Winter Crochet Blitz

IMG_1537As of this writing, I’ve made four hats and three pairs of hand warmers.  Documenting them, though, has been a bit of slow, and posting them hasn’t been all that easy– even on my Instagram feed.  I have been happy using my yarn stock (and I am happy they are finally being put to good use!), and I am so thrilled for all the compliments I’ve been getting.  It has so inspired  me to keep trying new methods and stitches along the way…

Temperatures in New York City have been  dropping and rising unpredictably,  and yes, we’ve had our taste of snow. Occasionally, we are back to rain, but the cold sore on my lip is not a welcome occurrence.  These are the things we have to deal with, living here in the big apple.

I am very happy about how my hand warmers have literally taken shape.  Stitching a plain one for my first pair, I did the stitches vertically which helped me lay the foundation for the next.  The idea was to embellish the plain one with separately crocheted pieces later, but I found this too bulky and decided it wouldn’t work.  Maybe I should stitch a design a la embroidery by yarn instead?  I will try that later.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016I did a square pattern as the base for the second, which meant a slightly bigger than desired form.  The hands, after all, are are not without its curves.  They worked out pretty well and received compliments, but they were too wide around the fingers.  I also made the mistake of trying to tuck yarn ends into the beginning stitches of the next spool.  I tried something different for the next which proved to be more helpful and cleaner both on the front and inside of the warmers.

Just remember that I’m doing this without a pattern, same with my hats, and that means undoing rows and rows when the fit doesn’t work out.

Learning from hand warmers #s 1 and 2, I decided to try and work the rows horizontally instead of vertically, starting from the top.  I figured I would have an easier time increasing stitches down the rows rather than decreasing them if I worked from the wrist up.  Besides, the problem was really about the top where the warmers grip the fingers to keep them all cozy.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016The first step was about figuring out how many stitches would be smug enough to hold all 4 fingers.  I settled on 20 using a size J needle.  I measured after the first row of single crochet stitches which I joined to a round to see how it worked out.  (My hands, by the way, are average in size.  When buying gloves, I usually fit nicely into a Large.)  I wanted to use a stitch that I could work with without too much trouble in terms of counting, and which would hug the fingers together nicely when actually worn.  I did a shell stitch using 5 double crochet stitch, and while I had thought the 20 would fall snuggly into that scheme, it left me with half a shell at the end which required some work around.  That actually gave me the idea to bridge that row to the next by completing the shell, giving me the “increase” I was looking for to give my knuckles room.

Here’s my first attempt at trying to do a pattern:

Row 1: Chain 21, join last stitch with first.  (Leaves you 20 free.)

Row 2: (Shell Stitch) make 5 DCs on Ch3, skip two and connect shell to Ch6, SC.  Repeat until end.

Row 3: connect 5th DC into DC3 of row 1 shell, do all stitches, end row correctly. (No overlap)

Another thing I wanted to do was to be able to incorporate a change of colors in the design.  As you can see, I used three different yarns to make this particular pair.

One issue I have with the stitch is that it left open gaps were I did a shall on shell to create a round design, but I’ve found that even with those little holes, the warmers serve their purpose well.  Your hands will keep warm even with the fingers extending out like it did.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016The third was definitely an improvement on the second, and I am still looking to improve the stitching.  I might just end up undoing the first because I think it’s been shown that the better direction to go would be horizontally stitching rows to give it its proper shape.  Here are the two that I’ve worn and which people have seen.  Even shapewise, the one on the right is less clunky, and it definitely wears more comfortably.

I stitch a round of 10 single crochet on all my hanwarmers with no decrease.  You really need more allowance where the thumb is because of all the directions it moves in, more so when texting.  Besides, the stitching eventually pulls at each row making it adjust.  Any more even just by 2 and it would be a tad too wide.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016This is how it actually looks like on my hand. Not bad, don’t you think?  I’m almost afraid to try and make another one because I just loooooove the pink of this one.  Keep warm, everyone..

Looking for the right hat

Slouchy Beanie #1 in Heathered Grey yarn. Pic looks black and white but the speckles are actually more colorful. Been wearing this as the temperatures started dropping here in #NYC. Finally a beanie that doesn't give me hat hair, and hair finally longWith Fall here and winter just around the corner, the temperatures have started dropping and we’re pulling the coats out of the closet along with the usual cold weather accessories that we all don this time of the year.  If you’re like me, there’s the perpetual search for the right head gear that will keep you warm and not give you the dreaded “hat hair”.

Last year, I resumed knitting and crocheting which led to a lot of craft experiments.  (Translated: I didn’t quite finish a project.)  A year later, I’m actually hoping to make better progress.  For starters, I’ve found a crochet pattern for a slouchy beanie which I hope I can finish and wear.  I have my coterie of crochet hooks in all sizes and quite the healthy stash of yarn.  I picked out a spool of tweed yarn this morning and started the so-called “magic loop”.  If it’s as easy as it’s touted to be, it shouldn’t take me long to find out if I’m going to make another one.

Choosing a hat can be quite the dilemma.  I have no problem with wearing beanies because I have a perfectly round head (being a c-section baby), but then I have a round face and my hair used to be perpetually short which wasn’t quite flattering underneath any sort of headgear.  That’s changed a bit now with my shoulder length hair.   I also quite like the look of slouchy hats which aren’t as snug on the top of your head, giving your head room — literally.  We will see.  I haven’t seen any slouchy hats to try on so I’m making one.

So for starters, I reviewed if I am doing my double stitch right and found that I have been actually doing an extra pull all these years.  This video was helpful in reminding me how it should be done.  The pattern only uses the single and the double stitch and switches between two crochet hooks but only at the end.  The increase in the stitches in the first 9 (original) and in mine (8) are pretty straightforward and a no-brainer to follow.

I started crocheting and finished this in less than a day, and I know I would’ve been able to finish it sooner if I wasn’t doing it during breaks only.  I followed the pattern to a T and used the two hooks specified, but the hat turned out to be too big.  Following the suggestion from JennyLikesYarn who authored the pattern originally, I undid the stitches to the rows where the increases stopped and am working on 64 instead of 72 total stitches in the final rounds.  This was the second to the last row before you worked without increasing the rows.  I am also trying to gauge how much of a slouch I want my final product to have.

Although the first was obviously too big, I liked the way the adjusted hat sat on my head and yet felt warm enough to cover my ears in a comfortable yet snug way.

This pattern is easy enough even for younger crocheters to take a stab at, and it’s a pattern you can do in various colors and dress up with a button or ribbon in unlimited ways.  I’m already thinking of how I can dress up the next version I make.  Just be warned that the size of the beanie changes not only depending on the hook you use or number of stitches per round you use, but the yarn itself.  The nice thing it’s easy enough to make and undo as needed, and you can tailor fit it according to the style you want.  More coming!!

 

Upcycling Holiday Cards from friends and family into Gift Tags

Re y led Christmas cardsGreeting cards have all been sent and received.  Here’s one great way to repurpose Christmas cards from last year: make them into gift tags.

While most of your gifts must have been wrapped and given away by now, you can make a note to save the cards you get this year to work on after the holiday break.  You can even do this with your kids.  You can also watch out for those gift catalogues (like this year’s catalogue from Tiffany’s which came debossed and patterned in gorgeous snowflakes) and then use them before throwing away.  Make a mental note to save the bakers string or yarn that you come across for this very purpose, or watch out for the slimmer ribbons that will accompany the gifts you received.

You’d be surprised at how pretty these can be, more so after you personalize them with a scribbled greeting from one of the younger kids.
Re y led Christmas cards

Crochet Pieces

Disclosure: The post below provides links to the products I am using in my project which will take you to Amazon’s website in case you are interested in looking up the product.  I have also provided suggested sites you can visit if you are interested to learn more about Crochetting or purchasing Crochet kits. Please note that clicking on the link might mean a commission for me if you do purchase it from the vendor.  

Crochet has been a new-found passion the last couple of months.  I have been working on smaller pieces I hope to eventually “stitch together” later into something wearable for the coming fall and winter.  I have actually been knitting and crocheting my scarves in recent years, that is why I only buy fabric scarves, but I haven’t really gone beyond that.

I think I’m finally ready to try and craft something from the bits and pieces I have gathered in various ziploc bags, but I am a bit wary of how it will come out.  I have grouped them into patterns based on color and type of yarn and hope to create a good mix of the many pieces instead of just pulling in similar ones for a project.  I bought a grey fleck (speckled?) yarn that I hope to piece the rounds together with against an all black background.  (I am hoping to post the work in progress after the weekend.)

Meanwhile, I have been intrigued by this Icelandic sweater crochet pullover I’ve been seeing online, but a pattern for which I cannot find.  I am hoping to mimic it for the sweater tunic I’m making out of the Bernat blanket yarn I am experimenting with.  I also stocked up on the Caron one pounder which went on sale over at Michael’s around two weekends ago.  That, plus an additional 25% off coupon, allowed me to buy it at half off the original price.

I try to stick with the cotton and acrylics so that I don’t have to worry about fabric care later on.  When working with yarn, it’s always a good idea to check fabric care before purchasing it so you know it’s I remember knitting with some fancy wool-blend yarn years ago and when it was washed, it became a rag. (I had given it as a gift to my mother-in-law.). Back then and even now, I worked with fancy threads and yarns for my knitting projects because I couldn’t do the complicated stitches.  I would work designs into the scarves by switching yarn or needles.  Crochet is a different matter altogether, because I had learned this firsthand in grade school.  I can even read patterns in both the word form and diagram.

Switching yarns and needles is a little trickier for me in crochet, because I worry about how the finer and softer yarns would hold up against the tension or pull of the actual piecework.  It would be horrible to see parts of the final project fraying or hanging loose because it was carrying too much weight. But then again, I wouldn’t know until I finally pulled it together.  I am trying to confine the finer yarns as embellishments to the chunkier, hardier spools.  The set you see below will be part of a bigger crochet collage.

I will try to focus on getting a “draft” layout of the collage going this weekend, and trying to work piecing them together as I have envisioned it.  Sometimes planning one thing turns out another way when you actually execute it, and I want to see how it works on a small piece before going for the entire thing.  I guess my weekend is cut out for me.

If you’re interested in buying crochet kits, Craftsy has Crocheting kits around $10 or less, excluding shipping!. You can also visit their site below to look at available classes.
Craftsy

“Goldifying” Metal Accents

Disclosure:  The links provided will take you to a site where you can purchase them if you are interested in buying the item.  Please note that GothamChick is an Amazon Affiliate and will get a commission if you do make a purchase based on the link.

I have always been partial to gold as an accent, even when silver tone is what’s preferred for a certain stone or color scheme.  For one thing, gold tone accents age and fade better than silver-tone ones that tend to rust or oxidize into black.  I also love antique brass, but while it lends a rustic look to your creation, it doesn’t quite exude the same kind of elegance gold-tone accents give.  Thankfully, I’m getting comfortable mixing my metals — but I am still careful in pulling combinations.  There are times when you can get away with it, but there are also times when it just won’t work.
Gilders paste
Last year, I discovered Gilders Paste and I have a few shades handy to work into my metal accents.  I’ve experimented with using one shade and combining two different colors.  Depending on the effect you want to achieve, the applications of gilders paste to recolor your findings is endless!

This is most specially helpful when there are so many gorgeous filigree findings in antique brass and which aren’t readily available in gold.  I also like the different quality the gilders paste gives the metal it adheres to which makes the piece look personalized with the artist’s own patina.

Working with Gilders Paste

One thing you have to remember is that like polymer clay, the consistency of the paste differs from container to container.  It is important to keep the tin container sealed tight when you are not working with it.  The following are some tips to help you work better with the medium.

  • Choose an airy workspace because gilders paste gives off fumes which are chemical in nature.  It isn’t something you would choose or want to inhale directly.
  • Try to avoid touching the paste as much as possible. I use gloves when handling “wet” or “just painted” pieces to make sure I don’t get any on my hands, or that I don’t smudge my pieces with unsightly fingerprints.
  • Work on a disposable surface like a paper plate, a paper towel, or some cardboard you are looking to throw away like an old cereal box laid flat on the table, with the cardboard inside surface as your workboard.
  • Experiment on pieces similar if not the same metal as the one you are working on for your project.  Different surfaces react in varied ways — and the color of your gilders paste will come off differently depending again on what it is applied to.  Antique brass is very “receptive” to paste but it’s darker color tends to mute or darken the shade of gilders paste you are using.  Silver tone metals tend to be more difficult to apply on and doesn’t always “take” the gilders paste well.
  • Clean your piece with a dry piece of cloth or paper towel to make sure that you are applying the gilders paste to a clean surface.  If it has a coating of even just skin oil, it will affect the way your gilders paste adheres.
  • Use a disposable brush as cleaning the gilders paste off the bristles is a bit of a challenge and generally not worth the time.  I purchase these hard bristle brushes from the dollar store.  Make sure you choose the harder bristles because this will help you “push” bits of the gilders paste into the crevices of the smaller pieces you are applying the paste on, or on the finer details of the bigger items you are recoloring.
  • Dab the paste on, do not brush it.  Stipple the paste with the brush into rugged or recessed portions of the piece such as in smaller charms.  One thing I try to do is use the inside of the cover of the tin as a work surface for pieces that will fit in it, so that the bits of gilders paste that form into smaller balls or pebble-like granules can go back to the tin for future use.  (You will know what I’m talking about when you work with it.)  I would only do this, though, if you are only applying one shade.  In instances when you are trying to achieve a different tonal quality by combining two or more shades, I’d use a specific work surface for each color so they don’t mix.
  • Depending on the effect you are trying to achieve, you may need to do two or three coatings.  Remember to let the first coating dry before applying the next coating.  In some instances, once is good enough if you are just staining or tinting the piece and not fully recoloring it from one tone to the other, like antique brass to gold.

These are my own methods for working with gilders paste.  There are other crafters with more experience in it who use sealants or thinners depending on the application.  Try it with one tub and see if you like the way it comes off of your project.  Some crafters like the antique greenish shade to show a faux antique effect on the metal.  It has a million potential uses to enhance your projects once you get the hang of it.

Online Classrooms

I’d be the first to admit that I have learned much of what I do as a crafter online.  From researching on Flickr to Pinterest to just feeling lucky and hitting Google, I’ve managed to learn how to work headpins and wire, knit the right way (after learning from our encyclopedia decades ago using plastic chopsticks!) and discovered free-form crochet.

Nowadays, we’re lucky to come across crafting classes that run the gamut of crafts you may already know as an expert, or a new interest you’re looking to learn more about.  Below are some of the latest class offerings from Craftsy.  Check them out by clicking on the pics below.  Please note that GothamChick is a paid affiliate of Craftsy and will earn a commission should your click result in a purchase  (Yay!)

No matter how simple a task may be, there are many things we can learn from others who may be as good if not better than us.  When you are in the business of creating, whether it be for yourself or for sale to the public, you can never have enough new ideas to toy with or incorporate into your own work.  How may times have you had an “Aha!” moment where you suddenly realized there IS a better way than the one you’ve been accustomed to?

I have discovered this from the craft fairs and classes I’ve attended personally and the videos and websites I’ve visited for guidance.  You never know!  As I always say, I learn something new everyday.

Busy with my crochet hooks

I may not have had the chance to post anything here all of June, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy.  Sometimes crafting and blogging don’t go at the same pace and I end up doing more of one than the other.

I have been busy collecting crochet hooks, mostly from the dollar store, of all places!  It’s the same ones being sold in the craft stores, and I’ve been lucky that my store has a stock.  I had decided to stick with the G but I’ve lost two so far, and the store is all out.  I will probably have to just swallow the full cost and get it from one of the stores in the city, if not my always reliable Michael’s.  I don’t know why but hearing the metallic hooks jingling in my pencil case cum crochet hook case is just music to my ears.
Work in Progress; Freeform CrochetMy yarn stash has also been growing, mostly in shades of pink.  (And then some..). One of these days, I will show you where I get my yarn here in Manhattan and you’ll see the varied offerings.  I have also gone up to my attic to dig through my yarn box which I had pulled together mostly to knit into scarves.   Work in Progress; Freeform Crochet

I continue to experiment with new stitches and the more complicated ones are proving to be a challenge.  But I am enjoying learning them and trying to get better at doing them.  With everything that I’ve managed to stitch up so far, I haven’t quite decided yet what I am making first — a scarf, a pull over or a hat.  Decisions, decisions!
Work in Progress; Freeform Crochet

I’m thinking there’s still plenty of time before fall when I expect I would get to use all these things eventually.  And then there’s the trip to Manila where threads the threads are a whole lot cheaper than here.  While the variety in yarns is lacking  (the ones we have here are more colorful and artsy), the cotton threads available there are hard to find here at the same price.  I grew up with the cotton threads that became those fancy adornments in houses of old.  Now if only they didn’t weigh so much!

I like the way the hook pulls the thread and weaves each stitch and gets you into a certain rhythm that can be hypnotic sometimes.  It can be very relaxing once you know what it is you want to create.

I’ve started a Pinterest board for Crochet inspirations, and another for Crochet by me.  It helps me to be able to see others who have created these fabulous pieces, be they just bits of freeform crochet or swathes of intricate stitches that make an elegant stole or shrug.  There is inspiration aplenty.  Dreamy!