Archive | July 2014

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”

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!

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

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

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.

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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

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

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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