Friday, January 25, 2013

Crochet Stash-Buster Challenge

So how long did it take all you crochet "hookers" out there to build up a sizable stash of yarn?

It really didn't take me very long at all. Shortly after I began, my guy and I took a trip by train to Portland, and... well, lets just say I needed to buy an extra luggage bag to fit all my new yarn (and other stuff too though!)

Then, only a week ago, my stash exploded again. Michael's, whose daily deals and weekly coupons I follow religiously, had a huge sale on their entire stock of Lily's Sugar 'n Cream yarn.

So naturally, I bought about fifty skeins of that yarn. And a few other types that just happened to fall into my basket. And then I went back again the next day for more.

My boyfriend isn't pleased with my new yarn hoarding. (Even though he threw in some extra yarn during that Michael's trip!) Such a strange man.

But just yesterday, I was visiting my local yarn shop to replace a wooden crochet hook that my mom's dog chewed up, and they had a new Bamboo/Silk yarn! Finally! I just looooove bamboo silk yarn, but I have yet to let myself buy any. Even then, staring at the new pretty supply, I stayed strong. I told myself that I had to make good progress on all my Sugar 'n Cream washcloths and blankets that I'm planning before I could buy new yarn.

Man, that was hard. It's hard even talking about it. Especially since I'm pretty sure that yarn had a sale sign above it... I'm not sure though. It can be difficult to tell in that store.

But anyway, this all has a point. I was blog hopping yesterday, and came across this lovely link-up Challenge:

Linda's Crafty Corner - see sidebar for link

Basically the challenge is just what it sounds; several crocheters pledging to make a dent in their stash this year, and sharing their wonderful progress every week/month.

So this sounds just perfect to me. I'm already planning on working through my stash, and this way I get to stay in the world of blogging as well. I know I've been ignoring this blog lately; it's hard to be crafty when you are stowing away in your parents' spare bedroom for nearly a year... yes that is just an excuse and I know it, but it's also a truth. However, my boyfriend and I should be finally purchasing our new home next month, if we don't run into any more problems; then, look out blogging world!

Anyway, back to the challenge. I'll have a set day every week - probably Sunday - where I'll show you my Sugar 'n Cream stash projects. Get ready to look at loads of washcloths each week.

This isn't even close to all of my Sugar 'n Cream yarn, as I had already been working through it.

Look, my new camera has a nifty watercolour effect

Look, my camera also adds sparkles to my pretty yarn

And in between my posts, follow that link and check out all the other bloggers with their progress! I'm sure we'll be seeing lots of exciting projects from them all.

I'm coming for you, bamboo silk yarn.....

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Learning to Crochet

Hello everybody! How is your year going?

I'm so proud that I've kept going on crochet! I usually would have given up on something that I didn't quite understand by now... but guess what? When you stick with something, you eventually leave confusion behind and cross over the border into understanding.

Now, I know tons of you are already avid crocheters/knitters. This post probably won't be terribly helpful to you, but I wanted to post some things for the beginners out there while it is still fresh in my mind.

Bear with me, at least two of these may sound like ridiculous problems. But I know I can't be the only one who struggled with them, so here are my tips (in no particular order)!

Front, Back, or Both Loops?

I laugh at myself now, but when I first started I really didn't know where to put my stitches.

Yes those stitches are supposed to be different sizes, for those who were doubting my skills

Do I go in just the front "string?" Just the back? Through both? I swear to you, I could not find the answer to this anywhere for at least a week. Now, of course, I see it in every video or picture I come across, but I tell you they weren't there when I needed them!

So, the answer is: go wherever you want!

But really, the default way is to go in through both loops, as in the picture above. Going in through only one loop, however, creates some texture on your finished piece as that stitch is forced to the front or back just a little bit. So feel free to experiment!

How to Hold the Yarn?

I looked at so many videos, trying to copy how the "hookers" held their yarn. And each way just felt too weird. Of course, so did my way, as I had the yarn wrapped up and over each finger on my hand. (I must have looked like a dork)

Just keep it simple, get some inspiration from others if you need it, but ultimately go with what feels comfortable. There isn't a wrong way, as long as the yarn gets to move when it needs to.

Practice Yarn

I read on several websites that you should start with acrylic yarn in a worsted weight, and a solid, light colour that is easy to see.

I agree with most of that statement, except for the solid colour. When you are first learning, nothing is harder than differentiating between the stitches you should be going into next and the stitches that you already did/need to be ignoring. So what do I recommend?

A yarn that is solid, with several flecks of colour added in. Here's an example (that doesn't show up well here):

Lily's Sugar 'n Cream Original, Potpourri Ombre, 100% cotton, worsted weight. I LOVE this brand.

I recommend this because it is SO nice to have those little colour markers. I just started using this for a project (a couple months after I began crocheting), and only now am I realizing where each part of my completed stitches come from. I can look at my double crochet stitch as I'm creating it and see:

"Oh, of my three loops, the middle one is coloured purple. And when I finish the stitch, that purple loop ends up on the right side in the body of the stitch."

And when the top of your evil turning chain just happens to be glowing bright blue? Man, will you be grateful you used this yarn.

One more thing; even though this yarn is not acrylic, I think it works perfectly well as a starting yarn. Cotton does stick just a little to the crochet hook (whether you use aluminum or wood), but not that much. As a bonus, this yarn very rarely splits on you, and splitting is (or was for me) a big problem when you are first starting out. Okay, so that was two more things.

Roll your Yarn into a Ball

Don't be fooled by the pretty little ovals or oblong skeins that yarn comes in; that is for display only. Crocheting from those will work kind of fine at first, but they are not sustainable shapes and your yarn will eventually fall apart and dance its way into one big knot when you aren't looking. Plus, as a ball the yarn takes up much less space.

Just take the time to roll each yarn into a ball. Don't try to get all fancy here like I did once again (I just love to complicate things), just take one end and start curling and rolling it into itself until it begins to form a ball. And then keep wrapping until you reach the other end. Done!

There are some tutorials out there on how to roll your yarn into different kinds of useful balls, but I haven't tried any of them just yet. Instead, I just roll a normal ball that fits perfectly into...

Where to Put the Active Yarn?

...a teapot!

That's right, I work out of a teapot. You may have seen this floating around Pinterest already, as it is simply a brilliant idea. It's so nice for on-the-go crocheting, as it keeps the yarn in one place. No more yarn balls bouncing around the bowling alley for me!

In addition to being a great container, the teapot is also a great conversation starter (if you're into that sort of thing). I've had tons of people come up and ask me what in the world I am doing. What is NOT okay is when they grab the teapot and open it to see what's inside. Don't touch my teapot, punks.

The Best Information Center

Way too long after I started crocheting, Pinterest brought me to this free crochet "school." It's just a girl on her blog, giving the best tutorials for beginners ever!

I really wish I had followed this when it was actually going on, but alas; it was more than a year ago. Ah well. It's still perfectly enjoyable, detailed, and helpful.


This free site is great on so many different levels. Right now I mainly use it for free patterns and to keep track of my yarn. Ravelry has a little "notebook" where you can enter information on all of your yarn, hooks, projects, patterns, whatever, and upload pictures for each one. Missing a yarn label and can't remember what it said? Just find that yarn in your Ravelry Notebook!

The website is also a great place to join like-minded groups for both crocheting and knitting, and if you are lucky you will even find a local group that meets in your town.

I could go into tons more detail here, but that would take too long and I'm really starting to sound like an advertisement. You should just go explore Ravelry yourself and see how it can help you.

That Doesn't Look Right...

The first thing I ever crocheted (aside from practice circles, swatches, and chains) was a cupcake hat. And let me tell you; it took absolutely forever to resemble any kind of edible or wearable item.

What I mean is; don't worry if your project, or even your stitches, look wrong at first. Chances are, after maybe 5 to 10 rows or so, you'll start to see it/them transform into the beautiful creation you always knew it/they could be.

If that doesn't happen... well maybe you are doing it wrong.

That's the End

Okay, I think those are all the major pitfalls I had when starting crochet. Although I'm sure I'll remember some more as soon as I go to bed tonight (I only just added the Ravelry one in at the last minute).

If you have any problems that you want me to address, just let me know and I'll edit them in! Or, if you want to tell me about how you overcame those problems, feel encouraged to do that as well!