Another Try At 30-Day Shred

So, I have not yet done the next day of the 30-day shred. I was so sore, that I even had muscles twitching! I know I over did it. But today, I have no soreness, but have no motivation to exercise. I did get my bread maker going. I found 1 recipe that only uses a tiny portion of whole wheat that seems to get along with my bread machine. I have put away a few dishes, worked on my customer service, etc. So I have been productive, but just can’t seem to get motivated to do that 20 minute DVD. Sad, isn’t it??

I know music seems to help me a lot. And I think Ellie Ghoulding’s latest album is going to be my new workout / motivation music. Have you heard her stuff? If not, you really need to. My favorite’s are Burn and Goodness Gracious. Her entire album Halcyon is phenomenal. There isn’t one song I do not like!

Anyway, back on the working out issue. I know how good the results were before. I am thinking also I weighed myself 2 days earlier, and saw I lost 5 lbs already, so maybe my subconscious just said, oh you are on track this week. Work on other things. Maybe. I don’t know. I hope that is it, and that I motivated next week. I do not know what the problem is. How do you get motivated, but more importantly stay motivated??

Help needed.

I think spring will help, but that is so far off. I think it also has to do with the cold, the overcast, and having so much work to do. I am thinking stress does not help either, but exercise will combat that. Maybe I just need to get going and somehow make a habit of it. I don’t know. What do you do or do you struggle too?

My Bread Maker Does Not Like Whole Wheat (Or maybe it does not like me)

51ka09--SGLI bought a bread maker last summer, or around there, and bought the book: The Bread Lover’s bread Machine Cookbook. Ratings are awesome, even I love it. I have tried about 5-7 recipes and all have turned out delicious! My family’s favorite so far is the Peasant bread recipe. I love it because there is no milk or egg in it. Another favorite are the French Bread recipes… Those I have it make the dough, then finish them off in the oven using my long french bread pans. Hah, who knew I could bake??

So after trying the bread maker out, and finding this book to be fantabulous… I decided to go out and buy a 25 pound bag of whole wheat. Much of what I read tells me whole grains is the way to go, and I figured we had our fun playing around with the white bread recipes so I could use up all the white flour in the house… Now it was time to make whole grain breads. I didn’t think much of it and just clicked my order for Great River Organic Milling, Organic Whole Wheat Bread Flour. The flour too had great reviews.

917X5gkvTwL._SL1500_I have tried making the Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread recipe twice, and both times it came out hard, and a small balled-up like loaf. The first time I had it on the French Setting, and the second time on the Basic (after reading somewhere on the net someone made this no problems on the basic setting). So, I thought maybe my bread maker does not like this recipe. I then tried a second different recipe that uses whole wheat. Again, same result.

I do not know if it is me, or my bread maker. I am stumped. I looked up the recipes to try and find reviews, and it seems many people have made this particular recipes in their bread makers and had no problems. I then thought, well maybe it is the flour. So after much research, the majority of people had no problem using this flour in both ovens and bread machines alike. I am so confused and not sure. I not a bread expert by any means. Anyone have any ideas of what I could be doing wrong?

 

30 Day Shred, anyone

exercise-050So I have started the 30 day shred. I did not complete it last time. I am on Day 2, but really I do not think i should count those days since I did not complete the DVD. However, I got through Circuit 1 yesterday and halfway through Circuit 2 today. I guess baby steps, right?

Because my knees hurt, I don’t like some of the exercises. So what I think I am going to do is just modify. Those particular exercises that are hard on my knees, I am just going to to the upper body portion, but somehow keep moving to keep my heart rate up. I think this will be sufficient until I lose more weight or until my knees can withstand more.

The good thing is, is that the workout is only 20 mins. But now I think about it pathetic I did not complete it yesterday and today. But tomorrow is another day! Once I get fully through it, I will count that as Day 1. I also think I actually could have made it through today, but I had a banana right before and ouch did it give me a terrible cramp on my right side. I think tomorrow I am going to do it right when I wake up and have a cup of coffee.

Here is a little snapshot of my (messy) living room/exercise area. If I ever get the basement cleaned out, I may just make that my workout area. But right now it is a cluster of stuff I am getting for a yard sale in spring. At the floor, is a box Santa gave me for Christmas, the Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution. I am going to treat myself and open that only after I have completed my 30 day shred for 30 days.

You know, I should give myself a reward if I complete the 30 days… Any ideas? Something that does not cost any money (finances so tight right now). Hmmm.. That is hard, everything costs something! lol. Anyway… anyone want to do the 30 day shred with me?? I need a partner!!

Testers Needed For A Christening Gown Yoke

newborn-hats-032Do you have a baby or access to a baby? I am looking for testers to try out a yoke in size 10 thread. I only need a fit check, really. You have the option to work on the entire gown if you so wish, but are not obligated. I am thinking about 3 weeks time to test the yoke. I need you to have a baby to try it on, though, and be able to send me a photo so I can see how the dress is fitting.

The dress will be part open in the back, with 2 buttons, then will close and work in the round down. I would say it will be an Intermediate Skill lvl. I have sizes : Newborn (0-3 mos, 3 mos, 6 mos, 9 mos, 12 mos). Please comment here, or Sign Up On the Testing Forum (click here).

If you are on Facebook, you can also Click Here For Facebook page.

I think this gown is going to be lovely when finished (or at least I hope so)!

Happy 2014 & Snowflake Hat

Well, 2013 was kind of rough, but I have good feelings for 2014! I really became disconnected from things this past year, especially with all the illegal pattern sharing and such. It took me a while, and I am still struggling with it, but I have learned to “set it aside.” I cannot keep it monopolizing me, discouraging me.

Funny how a new year can be the little spark needed to ignite the passion again. Or maybe it has been enough time for me to work through it all. Who knows. Maybe it was my birthday. Instead of looking downhill, I am looking up hill, and bracing for whatever new comes my way.

600snoeflakehat800I am now getting back on the track of health. I need to get back to exercising everyday. Oh how I wish I had a workout partner! It is so easy to get off track. Regardless, it is up to me and I need to just set my mind to it, prepare, and just do it. So that is what I plan. I have some new cookbooks, an can’t wait to try out some new recipes. Now if this freezing cold would go away. I am not ready for spring, most likely because I have lost as much as I wanted to by this point, but I am ready the this frigid ice to be gone!

Anyway, with that, I open up 2014 with a new pattern release. Well, not really a pattern release (yet). For right now, it is available for my facebook fans. I hope throughout the year to treat all my fans, whether they are my blog fans, website fans, Etsy fans, Ravelry fans… etc! So I start with facebook. Any fans of my facebook page can download the Snowflake Hat for free during January!

Link to facebook pattern for fans:

SNOWFLAKE HAT CROCHET PATTERN HERE

Happy Crocheting you all :) And stay warm!! Happy 2014!

Really Discouraged…

Well the new year began with a blast- a zest- a powerful surge of ideas and creativity. Until the other day.

I started receiving emails about  people on a website/forum posting my patters. This normally does not bother me. I mean it does, but I have been doing it so long it kind of goes with the territory- that it will happen and that I just need to follow the steps to fix it. Usually that entails contacting the person. Sometimes if that doesn’t work, contacting the forum owner. And then beyond that if no affect, then just working up the chain to where the website/forum is hosted etc. Most often, it is someone who does not realize he/she is doing wrong. So many are still ignorant when it comes to copyright issues and such.

Then why am I so down?

This one is different. It *cannot* be taken down. This particular website is out of the country, in multiple languages, free for the masses to register and begin sharing. This is so devastating.  I have always just followed my little steps when I find my patterns around the internet. But this time, I am handcuffed. I am stuck. I researched this site a little more, and it seems it has been up since at least 2009. That is 4 years. I found many designers around the internet complaining about this website, trying all means to get it taken down. I feel really discouraged that in the last 4 years, nobody has been successful.

When I did a search for my name- “Crochet Garden,” I came up with 21 hits. All were posted by the same person, in December. However, there was a few other patterns that did not come up in the search, and posted by others. There is no way for me to contact these people. I cannot send a message or do anything without gaining points, per se, to get benefits, without sharing.

With such a site, it is only a matter of time before everyone knows about this place. It will be the first place someone stops to get their patterns, to see if it is available. Not Ravelry, not Annie’s Attic, etc. Why purchase it when you can get it for free?

Of course, I know many support indie designers, but there is not enough of you out there to support us, unfortunately.

Maybe it is the shock that there is nothing I can do. Is there anything I can do? I do not know. The last couple of days I have had to push myself to look at my designs in progress and work on them. I look at them and think, wow, I spent a month on this. Put up the pattern for sale, and tomorrow, I could see this pattern available for free on this particular website, available to all.

What is worse, now, is that it has been posted on facebook, and the link is spreading like wildfire. I have had countless of emails coming in, alerting to me that my patterns are up there. This morning I wake up and open my email, countless more emails about this website. So you can imagine.

All I can do is ask, if the person or the person who knows of the person posting my patterns, I am humbly asking if they can please take them down.

It would be so different if there was something I could do. Report it, send messages, etc. I see 4 years of people before me doing all that and more, and it has been futile. I am just really discouraged right now.

Happy New Year 2013!

My goodness, it has been a whole year since I last blogged. Shame on me. I am first to say it. I really have neglected a lot of things this past year. I think 2012 was just gray year. Is there such a thing? It just kind of went by, and I think I was merely a passive participant. I don’t know if that makes sense, as half the time I question myself if I make sense to myself.

For 2013, I feel a new energy. I really feel like it is a brand new year!!  Maybe there really is something to astrology. 2012, for some reason, was the year of avoidance for me. I avoided everything, from exercise, to crochet, to people… I am not sure what happened. I just fell out of the groove of life, per se, I guess. I didn’t blog, that’s for sure. My laundry pile is, well, quite extraordinary! I think that word has a nice connotation than other words I could have chosen. I think that is going to be my new word for 2013- extraordinary!!

I have this new zest- I want to renew myself in many ways. I put on so much weight the past few years, and for the last 3 months (give or take) I have been taking a step back, and looking at myself, and my goals. I guess I just needed that turn of the clock at midnight to actually feel the spark. Why is that? But either way, this process started a few months ago, but really has gone into motion the past few weeks.

I have been quite ashamed at how much I gained, and how much I let myself go (though I am glad I let my hair go, it is down my hiney now!). I think my feelings fed my avoidance of everything. It was like symbiotic in a way- I stayed in and avoided things which fed my weight, and that in turn steered me deeper into this hole. I was not really depressed or anything, just more like, just another plain day.

So in comes overhaul. Not just body, but everything, my body, mind and spirit. I am even thinking of going to church.

Anyway, in an attempt to become healthy, and lose weight, I have (for the time being at least) turned vegan. I am not sure if I am technically vegan, since everything I have read about vegans does not just encompass their food selections, but also what they wear and what products they use. From shoes, to  purses, etc.

For myself, I redefined what I eat. Last year, we cut out pop. We now drink water with meals. We cut out eating out, except for the occasional celebratory meals. And for the past few months, I have cut out a lot of food. I no longer eat meat, nor eggs, nor dairy (even milk and cheese!). I do not eat anything processed out of a box (including cereal, granola bars etc). Sure, I guess they can be *healthy*. But I have adopted a simple way of eating- whole food, and back to making my meals. If I want granola, I will make it. No MSG, no refined fructose syrup, no refined corn syrup, etc.

In the past 3 months-ish, I have lost 40 lbs. (Sadly, I still have 100+ pounds to go).

With my new eating style, I eat as much as I want. I never, ever starve myself or go without. If I am hungry, I eat. I still have yet to incorporate exercise to this, but the overhaul of how I eat was quite a quest to begin with. But now, with 2013, I am ready !! I want a new me. I want to not only lose weight, but to feel healthy. I don’t want to dwell on things that I cannot change anymore. No more avoiding things. Avoidance comes with weight. I want to not only lose body weight, but weight from stress.I want to develop an exercise routine. That will be a new quest, as I am not really sure how to start or what to do. I have a Y membership, but I really do not want to go there with all those fit bodies.

I am thinking of keeping a personal video blog. I am not sure if I will be able to publish for the world, as I am still trying to crawl out of this shame of how I left myself go… But it may be something special for me, to document my journey.

On the crochet front- I am back!! Goodness, the past couple of weeks, I feel revived. I neglected my crochet in 2012. I think it was all part of that “absent from life” for a bit. Maybe it was mid life crisis? I  don’t know what age that normally happens at. Maybe it was just a funk. We all have funks, right? Just say yes.

My goal for this year crochet-wise is to get through all the designs I have in progress. Either finish them, or discontinue them. My poor testers- I know some were irritated with me, sadly. I didn’t finish a lot of designs, and they sit there, abandoned. All the more reason to get out of this funk. I am glad though that most forgive me for that, and are still hanging out- putting up with my back-in-gear-designing.

I have started a new lace shawl. I am in love with it. It is a triangular shawl, and oh the edging is (to me) a jaw dropper. So is the body, in its own way, but can’t have too many elements competing for attention at the same time  in a design. At least not in mine, I think my mind would go crazy.

I can’t yet post a sneak-peak, though I would love to. I am still working on the edging, and then have yet to block it. I am not sure if I want to keep it on the Crochet Garden website or send it off to a magazine, or maybe even for greater things- ah what to do!

Well, world, if anyone even is out there, happy crocheting, happy health, happy New Year, and have an extraordinary day!

Inspiration Stole – Published, Interweave Crochet 2012!

Inspiration Stole, Interweave Crochet Winter 2011

Inspiration Stole, Interweave Crochet Winter 2011

Hello everyone! In case you had not seen it, the Inspiration Stole is the latest addition to the my love of lace run :) It is amazing, since it is so long from the inception of an idea to the tangible photographed magazine in your hand- that once you look, all that excitement and glory surges.

When I started this stole, its actual beginning never came to fruition. I was working a small tedious stitch, and at the beginning, it seemed to be going well. However, as I worked on it more and more, it became very monotonous and I began to loathe it. Not sure what I was thinking, but it just tells me that sometimes, it just isn’t meant to be. I started to rip out, which proved to be quite an undertaking. With time not on my side, ceased the delicate task of ripping and began anew. This of course was after consulting Marcy (the Editor of Interweave Crochet). Thank goodness she has faith in me because she said follow your instinct. I was so worried with limited time, and a whole lace project to come up with pronto.

So alas, here it came to be, the Inspiration Stole!

A Walkthrough In Blocking Lace – Dahlia Shawl

dahlia_shawl

Dahlia Shawl - Interweave Crochet, Spring 2011

First, the Crochet Garden now has its own official page on Facebook!! Many announcements (including tutorials like this one) will be announced there. Check out the Crochet Garden Facebook Page!

Since I started designing lace shawls, I have come across discussions on blocking. Now, I do not say this is the best and only way to block. I only say this is the way I do it. This is also for both crocheters and knitters alike. I pretty much learned blocking as a trial and error kind of thing, and I will discuss with you what worked for me and what didn’t, and why. I hope this helps you. Some of the points you may agree with and some not. Please let me know what you think as this will only help everyone and even me! :)

First, why is blocking so important? In some patterns it plays a large part in how the project turns out, namely, lace patterns. In some crocheted garments, it is mostly evening out, and if gauge is off a bit, to stretch out just a bit to the correct size, etc. But with lace, this is when your shawl comes alive. A little bit of magic happens. I have noticed when crocheters are making their first lace shawl, they are tempted to use a very tiny hook (due to the nature of the crochet beast – lace being so fine) or a large hook, because they are dismayed their work in progress is not looking like the finished project.

Dahlia Shawl- Blocked

Dahlia Shawl- Blocked

Dahlia Shawl- Unblocked

Dahlia Shawl- Unblocked

As you see with the Dahlia Shawl; which was most recently published in Interweave Crochet, spring issue of 2011, look at the unblocked photo. Notice how bunched up the stitches are. It does not have that open airy feeling of the other photo. Closely look at the edging. The unblocked photo, the stitching looks so much thicker and dense, not as flowing and almost translucent as the blocked photo.

My List Blocking Items:

Towel

Tub/bin for soaking

Wool wash or scent (while soaking)

Spray Bottle

Yard Stick / long wood measuring stick

Measuring Tape

Regular pins

Blocking Wires

T-Pins

Step 1: Soak (All small photos can be clicked on for more detail)

Gently take a tub (you can even use your bathtub) or any container, and fill with water. I always use lukewarm to room temperature water. Gently place your lace into the tub with the water. Do not agitate your work. It could felt up on you. Gently press down the work in order to immerse it. You will see little bubbles come up, and that the air coming out of the yarn.

Dahlia Shawl soak Dahlia Shawl soaking Dahlia Shawl soakingSoak Shawl

Some people recommend soaking for 15 mins to 30 mins. I always soak mine for an hour at the least. Usually, I give it a 4-5 hour soak- but mostly because something else taking my attention away (haha-  always more crocheting to be done )…

During this time, do not be tempted to stick your hand in and feel it. You really do not want to move it once it is in an soaking, especially if made of wool. The yarn is just so delicate and fragile, and you do not want to chance any tearing, or making weak spots in your work. Just let it be.

Step 2: Remove lace from tub- have towel ready.

Remove Shawl gentlyfold towlFold towelroll towel

Ok, next it is time to remove the shawl.  Be sure to have some towels ready. Gently remove (with 2 hands- my excuse was holding camera) from the tub and place within towel. I like to wrap up or roll up my lace within the towel. You do not want to wring or twist your work to get the water out! I simply role mine up without adding any friction, and then apply pressure to the rolled lace while enveloped by the towel.

Step 3: Unwrap and block

Insert wiresinsert wires

Insert blocking wires by weaving them in and out of stitchery every inch when there are not definitive outer points. If you do not have blocking wires, I would recommend getting them.  Do not skip reading this and Step 4, as it is still important. Blocking wires help with symmetry and getting that professional, extreme beautiful look. When there are definite points, like in the edging along the two sides where the bottom center is, then you will want to insert wire from front to back or from back to front at same place in each point. Always keep things consistent when blocking.If you do not have wires, then place regular pins, every inch, or at every point, and use a yard stick to make sure it is level/straight.

Insert wire in tips

Step 4: Use T pins to straighten your wires.

This is the part where you spread the shawl out.

tpinT pins

T pins are used to anchor your wires. You will need something sturdy to push them into. In this example, I used my bed. There is however a multitude of things you can use. The  most important thing is making sure it is strong, and you can pin into it without the pins moving. When I first started, I bought a ton of those rectangular pieces of Styrofoam.  They were not that practical and easy to work with, but they did the job until I discovered the bed. But now, I use mats. They are like those foam ABC mats that look like puzzle pieces for kids. They work beautifully. I will have to get a photo later of it (sorry).

One tip I can give, is that your work will be wet, and thus your bed soon will be as well. You may have to use the water bottle and spray it down some if it starts to dry out. If doing this on a mattress, or anything else really for that matter, put down some sort of waterproof barrier. For the bed, you can get one of those toddler bed covers that are waterproof. You can also use plain old garbage bags. Just cut them open to take advantage of the surface area. For my mats, I use a sheet. The mats are pretty good at taking dampness. I would put something over the waterproof barrier, only because the water from the bottom will pool there. I usually use a cotton sheet, which seems to work pretty well at giving me that level wetness I desire.

Anyway, you want to have as many T pins as needed to keep the wires straight. I have found these at my local store in the sewing section, as I did not get enough with my blocking wires kit. I also, depending on the pattern measure my distance between points. Now, there are some people who recommend folding the shawl in half along the vertical axis, lining up the edging from each side, and pining while folded. I have tried this and do not recommend it. This by the way was my second time blocking. The first time I tried the folding method, and it did not turn out well. I could not stretch out that center, and a vertical shading appeared right down the middle (you can see this in the photo).

If you think about it, this possibly could be prevented by having the wire inside the fold, held together with T pins, and then stretched out by the edging. But because of where the pressure points of stretching are, they will not be  the same near the center as they are in the Body, so I would still see this having a chance of happening. I find laying the whole shawl out prevents this entirely. I now use a meter stick to make sure the scallop on one side is level with the reflecting scallop on the other side of the shawl. And also, I use a tape measure to make sure the distance between points is the same.

Measure distance between pointsMeasure distance between points

There is hard blocking and soft blocking, and I suppose every kind of blocking in between. These are terms I refer to the types of this process as. There may be some technical term for it out there somewhere, but this works for me, and hopefully for you too. A hard blocking would be where you really stretch out the projects quite a bit from its initial measurements. I know quite a bit if subjective. But you will see how the lace relaxes. Stretch out all sides 1/4 of an inch. Not much happens right? That would be a soft blocking. Not much happen, or only a little happens. Many times a super soft blocking would be used to straighten out a garment to match the schematic perfectly.

Now keep stretching and stretching and stretching- magic happens. It really opens up a lot. I think this is where a common misconception occurs. I have seen many crocheters going up a lot in hook size as they are puzzled why their work is not looking like the finished piece. More on this later, with before and after photos to show the magic.

If your edging consists of scallops, or some sort of valleys or hills, always start out and work your way in. So first pin the outermost point that you can see. Then work your way toward the body of the shawl.

Step 5: Begin Pinning! This is where the fun, or maybe torture begins.

I usually have at least 2 containers of pins- I just never know how many I will need.

The Pinning Begins!2The Pinning Begins!

I like to use the long strong high quality pins. It just makes life so much easier- and well when I can spoil myself with little things, I indulge! Yeah I get excited seeing pins in the store. I especially like the little ones with the flowers on the head! Now, when you grasp a point, where you pin, is there it will stay. Here is a tip- and also will work with the T pins. When you go to pin, put the pin in at an angle away from the work. This will help keep wires in place, as well as the points where you want them to be.

Note: Wherever you pin, is how it will be. The work will relax some, but not much. So you want to be sure every point is even. If you get tired, take a break. Get a spray bottle and re-wet it later. Take your time, and do it as perfectly as you can- the results will be worth it. Every place you put a pin, that is where that specific point will be. Use the yard stick to check for symmetry and evenness. If you find while blocking – as this could take even 4 or 5 hours, that your shawl is drying out, keep the spray bottle going.

I allow my piece to dry for at least 24 hours. Sometimes it is hard to tell from the touch if it is still wet, because it does tend to be cool. Just do your best and unpin a little. If it retracts greatly, then it needs more time.

Before I brought up about a common error crocheters make is switching to a significantly larger hook. They often feel there is something wrong because their garment is not turning out like the finished picture. This is a whole new world- this blocking madness, or divinity I may call it. Something really magical happens when you mix fine yarn, wool  and blocking.

To make that fear subside- that your project is not going to turn out like it should, try this.

Pinned

While you are working, take some Styrofoam, and pin it out some. I call this a “Dry Mock Pinning”. Take a look at the gauge in the pattern and pin it to the same gauge as listed. Most patterns give a blocked gauge. However, if only a pre-blocked gauge is given, then still do this. Take your measuring tape, and stretch it out to the point that it looks like the finished garment, or to when it suits your liking. Write this gauge down. When you go to block, this is what you will use, and this is how your shawl will look once blocked after being wet and pinned. If the gauge does not state if it is a pre-block gauge or after-block gauge, get in touch with the designer. In fact, I think for now on I am going to give both the pre-block and after-block gauge in my patterns. Now for some before and after photos:

block-stairsblock-after-stairs

Close-up of Edging Tip before and after:

block-b4-stairsblock-b4-after-stairs

More before and after:

s160bs160

More before and after:

block-before-edgeblokc-after-edge

When working your project, do not fret that it is not turning out like the finished project. Grab some Styrofoam, or even use your bed mattress, and grab some measuring tape, and do a dry mock blocking. See what it looks like. This is the magic of blocking. This is the sparkle of wool. This is the whole new world of lace.

Now go make some magic happen!

Dahlia Shawl – Interweave Crochet Spring 2011 Published!

Dahlia Shawl - Interweave Crochet, Spring 2011

Dahlia Shawl (Prototype) - Interweave Crochet, Spring 2011

I am so excited – as I am sure you all know, the Dahlia Shawl has finally made her entrance into the world. These snapshots I took right after blocking, to get the shawl straight into testing. So  while this is the complete blocked shawl, these are not necessarily the final staged photos :)

Unlike the Midsummer, this one does not have a striking definitive border. I wanted the body of the shawl to flow almost seamless into the edging, as if it were a gradient effect. While working on the edging, I think I ripped about 18 times, to redesign. Sometimes things come to me right away, and other times its a wrestle with the design beast within. However, this is mostly due to my insane need for perfection- side effect: the crazy look mad designer.

Each time, I uploaded another photo to my test team. How about this one? Do you like this one? This super need for approval from them thank goodness has not made their excitement wane. They are all still there, giving their opinions as thoughtful as always!

Here is a few snapshots of the edging in progress:

coreal-edging-003food-edging-shawl-020

These, obviously did not make it into the final piece. While designing, I actually take my lace, and pin it out on styrofoam to get an idea of what it most likely will resemble. This closely resembles blocking, so I refer this as a “Quick Dry Block.” I then hold it up, photograph it, and then ask for opinions from the Crochet Garden testing team. You can also do this while working on a lace pattern- just to soothe that dance your mind does when wanting instant gratification.

This prototype was made using Jaggerspun Zephyr which is a 50/50 wool blend. This particular color is Lady Slipper, and I purchased it at Webs. (I love love love that place- I should really take out stock).

The final shawl, as shown in Interweave Crochet, Spring 2011 issue uses Manos del Uruguay Lace distributed by Fairmount Fibers.

For those on Ravelry- Here is the Dahlia Shawl Link On Ravelry!

dahlia_shawl

Dahlia Shawl - Interweave Crochet, Spring 2011

Maybe tomorrow or this weekend, I will post the photos of the blocking process- I actually happened to take photos in each step, as this shawl was originally going to be on the Crochet Garden website, with a blocking tutorial. So keep an eye out on that, and you will see how this shawl and other really come to life.

Also, there are a couple more shawl lace patterns in the works!! :)

Maia Shawl- is now released!

Maia Shawl

The Maia Shawl is now released. I had started this shawl so long ago, and then between surges of other shawl ideas and such, I finally finished this one. The edging took a few tries. The first couple, I would  work out, take a photo and show the testers, and would get yays or nays. Well, the third one was a charm- and it fit. It complements the body so well!

EDIT: I am editing this to let everyone know that Cerdeb of Ravelry has started a CAL for this shawl! Click here for Ravelry Maia CAL!

The yarn I used was called Jaggerspun Zephyr. It is 50% Merino and 50% Tussah Silk. While it has a low plush-factor (which is my term for billowy, stretchy, plushy), which is due to the silk, it lends itself well to this stitchery. It comes on a cone, so if you are thinking of getting it, at least where I got it from – Webs, so you will not need to worry about having to wind it on a ball winder using a swift. The yarn blocks incredibly well. So well, I purchased about 8 more cones of this yarn! (Shhh more shawls are on the loose). In the gallery of photos below, you will see photos before blocking, and then after. You will see, that it is normal for lace yarn to have the *crumpled* look, as I call it. It is bunched up.. and as usual, only has a small resemblance of the final piece.

The magic is in the blocking! I think of blocking like hairspray. Remember the 80s? I am an 80s child. I do not think my hair resembled anything like it did before an evening of hairspray :) And this is also where a little bit of art comes in. I know how lace behaves. So when designing, I will make little peaks and valleys, which will be my points I know I want to emphasize. After a good soak in lukewarm water, for say a couple hours, I gently take my shawl out, wrap it in a towel (never wring or make any friction – you may felt your work)! Unwrap it, and then stretch it out. Weave in wires along each side. That the work of setting the spine for the shawl. Now the detailed part of the work begins- pinning all of the points.

So you look at the before final, and say hey! I do not see the lovely fine points like I do in the final photos. That is because they are blocked out. That’s the hairspray. If you want a certain point to stick out, take a pink, stretch it out to where you want and pin it down. Do this do every single point (the pinning is hairspray)! Allow this to dry at least over night. (Note: Do not use *real* hairspray)! Once you take your pins off, you will see each point is where you pinned it- magic! It may be hard to grasp, until you have actually blocked a piece of lace yourself. If you look at the gallery photos of the shawl being blocked, you will see I first run 2 long wires along each side of the shawl. I then pin out each little peak, because I purposely want those to come to a point. You do not necessarily have to do this, but it sure makes it look gorgeous. Look closely at the before and after photos, and look where I placed my pins. Isn’t blocking amazing?

When I want to create an edging, I usually sketch it. I know what I want it to look like. See the nice fans in the edging? They have a convex shape. Same with the flowers in the innermost part of the body. They too are convex. I could have gone too with a convex like edging, but I wanted something that would stand out. So what I did, was used the little flower *spokes* like the innermost part of the body, placed them too in the edging, but made triangular scallops with them, and then made little sharp points in the trim. And voila, we have a striking ensemble of stitchery. Well, to my eye that is.

I do not yet have a stitch chart available for this pattern. But I will! I switched over programs, and am quickly trying to grasp the ways of the new program. As soon as this is done, there will be a chart available for this. If you purchased this pattern at the Crochet Garden, then all you will need to do is go into your account and download the pattern again. I will make an announcement here, as well as in a newsletter, so be sure you are subscribed!! If you purchased the pattern on Ravelry, you will receive a note saying there is an update available. If you purchased this pattern on Etsy, or through some other venue, be sure you are subscribed to the newsletter at the Crochet Garden. All you will then need to do is drop me a note with your receipt number, or whatever information you have from your purchase, and I will email you the updated pattern.

There is also now a Support Forum for the Maia Shawl, in case anyone runs into trouble, or wants to post their photos!

I really hope everyone enjoys this shawl!! Please let me know what you think. Also, I am on a lace binge – do you have a favorite lace yarn you like to use? Please do let me know about it, and I will see about getting my hands on it and create more designs in lace weight yarn! :) Thank you too, for the fantastic response to this shawl. I really hope it meets your expectations. If you find anything that would make my patterns or designs better, please, please do let me know. I design for all of you!

The Juliet Dress

Juliet Dressjuliet_01Today I have released the Juliet Dress! When I started this set, I did not know what to expect. It started out plain, with no character… just a plain Jane. Little did I know that a beautiful Juliet was awaiting. And if you are planning on ordering it- here is a coupon for a dollar off! This will be good for a week (through July 15). Code: 3c290353b5

There are so many sizes! I actually started out with just child sizes. Then testers asked for baby sizes – that it was just too darling for the wee little ones too! And so this dress now spans 6 months to 10 years! All sizes are included in the pattern. The flowers’ center is a large button – isn’t it always fun to shop for notions? The sunhat brim uses a wire to give that Audrey Hepburn look.

Unlike many of my other dresses, this one uses a sport weight. I used Knit Picks Comfy Sport Yarn for this. Quicker to work up – and with so many sport weight yarns available, the color combos are endless. I could not be any  happier with the yarn choice.  The colors are Flamingo, Silver Sage, and Ivory. It looks like Silver Sage is about to be discontinued- so hurry and get it while you can! If you are not able to get the Silver Sage, I think the Honey Dew or even the Crème Brulee would make wonderful substitutions.

The yarn was great to work with- and even better machine washable! That means kid friendly. Sometimes cotton yarn gives me a dry feeling in my  hands, and then later I need to apply lotion. Working with the Comfy gave me no problems. It was very soft, and the drape is fantastic. Definitely a choice I will pick  again and again when I want a cool, breathable, practical yarn for a garment, or even an afghan!

PS – The Maia Shawl has been released! (The little sneak peak I gave you the other day). It is up on the website and available for purchase. It is not yet on Ravelry, at least at my time of writing this, but the Juliet Dress is up on Ravelry!


Something New, This Way Comes…. (shh)

sneakA while ago, I mentioned that I had been working on more lace shawls. Since the Dragonfly, and now the Midsummer Night’s Shawl… I will be releasing a new lace shawl, but on the Crochet Garden website. The only thing waiting, is a name. I am so pleased with how this came out! This is one of the numerous shawls I began working  on since my move. In a surge to feel and touch every lace out there available, and to really explore the properties of all the different fibers with crochet lace, this new shawl and yarn used met my expectation, and then some! I will be able to tell you more, as well as blocking photos I have, once I release. I really need to figure out a name, so that I can let this baby free! Hmm, Baby Free?

Cover: Midsummer Night’s Shawl, Interweave Crochet, Summer 2010!

Interweave Crochet, Summer 2010

Interweave Crochet, Summer 2010

The cover! My first :) I am so exhilarated my Midsummer Night’s Shawl made the cover of the Summer issue of Interweave! I had no idea, no clue. I was also wondering when I sent it in, how it would fair. It would be up against the Dragonfly shawl. Not in the sense each one competing with one another.. But I always compare my work- what do I like about this one, and how is this compared to that one. What would I do differently… etc. When choosing what pattern to make, the decision is almost always from comparisons. In a sense, this shawl had a lot to live up to!  How would it do?

EDIT: CLICK here for the CAL thread on Ravelry!

Since the move, I kind of went into hibernation. However, during that time, I began an affair with lace weight yarn. I blame the Dragonfly :) It was as if it came to life, flew into my window, and sat upon my shoulder and commanded nothing but lace! My checkbook got a workout from lace orders :) I wanted to try every fiber, every brand…

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Midsummer Night's Shawl, Malabrigo Yarn Lace

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Midsummer Night's Shawl, Malabrigo Yarn Lace

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Midsummer Night's Shawl, Malabrigo Yarn Lace

This affair revealed something else though –I have always had a fondness for lace, and this brought that love back to the surface.  Here is one result of this path I am exploring- The Midsummer Night’s Shawl!

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Knit Picks Shadow Kettle Dyed, Altutide Kettle

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Pattern Body: This is shawl simpler than the Dragonfly. It consists of a 4-row repeat. The stitch pattern is remarkably simple.

If you can make clusters, sc, and chains, you will have little, if any problem with this shawl. In fact, if you are an expert at crochet and have always wanted to try lace, this is a great way to start :) Once you have the pattern down, it is a nice project to work in front of the TV. No counting.

Construction: The construction works like the dragonfly. You begin with a miniature triangle smaller than the palm of your hand. You then work across in rows, from corner, to center tip, to next corner. Then turn, and work present corner, to center to tip next corner, and so on. So working as long / wide as you wish is doable.

Yarn: The model (the shawl in the magazine) for this pattern uses Malabrigo Yarn Lace (100% baby merino)  The color is #98 Taureg.

The prototype (the project sent in for consideration) I used Knit Picks Shadow Kettle Dyed yarn (100% merino wool), in color Altitude Kettle. Unfortunately, this is being discontinued, as I really love this color!

Prototype, Knit Picks Shadow Kettle Dyed: Altitude Kettle

Prototype, Knit Picks Shadow Kettle Dyed: Altitude Kettle

Marcy Smith, the editor of Interweave, found the Malabrigo Yarn. Both are a lovely deep blue, and both have a very, very subtle changes in color depth – not enough to take away from the lace pattern, but just enough to enhance it.

For the past 6 months or so, I have been playing around with so many lace weight yarns, and getting a feel for the properties of each brand, each fiber. This has really helped cultivate my process when designing in lace, to really achieve what I want a design to become.

The Malabrigo yarn is very soft – definitely not an itchy wool. I have super sonic sensitive skin, and had no issues working with this lace. For example, some lace I have worked with it almost feels like I have a continuous feed of splinters infiltrating my skin when crocheting. With the Malabrigo – no problems of this kind whatsoever.

Before blocking

Before blocking

Before blocking

Before blocking

Before blocking

Before blocking

I would say the Malabrigo is a “sticky” yarn. Yes, I have my own little language and terms I associate in my mind to properties of lace. Sitcky, meaning, you have to be careful if you have to rip. It likes to stick to itself.

I would not say it is a nightmare if you need to rip out – perhaps somewhere in the middle ground. Some yarns, especially many those with fuzz and halos are hazardous to my mental well-being if I have to rip. Those yarns I just cut, and attach anew – and save insanity for those midnight hours of designing when I talk to the moon :) Some lace weight yarns, no problem ripping out.

With this, I would advise to rip slowly. Kind of like the sheep over the fence, the more you think about the more they all come over at once? Well, this, the more you pull, the more stitckies, and then, the ultimate stubborn knot. So just go slow, pull gently, and stop at the first indication of any struggle.

Blocking was beautiful. Thirty minute soak in a water bath and I began to pin. It kept its shape well, and did not relax anymore than any other lace yarn I have blocked with. Blocking is essential, as that is truly the magical part of lace shawls. I only wish I still have the model in my arms. Luckily, I still have the prototype!

I hope you enjoy making this shawl. And for those who were afraid of the Dragonfly, please give this one a try :) You are all on an adventure with me! Please do let me know if you make this, what you like, what you do not like. The more feedback I get, the better my designs will become for you!

If you have a favorite lace yarn you like to work with – let me know! I am hungry for more lace :) I want to design in every lace weight yarn there is available. Drop me a line too of your favorite colors in lace!

Thank you for sharing this magical time with me!

Also, want to make a note, another lady, Nicole, at Superior Creations, interviewed me. She posted my answers to her questions, and is having a Giveaway on her blog- a $25 gift certificate to the Crochet Garden! You can find it here: Superior Creations Blog. The Giveaway only goes until midnight Tuesday, so hurry!

Hummus – It’s Just That Good!!

hummus2Oh where have you been all my life… Hummus. All the things my mother never knew. Asparagus…. hummus… black bean chili.. No not all together- just all the new things I am trying and loving.

So on with it.. I have discovered hummus. For a while now, fire child has been eating it from the jar out of the supermarket.. Wild Garden brand or something like that. It looks good, I tried it, but it seemed to have to much lemon in it, or something. As my tonsils would cringe the first few bites- so a little too bold for me. But there was potential. So.. I went scouring through a bunch of recipes and experimented making hummus.  Doesn’t that photo look so yummy!?

Lots of celery- oh soo good. Nice crunch, and with hummus as a dip- super filling and so healthy. Kashi crackershummus1 are also to die for with this dip! I basically have been making a batch of beans a week, then turn them into hummus- and it is my impulse food in the fridge. Works magic when you need something and want it now!

I have this neat little food processor- it is only a 3 cups- so it works perfectly for me. First thing I do is soak a bag of chick peas (also known as garbanzo beans) over night. The next day, rinse them super well and put them in a pot. I bring the pot to boiling, then let the beans simmer for a couple of hours. I basically go by taste to know when they are done. They should be tender.

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My Hummus Recipe:

3 cups cooked chick peas

3 tbs of tahini

Parsley

2 garlic cloves

2 tsp of paprika

1-2 tsp cumin (try one, then taste, add more if needed)

1 tsp salt (add more to taste if needed)

1/3 cup water

1 tbs of olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced (you can start with 1/2 of a lemon juiced and work your way up)

TahiniI take 3 cups of chickpeas, maybe just a tad less and put it into my food processor. Along with that I add parsley, I am a garlic lover, so I add on most days 2 cloves of garlic. Some days 4 :) Maybe one day I will be bold and go 6… yeah, I better stay away from people on those days!!

I add in about 3 tablespoons of Tahini. Tahini is a sesame seed paste- and it is oh so yummy. It is high in fat, but at least these are good fats. Each time I make this, I start off with the basic recipe above, and then fine tune it, with the salt, the cumin, garlic. Also, when you begin to blend- go in baby steps. Let it pulse a few times until you get it up to a roaring spin. Add water as you go, but not too much! You can always add water but you cannot take away! Though, you could add extra chick peas if need be.

The water is there to help give it a smoother consistency – or else it may be too thick and break your crackers. Just add as much as you like until it is how you prefer.I also like that with the water, I add less oil. My first batch, I added lots of oil- just to make it creamier.. and while it was good, it definitely was overboard! Maybe you can add more lemon juice- but for me, more than a half of a lemon is too much. So the water turned out to be a perfect addition.

hummus6Another thing you can try (I have not yet) is maybe some vegetable broth. It would give it a veggie taste, a little more depth of flavor. I will have to try this as I am now really liking this idea of making different flavors of hummus!

You really just add things a little bit at a time, and try as you go… Keep a paper and pencil of what you change, until you get your recipe down to the way you like it. And you do not have to have a 3-cup processor. Just measure out 3 cups! The leftover beans from the bag I either make soup with, or I put in the freezer for later. Or I just leave in the fridge for a few days and add to salads and such- or keep it at hand for an emergency when I run out of hummus.

This stuff so rocks with celery. It also makes a great spread. If you cannot give up your bagels, try hummus instead of cream cheese.

Now mind you, I am no expert on any of this.. I am just a crazy crochet lady who loves to learn and implement healthy foods in life… So take what I say with a grain of salt, and toss it out the window if need be! My taste buds can be pretty wild and cover wide ranges! And, I am a veggie nut… If you make this… let me know how it turns out!!!

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And so, the “diet” begins. Different Approach.

Well, since I quit smoking, I put on some weight. Time to lose it. I figured it out- I just need to put my mind to it and figure out my strategy instead of just winging it. Just like with quitting smoking.. I made an agenda, I had a plan, and I did it. If I can quit smoking, I can do anything.

So, here it goes, we are going to transform a body… My bod, that is.

What is my plan?

1. No fast food – No more. That goes for the kids as well as myself. We really did not eat it often, but, even those few times are bad enough. Each time I eat out, I feel tired…  sometimes even sluggish.

2. Plant some veggies – I think that is going to give me a little pride, to have some fresh produce, and know I grew it myself. I did buy some seeds (toooooo many seeds). But with all things small steps seem to work for me. So I am going to pick 5, and begin growing. Others I will save for next season.

3. Walk every day – Well at least try to. Last night, I took a walk around the neighborhood with fire child. Note to self: Do not walk right after dinner. I do know this walking each day will not last when the temp rises- as I very much dislike warm humid weather. But, I did get a family pass to the YMCA. So that is when we will be putting that to use. But if I make it goal to do some sort of walking each day, not only is it good for my physically.. I felt better mentally last night after we took our walk. And ire child- she did not walk, she ran, then stopped and waited for mom.. ran, stop, wait for mom. ran, ran back, ran forward, stop and wait for mom.

4. Pilates – I realized, over this past year or two, I have lost muscle mass. I think that was a key factor in gaining weight and just feeling out of shape. Makes sense. So, got some Pilates DVDs. I will keep you posted how it goes with them.

So, I have tried to diet in the past and it just never really worked. I would gain back – not because of the diet but because of going off the diet. I have really been thinking about this – I do not think there is one solution to lose weight. It is a combination of sensible eating and exercising. So I am going to try an experiment. I am simply going to eat more whole foods, avoid processed food (almost anything out of a box is processed).

Use only Olive oil – no butter if at all possible. ALWAYS keep a stash of ready to grab celery carrots etc in the fridge. One of my problems is I work so hard and so long, that when I am hungry, I want to eat “now.” That will help with impulses. Luckily, the kids both love fruits and veggies- as I really have always had an abundance of them.. but now, they will be in “ready to go form.”

I am not going to deprive myself. If I am hungry, and I am going to eat. I will keep you all posted on how this goes… post recipes I find.

Anyone have any good lentil recipes??

Tomorrow I will be posting about Hummus – I am so addicted.. What a good thing.

Hello, again

It has been quite a while and I sort of fell out of the blogging loop. Well, time to get back and on top of things again. Some may know (if there is anyone still out there) that I moved last year. It was quite an undertaking. I am still in unpack mode, but at the end of it, and transitioning into the – Oh I need organization mode!

craft / work room

craft / work room

All I can say, is what a difference. We went from a small, (very small) place to a nice 3 bedroom (with 4th room in basement), 2 1/2 baths! It is wonderful. Water child and fire child both have their own room. Which, at the old place, there were only 2 bedrooms, and fire child and myself slept in the living room since the stairs were so treacherous for her anyway. It was so suffocating, with my mounds of yarn, fire child’s avalanche of toys, water child’s cloths, and on top of it, a 90 pound German shepherd!

I worked so hard… worked to keep my credit as best it could be. I did not think I would qualify – being a single parent, being self employed (crochet is what I do full time), during the recession. I feel relief. We have a great place to live, wonderful neighbors… It is amazing how living conditions can affect you. Not that mine were bad – they were stressful, having a galley kitchen that only 1 person could stand in.. and having to sleep on the couch- there is far worse out there. But I have to say, having space, it made such a difference. Not necessarily in my mood or anything like that, but it was like a little weight was lifted – I can breathe. And not only that- being able to decorate and paint, truly make it our own is what is amazing.

My room is going to be a certain shade of green… I wanted something calm. I also adore whitewash furniture, so eventually  that will go perfect. (I even have my own bathroom in my room!!!) Something else I wanted- all the bedrooms to be on the same floor, so I would be close to the kids. So all 3 bedrooms are upstairs. Fire child’s room right now is a shocking, bold, pink. It will soon be a lilac with floral murals and of course, with some added momma magic dust since she is the princess :) Water child is going with a deep burgundy-wine color. He has picked out black and white decor- very modern, clean lines. He also now has a queen size bed that fits his feet . I asked him has he been able to get used to not having his feet dangle off the edge of the bed- and happily, he says it is great! (He is now 6’3).

craft / work room

craft / work room

So, this spring or summer I will have lots of painting to do… I think I will hire the teen residents that sometimes make their way here and – stay here. I went with a no VOC paint for all of the rooms. Fire child’s is a low-VOC since he was very particular about the color. I will have to get before and after shots once we begin this great undertaking.

I also have a dishwasher – my first! And you know what is funny- I never use it. I still do dished by hand. But hey, I guess if I ever need it, at least I have the option! I also have central air conditioning. I have never had this before. The last couple of summers were excruciating at the old place- the window air conditioner kept blowing fuses on really hot days (when we needed it most) – and let’s just say, I should have bought stock in fans!

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craft / work room

The basement is a finished basement (yay)! It is so neat to walk down there, and say wow, this is mine! Sometimes I am still in disbelief. It is such a change. In the basement, there are actually 2 rooms. One is the utility room, with the washer, dryer, tools, etc. I can put all the laundry in there and close the door!  The 4th room in the basement, it my craft room!!  It is small, but I am happy… I have a place to get somewhat organized. I will admit, I am a VERY scatterbrained disorganized person- but I can close the door! And at least I know if I need my swift, or I need a hook, it is in there!!

Well, speaking of work, time for me to get back to it. I will post more photos of the house, and before and afters as I DIY them. And more on crochet stuff soon! :) :) Thanks for sticking around, if you are still here during my move.

Happy Halloween!

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Happy Halloween! Water Child decided not to dress, but is taking Fire Child out tonight for trick -o – treating!

I do not have a pattern for this yet, and am not sure if I will write it up (maybe I will), but here it is…

The “Flower Fairy!”

Top was crocheted (which I will eventually maybe write pattern for), in a size 3 thread using Aunt Lydia’s Crochet Cotton, and will be crocheted into a dress for underneath the tulle. Since I was crunched for time beginning this at the last minute (long story), I sewed a cream satin piece of fabric underneath into a skirt for her. What is nice, is that she can wear jeans underneath and be warm, and no one will know! The skirt, is tulle. Ribbon was purchased at the store.

Wings are also handmade. I used 16 gauge wire, but next time will go to a 14 gauge. Top wings have a knee-high sock, and bottom wings are made with a tulle covering, the darkest of the 3 colors used for the dress.

fairy-078I then spray painted the top wings, and then hot-glued flowers to the bottom wings. The flower wand is a flower I picked up on clearance. Using a 20 gauge wite, I wrapped a ribbon in a spiral encasing the wire around to secure it, leaving random ribbons dangling down.

It was a fun mom-and-me project. Since Fire Child loves, (really) loves loves loves flowers, this is the perfect costume for her!

Later tonight I will be putting a butterfly tatoo high near her temple, and then face paint part of her forehead and high cheek with glitter paint and spirals :)