Crochet Winter Hats

Over the previous weekend, I managed to finish the hat in the previous post (just put in a black rim to keep it snug and let it fit over my ears).  I’m trying to use my existing stash of yarn, and unfortunately, I cannot identify the specifics of the yarn used here, but here is the finished product.

Winter hats

Then beyond that, I managed to finish two others. Talk about being productive.

One thing I’ve noticed is that you have to pay attention to your own head size and actually be patient with stitching and undoing and stitching again.  While I have found some great pattern references, I have had to adjust based on the thickness of the yarn, or the fancy stitch following.  So while with a certain yarn, I may end up stopping the increasing of the stitches per row at say, the fifth row, I might have to do that on the sixth for thinner yarns.  Some yarns are also wont to hug your head, and others will just lay over your head, so there is less need to be relaxed with the actual fit.  What I’m trying to say here is that it’s different for each project.

I tend to start with the required number of rounds from the crown of the head (top), rather than start from the rim and work my way up.  I like my winter hats to be snug, and I don’t like putting in a pom-pom as an accent, so I work from the top down.

I first wrote about my quest for the perfect hat back in 2016, and I referenced this pattern for a slouchy beanie.  Although the original pattern called for more give and fabric to hang from the back of the hat, I wanted something snug, but with enough give just to give the hat a bit of shape when on my head.  I have used the starting pattern for this beanie for many of the hats that followed, including the first two hats in the post.

I like to learn new stitches, and I have always fancied the texture and body of the basket weave stitch.  Since I am now unable to identify the video I referenced, suffice it to say that Youtube is one great tutor.  While the stitch usually requires a treble stitch, I worked on using a double crochet stitch but had to keep in mind that my pattern had to start at a row following a round that was divisible by 3.


Winter hats

After working my way to the 6th round, I started adjusting the pattern to accommodate the woven stitch.  This time around, I wanted to be able to put a rim around over the edge of the hat.  Again, keeping in mind that I was working on a pattern, I had to make sure that the rim fell on a row that would compliment the row above it when the rim was in place.

And finally this last hat, based on a pattern I bought from RubyWebbs over at Etsy.  While my finished product looks different from the photo accompanying the pattern on the site, blame it on the tweaks I did which came out as I had hoped it would.  You can see the cable stitch clearly even with the solid black yarn I used.

Winter hats

First of all, I highly recommend Joni’s patterns on RubyWebbs because they are clear and easy to decipher, no matter what your level of skill is.  I consider myself rather advanced since I can read both word and diagram patterns and have been crocheting since grade school, but you want to work with patterns which don’t presume that you would have the same skill level as the vendor.  I actually bought 3 patterns, but I haven’t had the chance to work with the other two.

I like that I learned a new way to start a beanie off, with front post double crochet and back post double crochet.  This gave the beanie an inner rim per row which I like.  It also started with a looser top, so for those hats that I don’t want to be as snug, this is a perfect way to start the hat.

I followed the initial pattern for the top before getting to the row where the cable stitches begin, but I found that the hat had gotten too loose, so I went and unstitched two rows back and started the cabling ahead of the pattern.

I also found that you can actually make the cables longer by repeating a certain row, or keeping the pattern as is.  Towards the end, I reduced stitches for a snugger fit by first, skipping the half double crochet stitch between the cables but retaining the one inside (on the second to the last row of the cable) and then for the last row with the cable, I omitted that half double crochet to “close” it out.

The pattern provides for a finish but I opted to use my own by just closing out the cable and leaving it “raw”.  Maybe for the next one, I will try to do the cable and the finish as is and see how that ends up.

Winter hats

Back into crafting

One of the things that I have found most rewarding about crafting is that you can lose yourself in it and just let go. Even when I’m reading a pattern or working with instructions, there is a sense of freedom in just going at your own pace and working on your project as you please.

I have a ton of yarn that was purchased for projects that popped up in my head along the way. Some projects came to fruition and ended up in wearable pieces, but there are still some unfinished projects that are hoping for a second chance. My projects are usually spurred by some other event in my day to day, and a cooler weekend spoke to me if the coming of spring and then of winter.

I picked up a ball of yarn that was already unraveled at one end, and I stitched a beanie pattern away from memory. Depending on the yarn and the size of the needle I’m using, I always get stumped when it comes to the row where I stop increasing the number of stitches. So there is that magic moment when I find my fit and I can go about crocheting a stitch design that makes up the entire hat.

This one’s probably my 10th or so now.. and I’m down to the ribbing at the end. I’m thinking I will go with black and end it there.

Work in progress

I’m looking to get some projects finished before it starts getting cold again. That’ll help me get my yarn stash down by a but at least, and I’ve promised not to buy any new spools until I complete a few pieces. I’m setting my sights on maybe even making a coatigan or a shawl at the very least. Maybe I might yet get some freeform crochet done! More to come..

Sewing away

I am hooked.  Or should I say fully stitched in.

A while back, I had taken the beginner and advanced sewing class over at  Mood U which gave me the basic skills to operate a sewing machine and pull together a fabric tote and a coat.  (Yes, a coat.)

So since then, I’ve managed to collect quite a stash of fabrics (a post or two coming on that), and have been mining the web for free patterns, sewing tutorials and ideas in general. For a novice sewer like me, all this feels like a kindergartner let loose on the playground during recess. There is just so much to learn and try.

I am a novice at this and thoroughly enjoying myself. How I envy all those seasoned seamstresses who impart their sewing knowledge as experts. But sewing, like most other skills, is learnable and doable. I have my sewing machine and an openness to learn that comes in handy when I start thinking of embarking on a project.

What encourages me is the dream to come up with wardrobe that fits me well, as I am not a perfect size anything. I’m one size from the waist up, and another from the hips down. While I would normally fit into a normal size, certain cuts become iffy. And there’s always the incentive of wearing something stylish without breaking the bank.

Being crafty like I am, I know I can do well in sewing if I put my mind (and heart) into it. Like most things we have to take time to learn, it takes practice and a lot of trial and error. But I’m loving it! My seam ripper is now my best friend. The web is my classroom. I keep getting ideas on how to make those patterns work for me.

I’m finishing up my first project based on a pattern that is one among many free patterns offered online. I will get to writing about that in time. Meanwhile, I’m back and hopefully will be here more, chronicling my sewing journey.

Hello, 2018!

I always greet the new year with optimism, because it always brings in a new beginning.  In my mind, no matter how chaotic or tumultuous or completely bland the year that just ended was, there is that forever hope of things getting better, more so as we restart the clock so to speak.

So happy new year.

I’ve been ramping up my creative streak of late and can happily report that I have managed to finish a winter hat, a pair of hand warmers (only because I don’t have an existing pair of the ones I did last year!) and my embroidered scarf is almost “almost there”.

My new slouchie beanieYet another slouchy beanie.  I have spools and spools of yarn that are begging to be knitted or crocheted, and in the midst of tidying up, I actually came across a few skeins of pompom yarn that I had meant to work with as an embellishment to a white or black slouchy beanie.  Even if it took forever and a day to decide between using black or white for the actual beanie, the process of actually crocheting the hat was rather easy because I worked with an existing pattern.  Then there was the actual figuring out of (1) how to incorporate the pompoms, and (2) the placement between stitches — or how close or far I would put them together.  But voila!

New hand warmersPink hand warmers.  When fall came, I actually couldn’t remember where I put my leather gloves.  I did find my hand warmers, but only one of each pair.  I could pretend I was being funky and wear a different pink on the left and another on the right.  Besides, does anyone really pay attention?  (Yes, they do.  I know because I do.)  And again, maybe because of last year’s practice but I nailed this one despite the unstitching every now and then because I was working freeform using the fan stitch.  (Not quite sure that’s what you call it.)

At first I thought 30 stitches for the actual cuff was too tight, but then again, crochet stitches actually stretch as you pull on it this way and that. It worked well enough because I meant for the warmers to reach up to just beyond my wrist, and not all the way up my arm. That’s another project maybe for another winter.

I know it’s February and I’m going to start drafting my next post the moment I hit send.. more, more, more!

Getting organized

Getting organized: headpinsI came back from Sydney midnight Saturday, so this weekend is my first full weekend home.  I jumped back into work the Monday after and tried my best to cope with the jetlag, surviving it by sheer will and a judicious use of caffeine.  Not too much, not too little.  

Despite the stopover in Manila before and after Sydney, I didn’t bring a ton of supplies back — just three bags of headpins I had requested my sister-in-law to grab for me last minute, because I didn’t really have time to do any shopping.  

Friday night, I psyched myself up that I would just stay home this weekend and allow my body to rest and recover.  I stopped short of making plans to go this way and that and instead allowed myself the chance to just chill.  I decided to organize my head pins and eye pins and I am almost done with the two bins I focused on.  That was my idea of relaxing.

I am focusing on two bins knowing I have at least two more still stashed away somewhere.  I have not had the chance to really get down to organizing them until now, and I think I should’ve dealt with this sooner.  This is what happens when your supplies accumulate through the years, more so when I end up bringing new bins home each time I travel from Manila, and the stash usually stays on those bins instead of landing with like findings.

At the start, I organized them simply as they came.  I love the 1000 pin packs I get from Wellmanson’s in Quiapo (back in Manila), but the packs usually come bent and misshapen, so storing them means taking the time to actually flatten out the pin  Then there are the packs I buy from Firemountain Gems which usually come in smaller batches because they are pricier.  I stash those in a bin with their tags so I know what gauge and size the pins are.  It also makes for easier reordering when I find my stocks running low.  

This time around, I think I have enough of each to actually classify them into gold plated, silver plated, antique bronze and “others”.  (The latter being copper and gun metal.). I keep the sterling silver and vermeil tucked away with some gemstones I have and I don’t have enough of those  to collect into a bin.  Strangely, just going through the two bins has inspired new creative ideas which I will hopefully get to do soon.  And like my bead bins, I actually have a few cups of headpins of all shapes and sizes to go through.   I don’t always get to put them back where they belong when I’m working on projects, so they tend to accumulate in other spaces.

I’m getting ready to start creating again in time for the holidays.  And I’m thinking of new items not just for the shop, but also to give as gifts.  Organizing my current supplies is a step towards a more efficient production line for the coming weeks.  Before you know it, the holidays will be here again.

Pulling together bits and pieces

There is nothing more effective to wake me up from a craft haiatus than an impending trip that requires some promised gifts and other extras to be assembled.  So I’ve been gathering pieces that are halfway done, redoing some that have been redesigned in my head, and I’ve been trying not to go overboard with creating even more.

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The piece above is a woven chain bracelet I am making out of white AB glass crystals and various floral shaped Czech pressed glass.  It’s a rainbow of colors chained together, instead of beads being strung onto an existing chain.  It takes some practice to make, but chaining the beads together assures me of the integrity of the entire piece and that the beads will not fall off of the stringing.  It also helps prop up the beads on top of one another for a fuller look.

There are many earrings that I am trying to finish as well, and a few rosary bracelets.  I am trying to be mindful about not bringing too much because they can get rather heavy.  (Baggage allowance reminder to self!)

One of the perks of being able to create jewelry is seeing my work appreciated by the people I give them to.  There is a special reward in seeing someone’s face break out into a wide smile of joy upon getting something crafted specially for them.  I always find that most fulfilling.

My most recent weekends have seen me going through my containers and bins, and I have found quite a bit of almost finished (but not quite done yet) items.  My work process entails an assembly line that begins with focusing on a set of colors or materials, like beads in color schemes that I want to pull together.  I would create parts of the earring without finishing the entire piece, maybe saving the addition of charms or links for later.  The finishing touch usually entails putting in the clasps or the earwire hooks, and only then can I say it’s done.

My bracelet is almost done but not quite there yet.  I am still trying to decide if the medley of beads is enough, or if I should add a round or two more.  I also need to decide on the clasp.  To be continued… soon.

Ear Candy Crazy

I’ve been busy crafting the last couple of weeks, this time focusing on my beads and my tools.  For starters, I’ve finally found the time and the will to go through my loose bead bins.  I have made it a habit to have small tubs  to collect loose beads in when I work with bigger batches.  Sometimes,  I end up collecting them in my work trays and then just pour them into the bins.  During several previous clean ups, I’ve sometimes managed to separate the freshwater pearls from the gemstones from the Czech pressed glass and metal findings.

I’ve been sorting individual organizers a bin at a time, actually gathering jumprings and putting the clasps and the eyepins and other headpins in separate containers.  Yes, I’m getting organized in a major way.  I have been pleasantly surprised to discover strings of beads I had all but forgotten I had, and while I’m excited to do something with each find, I need to get them all sorted out first.

One of my favorite suppliers is Fire Mountain Gems which has assortable pricing that progressively goes down depending on the number of items you buy.  This usually makes a difference when buying regular price items which can be pulled down dramatically when you purchase at certain price levels.  In addition, when they go on sale, they REALLY go on sale.  The only thing is you have to trust your visuals.  That can be tough when you’re looking at gemstones, but you have to pay attention to dimensions and string size.

I have always found it helpful to have an actual ruler in front of me when I am shopping online for beads and other materials.  It helps me visualize the size of the bead.  A 6mm round bead is not much different from an 8mm so it helps to actually see the bars that make a difference on that ruler.

During one of  those sales, there was a bead mix that was on sale for 25 cents per pack, with the catch that you had to purchase a minimum of 8 packs of 125 beads .  I’ve purchased a set of amethyst chips in the same packaging, and the quality wasn’t bad for the price I had paid.  At the time I made the purchase, I was thinking of actually embellishing brooches and my clutch purse with gemstones and shell beads.  The idea was to get beads small enough to  embroider or sew into something else.  And how can you argue with the price?  I went for 2 batches or 16 orders of the assortment.

I had to go and unstring the beads and sort them by kind.  The amethyst and rose quartz were quite the find, along with the green aventurine and prehnite in the batch.  The strings aren’t labeled, so unless you know how to eyeball a gemstone, you will end up going by color.

I had ordered these in July of last year but didn’t start unpacking each little bag until earlier this month.  I would say I got lucky with this buy.  You would have to have the patience to sort through the beads because the size and quality varied from string to string, but they all came together after they had been unstrung and sorted out.  It also helps me in creative process to actually go through the loose beads laid out flat on a tray.

Here’s what I can up with — gem stacks in various sizes.

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Square flat beads in green aventurine.. the stack wasn’t hard to imagine, but it meant finding the same cut in all the strings.  It takes some patience to actually unstring the beads and lay them all out on a plate or pad so you can see them side by side.  That’s my design process, and that might not work for everyone.

I tried to group them by shapes, then by size.  These are chips and irregularly shaped and sized, so it takes a bit of effort, but once you find the designs forming in your head, it is actually a good way of letting your creativity loose to pull a design you can work on.

There were also a sizeable chunk of prehnite beads which, at first, I thought were tourmalinated quartz because of the strings of black streaks.  But no, they turned out to be the former.   I have had a lot of fun working with the chips.  Sometimes I find it uncanny how design ideas don’t come to me until I unstrung the beads and actually hold the individual pieces.
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I guess we each have our own creative process we follow with our creations.  Mine has certainly evolved through the years, more so when I find old pieces from my early years, even if only in pictures.  I haven’t posted any in the shop for sale yet.  I am earmarking these for my #Giftof50 giveaways on the main blog.

Working with Sari Silk Ribbon

There are times when I see some material that just calls out to me even before I know what I am going to do with it.  Sometimes I am prodded to buy something with an end product in mind.  I’ve found that it’s a little dangerous to do the former more often that not, because you end up with something you end up not using.

I can’t remember now what brought me to sari silk, but I do have quite a stash.  I think it was all those beautiful ideas for incorporate a piece of ribbon or a strip of this and that in my research.

Over the previous weekend, I came up with this new idea to actually wrap some brass bangles bought at a deep discount in one of the many accessory stores here in NYC — and that was just for starters.

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These are bits of literal saris that have been cut and repurposed to form continuous strips of say 10 yards and color coordinated to provide a colorful ball of fabric yarn.  The edges are not finished, but the raw quality actually lends a bohemian feel to the material.  The width of the strip varies from batch to batch and is not straight, so it makes for a very versatile ribbon.

Sari Silk yarn

Looking back now, I seem to remember the idea I had in mind was to actually use these to string beads or to provide a necklace for a pendant.  They are available in single colors of varying or solid hues, or in combinations like the above.  Pretty, don’t you agree?

They come in batches of 10 yards and that’s plenty for a necklace or two.  I have even tried crochetting with it, but it’s a little difficult even with the bigger chunky hooks, and the end product is a tad stiff.  So that one, I think I will need to develop first.

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In addition to my sari silk ribbon, I had also acquired some hand-dyed silk from a local designer here in New York, one time she was trying to get rid of her fabric scraps.  I used her silk scraps for the rightmost bracelet you see in the picture above.

I am definitely not done yet with these bracelets, because even from the get go, I had made up my mind that they were just base bracelets I will decorate and embellish.  I’m thinking about adding freshwater pearls, gemstone chips, and some hammered wires.  I’m taking it slow with the creative process here because I want to come up something fun and happy and colorful yet something that makes a statement.  (Now, that’s a bit of pressure there.)

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These gorgeous pinks were part of another batch of sari silk yarn.  The baby pink was actually sewn into the batch and while I could’ve easily cut it and start wrapping the bracelet from where the magenta began, I thought it would be a fun way to actually blend two different shades into one piece.    I think it came out pretty well.

So let’s see how these bracelets end up in, given a couple of days or maybe a week or two.  I’ve been carrying them in one of my vanity bags for inspiration.  If they don’t make it to the store, I might actually end up wearing them.  How’s that for some happy arm candy?

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!!