ornaments and gifts.

My latest endeavor is for a little girl whom I love just as much as my own. She is my daughter's best friend, and they have literally known each other since she was taking her first steps, and my daughter was in my womb. They love each other unconditionally, just as sisters or cousins. This little friend of ours loves all things pink and dinosaurs. I happen to have had a dinosaur pattern sitting in my Ravelry queue for years. I decided to make it for her, because I realized I had never made anything for her before. My daughter, of course, was super jealous, claiming that I "never make anything for [her]," despite the fact at least half of my projects are dedicated to her, including the "owlghan" I recently completed. She's very dramatic and distraught that she will not be receiving anything from me for the next month and a half until Christmas is here. Life is so hard at the ripe old age of four.

This pattern was super easy. It's called "Dudley the Dinosaur" and was written by Maureen Hartog. It is offered as a free Ravelry download, and can be found here, if you have an account. If you don't have an account, what's wrong with you? Please go make one. There are so many fabulous patterns for free and for purchase on this site.

I made Dina with Hobby Lobby's "I Love This Yarn!" in Pink, and some Red Heart white & silver Christmas yarn. Both are worsted weight yarns. I used a size G/6-4.25mm hook.

A few discrepancies I had with making the pattern were with the neck and the legs. I didn't want to sew up the side of the neck, and so I just crocheted in rounds. I also didn't like having the legs be different lengths, and so all four of them have ten rounds, instead of two of them having ten rounds, and the other two having twelve. Speaking of, the pattern is worked in rounds, not rows. The pattern is still very straight-forward, and easy enough to follow, especially for beginners. I'm beginning to notice that, as in writing literature, every pattern author has a voice of their own, and their own way of explaining things. If you do decided to make a Dudley the Dinosaur (or Dina), please take a few moments to read over the pattern first. Ms. Hartog's increases and decreases are described in a way I have not encountered before. It was not difficult to catch on to her language at all. It just caught me off guard, because I did not read the pattern before making it. D'oh!

Another thing I did differently than Ms. Hartog, is that I used buttons for eyes on Dina instead of googly eyes, since the buttons can stand up to more play. To accomplish this, I sewed on the button eyes before I began any decreases in the head; round 14, to be exact. Should you choose to follow in my stead, you definitely want to sew them on before you add any sort of stuffing, as the filler could be difficult to maneuver a needle around.

Just for kicks and giggles, I made her a little bow that can be removed. It's just a few rows of 3 sc attached to a chain of 28.

Overall, I give the pattern a 14/16, according to my rubric for reviewing patterns. I haven't found any other sources for the pattern besides Ravelry, which admittedly is an excellent source, still doesn't provide much accessibility for the pattern. There were no other discrepancies with the pattern besides those mentioned above and the accessibility of the pattern.

Here's a photo of Dina the Dino! Happy Stitching! xo

08 November 2013

Of Snowflakes & Starch

I honestly cannot believe how long I've been offline. I do sincerely apologize for that! I would blame it on the sinus infection I had at the same time my daughter had pneumonia, and my husband was at the beginning stages of a sinus infection, buuuut . . . that only lasted one week, and the rest of the time, well, I've just been lazy.

My latest endeavor is to make a bunch of pretty ornaments to post in the Etsy shop. Crochet snowflakes are some of the prettiest ornaments; perhaps even some of my favorites ever. You know, "girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes," for you Julie Andrews fans out there. So far, I've made some granny stars, and a few pretty little snowflakes. I'm also making a couple pairs of tiny snowflake earrings. I'm stoked!

One of my bigger pet peeves in the crochet world is the amount of folks who just don't know about starch. It seems that every photo of a doily depicts one that is extra floppy. I'm not saying they should be super duper stiff, but it seems more evident in my snowflake ornament research that more folks know to starch the ornaments than others. It just makes sense that if an ornament has to be starched, then so does a doily. They're both made of crochet thread. They're both used in decorations around the home and need to stand up to some use. If you want them to stay pretty, they should have some help keeping their shape, right?

So, my ornaments/earrings (just like my doilies after I've made them) have been hanging out in a cup full of starch all day. This is what I had to do to keep my lovely family out of the little cup they were in:

After hanging out there, they were stretched out ("blocked") on a piece of cork "bulletin" board with push pins. (It's so evident these were taken at different times of the day, because both were taken in the same area. Eep.) Here's a photo of the ornaments:

Aren't they pretty? I'm so excited about these little darlings! I'm even more excited to getting around to making even more! They make perfect gifts for those folks y'all just don't know how to shop, or even make for.

For a lovely little size comparison, here's a photo of one of the doilies I made for the centerpieces at my wedding back in June:

The ornaments ALL fit on one little 12x12 board. For the doily, I had to kind of tape the four together and fit it in the middle.

The solution that I used for both the ornaments and the wedding doilies is about 1:1. I wanted the wedding centerpieces to be stiffer than your average doily, since I made them months in advance, thus needing them to be able to stand up to the move and storage. Some of them even went to homes in California and Maine, so they needed to additionally stand up to the travel post-wedding. For a normal doily, I would use a solution of 2:1, water:starch.

Look for more photos of "my favorite things" that will be added to the shop soon!

Happy Stitching! xo