I’ve seen this meme floating around Facebook for the past few days and it really is accurate. January both seemed to fly by at lightning speed and crawl and seemed to be packed to the gills with all kinds of goings on.
The month started with me getting sick: I am prone to bronchitis and sinus infections, and this year it felt that January was a good time to have me down for the count. I was out of commission for almost a week; and during that time I didn’t even have the energy to crochet. I’m definitely feeling better than I was, but I’m still having lingering effects from being sick.
On the heels of me recovering from bronchitis/sinusitis, my father ended up having three stents put in. Christmas Day he told me he had been having chest pains for about three months, but wanted to get through Christmas. He has a history of heart problems, so needless to say I was worried and nagged at him until he finally went to the ER to be checked, and he had blockages that needed to be addressed. Thankfully, he is recovering well and seems to be on the mend.
And then I ended up with the migraine from hell….I think it was a release of all the adrenaline that I had from knowing that he was going to be in the hospital and that he needed to have surgery. It has not quite been three years since I lost my mother, so I am not ready (by a long shot) to lose my father.
While I know these are small problems as opposed to what many go through, they have made to a trying start (mentally and physically) to 2019. I’m hoping that February gets things going in a more positive direction.
And while I have been having some set backs crochet-wise because of fatigue and outside influences, I have been having fun making the projects that I am working on. I have had some people custom order some really awesome Luvvies that I can’t wait to share with y’all.
So, this is just a brief post today to say “hey,” and to let you know I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth. I’m here and I am so very excited for what is to come for us to share in 2019. I think we’ve got over the hump and it is going to be awesome!!!
For the long Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, western PA was warned we were going to have a snowmageddon – grocery store shelves were ransacked, bread became a precious commodity, and everyone hunkered down preparing for the worse…which ended up being (for my area) about an inch of snow and some icy roads – not too bad.
Because I prepared to not leave my house this weekend with the weather, I decided to revisit an arch nemesis of mine: The yarn hank. I have battled with hanks before with mixed results, and I was determined this time was going to be better. (SPOILER: It wasn’t).
As I struggled with my unruly hank, I pondered why do we need hanks? What makes them necessary? Are they just a throwback to a prior age? Why can’t I just have this in a skein, like 99% of my yarn?
The answers vary, but I think at the end of my research, I came up with some interesting answers/thoughts.
What the heck is a hank?
A hank is reminiscent of an infinity or a figure eight. The problem with a hank is that a crocheter (or knitter) isn’t able to just find the end and start working from this as they might be able to with a conventional skein of yarn. Before any hook or needle is set to this fiber, the hank must be disassembled and wound into a ball.
If you have a specialty yarn store in your area that sells hanks, they may offer their services to transform hank into a workable ball. If you do not have a service like that available, then you might have to do this yourself.
Who needs a hank?
From what I can see, the types of yarns that are sold in hanks are specialty fibers or handmade fibers. That’s great, but why do they need to create extra work for us poor fiber artists who can’t figure out what end is up with these contortions?
Some theorize that hanks are best for these specialty fibers because they can better show textures and any variegation in color. Being able to see the fibers in a hank display gives a crafter a better understanding of what they are going to have.
Some thought is that by using the hank’s unique shape, which allows each piece to lay flat, the yarn can be stored and shipped easier; although if that was really the case then all yarns would be stored and sold in hanks. So, that is a good theory, but I don’t put a lot of stock in it.
The theory that I put the most faith in relates to the material in the hank. For the vast majority of yarns sold in hanks these are more high end fibers: merino, silk, alpaca, hand dyed. By loosely winding the yarn into the hank, the fiber can rest without being bound tightly, which could cause kinks and knots.
Because of the effort involved in unwinding a hank, most crafters do not create the ball(s) until they are ready to actually use the yarn – this means the yarn isn’t constricted into the ball for as long and has more of a chance to provide a smoother finish.
There are some fiber artists that just prefer the hank storage style versus a skein because there is no “yarn barf” and they are in control of how big each ball is – which could be helpful if you wanted to make bobbins, or have multiple balls of the same fiber to create a corner to corner blanket.
Hank 1, Me 0
With a snow day on the agenda I decided to try to fix a hank of yarn I had previously tried (and failed to unwind).
The best advice for handling a hank says that you need to unroll the yarn until it is in a big circle, and then either have friends hold the sides of the circle, or turn a chair upside down to use the bottom to keep the yarn from getting tangled.
When I first started working with this yarn, I decided using my feet to wrap the yarn around was sufficient enough…it wasn’t, and I ended up with a huge tangle. So, of course with the huge tangle I got frustrated and threw the yarn (which I think is a silk blend a friend got for me) into a crumpled heap.
I conscripted Desi to help me try to make sense of the yarn and to get this smoothed out into a workable ball. After three hours (I was nothing if not persistent) of struggling and not making much progress, my husband finally asked how much was I really going to lose? The stubborn part of me insisted I didn’t want to lose anything, I was going to unravel this hank and it was going to be perfect. The side of me that wanted to be done playing with the yarn so that I could actually work with the yarn said – you know he might be right.
In the end, I cut my losses (literally), and lost some yardage from my hank, but I was still able to come up with three balls of workable yarn. The hank still won this encounter, but I hope that I learned some valuable lessons for the next time we meet: One of these lessons is my feet will not work as a hank unraveling device. The other lesson is that for people with limited patience (such as myself) probably buying yarn in hanks is not the way to go. I still have one or two of the finicky fiber folios hanging around that were gifted to me, but I think I’m going to go in my corner and lick my wounded pride before I attempt that again.
It’s been quite some time since I have tried to learn a new stitch. It seems like once I got my basic repertoire of stitches down my brain decided it had enough and was not going to process any more. The last time I actually tried to learn a new stitch or technique was last year with the corner to corner (C2C) crochet method. I gave up not too long after that and didn’t look back.
With the new year, I decided that maybe…just maybe, I should try to broaden my horizons. Maybe I should try to expand my skills, or fail miserably trying. To this aim, I decided to revisit C2C.
I watched multiple YouTube demonstrations of the stitch and every time I started, I ended up confusing myself more. Finally, it seemed like the switch went on in my head and it started to make sense. Huzzah! The good news is I think I can comfortably make a project with C2C; the bad news, it might have to be one color because the color change and me on this technique? Not such good friends.
I started working last night on this project; which I hope will be a pillow for a Supernatural pillow. Couple minor problems so far: (1) like I mentioned before the color changes and I are not such good friends and (2) I grossly underestimated how much yarn even a small project was going to take. I’m not sure if I have enough to finish, and I don’t want to pay $12.95 (with shipping) for a $5 skein of yarn.
On the positive side, I think I have the concept of the stitches and what I need to do down pat. And, thanks to videos from Blossom Crochet for how to manage the basics and from The Crochet Crowd for the design, I feel much more confident than I did if you would have asked me yesterday at this time.
One of the most helpful tips that I learned was from The Crochet Crowd regarding how to follow the graphgan chart. I can see the chart and I can (to some extent follow the pattern), but when you are trying to follow that a block pattern, sometimes even if you are marking off stitches as you go, there is an increased room for error. I know what colors and stitches need to be made, but once I got off track it was very difficult to get back on course again. However, from The Crochet Crowd it talked about putting it in an Excel spreadsheet to follow. I’m an accountant in my day job, so Excel is definitely my jam.
To follow along with the chart above, it is smooth sailing so long as it is one color, but once the colors start moving from white to black, it gets a little harder to follow along, even using editing tools to mark progress.
To take the graph and put it into a workbook – that was something that I could follow more clearly. This is not to say that I might not still get confused and put stitches in the wrong place, but by putting the work in before hand to count and get familiar with the pattern expectations, I feel better about handling the project. I definitely feel more prepared.
And while the chart is more compact and a great visual representation, knowing it is so simple to create your own written instructions is even that much better. It takes time to set up and I couldn’t jump immediately into the pattern, which I’m sometimes too impatient to wait, but so far I feel like I know what I’m looking for. The accountant in me reconciled my stitches as I went (increases I made sure my stitches added up to the row number, decreases the previous row’s count minus one); so I feel comfortable that I have all my stitches accounted for.
I’m really excited to see how this turns out. If this technique works for me, and if my stitches continue to look decent, I may just have opened up a new realm for myself. We’ll see if this project turns out even close to what I imagined and see where to go from here.
I mentioned in a previous posting about the fact that I have OCD (both the actual compulsive disorder and the obsessive crochet disorder) and how they can come together in a perfect storm to cause me to fixate on things. This has been especially true for the past week with patterns.
Before I got sick, I went through my Google Drive and did a mass clean up and organization of my patterns: Put them in folders by designer, got rid of those that I wasn’t going to use, and just tried to make life generally easier for me. Even prior to this re-organization I knew I had a ton of patterns – more than I could probably make in a year’s time, if I didn’t duplicate a single pattern. And the sad thing is, for as much as I talk about needing to work on patterns and make sure the designer fits your style, I find myself purchasing multiple patterns from a new designer if something looks cute and then potentially regretting it.
In recent weeks, I’ve thought about expanding some of what I offer in my Etsy shop, so I looked to find patterns with different techniques; only to find that I either didn’t have the patience for those techniques or because the skill didn’t come to me immediately, I got frustrated and gave up. However, I still have that pattern that I’ve now added to my (ever growing) collection.
Over the weekend, I found myself almost hourly going over to Etsy to see if any of my favorite shops had any new patterns in their stores. Most of these individuals just posted a ton of patterns before Christmas and are probably recovering and taking some much needed rest, but there I was…refreshing my feed like a looney tune hoping to find a new pattern from them. A couple times I got lucky and there was a new pattern posted, and then it was something that didn’t really rock my world and then I was more dejected than I had been before.
The other thing I’ve been noticing with some of the patterns I’ve gotten from newer designers recently is they look super cute, but some of the instructions are not user friendly. I mentioned earlier that I had found a new squirrel pattern:
The instructions were so vague. Like have you seen “The Great British Baking Show” on PBS or Netflix? They have their second challenge each episode as a technical challenge where they have a pared down recipe to work with, but it is primarily based on their own baking knowledge. That is what I felt like this squirrel was. It didn’t even give me a recommended crochet hook size. And some of the terminology it used was either antiquated, specific to a different country or region, or was what they called it and not common terms. It’s almost like there needs to be an ability to preview a pattern before buying to make sure it is going to be something that you can work with. I know I was giving Google and YouTube a good work out last night when I was trying to look up some of those terms.
Even despite me sitting here and sharing with you (maybe in the hopes of shaming myself? I don’t know) how many patterns I have and how few I have used, I feel the pull, and so I leave you now as I go back to the magical world of Etsy and see if anything else new has popped up in the last half hour.
The new year took no time in blowing through like a lion. Between getting everyone at home back to school and me getting back to my normal work schedule, things were bound to be nutty. Add to that almost a week off work with bronchitis and it has definitely been a whirlwind.
I knew I wasn’t feeling that great right after Christmas, especially when I didn’t have a desire to work on my Luvvies as much as I wanted. However, I never expected to have been down for almost a full week with an illness. I feel like I’ve been completely out of the loop on things.
With that said, I hope everyone has had a great start to their new year and that things are just going swimmingly. Aside from my inordinate amount of sleeping that I have been doing, I actually did get around to making a Luvvie or two.
I’ve always believed in being honest about my crochet journey. I try not to whitewash and make everything look like I get it perfect, or get it perfect the first time. I am still learning; still experimenting. In many instances I have more failures than successes. This was a case in point.
Because I am such a fan of the television show “Supernatural,” I had wanted to make a Luvvie of one of the characters. The only pattern I could really find was for Castiel, the main characters’ angel assistant. I started working on the pattern and almost from stitch one I was having problems. There were parts of the pattern that I didn’t feel were written clearly, or that didn’t seem to work; so, I was trying to make my own adjustments. I got so far and then realized it just wasn’t going to work. I miscalculated how to put the arms and the trenchcoat on and there was no way that I could salvage it, so he sadly had to go into the garbage bin.
Bye, bye Castiel.
I might try again at a later point in time, maybe adapting a different pattern to make him; but, for now, I’m walking away.
On a more successful scale, I worked on a custom peacock for one of my dearest friends. This little guy took me four days, and some YouTube consultations, but I was able to get him completed and I think looking rather fabulous. My Desi certainly liked him and was happy to give him snuggles.
Another new pattern I played with was creating a squirrel. I made a squirrel for a friend of mine back when I first was learning the basics of amigurumi and I was so unhappy how it turned out (even though she said she loved it).
Again, as a fan of “Supernatural,” there is a running joke that the two leads are called Moose and Squirrel. The moose pattern I have down and am more than happy with, but it is surprisingly difficult to find a squirrel pattern. When I saw this pattern on Etsy, I was super excited. He looked so cute. However, this is another instance of where I would like to be able to read some of the pattern before buying.
The pattern was written using terminology that I had never hear of before (e.g., half point crochet stitch). Even using Google or my crochet stitch reference guides didn’t help me decipher what was meant. In the end, I filled in the gaps where I could and did the best that I could to come up with a replica of the pattern. I am reasonably pleased with how this cutie turned out. I’m wondering if his reception will be as favorable as what I have received in the past from my moose?
Overall, I’m just trying to do a mix of new projects and old favorites. Keep up with orders when they trickle in and prepare for the conventions that I have scheduled for this year.
2018 was a good introduction to business for my Luvvies, so I’m hoping that 2019 will continue that path and provide me with more knowledge and more opportunity to grow.
As always, I am so happy to share this journey with your.