Thursday, April 29, 2010

Where Do You Knit or Crochet?

For those that have not, as of yet, been daring enough to bring their knitting or crochet out of the house and into the streets, this is for you.

That is my favorite thing about knitting and crochet; I can take it almost anywhere. And the projects come in different sizes so you have lots to choose from as to what you could work on. Since I always have several projects going on, I keep my projects that I need to concentrate on at home and I bring out those that don't require much thinking.

What are some of the places I take my projects? I told you that I volunteer at the Turtle Back Zoo. Well, I use to go to our monthly meeting and just listen. Then I saw someone else working on their knitting project. I just didn't think about it. I would bring reading to do because I would get there early, so there was waiting time. But I wasn't daring enough, for some reason to bring my projects. After seeing one of my fellow docents bring her knitting, which got me going. Now I bring it to every meeting and I do it before the meeting and during the meeting.

My aunt has been sick so I was taking her back and forth to different doctors. She asked me if I would mind. Of course not, I have my projects to work on as I wait. One time at the doctor's office the receptionist said to me, "I didn't even know you were here." I told her, "Just give me a corner and my crafts and I am good to sit and wait anywhere for any length of time."

Then there are times I wait, like at the dentist office, in line at a store, at a restaurant when meeting friends and at knit and crochet groups. I am a member of the Navesink Knitters Guild, so everyone is knitting or crocheting at that meeting -of course. There are times, not that often, that I am not driving, the projects are with me. My favorite is on public transportation. I use to go to New York a couple times a month, the projects and reading came along and made the trip so much more enjoyable. I have had several enjoyable conversations because I was working on a project.

I have a friend that was also displaced from her job, so we would take walks in the park for our exercise. After exercising I would sit in the park and work on my projects and do some reading - very relaxing. I multi-task, while I am talking on the telephone I work on a project. And believe it or not, while I am reading my emails (I taught myself how to knit and read – just knitting stockinette or garter stitch pattern). I get through a lot more emails as I do my straight knitting. I’m also building a skill.

I want to encourage more public knitting (KIP - Knitting In Public) and crochet. I always carry a bag with a project or two in it. One reason is, I never know where or when I will have to wait. It takes all the stress out of waiting. There have been several times I had my knitting in the car and I go in somewhere just to find out that there is a wait. I go back to my car to get my knitting and I can wait for hours while others are pacing or showing that impatient look and snarling. I’m just as happy and content. And it is a great conversation starter.

I can remember one time when there was a car accident one evening on my way home. I was so close to home, yet so far. The traffic was backed up and we were stuck on a bridge for an hour, as we waited for them to take care of the accident. I was tired that night but I was not going to waste that time. So I took the opportunity to clean out my supply bag, read, and of course, work on a project. Time flew for me, but not for the others as I watched them pacing and getting upset.

I always have a bag of something. Yes, I have been called ‘bag lady’, but baby I am not stressed, I’m just as calm, cool and collective. It's a beautiful thing.

So how many places can you name that you take your projects? Go on and make a list and see if you can add to that list by taking your projects out more.

What's on my needles?

Well, I wanted to cheer up a friend that is going through a very tough time. I am making her a lap blanket. I took the pattern stitch from the book, "200 ripple stitch patterns" by Jan Eaton. This is really a great book for a variety of ripple patterns you can create. The pattern stitch I chose is called 'Allsorts'. For those that are new at taking a pattern stitch and creating your project, here is what I did:

I picked out the yarn that I wanted to use. In this case, I am using Acrylic Loops & Thread - Impeccable, worsted weight yarn. The needle size is #8 circular. Then the question is, what size I want to make this lap blanket. I wanted the width to be about 45" and the length I would determine as I go along. The stitch multiple is 16 sts + 2. I estimated and multiplied 16 x 10 = 160 + 2 extra sts. That's what is great about creating your own pattern; you have the option of size. With blankets I don't usually worry about gauge because it is not something that needs to fit. If I wanted to make this an exact size, and to see how the pattern looks, I would make a gauge swatch in pattern for at least four repeats, measure to see how many inches one pattern is then multiply for the width. I used a knit cast-on (co) for 162 stitches. I followed the stitch pattern which already gives an extra stitch on each side in garter so as not to have it curl and I'm off to the finish line. I will post the end result when I am done.

I also wanted to try a crochet project with crochet cables. I did this blanket from a free on-line pattern. I knew it was going to be small but now I am thinking about a border that I would like to add. Time and thinking will tell what I choose. I will post again when I am done.

If you have any questions about the projects, just send a comment.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How To Build Your Skill Level - Part II

When you start to learn how to knit or crochet, what are you thinking about? What have you seen that you would like to learn how to do or make? If you already knit or crochet, how much would you like to learn or do? Have you ever wondered what makes a beginner vs. intermediate vs. advance in both needlearts?

The interesting point is, you can be a master in certain techniques but never try other techniques. That doesn't make you a beginner just because you haven't learned other areas of the needleart. It is so much to learn that you can't do everything. I let my students know that when they ask me a question and I don't know the answer, I don't know everything, but I can get the answer for them. And if a person tried to know everything that would take away half the fun of learning.

I wanted to continue to build my knowledge, so I was always looking for tools to help me. As I was searching the web I found a great chart that I used to track my skills in knitting. It came from the Washington State University. I am sharing the link to the chart - Needlework Skills Checklist - Knitting. I think it is a wonderful foundation piece. It can help a person track where they are and make new goals for learning. It increases your fun as you research what you don't know, as you check off what you do know. This chart helps anyone that would like to explore outside of their box or comfort zone. It also gives the basic to the advance skills to help you build on your knowledge.

You can use this chart as a guideline to help you create your own list. It's fun to set goals as to what you will learn next as you progress. Use your list to conquer your fears or discomfort by challenging yourself in learning something new. As you can see from the chart there is a lot to learn. This keeps that spark of excitement alive for the crafts. I also was able to make a chart for crochet. Since I am a teacher I would like to make sure that my skills continue to grow, this way I can help my students learn more and grow.

Take the time to make your wish list of learning and have fun with it.

Friday, April 23, 2010


What is passion, in this context? One definition that fits according to The American Heritage Dictionary is "boundless enthusiasm." That is exactly how I feel about the crafts. But wait, my blog is called 'My Journey With Yarn And Beyond'. That means I have other passions that brings boundless enthusiasm into my life. One other important passion of mine are animals.

When I was growing up I wanted to become a veterinarian. Well, that was changed when I found out that going to school to become a vet required me to dissect animals. Not for me. I would have started crying even before they brought the animal out. And one time while at a vet visit with our dog, the door was open enough for me to see this dog lying on the table, on his back, with tubs sticking out. That did it. One thing was missing, and that was someone to tell me that I didn't necessarily have to be a veterinarian. I could have been an assistant or have picked another job that didn't require such uncomfortable situations. I could have exposed myself in some form of the field and maybe could have eased myself into the bigger picture - becoming a vet.

For the years following I was half content with visiting every zoo I could get to and feeding every animal that was in need, as they crossed my path. The point I want to make to parents is, if your child has a passion for something, but also has a similar problem as I had with fears, then they need to be exposed early on to what they would like to do. It could be something as simple as an informational conversation with someone in that field. You could set up a fun research project with your child on the computer or go to the library to gather information, look at video clips or movies dealing with the particular field. This could help them combat their fears. By doing the research it also broadens the field giving you a list of alternative jobs. We live in such a wonderful informational world that the help we need to get where we want to go is out there.

Where there is a will there is a way. Why do I say that? As for me, after realizing that my passion for animals had not changed, I had a burning desire to find an alternative way to be involved with animals. I did try volunteering at a shelter and that didn't work for me. The first dog training I had, I walked the dog and looked at that face and said, "No I can't do this." I need to be somewhere that the chance of me bringing something home is slim. What was my alternative? Volunteering at a zoo. I always had my ears open to hear about how people were involved with animals and how I could maybe get involved.

Now I volunteer as a docent - 'volunteer educator' at the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ. It's like a dream come true. My love for animals did not land me a job in that field, but because of my boundless enthusiasm I didn't stop trying until I was involved in something I could enjoy that included animals.

On a personal note, I would like to ask you: Have you found your passion? Have you tried to volunteer in some form that includes your passion? If you are not involved in your passion, have you researched ways to be involved with your passion in some form? What stops you from going forward with your research results? If you haven't found your passion, then start with what gets you excited.

For me I had to dig back into my childhood to recognize what my true passions were. I want to put that out as a suggestion if you haven't found your true passion. It's worth the search and the journey. Then research to find ways to do it, even if it is volunteering.

I finished my baby blanket and I went to the baby shower on Sunday. She received some beautiful gifts. It was suggested that a book be given instead of a card. I thought that was a great idea since you can purchase books at the same price of a card and a library could be started right away. There were only two handmade items, mine and a blanket made by one of the grandmothers. This project is finished, now onto the next one.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How To Build Your Skill Level

I decided to go through a series of blog posts to give ideas of how to start building your skills in knit and crochet. Maybe you get intimidated by the needle art so you don't try. I want to encourage as many as I can to try it, and I can tell you there are many rewards. So for this post I just want to talk about ways that you can learn and grow in knit and crochet.

When I talk to students either in my classes or in knit groups, I am always curious as to how or when they learned. Is this the first time or are they returning to the craft. I find that people have learned in different circumstances. As I stated, I learned knitting from my aunt and crochet from the local library. So I had two separate ways that the needle art world was open to me. There are classes at a local yarn shop (LYS) or a local craft store such as; Michael's, ACMoore, and JoAnn Fabrics. What this has shown, in most cases, is having a group setting or one-on-one session with someone, be it a relative or friend, can help build your learning skills.

Today we are so fortunate. We are living in a huge informational world where that we are bombarded with information. Sometimes too much information on all kinds of subjects. We each have a different way we process information. Some written information is easier to some to pick up than others. At times, that can discourage us. Then there is the Internet that has a host of information. Some good and some not so well written. There is also video views that can be used to learn and grow if properly executed. We have the TV programs that can give us the feel of being right there in a classroom, such as; 'Knit and Crochet Today', until we have a question and then we can get lost. We have face-to-face instructional teaching, which requires someone to have patience, tack, and good teaching skills to pull it off or you loose the student. And there are group settings that can give you a start, such as knit and crochet groups that meet at local libraries, yarn shops, and churches.

The point is, information is out there for the taking. But as I stated, we all process information differently. Some of us need to see it, some can just read it. We need to understand how we process information so that we can choose the right source or combination.

For me, I am a visual person. I need to see it and try it myself to get it. To just read something I can get lost. But if I see it in person and try it, then it sticks in my brain. I always tell people that taking a class is a great way to get a good foundation on the basics. Once you understand the basics then there are all the other ways of picking up skills at your fingertips. But you need to learn the basics.

A class setting gives you the following: you will be able to ask questions and most times get the results right away, interact with other crafters (social activity), share ideas and skills, able to use the computer online info better after building basic skills; no one is able to cover all the information on the subject of knitting and crochet, nor do they have the time so your instructor does that for you, build confidence in doing something new since you will be around those of like skill level, and just to have fun.

As you can see there are many benefits to taking a class and many other avenues you can use to learn. Classes are not just for basic learning but can support you on completing your projects in any level. If learning in a class setting is for you, then look on the web under craft stores or yarn shops for your area and call to see if they offer classes.

My baby blanket is coming along and will be finished in time for the shower on Sunday. I will post the end result once I am finished.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Moving Forward

Today I'm actually having fun with my home-made photo shoot. I wanted to start uploading some photos of the projects that I've finished onto Flickr. It is so much fun dressing up my dress form with my finished work. I feel like I am at a studio getting the set ready for the photographer. Maybe I should find a job in advertising fashion. I love photography and fashion. Oh, there I go again delving into a new area. Coming back to what I was talking about, as I take a picture of each garment I reminisce on when approximately I made that piece and what I learned from making it. I don't want to just make something without learning. My goal always is to learn something new from each project.

I would like to encourage you to think about each project you pick out. What could you learn from that project? Are you picking out the same safe stitch patterns or have you delved into something new? Is there a new technique that you could learn from that project? Do they ask for a type of yarn that you haven't worked with before? Are there needles or hooks that you haven't worked with, such as double pointed needles for knitting or afghan hook for crochet? Have you made something that requires shaping? All these are just some of the new areas to explore and have fun with.

Skills are built by trying something that might not be so comfortable at first, but could bring such a feeling of satisfaction when you can say that you understand it and you got it. So don't be scared of the, 'oh I might not do it right or I can't do that, or that is out of my skill range'. If you need to take baby steps then do so, but don't stay a baby because you will miss out on all the fun and new things to learn. Make those leaps a little bigger every time you choose a new project and this will build your confidence more in what you love to do.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Where are the projects?

The last two weeks have been quite hard for me. After having to put my second cat down within a four month time frame, I just felt so sad. The house felt so empty without the meows and the jumping up in my lap and the other things that come with having a pet companion. I just didn't feel like even working on my projects. I surely didn't feel like writing on my blog.

But then, I remember how I am always talking to friends about how having a hobby is a stress reliever, very therapeutic and it keeps your mind from just always thinking about, in my case, my loss. So I knew I had to force myself to do something with my crafts. So I did. Nothing big or exciting, but it kept me busy. Crafting is great because it doesn't have to be anything spectacular, but something to keep your hands and mind busy and into the creative zone.

The needle arts and crafts is such a passion of mine (knitting, crochet, beading and sewing), I always have something brewing on my needles and hooks. I'm new to the world of beading. But I can tell you that beading has brought a new level of appreciation to knitting and crochet. I am amazed at what can be created as they are combined or done separate. My sewing machine and serger will be catching up soon.

It's the excitement of seeing the end result. It's the creativity and enjoyment that keeps me saying: "Just one more stitch, one more row." I know I have lots of company out there when I say that. It might even be you reading this post.

One of my favorite words is 'variety'. In the past, my variety was delving into different interests outside of the craft world. As I return so strongly, I see the great variety in front of me. The craft world is endless in itself of the possibilities of things to learn and do. I stated in an earlier post that quote 'being a master of none'. I said that because I just love learning new things, and being a master of anything in particular was not on my rector scale. But this time around, as I return to doing my crafts, I am becoming that master in my own right. Not comparing myself with someone else and what they can do, but what I can do and that I'm good at it.

That's what stops some of us from doing more of what we enjoy, comparing ourselves with others and what they can do or how well they can do it. We have to be the creators of our own creativity and greatness with the crafts. If we look at all the new books out there on crafts and what things are being talked about and being done, we would know that there is always room for one more creative person, such as you and I. So don't compare yourself with someone else, but become your own person as you find your place in the craft world.

What are the projects at hand?

This is a stretch bracelet that I made. It is very easy. I used several different beads and arranged them so that the end result would be three separate sections and when it is twisted together there will be three rows of different beads. I am using transparent stretchy illusion cord and an adhesive called -Bead Fix for the glue. The total length of the stringed beads is 24 1/2" for my wrist, which is 7" around. That includes the extra beads I added for ease so that it could move on my wrist. But I tried it on after I thought it was enough beads to make sure that it would not be too stretchy. That is the key. To look at the project to make sure it is the way you want it to look before you apply the glue.

When you have completed stringing all the beads and you have checked your work, tie the two ends together in a knot. Do not cute your tail ends off yet. You want to make sure that the beads are taut but not too tight where that the beads buckle on the cord. So check the whole string of beads before applying the glue. The adhesive is very strong so you want to make sure it doesn't get on your hands or on the beads as you apply it because it doesn't come off too easily. You only need a couple of drops placed on the knot to secure your cord. To apply the glue, use your fingers to stretch the cord a little so that the knot does not touch the beads, apply the glue, hold in that position for a minute to let the glue set, then set the bracelet aside to completely dry. I wait until the following day then I wear it. You are ready to wear your finished masterpiece.

It's a fun project because you need to use your imagination to think of what beads you will use, in what order, and what end result you are after. Of course, that is the method of madness that you use when you are beading in general. I say, "method of madness" because you get into this creative mode and you start trying to think, 'should it be this way or that way, should I use this bead or that bead'. It can make you go crazy with fun and excitement to see the end result. If you have any questions about this project just ask me. Just have fun.

One of my knitting projects (I have several) is this Domino Potholder from Vivian Hoxbro's book: 'Domino Knitting'. It is a great way to start trying out mitered squares.

Another project I have is this knitted baby blanket called Cradle Comfort from an earlier copy of Family Circle book on Easy Afghans.

This pattern is a great way for beginner knitters to expand their skills. With this blanket you are mostly knitting and purling but you have a chart pattern to follow, which helps you to learn how to read a basic chart. You do have to pay attention to where you put the knit and purl stitches to get the right pattern result. There are only two main symbols and the pattern has a cable panel on each side of the chart. Because it is a left cable slant on one end and a right cable slant on the other end, you are able to practice a simple cable using both the right and left twist. This book is an older issue and it will be hard to find. I found it at one of my local libraries. But again, the key to learning and growing is stepping into a new place as you go forward. No matter if it is knitting, crocheting or sewing you can go at your pace, but experiment with something new with each project.

If you haven't worked on a chart or cabling, then find a simple pattern, similar to what I described that includes something new to learn. I will post the end result of both projects when they are completed.

Happy crafting!

Friday, April 9, 2010

At The Beginning

It's a little blury, but I know I started at about 10 years old. My aunt is a knitter so she taught me how to knit. I really enjoyed it. Then I learned how to crochet from a local library. I picked that up. We had home economics in school and I remember the first item that I made in sewing class - an apron. I was so happy to be able to say I made that apron. And that started my love for the crafts.

When I think of my exposure when I started I didn't have a good selection of yarn or patterns. Of course there were fabric shops so I was able to get fabric I liked. I would stay up until 2:00 am and sew. I loved sewing first, then came crocheting and then knitting. Money was tight, so I used my crafts to make some spending money.

There is a saying: "Jack of all trades, master of none." For me, that meant I love learning something new and doing something new, but then I would go on to the next new thing to learn. I got involved with other enjoyments. I veered away from my crafts for a while. I gave away my whole set of steel crochet hooks. I loved that set in its green rolled up pouch. I didn't have a lot of supplies or stash to talk about at that time. Well, I guess that is what they call time for shopping. I did keep two pieces that I made over 20 years ago. One is from my knitting and one is from sewing. (see my pictures below) I kept one ripple afghan.

One never knows where life will lead you. So I'm back and with vengeance. I mean I am learning, growing, creating and having more fun than ever. The order of my crafts have changed. It is now knitting, crochet and I've added beading, then sewing. Things are so different since I first learned. The variety of yarn, supplies, patterns, stitches, and techniques are endless. It's like learning all over from scratch. It's like going into a candy store and not knowing which candy to buy. I want to learn and do everything and try everything in the world of knit and crochet. It is such an exciting time and so needed.

The crafts I talk about have become my passion. I wake up, go to bed, eat, and sleep with crafts on my mind. I'm on a new adventure and loving it all.