Monday, May 31, 2010

Can We Stop Learning?

If you have had the thought that ones who have been knitting and crocheting for years don't make mistakes or that they know everything or that they don't get stuck on a pattern, I am here to change your thinking on that.

There is no perfection anywhere, even though we might feel we are close to it. We improve our skills and continue to grow. No one knows it all. You just can't do it. There is too much out there to know. I am in a constant class of learning. If I knew everything then there would be nothing else to learn. That would be too boring for me.

We all make mistakes and sometimes they are whoppers. Doing anything we love is a constant learning experience. And because there are several ways of doing the same thing (example: casting on in knitting), then we can constantly grow our skills.

When we are working on our projects there are distractions and oops did I do that, and they happen and will continue to happen from time to time. There are times you can't remember a pattern stitch. Why? Because there are so many pattern stitches to choose from. If you keep learning new ones, then you might need to refresh your memory on one you learned in the past. That is alright. And aren't we glad about that because we could never say that we are bored, unless we stop learning and doing.

The way you learn includes making mistakes. I tell my students that if you always did things right you would not be able to help someone else or just in case you messed up, after leaving your world of perfection for a second or two, you could not get yourself out of a tough spot. And you would not be expanding your mind on the what if's.

Do you get the point? We all make mistakes and we are learning together. Maybe at different levels or on different things. The point is, as I always say, have fun! And appreciate your errors because you will make them if you continue to learn.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Beading Projects In The Works

As I have stated, I love beading. But of course, all the other knit and crochet projects get in the way of me beading more. Not a problem because I love them all. So I bead when I can. I am having fun with it and if you haven't tried beading then I would recommend doing a small project with not a lot of beads so that you can get the hang of it first.

Here are my projects at hand.

Both of the projects below are free patterns designed by Lily Chin from the Knit and Crochet Today site. The first project is my knitted beaded bag that needs to be blocked and lined to finish it off. I love diamonds, yes the ring kind also, but making the diamond pattern will have to do. This bag is heavy after I knit it up. Using this pattern helps you to start reading a chart. You have to follow it closely or your pattern will be off. A couple of times after working some rows I looked at it and found that the pattern was off by one bead. That is all it takes.

It is so much fun seeing it evolve and the pattern forming. But you learn from this pattern to pay attention to what you are doing, to where you are at on the chart, and how to spot check between the chart and your project. There is a cost to not paying attention to the pattern. Either you have to some frogging (take needle out of stitches and rip the rows down to mistake)or tink (knit spelt backwards and this means undo one stitch at a time to the mistake) if you miss a bead or mess up the pattern flow. You really don't want to do that if you are not use to beading. And even if you are use to beading you don't want to waste time because you are so excited about getting it done so you can see the finished piece.

Right sideWrong side

I am also finishing up a round crochet bag with beads. I need to finish sewing the zipper in and finish making the strap. The yarn I used is Cotton Craft Fine Woollans, 100% Pure Wool - 1 ply. It really worked out beautifully. This is yarn I got from Stitches East Knitting Convention a while back. But sometimes you just need time to figure out what you would like to use your stash for.

When you use this pattern you learn how to work in the round, sew two round pieces together, work with beads in multi-color, learn how to put the right colors together, and working all the stitches together (single crochet, double crochet, half double crochet, and post stitches).

Try it, you will like it. And if you have any questions, please comment and I will answer.

This crochet bracelet pattern came from the book "Hooked on Jewelry". It's called the Jade and Cinnabar Bracelet. I didn't use jade beads but I love how it came out. I need to finish it by attaching a couple of seed beads, bead cones, and a big bead center using eye pins. It took me several tries to make this because it is black yarn working with black beads using a size B hook. And then there is the problem of seeing what I am doing. But after putting it down a few times and picking it up and being determined to work with black on black with a small size hook, I made it through.

Happy beading!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Zoo Days

I usually only volunteer at Turtle Back Zoo on every other Saturday, but I went for the whole weekend. I had a great time. For both days the weather was beautiful and walking around the zoo was really nice. The humidity was not high so the animals were active.

On Saturday, I watched the prairie dogs run around and play with each other. They make you laugh. Two were sliding down the hill and then would crouch down as a cat does, then go after each other.

Every time I am there I can't wait to visit Bogart the elk. I have to see how much more his antlers have grown. You know they fall off every year and he grows new ones. They are not like horns that stay with the animal their whole life. It is so fascinating to watch the process from a little stump, to a bigger stump with fuzz, to a full blown beautiful rack. And they grow a little bigger every year - amazing.

I took a few pictures of the animals to post to show you who is there at the zoo.

This crow is my favorite, besides the snakes. He says hello. It is so cute. I know most people don't know that crows can be trained to talk. When I figure out how to attach a video, I will let you hear him.

My favorite crow

Red Panda

Usually, the bats are sleeping since they are nocturnal animals, meaning that they sleep in the day time and come out at night. But this fellow decided to walk around and make him known to the visitors. It was so neat to watch him walk upside down across the ceiling grid. A rat with wings but they are so cute.


Peaches the Alligator

This is one of the Wallaby's and she has a Joey (baby) sticking out of her pouch. I waited and waited until the baby wanted to stick his head out. You know you must have patience with animals. First he stuck the top of his head out and then he turned around in the pouch and stuck out his tail. But then, after patiently waiting, he stuck his head out enough to take a picture. Look carefully because he blends right in with the mother. I'll show some updates once he comes fully out of the pouch. They are so cute.

Wallaby with Joey

My main reason for becoming a docent was to spread how we should have respect for animals and what we could learn from them. Even if you are not a true fan of animals, you can still respect them. That's why I am so glad to be an animal handler at the zoo. No I do not handle the lions and tigers and bears. Oh, we don't have lions and tigers. But we do have black bears. They look so cuddly - from a far of course. But we have presentations on the small animals.

My favorites are the reptiles. I love, love, love snakes. I can't feed them, but I love to hold them. I love to compare their different skin tones, patterns and size. I think it is so interesting to look at the different patterns and know that where they come from they use that for camouflaging. They can just blend in.

On Sunday, I handled the ball python and the box turtle. Because it was so sunny we took them outside instead of staying in the classroom. They are cold blooded so they need the heat from the sun to keep their temperature up to warm their bodies.

Now the box turtle is very interesting because you can at least know if you have a girl or a boy turtle by the color of their eyes. The male has red eyes and the female has brown eyes. So simple, which I like. And they are called a box turtle because they have like a hinge on the bottom of their shell, which if they are threatened or scared they can stick their head and legs in and shut their shell as if they were shutting a door - remarkable.

I've learned a lot since I have volunteered at the zoo. And there is so much more to learn. That's why I keep volunteering because I am eager to learn more. Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Knit The Potato Chip Scarf

I am writing a blog page on the potato chip scarf. I don't know where this scarf pattern originated, but it was given to me on an index card at one of the knit groups. There were eight rows for the pattern and the person that gave it to me was wondering why it was not working. I had no picture so I started making the scarf. I found out that the eighth row was the problem. After deleting that row the scarf evolved into a nice long row of ruffles. Because several in the group were making this scarf and there was this mystery and questions about it, I thought I would break it down so that others can also make it without any problems.

So let's dissect this pattern.

First and foremost, it is important to understand your pattern. This pattern uses short rows. What are short rows? They are working a portion of the row, then turning and working again those same stitches for the next row. This is a great pattern to learn about short rows, because there is a lot of practice in working this scarf up.

You have four numbers to work the short rows in this pattern. They are 20, 8, 6, and 4. The 20 are the total number that you start with as well as repeat after working the short rows of the 8, 6, and 4. It will get clearer as you start the scarf.


For my sample, I used #8 needles and worsted weight yarn. My scarf length is 32". For your scarf you can go by the needle size on your yarn label or you can play with yarn and needles to see what affect you get. Bottom line is, it depends on the weight of the yarn and the look you want when you complete the scarf as to the needle size. Since it is a scarf a gauge count is not necessary. This is a great project to play with different yarns to see what you get.

Note: You will not see the potato chips curl until you have done at least 3 inches or 35 rows, depending upon what yarn and needle size you are using. This was the one thing that confused people. They would start the scarf; take it out, start over looking for the curl. Just continue not looking for the curl right away. Your piece will not look the same as if you were working straight rows because you are working short rows.

Cast on 20 stitches

Row 1: Knit 20 stitches, turn

Row 2: Knit 8 sts, turn
(side note: you are knitting each row so when you turn, the yarn should be in the back as it is when you are knitting)

Row 3: Knit 8 sts, turn

Row 4: Knit 6 sts, turn

Row 5: Knit 6 sts, turn

Row 6: Knit 4 sts, turn

Row 7: Knit 4 sts, turn

Repeat rows 1-7 for the length you want.

As you can see, each number except for the foundation row of 20 is worked twice. This is the flow of short rows.

This completes seven rows of one side.

Now you have to get to the other side to work seven rows on that side. Making it clearer, I will call it the right and the left side. You are working back and forth completing seven rows on the right side then working across all stitches (row one) to get to the left side to do the same thing. This creates the ruffles.

Continuing with the pattern of rows 1 - 7. You are repeating all rows to get the mirror affect for both sides.

Let's go back to the beginning. When you get done with the 7 rows on each side, you will see the beginnings of what will look like two potato chips. Can you see them? Well, just continue and it will start to become noticeable.

Another problem is when you might have to put your work down and pick it up, which row did you leave off on. The best thing is to write it down before you put it down. But sometimes you don't have time to do that.

The illustration below shows that there is an indentation at each place when you work the three repeats (8, 6, and 4). Because you are working in short rows it is almost a small hole that is there since that one stitch is a tad bit higher because you are not working across the whole row.

Continue with the pattern. Put it around your neck to see how long you would like it. There is no specific length. This is your project so create it as long or as short as you would like. When you get to the length you would like, bind off across all stitches. Believe it or not, when you bind off the scarf it will curl the same as when you started, showing two potato chips.

Try this scarf. It is great as an accent to what you are wearing and you can make it as long as you want, try different yarns, and in any color. Great for gift giving too.

Have fun and don't be intimidated by this. If you have any questions, please post a comment and I will answer. I'd love to know how your scarf came out.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Just Some Yarn, Needles, or Hook

I had to share this with you. This shows how you never know how you touch someone's life, in a good way. I was talking with one of the ladies from the knit group that I started on Thursday’s. I told her she made my day and that this is when it is all worth it. Why? Because she told me that she had lost her husband of 50 years, five years ago. Can you imagine, 50 years – Wow! And that put her in a slump.

She came to the knitting group starting August of 2009. I can’t believe how time flies. She crochets beautifully. But she didn’t know how to read a pattern. So I started her with a basic pattern, not for the crochet, because she knew that, but for the pattern reading. I can’t remember what the first project was, but she made it. Then weekly she would ask me for another pattern and another pattern. We went over the things she didn’t understand and we discussed why sometimes the pattern is wrong and why sometimes things are not written as we might think they should be, to make it easier to follow. The weeks went by and in between our meet up she would sometimes struggle with a pattern but never quit.

Now she is reading patterns and enjoying the end result of what she has made. She told me that before she would crochet only what she knew, but now being able to read a pattern has opened her world to stitches and patterns she never thought she would make. Wow, I am so happy for her. It has helped her get out of her slump, she has a place to come and enjoy other crafters, and she is able to grow with every new thing she learns. It is so therapeutic.

She has also taken out a couple of patterns that were on her wish list. You know those patterns that become the ‘one day I will’. Well that one day has come. She has started on a sweater she had wanted to make but didn’t understand the pattern. I’m happy because she is happy and so excited. She also has found a couple of items that she started making but didn't finish. You know those UFO's (unfinished objects). Well, she wants to get back to those. To hear the excitement in her voice was great. And I was just as excited for her.

I told her that I had a pilot class at the library over two years ago just to start my teaching experience. I had no intention of starting a knit group. It was one of those things that just happened. And here after two years the group has grown and there are those that are just hearing about it now.

I want to encourage you to take a class in pattern reading, if you don't know how to read one. It is so beneficial for growing more in the needle arts. As I have said before, there is so much to learn and do and it is all exciting once you understand the written words and not to forget the chart reading also. Again I will repeat myself, it is nice when people at the knit groups help you with your project, but it is so much better to get the full understanding of patterns in order to pick up any pattern and dissect it so that you can understand so much more.

It just shows what you can get from just some yarn, needles or hook. Try it, you’ll like it. And if you already are in it, then expand your knowledge by trying a new technique or stitch pattern.

Happy crafting!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Yesterday, I went to a small festival event at a local senior citizen center. This was their third time having this cultural event. It was created to display items and some food from the different countries that people in the area are from. Some even dressed in their beautiful native garb. I wanted to support one of the ladies from one of the knitting groups I attend. I also enjoy cultural events. You can learn so much about the country, people, and food.

As I looked at the different items displayed from the countries represented, I could see also commonalities across countries. Asian, European, and Spanish countries were represented. It is so fascinating to look at how things are made or what is used in the process, such as embroidery. The person who I knew told me that in the Ukraine, you can tell from the embroidery what part of the country the item is from. It's like a secret code. Having these festivals is what keeps the culture alive.






I thought of the link that we as knitters and crocheters have amongst us, no matter what country we are from. The groups that I belong to make up several different nationalities and countries. One person had a knitting book from Russia. Beautiful stitches. I was so excited to look at it. Even though it was written in the Russian language, the pictures talked to me as I could see commonalities within the stitches that they use and the stitches that we use. And you pick up new stitch patterns that you would not normally see. How exciting!

Having the knit and crochet groups, festivals, and conventions is what keeps the knitting and crochet world alive (go to the May 2nd post to find a few links).

As I sit and listen to classical music, I think of how timeless it is. Great composers are long gone, but their masterpieces still excite us and calm us down. How many times, I think of, that I went to concerts to listen to Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi and other greats. I also have CD's of their music. But there are musicians and orchestra's that present the music with more flare and deliver it a little better than others.

This can also be said for knitting and crochet. It has been around for a long time, no matter if you started knitting or crocheting when you were young, let it go for a long while, then returned, it is still here. The way you feel as you work your needles and/or hook, there is that calming affect that it gives. It is very therapeutic, as is classical music. Also, when we have a pattern that a few make the same pattern, you can see the individuality of each person in the end result. The pattern might be changed a little, the color chosen makes a difference, extras are added, such as embroidery or beads. That's why we need to keep the needle arts alive and pass them along.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I have three areas that I have tapped into throughout my life that has really sustained me through my journey. The three areas are: hobbies, travel, and volunteering. From a child, onto today, I have always volunteered in some form. What is the definition of a volunteer? A volunteer is a person who offers to do something without being told to do it. To give without being forced to do so.

People get the wrong idea that volunteering will take up so much of their time. No, because there are so many avenues that you can volunteer in. To give you a couple of examples, I took a trip to Staten Island to visit the Botanical Gardens and on walking towards the gardens I noticed a place that I thought, was an art exhibit. But it turned out to be a place that they give art classes. While talking with the women there, she mentioned about volunteering. I told her that I didn't live in the area and it would be too much of a distance for me to travel on a regular basis. She proceeded to tell me that they had this mailing that needed to go out and she wanted to know if I had an hour to spare. Well, I did and I ended up staying for two hours, just to help with the mailing. She was very appreciative and I went on to go to the gardens. To help out just took a couple of hours. Then there was the food bank. They needed people to come in and separate the food that had come in. I went on a Saturday, mid-day and stayed until it ended. That just took one half a day. Habitat for Humanity was so much fun. It was just one day and we got a lot done. I just wanted to show you that there is such a variety out there to volunteer for and time required is at your discretion.

The point is, volunteering need not be looked at as huge. It is finding the right match for the time that you have to give. I mentioned that I am a volunteer at the Turtle Back Zoo. Well, that requires a more scheduled amount of time, which I was all too happy to give since one of my main loves are animals.

One other reason that people do not volunteer is not knowing where to go or how to start their search. At my former place of employment, that was one great thing about the company. They believed in giving back to the community and beyond. I truly enjoyed all of the volunteering and committees that I was a part of. That experience expanded my volunteer list of opportunities to give back. It also built leadership skills.

For me, I centered on things that I love. But throughout my life I always volunteered in some way with the elderly. I've always enjoyed being around the elderly because they are the history and knowledge that we could learn from. They can make us smarter in life's decisions, if we only would listen to their advice. They can save us a lot of heartache. But unfortunately, not enough of us want to listen to avoid the pain. And they have wonderful stories to tell of their life journey, which can be very enjoyable to listen to.

I volunteered to help the seniors with their knitting and crochet at a senior center. It was fun. They had me laughing all the time. One of the seniors wanted to make a two piece bikini bathing suit, another one wanted to make a mini skirt. They would shout out to hide their work when I was coming around because they knew I like ripping things out. So they would make a joke out of it. But they had a lot of fun and it gave them something enjoyable to do.

With knitting and crochet there are many ways to volunteer your time, energy, and finished items to different charity organizations. Giving back is a real reward that makes you feel so good.

At the knitting groups there are different items that are donated. There are the preemie blankets, hats, booties for the hospitals and other organizations. You can make an afghan, hat or scarf for the homeless or less fortunate. Coats & Clark sponsored a scarf gathering project. They wanted to donate 5,000 scarves to the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Idaho. I made four scarves and sent them off. It was such a great feeling to know that I had a part in making someone happy to recieve an extra thank you gift for their efforts. The opportunity is out there, you just have to tap into it.

The knitting/crochet group on Thursday are making squares for at least two afghans to give to a charity. It just takes one square to make a difference. But as knitters and crocheters, we just can't do one. As our fingers start we are driven to do more. As of this month, we are starting with 12 squares. The deadline is October 1st, and then it is time to seam them together. That part is not everyone's favorite, including me, but seeing the end result will be worth it. I will give updates as the squares pile up.

12 squares and counting!

Preemie blankets for hospital

For knitting and crochet you can check with a local knit group, hospital or senior center for a couple of ideas. I am including a charity listing at that I found on line. Just do your research on the charity that you choose to make sure what they have been doing and how successful they have been.

Have fun giving back!

Monday, May 3, 2010

More On The Festival Scene

I had to split my conversation about the festival in two parts since I couldn't upload all my pictures that I wanted to share. I was talking with someone about the festival and they asked me what did I buy. I said nothing. They couldn't believe it. Then I started thinking about my travels in the past. Travel is another passion of mine and I did my fare share. But when I traveled, my focus was not on yarn shops. I would look for museums, zoos, aquariums, but no yarn shops.

Now with the absence of good yarn shops and craft stores just makes me sick to think that I didn't take advantage of my traveling. To also think of the treasures I could have found along the way. Now that I can’t afford to travel, but I have returned to the needle arts, I am dying to get to yarn shops all over. It just makes me kinda nuts. And it is so sad to think that there were so many yarn shops years ago and now the number has dwindled down because of this economy.

You see, first my place was mostly fabric (still have my stash). Then it became a yarn shop, and now I have added beads. So it is all three and I need more room.

The Sheep and Wool Festival (cont)

There are a few other events at the festival that I really enjoy. One is the fiber arts contest that they have with the different items that are submitted. They also showcase photography. There was a variety of items made from different fibers and techniques. Some of the items were: shawls, sweaters, rugs, dress, hats, and gloves. I would love to know what the judges are looking for. You could look at something and say that it looks great, but the judge sees something else. There were tags on some with notes from the judges on their thoughts. So I read what they commented on. It's all fun and you can learn from what others are doing.

It is also interesting to go through the vendor booths and look at their samples. You can see what they have made and can get ideas of what you might want to make. A lot of the yarn is hand died with beautiful colors. That also can spark an idea of shades that go together as you look at the variegated yarns. So it's not always about buying, but about getting those creative juices going for that next or future project.

Sheep Dog Demonstration

Sheep Competition

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What Is Happening In The Knitting World?

Today all the rave in the knitting world is belonging to knit groups. I go to five knit groups. There are those that crochet, but most people knit that come to the groups. I have really enjoyed the knitting groups that I have attended. I started a knitting group, which is growing and it has been going on for two years. To concentrate fully on my own projects I joined other knit groups. This gives me an opportunity to meet new people, with like minds and enjoy conversations about crafts.

There is talk about going to a knit group instead of a class. They each have their own role they play. Knit groups are great, but a class can take you further into the world of knitting and crochet. Don’t pidgin yourself just in a knit group because there is so much to learn.

I am a knit and crochet teacher and I love to teach. But I also love to learn. That's why I try to go to Stitches East every year so that I can learn the latest and continue to improve my skills. When you take up a class you learn within your level and not just help with a project. There are people who love to help you at a knit group, but they are mainly there to work on their own projects and socialize.

I will continue to encourage class participation. I see the benefits when you are able to concentrate on specific techniques or stitches for a given amount of time. It's a foundation that you continue to build on. Or, you might be that fortunate one that has a close friend or family member that will be there for all your questions and to teach you beyond the basics.

The festival fever has started. Some crafters have already started at the beginning of the year. I was suppose to go to Pittsburgh for the annual Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival, but they had a lot of snow and I don't do snow for driving that distance.

The Down Cellar yarn shop is one of the knitting groups that I joined. They were giving a bus trip to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival on May 1st. I've been twice, but a friend of mine that has never been to one wanted to go, so we signed up.

Well I got up at 3:00am, since I had a little bit of a drive. We ended up leaving late, but we got to the festival safe. We had fun on the bus. Breakfast was served, which was really nice and tasty, prizes were given as each person's name was called. We got a chance to meet fellow crafters and compare notes and experiences. It took a little over 3 hours to arrive. The festival was held at the Howard County Fairgrounds; West Friendship, Maryland. There were a lot of attendees, as the bus inched its way through the traffic to park. That cost another half hour wait.

It was a beautiful start of the day with the weather but then the heat and humidity went up to around 91 degrees. It was hot. We endured the heat because we wanted to enjoy the festival and head back to the bus by 3:45pm.

My favorite part of the festival is to see all of the animals. I love to be able to pet the baby alpaca's and see all of the different kinds of sheep. The different texture, thickness, softness of hair is amazing. To see them before they get sheared and then the after is interesting. Then there are the sheep dogs. They have the demonstration of how the sheep dog rounds up the sheep and directs them into the pen. They are so smart; you can see how much they enjoy working. Of course there are the vendors. Unfortunately, I was on a budget so I didn't buy anything. You could tell how the economy really hurt the vendors. I didn't see a whole lot of people buying but more looking. Even those that took the bus trip didn't buy a lot. That part is sad to see because we need to support the vendors.

All in all it was a good day. I was so tired on the way back that I fell asleep. If you haven’t been to a sheep and wool festival it’s a must do. I am adding the link to the year calendar of around the world Knitting Events in 2010. Check it out. You just might see one that you would like to attend.

Here are some pictures from my trip to the Sheep and Wool Festival and I will add more on future posts.

As I stated in other posts, I always have reading and at least one project with me. But sometimes there is a disconnect and this day was one of them times. I had brought a baby blanket that I wanted to start on. However, I couldn't start it. The concentration of both listening to conversations and trying to count just was not happening. It was too many distractions. Every time I tried to count I got messed up. Then I would try again. I told myself to put it down, but I didn't listen. I tried to do the first two rows and it didn't match the pattern count. That taught me never to try and start something on a bus trip. I need to start it at home and really have a good section done to see if it is something that I could concentrate on in a crowd. Just a tip that I am passing along.

This is the same thing that happens at knit groups. You could bring a project to work on but find out that you just can't concentrate on it in a crowd. I had a backup project. We were making wash cloths that will be stuffed with toiletries for Haiti relief. The yarn and the pattern were provided; all I had to do was bring my knitting needles. So it kept us busy as well as being able to give back to a good cause. I have to finish mine and bring it to the knit group tomorrow.