Just for Fun

A Trip to Asia: Vietnam, Thailand & a Little Shanghai

My last post was about making last-minute Christmas presents. How embarrassing! What’s even more dismal is that I’ve not had much time to crochet in the past weeks. I’ve been traveling and planning the trip hasn’t left much free time. I promise, there will be new projects soon!

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For this vacation, I met up with friends who are living in Shanghai and we took a two week trip to Vietnam (Hoi An and Saigon/Ho Chi Mihn City) and Thailand (Koh Lanta and Phi-Phi Island). It was magical! It was my first time in Southeast Asia. I probably knew only 10% of all I saw, tasted and experienced before I went on this trip. I even got to spend 3 days in Shanghai which was fantastic as well.

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Highlights: 

  • Scootering around the Thai and Vietnamese countrysides on motorbikes
  • Snorkeling with sharks in Phi Phi
  • Eating like kings for about $4/meal (favorites were Bahn Mi, dumplings, Korean BBQ, baracuda tar-tar, pho, multiple curries, Thai pancakes and fresh mango smoothies)
  • A Thai cooking class where I learned that unlike American cuisine that keeps most flavors separate, Thai food seeks to feature all four flavors in one dish (sweet, salty, sour and savory)
  • Surviving nine flights, one of which was on Air Asia
  • Watching multiple sun sets over the Adaman Sea/Indian Ocean
  • Touring the My Son ruins in Vietnam
  • Crawling through the Cu Chi tunnels the Viet Cong used to hide in during the Vietnam War
  • Dining in the dark – the entire meal is served in total blackness and you have to use your sense of smell and taste to identify your food. All servers are blind
  • Ringing in the Chinese New Year on a rooftop bar
  • Traditional Thai massages (painful!)
  • Beating Escape rooms (twice!)
  • Releasing lanterns on the beaches of Thailand and floating rives of Hoi An
  • Sipping caipirinas on the beach

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pho

shanghai skyline

saigon

It was such a nice break from the freezing temperatures we’ve been having in Pittsburgh (went from 0 degrees to 95 degrees Farenheit!) and the responsibilities of life. Who doesn’t love vacation? Can’t wait to go back!

 

Crochet, Free Patterns

Crochet Christmas Gifts & Last Minute Projects

It’s nearly Christmas. Months ago, when the sun was still shining and tan lines were your largest concern, you had grand plans of hand-crocheting presents for everyone on your list. Was it ambitious? Sure, but you’d have a plan and plenty of time to stitch.

crochet-christmas-gifts

And yet, here we are.

We’re days away from the big day and you need projects–completed projects. We’ve all been there and there’s still hope! Here are some of my favorite crocheted Christmas gifts.

They’re quick, they’re customizable and they’re easy for beginners. Most will take an hour or less to work up. So grab your hooks, go through your stash and cross off that Christmas gift list!

For the Friend

For the Coworker

For the Sister-In-Law

For the New Mom

For Anyone

Crochet, Projects

Striped Crochet Baby Blanket

crochet-baby-blanket

A former coworker commissioned a blanket for his nephew. After asking if he had a design in mind, he replied in typical guy fashion: “It’s for a baby. Can you make it blue and gray?”. Sure can, Sam, sure can.

I chose four skeins of yarn for this blanket–I was picturing stripes.

crochet-baby-afghan

We had’ light blue, dark blue, soft baby blue and a variegated black/white/gray to tie it together. I’ haven’t fully embraced bold hues for baby blankets (you can’t deny there’s something cuddly about cloud blue yarn), although I do like mixing saturated colors with the typical baby palette.

It’s my way of blending compliance with creativity.

Once the yarn was selected, I got to work. I’ll tell you a secret, though: sometimes having no direction is the hardest task–all I have is yards of string to make a blanket.

After a few designs, nothing was coming out quite right so I revisited old instructions–a soft wave pattern I used for a rainbow ripple blanket a few years ago. It turned out great! The yarn creates a cozy design when striped together and I love the soft border of baby blue yarn.

Project Details: 

  • Free Pattern: Crochet Ripple Afghan from Attic24
  • Yarn: About 600 yards varying weight
  • Hook: Size I crochet hook

The finished blanket measures 35 inches wide by 42 inches long, should be just the right size for the newborn. Afghan was packaged and mailed off today. I hope it brings many warm nights with it. Thanks for the project Sam–hope your nephew enjoys!

crochet-baby-blanket-stripes

 

Crochet, Projects

Finished Project: Crochet Baby Dress

When coworkers are pregnant, I crochet.

crochetbabydress3

I found this beautiful crochet baby dress pattern from Bev’s Country Cottage (on Ravelry) and knew it’d be perfect for the soon-to-be little girl. I used sport weight tan yarn and accented the dress with pink baby cashmerino flowers.

The crochet baby shoes (Dainty Mary Janes from Ravelry) worked up in no time and they’re so tiny! Just look at how cute they are.

crochetbabybooties

I followed the dress pattern as written, but made it a few rows longer. I’m hoping it’s 0-3 months, though it might be larger. Not having a real baby handy, I’m unsure of the sizing. Hoping all this fits, but figured she can always grow into it. Also made a small little headband in the same pattern.

crochetbabydress

crochetbooties

crochetbabyheadbandI highly recommend the crochet baby dress and shoes patterns. They work up quickly and only use a little bit of yarn. If you’re looking for a last minute baby shower gift, whip up the booties, dress, or both and they’ll be sure to get plenty of “awwws”. The best news is both patterns are free. Enjoy!

 

Crochet, Free Patterns, Projects

Crochet Picture Frame Pattern

crochetframefreepattern
While I’m partial to hats and afghans, I’ve been working on a great new partnership with tillie & rose, a small boutique opening in Ligonier, PA.

I met the two-women-duo of Andria and Jen at a craft show and we started planning. In the months that followed, we talked designs and sketches to come up with a line of crochet frames that matched tillie & rose’s photography.

This is the first prototype, but I was so excited, I had to share. I based the design off this Dutch blog’s pattern and have included the free crochet picture frame pattern below for easier reference.

crochetframes2

Finished Size: As an oval, inside edge is 4.5 inches x 4 inches; Outside width from ruffle to ruffle is 5 inches x 6.5 inches. Frame can also be shaped completely round as a 5.75 inch circle.

Materials

Crochet Pattern

Chain 55, join with sl st to make loop.

Rounds 1 & 2: Chain 1, sc around. Join with sl st to join.

Round 3: Do not turn.  Chain 3 (counts as first dc). Work 3 more dc into same stitch. 1sc in next stitch. Skip 1 stitch. Repeat: *4 dc in same stitch. 1 sc in next stitch, skip 1 stitch* around. Join with sl st to join.

Fasten off. Weave in ends.

crochetframe2

The pattern is simple and works up quickly.

My piece of advice is that when making a crochet picture frame, the yarn you choose is important. You want to use something that’s delicate enough to show off your stitch detail, yet sturdy enough to stand on its own.

Flimsy yarn just won’t cut it. I found the perfect combo for these crocheted frames to be Vanna’s Glamour, but I’m sure there are other yarns out there. I have a cotton blend to try next and think it’ll provide some good structure.

Have you even made a crocheted picture frame? I’d love to hear about your experience.I’m still working out how to attach the frame onto a picture, so ideas are welcome.

I’m also testing out some new frame patterns and will be sure to share the instructions here once they’re completed.

crochetframepattern

crochetframe

Crochet, Pictor Granny Square, Projects

It’s Finished: The Crochet Granny Square Afghan

I’ve been crocheting the granny square picot afghan for the past year.

Like the two blankets before it, this blue-purple-red-green-yellow combo was a treat to make. The 3-D granny squares have raised centers that look complicated, yet become easy after the 80th repeat. (If you’d like to try your hand at making a square, you can with this picot granny square video tutorial).

rainbowafghan

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A few weeks ago, I finished crocheting the blanket based on Lucy’s original design. I had just ended my last square when I realized there was enough yarn to make another repeat–which would mean three additional rows. The ‘inspiration afghan ‘is a rectangle, but adding the extra rows made this one into a square.

I forged ahead and am glad I did. I rather like the extra inches since it makes the blanket even longer for maximum warmth.

rainbowfull

Project Details: 

  • 52 Skeins of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino
  • Size E (3.5mm) crochet hook
  • Inspired by Attic 24′s flower granny square afghan
  • Time to crochet: 1 year
  • Worth it factor (WIF):  YES!  Loved learning how to make the raised granny square flowers. Could be my favorite blanket of the bunch.

rainbowafghan2

My favorite part of designing this afghan was not using the same bordering color for a square in any given row OR column. It was like playing sudoku. I even enlisted the help of my roommate. We’d pause the episode of Friday Night Lights we were watching (hello, Tim Riggins) and whisper to ourselves, “light pink…? no. maroon?….. no. Ooh – navy!” as we’d scan the rows and talk through color options until finding a suitable choice.

Adding on the three extra rows, I didn’t think it was possible, but without any real planning it worked out. A rainbow afghan of totally random colors.

Afghan edging is a faux-picot stitch repeat of [3 slip stitch,es *sc, ch 2, sc* in next stitch ] around.

rainbowedge

I’m packaging up this afghan tonight and am sad to see it leave, though it’s going to a good home, joining its hexy and ripple afghan sisters. Keep the faith, dear reader, as there is already a fourth afghan in the works. The kaleidoscope continues!

Craft Shows, Just for Fun, Knitting

Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival: 2014

Last weekend (March 14 – 16th), I attended the 10th annual Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival in Cranberry, PA. I’d heard of the festival before, but was never in town to attend. The festival attracted over 70 different booths and some big name teachers. I talked to the coordinator, Barb, and she said there were well over 3,000 attendees. Not too shabby for a knitting festival!

Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival

From my perspective, the festival was largely geared towards knitters, but I didn’t mind – it seems to be the preferred craft among fiber artists (don’t worry, crochet, you’ll always be my first love). I’d say about 90% of the classes offered were knitting; only a few were crochet. Vendors also offered knitting patterns and had knitted samples of sweaters, blankets and accessories, but only a few crochet items.

I purchased a two day pass for Friday and Sunday and zipped up to the festival after work on Friday to check things out. I got there for the last two hours and spent the time looking at vendor booths and talking with other crafters.

Neutral Yarn

On Sunday, however, the real fun began.

I’d purposefully signed up for “Borderline Personalities: Knitting on the Edge” for the sole reason that it was taught by my all-time crochet hero, Lily Chin. While Lily is a master crocheter, she’s probably better known for her skills with knitting needles. Meeting her was a DREAM COME TRUE. She’s a feisty 5-foot tall woman who doesn’t take crap from anyone. She kept the class moving, called out students who were knitting the wrong thing, yet was personable and talked with me at the end.

An exclusive, inside look at what a knitting class looks like (I know you’ve wondered).

Lily doing what Lily does best - teachin' knittin' class.
Lily doing what Lily does best – teachin’ knittin’ class.

The class was 3 hours long and the best $50 I’ve spent in a while.

Lily Chin and Me. I know, RIGHT?! Lily the crochet master Chin.
Selfie with Lily Chin. I know, RIGHT?! Lily ‘the crochet master’ Chin.

I didn’t end up purchasing anything at the festival (I’m on a yarn sanction), though I did pick up a mannequin bust for $55. I envision using it to 1. display scarves rather than begging my roommate to model and 2. taking it to craft shows as part of my display.

The other notable part of the weekend was getting to see two Olympic sweaters from Sochi. One of the few things I love more than the Olympics is knitting, so to see both combined in the sweaters for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies was a dream come true. (I hope my true excitement is coming through – If not, maybe this picture will convey my love for the games.)

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 Opening & Closing Ceremony Knit Sweaters from the 2014 Sochi Olympics

Opening & Closing Ceremony Knit Sweaters from the 2014 Sochi Olympics

Overall, great weekend, even though I didn’t spend much time at the festival. Next year, I’d like to go with other people who knit/crochet because you can only walk around a large hall filled with yarn so many times by yourself before you look creepy. If you get the chance and are in town for next year’s Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Fest, definitely make it a priority to go!

Free Patterns, Pictor Granny Square, Projects

Picot Flower Granny Square – Crochet Pattern + Video

crochet picot granny squareHello, friends! As you might know, I’m currently crocheting another multi-colored afghan, as inspired by Lucy’s design from Attic 24. After requests from fellow crocheters about how to go about making this beautifully unique picot flower granny square, here it is!

I’ve written out instructions and made a video showing how to make the first four rounds of this crochet + picot flower combo. Remember: Lucy’s the designer, I’m merely the interpreter. 🙂

Materials:

  • Size 3.5mm (E) crochet hook
  • 5 colors yarn, I’m using Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmireno

Pattern:

With first color, chain 3, sl st to form ring.

Round 1: Ch 1, Into ring, work 7 more sc. (8sc total)

Round 2: Ch 3, sl st into first ch (first picot). * Working in front loops only, sl st in next stitch. ch 3, sl stitch in previous sl st made (picot).* Work from * to * around until you have eight, ch-3 picots.

Round 3: Change to second color if desired. Ch 1 + 4 (counts as sc + ch 4). Sl st into top of sc to form first picot. *Working in back loops only of Round 1, sc in next stitch. Sc, work Ch 4, sl st in sc (picot). * Work from * to * around until you have four, ch-4 picots.

Round 4: Chang to third color if desired. Ch 2 (counts as first dc). Work 2 dc, ch 2, 3 dc into sc in between ch-4 picots from previous round. *3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc into sc between ch-4 picots.* Work from * to * around twice more until you have four corner spaces of 3dc, ch 2, 3dc.

Round 5: Change to fourth color if desired. Ch 2 (counts as first dc. Work 2 dc into same space. Ch 1 *3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc into ch-2 corner space of previous round. Ch 1. Work 3 dc into space in between corners from previous round. * Work from * to * around.

Round 6: (Not pictured in video). Change to fifth color if desired. Ch 2 (counts as first dc. Work 2 dc into same space. Ch 1. *3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc into ch-2 corner space of previous round. Ch 1, 3 dc into next space. Ch 1, 3 dc into next space. * Work from * to * around.

Fasten off.

What are you planning to make with this pattern? Are you also making an afghan or using the square for something else? I’d love to know!

Just for Fun, Knitting, Projects

Trying Our Hand at Arm Knitting #Pun

About once a month, my coworkers get together for “Craft Night”. Each girl takes a turn hosting and all from the office are invited. We’ll sometimes work on a joint craft like glitter pumpkins, or sometimes we’ll bring individual projects to make. Wine and cheese are necessities. 

This month, we chose to test our hands (literally) at arm knitting.

Arm Knitting

The inspiration came from Vickie Howell’s project.  The week leading up to Craft Night, Pinterest links were shared and talks of yarn combinations took place on the way to (and sometimes during) meetings.

Arm knitting is relatively new to the craft world and pretty simple to pick up. It’s gained popularity through its instant gratification and short supply list – all you need are your hands and some yarn. The craft uses similar principles as ‘real knitting’, so those familiar with needles will have an easy time grasping the concept. The entire group (Jenna and Dani, we’re looking at you…) made great scarves.

The group learned by watching Vickie’s how-to arm knit video (highly recommended) and by the end of the night (about 45 mins?), each of us had a lovely, hand-knit scarf.

The rockiest parts of the project were getting started, though once we learned how and what to loop and over which hand and when, it all came together. The key, we learned, was all in the yarn. A few strands of super chunky strands made the best scarves.

If you’re thinking about arm knitting, go for it! Call up a couple of friends and learn together. It’s a great wintery night activity to do with a group.

The following day, we wore our scarves to the office after making feeble, though sincere promises the night before, “Of course I’ll wear mine if you wear yours!” Coworkers complimented and boys belittled and we were proud. We, the women of DSG, had conquered arm knitting!

What’s next on the list?

Crochet, Pictor Granny Square, Projects

Granny Square Picot Afghan – Part III

The last time I shared a picture of the granny square picot afghan, it was 18 squares big. Such a baby! It’s grown quite considerably in the last couple months (to 76 squares) as I’ve found these cold winter months in PA are great for movie-watching and couch-crocheting.

grannysquareblanket

grannyblanketcrochet

crochet ends
Weaving in ends – my least favorite part, but the finishing touch

crochet flower square

All that’s left to do is make 18 more squares, crochet a couple rows for a border and sew in loose ends, which at 10 ends a square to sew in, it’ll be a task in itself.

Expect a project recap and “hooray, it’s finished” pictures soon!

Crochet, Projects

Crochet Baby Booties/Boots

My friend sent a link from Pinterest, asking if I could  make her daughter a pair of these crochet baby bootiesUm, of course I could. It looked like a great pattern and I had a free Sunday morning so I spent the time crocheting, drinking French press coffee and reading. Could you think of a more perfect time?

Crochet Bootie Pattern

I found some pink yarn and the booties worked up quickly. Barely took any yarn. I made the seize 0-3 month booties and even though my friend’s baby is 6 months old, they were falling off her feet. Maybe I needed to size down? Regardless, they’re adorable and she can always grow into them.

Baby Crochet Booties Pattern

Project Details

  • Pattern (free): Crochet baby booties pattern from Quartered Heart Crochet
  • Crochet Needle: Size E (3.5mm)
  • Yarn: Vanna’s Choice, worsted weight in Light Pink – about 45 yards
  • TIme: 1 hour
  • Favorite part: The functional button closure and scalloped edges
  • Edits: None, followed pretty much as written. Skipped the instructions for the button holes since I always just push the buttons through an open spot in the work – the stitches are loose enough. I did have some trouble making the second shoe turn out like the first. Made two pairs and always had the same problem… had something to do with the decreasing around the toes, but I wasn’t able to fix it completely. Not too noticable, though
  • Make again? For sure! I could see this being a good baby shower gift

Newborn Crochet Booty Pattern

Crochet, Knitting, Projects

Katniss Vest/Cowl from Catching Fire

They say books are better than movies, and I’d agree. But I’ll be the first to admit:  when reading the Hunger Games trilogy, I never would have dreampt up this knit vest deign Katniss wears in Catching Fire.

katniss-cowl-vest


I was recently commissioned by a friend to make the “Huntress Vest” Katniss wore for a brief second. The part-cowl, part-vest was only in one scene, but crocheters and knitters were quick to draft patterns to replicate the design. Depending on the look you want, you can find free and paid patterns for Katniss’ vest on Etsy and Ravelry,

My friend thought his wife would like this chunky version of the cowl by TwoOfWands.  It was made in my favorite yarn (Lionbrand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick) so I was looking forward to the project. I mean let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to look like Katniss?

Crochet Katniss Vest
Channeling Katniss with a side-braid… Not my best look.
Katniss Cowl Back
Open on the left side; arm hole on the right.
Crochet Katniss Vest
Knit panel over the right shoulder; the rest of the cowl is crocheted.

This pattern is clearly written and was a fun project amidst the many Christmas projects I had going on. It’s 4 parts crochet and 1 part knit; the chunky yarn helps it work up quickly. It’s made in 5 separate pieces which makes the construction a little tricky and since it’s not a normal sweater or vest, I needed a couple tries to piece it together. Does it swoop left then right or right then left?

Project Details: 

  • Pattern ($5): Katniss Cowl by TwoOfWands on Etsy
  • Yarn: 4 skeins of Lionbrand Wool Ease Thick & Quick in Grey Marble
  • Needles/Hooks: Size US 19 knitting needles and P and J crochet hooks
  • Size: One size fits all; larger than Katniss’ original cowl
  • Modifications: Used seed stitch for the knit panel instead of the pattern instructions; found I liked it better than the chevron pattern that was called for
  • Favorite part: The wonderfully big cowl neck
  • Odd elements: Working two separate panels for the main “swoop” piece when I thought one would have worked. Also using single crochet to seam the pieces together rather than stitching them with a darning needle. It makes the seams visible which is a ‘look’, but I’m not sure it would have been my first choice.
  • Make again: For sure! Like the pattern and the detailed instructions

Knit Katniss Vest Cowl

During the brief time I had the cowl/vest on to take pictures, I realized just how warm it was. I’m sure my friend’s wife will like it. Down with the Capital… Katniss and Peeta forever.