Fighting with the Yarn

The yarn has not liked me this week. I am fighting with every project I pick up, and it’s getting me down.

Remember those cowboy hats that looked like fedoras, the ones I made for American Girl dolls? I have someone who wants one for her daughter too, and I’m really struggling to find a good pattern. I thought I’d found one, but it’s new enough that there are no projects on Ravelry yet. Not a problem, except there’s nothing to look to when I have issues. And I have issues. My gauge is nearly 2″ too big, and I can’t easily go down a hook size since I’m already using an F hook on worsted weight yarn. The size of the hat top looks plausible, but when I did the chains for the body it seems huge. So I set it aside and searched through the patterns again.

I found a cowboy hat pattern that looks cute, and plenty of people have made it, so that was my next attempt. The problem with this one is that there’s no size given except “Child” and most of the project notes mention how small it comes out. I went up two hook sizes and started crocheting. It’s a simple enough pattern, but I don’t think it’s coming out big enough. I can’t go to a bigger hook or it will be too loose and floppy.

Argh. What now? I can buy another skein of the yarn and double it to make the cowboy hat bigger. Or I can trust the pattern on the original fedora and soldier on. Or I guess I could try to adapt the doll hat pattern to a child size…but that sounds horrific. I’m not a big fan of that. I’d rather find a pattern and just follow it.

Given those struggles, I decided to start an “easy” project while I waited during the boy’s swim lesson. I took my treasured Madelinetosh DK to cast on for a Honey Cowl. That pattern keeps popping up whenever I browse patterns, and I decided it was a sign that I need to make one. My first cast-on attempt came up short. I frogged and cast on again, this time ending up with easily 18″ of tail, more than I like. The heck with it, I thought, and kept going. It’s a great pattern, simple and easy to remember, but somehow I managed to mess it up. Nothing major, but I want this project to be special. This yarn is special, my first Madelintosh yarn and souvenir yarn from DC. So I think I will be frogging it and starting over.

While I try to recover, I’m going to browse my pattern library and find the easiest pattern on there, and that’s what I’ll start next. I need a success to keep me going!

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Mad Man Knitting: “My LIVE Interview on the Huffington Post”

bonnyknits:

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post called “Knitting is for Old Ladies” about the stereotypes us knitters and crocheters face. I even mentioned the Mad Man Knitting as an example of the fantastic non-traditional artists out there. Today, he was part of a HuffPost Live panel about when you don’t match up with your stereotypes. I’m glad he’s got more positive experiences with it than I do!

Originally posted on Mad Man Knitting:

ghOk, so I usually don’t blog twice in one day. I was going to wait to post this tomorrow, but I figured, “What the hell….why not?”

Earlier this afternoon I did my first on camera interview. NEVER have I done that before. But, the Huffington Post via Nancy Redd contacted me and asked if I would be part of a discussion about when your stereotypes don’t match your interests. Why me? Because I’m a scruffy looking man that knits. Sure! I’d love to! But, keep a few things in mind. I was crazy nervous, my lamp made my face look wacked, and I don’t have the top of the line computer beauty that most do, so I had to phone in my audio. Kinda funny. I was the only one holding a phone up to his ear.  So goes life.

I told myself, no matter what happened, I wanted to…

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Crochet Hats for American Girl Dolls & Their Girls

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The hats have arrived so I can finally share some photos with you! I made three sets of hats for a girl and her doll, and two sets of cowboy hats and boots for the dolls.IMG_2640 IMG_2619I started with the doll hats while I waited for measurements. I found a great pattern by Carol Ballard on Ravelry here and she’s also got a blog called Cobbler’s Cabin. The first hat went quickly. It was awfully cute, even though the family thought it looked more like a fedora than a cowboy hat. With some shaping and tacking, I got it to look pretty close to a cowboy hat, I think.

IMG_2621 IMG_2638The boots were tricky. I used a Lion Brand pattern for baby cowboy booties, thinking that surely it wouldn’t be too hard to modify for a doll size. Ha! I crocheted and frogged the first boot at least three times while I figured out the right stitch counts. I finally got a good pattern and after that, the boots flew off the hook…until I got to the brown and tan pair. Brown was the requested color, but I used more on the hat than I expected, so I had just a tiny ball left for the boots. I tried to crochet as fast as possible, but it didn’t work, and I still ran out of yarn too quickly. The second boot didn’t match the first, and I am just OCD enough that it bothered me a lot. First boot was frogged and redone, and I finished the second with brown yarn to spare.

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Owl hats were next. I found this great pattern by Kathy Russell for the doll size, and I had a blast making up the little eyes and beak and the little tufty ears. Plus I love buttons, so getting to add button eyes was a treat. The girl size was done using an awesome pattern by Sarah at the Repeat Crafter Me blog. She does some super cute stuff, and this hat is so cool. So easy to modify for size or design, you can make any kind of hat you want!

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I used the same patterns for the Minnie Mouse hats, adding round ears and a flower instead of a face.

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Almost done! The last request was for a set of newsboy caps in blue-green. I found some great yarn at Michaels and a couple of great patterns to go with it. The doll pattern came from Posh Patterns, and you can find plenty more of her patterns on her Etsy site. The last hat ended up being my very favorite. The yarn worked perfectly with the pattern, and the sizing was great, and it’s just as cute as can be. The pattern is called Newsie by Heidi Yates, and she includes a handy size chart in the pattern so you can easily modify the pattern for sizes from newborn to adult. It’s the same pattern I used for my Tart Newsboy

IMG_2649 IMG_2645All the hats fit their girls well and were a huge hit. She’s already asked for two more sets, so I’ll have more to show soon. I hope I’ve inspired you to start hooking your own wee hats, but if you’d rather, I’d love to do it for you! Visit me on Facebook and send me a message.

 

 

 

Retail Memories: A manuscript snippet

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This is scary. But I’m going to do it anyway. *deep breath* I spent several years working retail, and my company is closing soon. I’ve been working on a memoir about my retail escapades, and today I thought for Throwback Thursday I would share a little snippet. You meet a lot of customers over seven years and many of them were good. And many were…not. *Please note, names have been changed!*

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I hate to say it, but when it came to outright rudeness, some of our older customers took the prize. I don’t know if it was the mindset of “I’ve lived this long so I can say what I want”, or if we truly just lose our filter as we age, but there were a lot of insensitive women out there. Sometimes it was a minor snub: ignoring us when we talked to them, using a cold voice to tell us, “No. I don’t need your help.” Sometimes they were flat-out mean, like Martha and Hazel.

These two women (I don’t want to use the word “ladies”) were the bitchiest couple of women I ever had to help. They were friends, probably in their late 70s, and they typically shopped together. Martha had short brown curly hair and a permanent scowl on her face. Hazel was beautiful: gorgeous thick platinum hair, porcelain skin, big eyes, wide smile. She had to have been a knockout when she was young. Hazel was in better health so she drove them to the store. When they were there, they demanded the full attention of at least one associate for their entire visit. Being older, often it was easier for them to call us than come in. If we were really lucky, they would use three-way calling to call us together.

“This is Bonny, how can I help you?”

“Yeah, I need another pair of those pants.”

Of course I knew who it was. We had caller ID on our phone. But the idea that she expected me to know her instantly, and know what pants she was talking about, irked me.

“I’m sorry, who is this?”

“It’s Martha!” she snapped. “Hazel needs another pair of those jeans she bought!”

At that point, I would hold back my sigh and start looking her up in the computer to try to figure out which pants she was talking about.

“Can you tell me which jeans they were, Martha?”

“The black ones! Hold on, let me get Hazel on the phone.”

By the time Hazel joined us, I was looking through her profile. “Okay, Hazel, you need another pair of the classic waist straight leg in size 16?”

“No no no, I need the petite 16.”

“We don’t have that in the store. You bought the 16. You would have to order the petite and have it sent to you.”

“I don’t think that’s right. I’m sure I bought a petite.”

Martha couldn’t hold it in. “Well, we bought it there the other day!” No you didn’t. “Maybe whoever helped us that day knew how to find things.” Said with contempt and derision. Yep, that was me. “But if you can’t manage to find it, then fine. Order it and send it to her.”

“I can’t do that, Martha. You’ll have to call customer service.”

“Oh no! I’m not doing that! They’ll charge me shipping and there’s no way in hell I’m paying shipping just because you can’t find the right pants!”

Logic and reason were useless. If I tried to tell them that we weren’t allowed to place orders over the phone (which was true and I did try to explain sometimes), one of them (usually Martha) carped that we did it before and they couldn’t always get in the store and they were our best customers. 

Resistance was futile. It made it difficult when they called asking for things we didn’t have, items they’d seen in some other store’s ad and were convinced were ours. At least once, Martha insisted that we carried other brand names so of course we would have these pants she’d seen at Macy’s. While we realized part of the problem was honest confusion borne of age and mental decline, their attitudes and the way they spoke to us made it very difficult to be sympathetic.

For a long time, I thought Martha was the ringleader in their antics, since she took charge when they came in. Then one day I helped Hazel when she came in without Martha and realized they just had different styles of bitchiness. Martha was overt, always looking for a fight. Hazel was a queen who expected to be catered to, and would speak with a cutting forcefulness if we didn’t comply with her requests. More often than not, it wasn’t worth the effort to argue with them. We tried our best to anticipate and meet their needs in hopes that they would go peacefully, because in the long run, we knew we would end up doing whatever they wanted.

***

So there you have it. Just one encounter of many. I’d love feedback if you have it. Just be constructive and not cruel, if you don’t mind!

 

A Crochet Newsboy Cap, just because

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I sent off that box of girl and doll hats yesterday. It had three sets of matching hats for a girl and her doll, and two sets of cowboy hats and boots for a doll. I had so much fun getting back into crochet to make those, and I didn’t want to stop. The last few months I’ve been so absorbed by knitting that I’d forgotten how much I love the rhythm and speed of crochet. The last hat I made for my friend was my favorite; I fell in love with the pattern and needed to make another one. I was at loose ends last night, with nothing that *needed* to be worked on, but I still wanted to play with yarn. I grabbed a single skein of bulky Premier Yarns Serenity Chunky yarn and got busy while I watched America’s Got Talent. Since I can’t show you the gifted one yet, I’ll show you that one.

IMG_4672 IMG_4673I do love bulky yarn, and this is a lovely soft one. The random stripes of blue and brown were kind of strange, and not my favorite, but at least it went back to the pink quickly. I ran out of yarn halfway through the last row, which was the finishing edge, so I just pulled back and edged the brim. This was a perfect one-skein, one-evening project. If you’re interested, here’s the pattern. It’s easily modified for any size from newborn to adult. 

 

Weekend Project: Crochet Accessories for 18″ Doll

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I got to do something new the last several days: make crochet doll hats and boots! A friend of mine has two beautiful little girls, and those girls wanted some hats for their American Girl dolls. Since my daughter is too old for dolls (and never played with them anyway) and my nieces aren’t doll fans either, this was a challenge for me. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it, since I knew there’d be some fussy work with the little details and sewing things on and such. To my surprise, though, I really did like making them. Mostly because they went so fast, but also partly because they’re so cute when they’re done!

I can’t show them all, because I want my friend to see them first, but she’s seen these pieces so I’ll post them. She asked for a cowboy hat and boots for the dolls. The hat was pretty simple; there’s a good pattern on Ravelry for it here. The boots were trickier though, because I took a Lion Brand baby bootie pattern and modified it. I’m pleased with how they came out.

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Sew Satisfying: Hot Pink Crochet Purse with zebra lining

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When I was younger, maybe 11 or so, my mom tried to teach me how to sew. We picked out a pattern for some shorts, bought fabric together, and she led me through every step of making those shorts. And I did it; the shorts came out fine and they fit. They were white, and I think I wore them once. And I never sewed anything else with a machine ever again.

Until yesterday.

If you’ve been following along with me, you know that I’ve been making some cute little crochet purses lately. And purses made from yarn tend to stretch out unless you reinforce them with a fabric lining. And that fabric tends to fray along the edge unless you hem the edges. And it’s much faster to hem those edges with a sewing machine than by hand.

With my last two bags, I waited until I could get my SIL (who’s talented at so many different crafts) to “help” me hem the linings. Truth be told, I did have a sewing machine in my house. My daughter has one, given to her when she had a brief romance with sewing. But she’d forgotten how to use it, so I couldn’t get her to help me. And come on, isn’t it always easier to have someone else do the chore you don’t like?

Sure, it is, until you don’t want to have to work on their schedule. After I finished my purple crochet bag, I was desperate to finish the hot pink one. I’d found some amazing zebra fabric and black handles, and I wanted that bag done TODAY. So, fine! I would do it myself! I am nothing if not stubborn, and I refused to believe that I *couldn’t* do it. I might not like it, but I could do it.

I got out the machine, set up the spool of thread, threaded it, and then remembered the bobbin. Where was it? This machine is different than my SIL’s, and the bobbin was hiding. My daughter was sleeping and I had no idea where the manual was, so I turned to my best friend: Google. Sure enough, the manual was available online. I found the bobbin, re-threaded the spool of thread (correctly this time), and prepared to sew for the first time. Yes, I used a spare bit of fabric to test. I pressed the pedal and Whee! Off it went! Unfortunately, it looked awful and the thread was doing weird things and I had no idea what I was doing wrong.

In a weak moment, I texted SIL, hoping she’d come rescue me. When no response came, I took a deep breath and started over from the beginning. This time I realized that the little metal foot by the needle needs to come down when you’re ready to sew. Oops. That made all the difference. I practiced several times and then I was ready for the real thing!

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Darn it all, I *did* actually enjoy it. Maybe it was just the thrill of overcoming my resistance, of gaining a skill I thought I didn’t want or need. Either way, when I was done with this, I really wished I had something else to sew. My corners aren’t mitered, and my edges aren’t perfectly straight, but the stitching is straight and even. Most importantly, it will work just fine for a purse lining. Like this:

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IMG_2613I love this little bag. And it is little. It’s made with just one skein of Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima cotton, which is a DK weight. I didn’t have enough to double the strands, so the purse measures a delicate 9″ by 6″, which is still big enough to hold the essentials. The black bamboo handles and zebra lining came from Joann. Although I’m tempted to keep this one for myself, I currently have it listed for sale on my Facebook site, and you can check it out here

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Finished Project: Purple Crochet Purse

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Hey! Hey! Guess what?? I finished my purple purse last night!! And I’m sooo very happy with it. The girl had piano lesson yesterday (her teacher is my BIL) so my SIL helped me hem the purple cotton for the lining (okay, okay, she hemmed it. I watched.) and as soon as I got home I started stitching it into the bag.

IMG_4599It went quickly and after dinner I was ready to finish crocheting the rest of the bag. I did have a brief moment of panic after I tied off the last row: I got out the handles and held them up to the bag, and they were just a little bit wider than I anticipated. But I just spaced out the crocheted tabs to compensate, and it actually worked out really well. The final step was to sew in a little snap.

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 Then it was done! Really and truly done! I hung it on my chair and admired my new purse.

IMG_4602All right, it was done, but it needed *something* to jazz it up a bit. So I added my purple Junie Balloonie flower. (Have you ever checked out her website? Lovely flowers in all sizes, handmade, custom-made. Great to put on purses, in your hair, as a brooch, even on your pets! Take a peek here. I love them!).

IMG_2606The bag was done with one skein of Lion Brand Cotton-Ease in Sugar Plum, and used all but maybe one yard. The lining was a fabric remnant, and the snap and handles I found at Joann. I’m so glad this project didn’t linger on like my last fat-bottom bag. I’m delighted with the results and can’t wait to finish my pink bag now!

 

 

A Dog in Need

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I know I blog about knitting and yarn and crochet and all that, but I am a mother first. I have two human children and one furry doggy child, and if any one of them needed help, I would do anything I could to make that happen. I am not alone in feeling that way, and I wanted to take a moment to put a call out there for someone who could use a helping hand, Rory at Kind Spirit Jewelry. This is what she said this morning:

I am really bad at asking for favors but I’m giving it my best shot here. I do quite a bit with helping and donating to animal shelters/welfare groups. I am finding myself on the receiving end this time. My dog has torn his ACL and needs surgery soon. I need to raise around $1000 to fund his operation. His lower leg bone is pushing internally against his leg and causing some internal bleeding and swelling. He can not walk at all using that leg. He is over 100 pounds so you can imagine the difficulty he has getting around and the difficulty I have carrying him up and down stairs. All jewelry sales will be going towards this fund. Any support is greatly appreciated, be it either thru sales or thru forwarding the links to my site and fb page in an effort to boost sales. Thank you for considering my cause. Blessings ~Rory
www.kindspiritjewelry.com
http://www.facebook.com/kindspiritjewelry

Through the magic of Facebook, I found Rory through a high school acquaintance. She makes all her pieces by hand, using leather and wire and beads and metal–anything that inspires her. She does a lot of custom orders. Her jewelry is beautiful, and for a long time I just admired her pictures.

But I also noticed something as I read her posts: her spirit is just as beautiful as her jewelry. She puts so much kindness out into the world each and every day. Her custom jewelry is made with love. She does a lot of cancer awareness pieces, and donates many of them to charity auctions. She is an animal lover, and creates special pieces to donate for those causes too.

My dad passed away a little over two years ago, and a few months back, I found a silver tie tack that belonged to him, and I immediately thought of Rory. I had a vision in my head of what I wanted this tie tack to become, and she worked with me to make my vision come to life. I love what she sent back to me.

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After that, I had an idea for my daughter’s birthday. Katie had recently become obsessed with the show Doctor Who, so I messaged Rory again to get some ideas flowing. We went back and forth, sharing thoughts, and my daughter had a gorgeous, unique piece to open on her birthday.

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I don’t do this kind of thing often but if anyone deserves a kindness, it is Rory. She’s not asking for donations, and neither am I. I’m just asking you to please take a moment to check out her website and her jewelry. Think about doing some birthday shopping, or early Christmas shopping. You could get something really special and do some good at the same time.

Find Rory at kindspiritjewelry.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/kindspiritjewelry

 

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