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Just for Fun

Two Weeks in Italia

Once every year or so I plan a big trip with Best Friend Kaity Kline. We’ve gone road tripping down the California coast, penguin spotting in Argentina and decided it was time for us to go to Italy.

Kaity’s had Italy on her list so when we saw $500, round-trip flights on Scott’s Cheap Flights, we pulled the trigger. Into Naples, out of Florence. The details we’d figure out later.

This post is not another influencer post on how to “do Italy in 2 week” with comp’d hotels and private drivers. This is a travel post for gals in their 30’s who want to travel like normal human beings, but still enjoy the finer things of life.

We learned when to pay 15 euro to have our bags delivered by a porter and when a cheap bus ticket was the best option. A fine line between splurging and savings.

Kaity is a planner and a foodie so MAJOR kudos go to her for finding the best places.

Here’s a brief itinerary and helpful tips we picked up along the way. We called it the trip of a lifetime, but you be the judge.

Quick Itinerary Summary

  • Flew into Naples, spent one night there.
  • Day trip via train to Pompeii on our way to Sorrento
  • Ferry to Positano, 3 days there. Boat trip to Capri + beach time.
  • Bus to Sorrento, then train to Rome.
  • 3 days in Rome – our favorite city! Vespa tour, Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, dome climb.
  • Train to Florence, rental car to drive to Tuscany/Montepulciano.
  • 3 days in Tuscany – Wine tastings, relaxing and hot springs.
  • Drove back to Florence – 3 days there. Free walking tour, Uffizi Museum, Galleria, cooking class, Dumo climb.
  • Forece to Home

Travel Tips & Tricks for Italy

  • Get a travel pass ($10/day) for your cell phone so you have service
  • The best, most authentic restaurants are named for their founders. Da Tonino, da Enzo, etc.
  • Always get the house wine
  • Tuscan bread is bland since there’s no salt! Legend says it’s because of a long-time rivalry with Pisa
  • Sidewalks are uneven, a 15 minute walk with your rollerbag doesn’t sound bad, but it might be worth a cheap taxi to get to your hotel
  • While food anywhere in Italy is great, read reviews before sitting down. We avoided bad places a few times when looking for a quick meal.
  • Florence is known for its leather, Sorrento for its sandals
  • Italy is a no tipping culture
  • Make sure you watch Lizzie MacGuire & When in Rome before or during your trip for a truly immersive experience

All the Details: Italia 2019

Day 1 – Flew into Naples. Pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. The “best pizza in the world” of Julia Robert’s Eat, Pray, Love fame. We went at 5pm and waited 5 minutes for a table. Heard others who went later that day waited 1 to 2 hours. 5 euro for a pizza (2 options to choose from) and beer or Coke. Best pizza of our trip.

We didn’t love-love Naples and were only there a few hours. Spent the evening catching up on sleep and fighting jet-lag.

Day 2 – Train to Pompeii, then onto Sorrento. A 45 minute train ride from Naples to Pompeii via the Circumvesuviana train from the Naples Centrale station to Pompeii Scavi station. Trains depart every half hour. Bought tickets at the station.

Pompeii is literally right next to the train station. 5 min walk. We chose to store our bags at the train station for 4 euros/bag. Pompeii has free bag storage on a first-come, first-serve basis and probably should have done that. Also bought an unofficial walking tour from the train station. Regrets. Buy a walking tour from the park (8 euros) or go with a tour group.

We spent about 3 hours walking around and exploring areas of the city. Fun to get lost and explore crevices and old brothels in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius. We had a quick lunch at the Pompeii cafe in the park before heading back to the train station. Opted for the commuter train, should have paid more for the express train to Sorrento. Trains were crowded and delayed, but was a truly local experience.

In Sorrento, we stayed at Hotel Regina. For dinner we walked to Bagni Delfina. Lovely seafood restaurant on the water. Delicious pasta and house wine and amazing views of Sorrento to get there on little footpaths. We called for reseservations ad got there right as they opened.

The quaint little town of Sorrento is known for its sandals. Kaity bought an adorable pair of flip flops and we both got matching straw bags at the market. Cute little town to walk around and sample limoncello.

Day 3 – Took the ferry from Sorrento to Positano. 15 euros/person and took about an hour. Before we left, had lunch by the water and by the ferry depot at Ristorante Bar Ruccio. There’s an elevator from the top of Sorrento to the water for a few euros. We walked down the first time to get ferry tickets, then bought tickets for when we had our bags.

When arriving in Positano, we planned to walk to our Air BnB. Thankfully there were guys at the ferry depot in blue shirts shouting, “70 steps to the top, log walk”. We later realized they were ANGELS. The Positano Porters would deliver our suitcases for 15 euro/bag to our place. We hadn’t planned on using them, but my goodness, we would have paid double. Turns out it was 200 steps to our place and we would have probably actually died if we did it ourselves. For us normal people who aren’t staying in 5-star resorts, pay to have your bags delivered.

Days 4 & 5 – Positano. Positano is everything you’ve heard. Beautiful, one million steps everywhere and overpriced. But dang, it’s worth it. This part of our trip was everything beach, sun and water-related.

Private boat tour around CapriGianni’s Boats. 180 euros cash for 4 hours for the 4 of us. We ferried from Positano to Capri (20 euro/person; 40 mins) where we met our captain, Luca. BYOB.

Luca toured us around stunning grottos where we could swim in the Mediterranean.

We went to the Blue Grotto because you have to when you’re that close. Lots of tour boats waiting to get in. We somehow cut the line and paid the 14 euro entrance fee + a hefty tip to the row boat that let us go in ahead of others. Fine and you have to do it, but wouldn’t recommend if you’re tight on time since there are so many other beautiful grottos and places to boat. One of our favorite excursions. You truly feel like queens.

Restaurant La Tagliata – Recommended by a few friends and totally worth it! Set menu of 45 euros/person since “we’re all family here”. 6 courses of food that just kept coming – veggies, meat plates, pastas, desserts and unlimited wine. Made a reservation in advance and they picked us up at a hotel in town. 25 minute ride to the restaurant up the hill to a quiet little enclave outside of downtown.

Beach Chairs + Umbrellas – We’d had every intention of hiking the Path of the Gods, but instead opted to rent beach chairs and an umbrella and spent the day sipping pina coladas and reading. 20 euros/person for front-row seats (17 euro for second row). You’re in Positano, get the front row.

Day 6 – Bus to Sorrento, then train to Rome. Big travel day to get up to Rome. Took the SITA bus from Positano to Sorrento. Bought bus tickets at the Tobacci shop at the top of the hill in Positano for a few euros. Sat with the locals on the 45 minute, turny ride. Convinced my best friend not to throw up.

Once in Sorrento, we took the Circumvesuviana train from Sorrento to the Naples Centrale station (trains depart every half hour). Lovely trains with reserved seats. Bought our tickets a few days before at the train station when we first arrived in Sorreto.

Private Vespa Tour in Rome – Another one of our favorite activities that we splurged on. Referred to Valerio of Dearoma Tours from a coworker.

Booked a 3 hour vespa tour of Rome and got to feel like a local while seeing more remote spots of the city. Great intro on our first day!

For hotels in Rome, we stayed at a boutique near the Trevi Fountain. Great location, good price and central to most things. The Trevi Fountain was always, always crowded. We liked going there best at night when it was all lit up. Don’t forget to throw a coin (or two or three!) into the water.

Days 7 & 8 – Rome

Rome was our favorite city and we’re so glad we booked three days there. It’s historic and beautiful and larger than life. Something ancient on literally every corner, you can turn around and see something new. No joke, we accidentally walked by the Pantheon one night – oh surprise! Look at that.

We booked two big tours in Rome: one to see the Colosseum and one to see the Vatican.

For the Colosseum we booked a “skip the, skip the line tour” through Viator. There’s a 3,000 person capacity for the Colosseum and our 7-person group walked right past people who had been standing in line for hours.

One thousand percent worth it, especially because of our fantastic tour guide, Erturk. He also does private tours around Rome – highly recommend! He was our favorite guide of our trip. The afternoon Viator tour included the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. (Morning tours went to see the Pantheon which we were disappointed at first to miss, but Palatine Hill was so much cooler).

We also booked a skip the line tour for the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peters Basilica. Worth doing since you’re there, but not one of our highlights. The tour group let us walk right in without waiting, but the place was crowded, despite our tour guide being pleased how un-crowded it was.

It was cool to see the School of Athens and the Sistine Chapel ceiling. We weren’t that into St. Peter’s Cathedral. We climbed the cathedral Dome (8 euros to climb the stairs). Tight little steps that start to slant when you get to the top. Great views of Rome and worth the exertion.

Kaity found a cool pizza place a 20 min walk from the Vatican that had traditional square Roman-style pizza called Pizzarium. Place wasn’t crowded when we got there at 4pm, but we could only imagine how busy it would get. They cut pizza by the slice with scissors and weigh it. Very rushed ordering, but got to enjoy it at the standing counters outside.

We walked around the Spanish Steps and Borghese Gardens on our own. The Orange Garden is serene and has great views of the Vatican.

For food in Rome, our vespa guide gave us a hot tip: the best, most traditional restaurants in Rome have their owner’s name. We ate at da Enzo and da Tonino, both excellent. We loved da Tonino – cheap, delicious pasta in the Trastevere district. No reservation, went at 8pm and got a table in 5 mins. The Trastevere was a quieter neighborhood with local places. Da Enzo only takes reservations for 7:30. We couldn’t get one so lined up with the rest of the peasants and waited 90 mins for a table. There were 3 parties seated at our table and it was tight and busy, but food was good.

Days 9, 10 & 11 – Train to Florence, rented a car and drove to Tuscany. From Rome, we hoped back on the train and went to Florence. We walked 5 mins from the train station to the Hertz to get our rental car. We also met back up with our two friends and the four of us piled in and headed for wine.

Tour & Wine Tasting at Castello di Verrazzano – We visited this rustic winery from the 16th Century. Bigger production, but the best dang balsamic we had. Planned to bring some home before we saw the 48 euro/3 ounce price tag.

Had a tour, tasting and light lunch at Capannelle. One of our tour highlights! Staff was lovely, place was small, quiet and remote. We had the entire space to ourselves. Juliana, the 75-year old Italian cook, made us one of the best meals we had. Pastas, leek souffles and desserts to die for. Wine was also good. Reservations required, highly, highly recommend for a top-tier experience. 50 euro/person.

We stayed in a very remote villa in Montepulciano we booked through Air BnB. Lots of steep hills and blind turns to get there.

One day, we booked a wine tour through Tours of Tuscany Montepulciano/Montalcino. They picked us up at 9am and our party of four joined two others as we visited 3 wineries and had lunch. They dropped us back at our Air BnB around 4:30pm.

Motepulciano is know for “vino nobile”, a delicious, medium-bodied red wine made from Sangiovese grapes. loyal red drinkers, Kaity and I were in heaven.

Had dinner at Ristorante la Grotta and one of our favorites! Classy/casual place – welcome wine + appetizers from the kitchen. Homemade pastas and delicious wines. Made a reservation the day before, but you may be able to walk in if you get there early enough.

Kaity and I had an extra day in Tuscany. We slept in til noon, then went to the Gattavecchi Winery in Montepulciano for lunch and a tasting. Love, love! Ate on the terrace and enjoyed the best service and perfectly made pasta. Got the potatoes with cheese and regret nothing. Ended up buying a bottle there, the place was so darling and welcoming.

That evening, we drove to the hot springs, Bagni San Filippo. You park on the side of the road and hike maybe 10 minutes until you find an open spring. It was dark when we were there so we were hilariously stumbling over everything. Almost sat down in a lukewarm pool before we found truly hot, shallow water and shared a space with a German couple. Hug out maybe an hour before we were done and tired of smelling like sulfur.

Driving in Florence, Montepulciano and Tuscany was no joke. It was quick and tight and you’re surrounded by sneaky vespas! Kaity got her international driver’s license through AAA so we kept it legal.

Days 12, 13 and 14 – Drove from Tuscany to Florence. Woke up and made the 2 hour drive back to the city. Stayed in a darling Air BnB 3 minutes away from the Ponte Veccio and the downtown area.

Did one of our favorite things to do and booked a free walking tour of Florence at 10:30am on Day 1. We’re a fan of Reign (the Mary Queen of Scots teen drama) and were enamored with the de Medic family and how they influenced the city.

Tour-wise, we hit the Uffizi and Galleria dell’Accademia, booking normal tickets on the museum websites for both. The Uffizi we walked through in about 1.5 hours and the Galleria we spent 20 minutes in since it was built solely to house Michelangelo’s David.

We reserved tickets ahead of time online to climb up the dome of the Duomo, one of the most unique buildings we saw. Tickets sell out so reserve your spot before you go.

Our tickets to climb the dome also got us into the museums where the original Gates of Paradise are. Very cool to see the bronze doors.

We took cooking classes and made pasta and tiramisu after having a market tour. Very fun, especially since we met some cool people and the wine was flowing very liberally.

At the market, we got to sample cheeses, meats and chutney and some of the best sweet hot pepper jam.

Diner highlight in Florence was 4 Leoni – I splurged and got the bistecca Fiorentina, the famously huge steak from Florence. Cuts start at 55 euro for 1 kilo. *gulp*. Kaity had the best eggplant parm of her life.

The best gelato in Florence we found at Sbrino. All locally made and delicious sorbets, too. Tip from our tour guide from the walking tour.

He also told us to try lampredotto, which is a traditional Florentine dish made from a cow’s stomach.

Kaity and I could’t stomach the stomach and nearly threw up. I repeat, do not try lampredotto.

From Florence, we took a taxi to the airport where we had 20 long hours of traveling ahead of us. Italy, you were bellissima. Thank you for delicious food, savory wine and too many memories (some of which we’ll never share). We will be back!

Crochet, Free Patterns

Crochet Pumpkins (+ Link to free pattern)

With fall around the corner, how can you *not* make crochet pumpkins? Work them up in a velvet yarn and you’ve got yourself an adorable autumn decoration.

Crochet Pumpkin Pattern

I loosely followed Malloo Knit’s free pattern: https://mallooknits.com/adorable-crochet-pumpkins-pattern/.

My variations:

  • Bernet Velvet yarn (a few yards)
  • Size J crochet hook (6.0mm)
  • Tissue to stuff it (instead of fiberfill – desperate times!)

The crochet pattern for the pumpkin is very simple. It’s a large rectangle.

Once you make a rectangle, stitch the short ends together. You’ll have a tube. To make the pumpkin, you whip stitch both ends together and pull tightly.

The secret to making it look like a pumpkin is how you end it off. After you sew both ends and pull the yarn tight, you finish it by pulling the thread from one side the entire way through to the other side. From the top center of the pumpkin to the bottom. Then fasten off. This gives the pumpkin a “pucker” at the top.

Chain 15 or 16. Work rows of sl sts (back loops only). Sew together and finish off. Make the stems by working 3-4 chairs and sc in each stitch back. Little nub looks cute!

Enjoy these crochet pumpkins! Make the pattern with velvet or normal, worsted weight yarn. Pick a look that matches your place and color scheme. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Enjoy.

crochet pumpkin

Just for Fun

An American in Canada

On April 17th, I received an email from my boss about a job in our Canadian office. “It’s an opportunity that we should discuss,” he said.

And discuss we did. What would it look like for me to relocate from Pittsburgh–the city where I grew up, where my friends are, where I go to church, where my mom, dad, brother, sister, nephew, aunts, uncles, cousins live–and move to Toronto, Ontario?

Beyond a new currency and figuring out the metric system, it would mean picking up and moving to a new country where I knew only my coworkers. The job itself was appealing – a role where I could build out a team and grow an arm of our digital marketing services. I couldn’t find a reason not to do it. I love new things and it sounded like an adventure.

On April 26th, the eve of my 30th Birthday, I sent this message to my soon-to-be-ex-boss, “I think we’re doing this!”

And do this we did.

I signed the papers, quit my commitments, said my goodbyes and moved to Toronto, Ontario on June 28th, 2019.

I gave away furniture, clothes, dishes and random items to friends that just wouldn’t fit into my new Canadian lifestyle (or the Uhual). I met friends for going away happy hours, dinners, breakfast and Target runs. My mother cried for days. Happy tears and sad tears; tears that I knew meant she would miss me.

It’s now September and I’ve been in Toronto for 2.5 months. My high-rise, 1 bed + 1 den apartment is 95% furnished (pink velvet couch included). I’ll post pics soon.

I’m making friends, finding a good church and discovering the benefits of having a fully-loaded Presto card. My commute to work consists of a 17 minute walk (with one right turn). I rarely take my car out from the underground garage and will probably sell it soon. I now buy shoes based on their comfort level and walkability since I walk close to a hour each day.

The move also gave me something I haven’t had in a long time: space. Space to think, space to be alone, space to wander. Any friend will tell you the 2-week waiting planning period required for my schedule in Pittsburgh. Now, there’s flexibility for happy hour to go extra long or to pop into breakfast with a coworker because I’m in the neighbourhood. I’ve got to tell you, this freedom – it’s intoxicating.

My Canadian coworkers here have been nothing but welcoming. We work together, sample cocktails together, eat tacos after work and go to the beach. It’s week 2 of rec league volleyball and our team is thriving.

One downside to moving across borders and downsizing to live in the 4th largest city in North America is you’ve got to be selective about your belongings. My bins (and bins and bins) of yarn was a “phase 2” delivery and so I moved here relatively empty handed. Yes, this is a confession: I have’t crocheted in 2.5 months.

And so that’s it. That’s the big news in JJCrochet’s world right now. After living in Pittsburgh for 30 minus 2 years of my life, I’ve moved to Toronto. If anyone is interested in applying for a 3-year work visa, moving to Canada or the details of universal healthcare, I’m now an expert. Send me an email.

I have my hooks and needles, of course, but there wasn’t room for yarn. Before I left, I made a large drop-off of yarn to the library and my old knitting group (The Knotty Knitters) who I’ve no doubt will put the skeins to good use.

The weather here in Toronto has turned cooler in the mornings and evenings; autumn is almost here.

It’s Saturday morning and I woke up with the thought that today I would blog and make a trip to a yarn store. Space. It’s a wonderful, freeing, empowering feeling.

Crochet, Free Patterns, Projects

Easy Baby Crochet Hat

Easy Baby Crochet Hat Pattern

This easy baby crochet hat takes 50 yards of yarn and can be worked up in less than 30 minutes. I wanted something quick and easy that I could make while watching Netflix. (We’ve all been there on a Friday night, no?)

Grab the small ball of yarn that’s been in your stash and give it purpose.

This baby hat uses basic stitches and is crocheted in just 9 rows. Yes, seriously – that’s it! Let’s go!

crochet baby hat

Baby Crochet Hat Pattern

Materials:

  • Size G (4.25mm) crochet hook
  • 50 yards medium weight yarn (I used Vanna’s Choice)

Size:

Hat will fit a newborn-ish baby. Not a fresh-out-of-the-mama baby, but the type of baby you see when you’re finally able to visit your friend and her 1 month old baby. 🙂

Hat is 5.5 inches wide, 4.5 inches tall.

To make a smaller or larger hat, size up or down with your hook. I think using a size F hook would make a “newborn-newborn” size hat.

Directions: 

Round 1: Chain 3. Do not join into ring. Skip 2 chain and work 9 DC into the next chain (the first chain you made, further away from your hook). Join with sl st. (10 DC)

Round 2: Ch 2 (counts as first DC). DC into same stitch. Work 2 DC in each stitch around. Join with sl st. (20 DC)

Round 3: Ch 2. DC into same stitch. Work *1 DC into next stitch, 2 DC in next stitch. * Repeat around. Join with sl st. (30 DC)

Round 4: Ch 2. DC into same stitch. Work *1 DC in each of next 3 stitches, 2 DC in next stitch * Repeat around. Join with sl st. (38 DC)

Rounds 5-8: Ch 2. Work 1 DC in each stitch around. Join with sl st. (38 DC)

Round 9: Ch 1 (counts as first SC). Work 1 SC in each stitch around. (38 SC). Fasten off.

For a hat with a roll-up brim: Work pattern as written, but repeat Round 5 for Rounds 5-11, followed by a Round 9 (which is your new Round 12). If you’d like a longer hat, simply work more rows.

crochet baby hat with brim

Yes, it’s that easy. Enjoy!

 

Projects

Textured Stitches

crochet modern granny square stitch

Have you ever found a stitch so beautiful, you have to try it? No project in mind, no yarn bought for the occasion, yet you’re intrigued by its simplicity.

I found this stitch from Daisy Farm Crafts called the “modern granny square”: https://daisyfarmcrafts.com/modern-crochet-granny-blanket/.

crochet modern granny square stitch

It’s worked by doing increases and decreases for alternating rows. The first (and every odd) row, you work 3DC in a stitch. The second (and every even) row, you DC3tog. There’s a chain-2 between each increase of decrease cluster.

I chose to work it up with a slightly larger crochet hook than the worsted weight calls for to make the stitches a little more defined and stretchy. I think this would make a fantastic base for a crocheted baby blanket.

Simple, yet interesting enough to look different.

I had fun working up these couple rows, though I know it’s not going to be fun weaving in all these ends. Thinking maybe I’ll carry the yarn up each two rows, then work a border around the edge to avoid having to sew ends in every two rows.

You can find more details on the pattern and some great pictures on Daisy Farm Crafts blog.

Just for Fun, Videos

Speed Crocheting & A Little Energy Savings

I have a friend who has a friend who has a coworker who works at an energy company.

When I found this out, my first question was, “So tell me, is it better to keep my apartment cold while I’m at work, then crank it 10 degrees when I get home or should I keep it moderately warm during the day?” He told me it’s better to keep it cold, then warm it up.

jayna grassel fastest crocheter

Which means my apartment is a cool 53 degrees when I’m gone. I bump it up to 64 when I get home from work, but it’s a little frigid, brr. I keep whatever crochet project I’m working on in a basket in my living room so while my place warms up, I’ll work a few rows (and keep my hat on because again, brr).

My friends call me cheap for living in the cold, I call them fools for heating rooms when they’re not home. Since my apartment is over 100 years old, I’m always looking for ways to save a few bucks while staying warm.

When Duke Energy asked me to partner with them on an energy saving video, I was thrilled. I love saving money on my electric bill and of course, I love crocheting.

On a cold January evening, I literally packed a suitcase full of yarn (there wasn’t much room for anything else!), interspersed crochet hooks in my luggage in case TSA confiscated them (they didn’t, by the way – crochet hooks are fine to take on airplanes) and headed off to Boston.

The following morning, I found myself in Foxboro, Massachusetts working on an energy video and speed crocheting.

To prep for the shoot, I made three things:

  1. A chunky teal & green sweater (6 hours)
  2. A pair of mittens (20 mins)
  3. A draft door stopper (1 hour)

If you follow my blog, you know I like to stick to my hat-making so it was a treat to branch out and try new projects.

Making the video was SO MUCH FUN! We kept quoting the scene from Arrested Development where Lindsay and Tobias say, “…Cause then you have it,” when debating whether or not to take a particular shot. The team was incredible to work with and it was a full day for everyone. So much yarn everywhere.

Ironically, while we were making this video on how to winter-proof your home, Boston got slammed with the infamous Bombcyclone. This meant my flight the following morning was cancelled as feet of snow covered the city. I was stuck in my hotel room… with my crochet hooks… and tons of yarn… and a bottle of wine. I mean, I can think of worse ways to spend a Friday. J

I also got to do a little how-to video of working a front post double crochet. This is a stitch that works up nice and textured. It’s pretty similar to a double rochet, just worked around a stitch instead of in the top loops.

How to Make a Front Post Double Crochet

Pattern is worked across an odd number of stitches in the round. You can use any size hook and yarn, suitable for your project. I used worsted weight yarn and a size H hook.

Chain 10 + 2 (counts as first double crochet).

Rounds 1: Double crochet in each stitch across (11 double crochet). Turn work.

Rounds 2: Chain 2 (counts as first double crochet). Work front post double crochet into next stitch. Double crochet into next stitch. Repeat pattern across row, ending with a double crochet. (11 stitches). Turn work.

Rounds 3: Chain 2. Work double crochet into next stitch. Front post double crochet into next stitch. Repeat pattern across row, ending with two double crochet. (11 stitches). Turn work.

Repeat Rounds 2-3 for desired length.

I’m so thankful I got the chance to meet and work with some great people, sharing the craft I love and learning how to cut down on my heating bill.

You can check out the full write-up here (no judging!): https://illumination.duke-energy.com/articles/she-crochets-her-way-into-energy-savings

Energy efficiency tips provided by Duke Energy. Visit Energy.gov for more ways to save this winter.

 

 

Projects

How to Make a Faux Fur Pom-Pom for Knit & Crochet Hats

How to Make a Faux Fur Pom-Pom

I’ve been crocheting and knitting so many hats it was hard to find pom-poms to top them all. I figured there HAD to be an easy and cheap way to make them myself. (Especially since each pre-made pom I was buying was close to $4!)

Learn to make a fur pom-pom

After reading a few blogs and trying different methods (circle vs. square), I found the best way to make faux fur pom-poms. 3 yards of faux fur later and it’s pom EVERYTHING.

Watch this one minute video to learn how to make a faux-fur pom yourself!

Materials: 

  • 6.5 inches faux fur (I purchased mine from JoAnn Fabric)
  • Polyfill (small handful)
  • Yarn (15 inches)
  • Big needle
  • Scissors

How to Make a Faux Fur Pom-Pom:

  1. Cut 6.5 inch circle from faux fur. (Tip: Cutting is easiest fur-side down. Pull ends gently to remove extra “fluff”.)
  2. Thread 15 inches yarn onto large needle.
  3. Sew big, 1 inch stitches around circle.
  4. Pull ends to form dome.
  5. Fill with polyfill. Pull ends of yarn as tight as you can.
  6. Close circle by sewing “X” across opening.
  7. Tie a tight knot.

Enjoy!

How to Make a Faux Fur Pom-Pom

Step 1: Cut 6.5 inch circle from faux fur.

Step 2: Thread 15 inches yarn onto large needle.

Step 3: Sew big, 1 inch stitches around circle.
Step 3: Sew big, 1 inch stitches around circle.

Step 4: How to Make a Faux Fur Pom-Pom
Step 4: Pull ends to form dome.

Step 5: How to Make a Faux Fur Pom-Pom
Step 5: Fill with polyfill. Pull ends of yarn as tight as you can.

Step 6: How to Make a Faux Fur Pom-Pom
Step 6: Close circle by sewing “X” across opening.

Step 7: How to Make a Faux Fur Pom-Pom
Step 7: Tie a tight knot.

Make a Fur Pom-Pom
Enjoy!

Make a Faux Fur Pom-Pom for a Crochet Hat

Crochet, Free Patterns, Projects

Snowbird Crochet Hat – Free Pattern

I’ve got a confession. I recently purchased 2.65 miles (????!!) of my favorite yarn, Lionbrand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick. I found “bonus pack” skeins from Michael’s and picked up oh, just a couple… It was too good of a sale to pass up!

I knew with all this yarn, I had to come up with a classic crochet pattern I’d like. Something that was quick to make, had texture and I wouldn’t get bored crocheting. And so after a few frogggings, the snowbird hat was born.

The hat is crocheted from the brim up. It uses half-herringbone double crochet and relies on decreasing to shape the top. It’s probably not good for beginners, but if you’ve been crocheting and are familiar with a few stitches and typical hat construction, give it a try!

crocheted ribbed hat brim

Materials

85 yards of chunky yarn – I used Lionbrand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in Fisherman (1 skein)

Size K (6.5mm) crochet hook

Abbreviations & Special Stitches

HDC – half double crochet. Yarn over, insert hook into stitch. Yarn over, pull through one. Yarn over, pull through 3 loops.

HHDC – half herringbone double crochet. Yarn over, insert hook into stitch. yarn over, pull through 2 loops. Yarn over, pull through 2 loops.

SC2TOG – single crochet two together. Worked across two stitches: insert hook into first stitch, yarn over, pull through one. Insert hook into second stitch, yarn over, pull through one. Yarn over, pull through 3 loops.

Directions

Brim is worked by making a long, skinny band.

To begin the brim:

Chain 5 + 2 (counts as first HDC). Work 1HDC into each of 5 stitches across. [6 HDC]

Row 2 – 26: Ch 2 (counts as first HDC), turn. Working in back loops only, HDC into each stitch across. [6 HDC). This will give it a textured “ribbed” look.

Slip stitch short ends together. This is the brim of your hat!

crochet hat band bottom up

To begin the hat body: 

Hat is worked in the round, do not turn between Rounds.

Round 1: Chain 2 (counts as first HHDC, half herringbone double crochet). Working across long side of brim, work 39 HHDC. Join with slip stitch to top of chain 2. [40 HHDC]

Rounds 2 – 5: Chain 2, work HHDC in each stitch around. Join with slip stitch to top of chain 2.  [40 HHDC]

Round 6: Chain 2, work 7 HHDC. *SC2TOG, 8 HHDC*. Work from * to * around for 5 decreases. Join with slip stitch to top of chain 2. [35 HHDC] Note: HHDC stitches are the same height as SC so while it feels odd to use SC as a decrease  next to HHDC, it will look ok!

Rounds 7 – 9: Chain 2, work 4 HHDC. *SC2tog, 5 HHDC*. Work from * to * around. Join with slip stitch to top of chain 2.

Round 10: Chain 2, work one SC. *SC2tog, 2 HHDC*. Work from * to * around. Join with slip stitch to top of chain 2.

Round 11: To tightly close top of hat, work one slip stitch into every other stitch around.

Repeat Round 11 again if needed. About 5 stitches should be remaining.

Fasten off, leaving long tail. Sew top of hat closed. Attach a pom or leave plain – whatever you’d like!

chunky cream crochet hat

Projects

Wooden Tags for Hats

As you know, I’ve been knitting pom-pom hats like there’s no tomorrow. Big ones, small ones neutral and colorful. There was just one missing piece. Something that would make the hats more “finished” and professional.

Browsing other knitter’s and crocheter’s accounts on Instagram led me to All That Wood, a custom shop on Etsy that offers engraved tags in all shapes and sizes. Just what I wanted!

I ordered these tags: https://www.etsy.com/listing/497038802/product-tags-customized-with-your-text

And they’re PERFECT. They’re 0.5 x 1 Inch and I ordered 40 in cherry.

Ana was great and helped me find the right looking text for the tags. If you’re selling your hand-made goods or just giving them to friends, I’d highly recommend your DIY game by getting professionally made tags. They’re a great way to brand your company, do some word-of-mouth-marketing and they’re so stinking cute.

Knitting, Projects

Cream Chunky Knit Cable Hat

chunk knit hat with pom pom

chunky knit cream hat

As mentioned in the post below, cable knit hats have been my jam recently. I’ll wake up before work and knit a few rows. I’ll pull out the needles before going to bed. I’ve even skipped the gym (more than once) because I just had to finish a cable.

We’ve all been there, right?

Knitting, however, is not my first love.

As the name JJCrochet suggests, my heart belongs to the knotty loops of the crochet world. But there’s something about these chunky hats with pom-poms that have pulled me deeper and deeper into the world of two needles.

chunk knit cream hat pom pom

I think the thing I like most about these chunky knit cable hats is they take me a while to make. Not too-too long since I’m still using chunky yarn, but each hat takes about 90ish minutes to finish. Compare that to my normal pace of 20-30 mins for a crochet hat and you could call them an invested labor of love.

Which means I care a little bit more and have spent time finding the perfect yarn, the perfect pom-poms (Pat Catans!) and the perfect tags (Etsy). Instead of just a hat, it’s a blended component of things I’ve hunted down. Sure, the cost to make each hat goes up (the pom-poms run me about $4 each and the tags are $.75), but it’s SO worth it.

pom pom knit hat

Some hats were made just to be made, while others were crafted with a specific person in mind. Sarah likes black, no pom-pom – Brianne likes gray – and Britt would look adorable in a floppy beret. The hats sit piled on my countertop, patiently waiting until they’re ready to be given away and it brings me SO. MUCH. JOY.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to pick up some more yarn with my 25% off coupon from Michael’s. 

Hat for sale on Etsy: Chunky Cream Knit Hat with Pom-Pom ($30)

fuzzy pom pom knit hat

chunk knit hat with pom pom

Crochet, Knitting, Projects

Chunk Knit & Crochet Hats with Pom-Poms!

If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen the chunky knits and pom-pom hats that are E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. J.Crew, Burbery, L.L. Bean, American Eagle, Loft, etc. etc. As a hooker, I’m obsessed. They’re the perfect blend of warm texture and a little playful fun!

Of course, there’s no integrity in purchasing one from a big-box store, so I decided to knit my own.

While running errands on Wednesday, I found myself in Michael’s (I swear I don’t know how that always happens!). I started perusing the yarn aisle even though, you know, I don’t need anything. The deals were too good, the skeins were too cozy.

I let my guard down and envisioned a weekend of chunky cables and pom-poms. So I bought 22 skeins of yarn and 16 pom-poms. Oh the shame!

(Fun note: the fuzzy pom-poms are actually keychains that are attached to the metal with a small elastic band. A little prying apart of the attachments and I had a simple way to sew onto the hats using the elastic loop.) 

I’ve worked up 4 hats yesterday and this morning:  two cable knit black hats, one cream and another crocheted maroon one. The black and cream ones are based off a pattern from Premknits, the Braided Cable Beanie Pattern ($4.99).

I hate (hate!) knitting in the round (the tubes always twist and turn on me) so I modified the pattern so I could knit on my ever-trusty straights. After following most of the pattern for two hats, I decided to scale it down to only 5 cables instead of 6 and I like how that looks. Less yarn, less time, less bulk.

The crocheted maroon hat was a pattern I made up as I went along and didn’t write down. I can if there’s interest! It takes some time since you have to go back and work slip stitches onto some stitches after you finish to give those 5 rounds their lines of texture.

I love how these knit pom-pom hats are turning out! It’s fun to experiment and see how each one is a little different.

I plan on gifting a few as Christmas gifts  since they work up quickly and everyone loves a good hat. Might also be on the hunt for some new pom-poms, but TBD, it’s going to take me some time to use up the other dozen…

Crochet

Crochet Star Garland for Christmas

After eating Thanksgiving left-overs for dinner, it’s time to decorate my apartment for Christmas! Carols are playing, crochet hooks are out, my balsam candle is lit and a glass of merlot is poured.

I found this great star pattern from Persia Lou and knew it’d be the perfect accompaniment to the minimalistic Christmas decorations on my bar cart. The stars were festive, they were crocheted, they were PERFECT.

crochet garland bar cart

I followed Alexis’ instructions exactly, minus the blocking since there’s no time for that when you’re too excited. If you look closely, you’ll spot my crochet hook on the bar cart – I told you there was no time for formalities – I wanted to see how this looked hung up!

Because I skipped the blocking, the stars do look more like flowers with rounded instead of pointy petals so I might make some DIY blocking liquid (equal parts glue + water), but TBD on that.

I made 5 stars using cream Vanna’s choice worsted weight yarn and joined them together with a chain of burlap string I had left over from another craft project. For the burlap cord, I used a K hook (same as for the stars) and did 13 chains between each star, joining as I went.

Materials

  • 30 yards Vanna’s Choice yarn
  • Size K crochet hook
  • 5 yards Burlap cord – I used some from Ms. Sparkle & Co.

crochet star garland

I love how it turned out. So festive! So fun! If you’re looking for a quick, easy crochet project to make your house look festive this Christmas, I highly recommend this pattern by Alexis at Persia Lou. https://persialou.com/2015/12/crochet-star-ornaments-free-pattern.html

I could see the crochet stars being great as tree ornaments, light switch hangers or laid down on a counter top – really anywhere you need some extra cheer!