Friday, January 22, 2016

Free Valentine's Pattern, Chocolate Candy Earrings

National Chocolate Day (aka Valentine's Day) is right around the corner. I'm not much of a hearts-and-flowers kind of gal, but who can argue with a nice big chocolate truffle? Certainly not me. I do crochet plenty of cute things, but generally stop short of cutesy, and I think this pattern fits into my style with a Valentine's twist. Chocolate Candy Earrings!

I made these in two sizes and a variety of colors to show off the possibilities, though I'm sure infinite varieties could be made if you chose. This is a simple, quick, and easy pattern you can whip up in a flash for a fun gift for your valentine (or for yourself!).  

Large size, in pink and black

Small size, in brown and light pink

Directions for both sizes are given below. The small size measures about 1" in diameter while the large measures about 1 1/4." Because they're made of just a bit of yarn and polyester fiberfill, even the larger earrings are very light and comfortable to wear.

Valentines Chocolate Candy Earrings

  • A small amount of worsted weight yarn in the color of your choice for candy. Shown in Caron Simply soft in Chocolate and Soft Pink
  • Embroidery Floss in the color of your choice for decorative swirl
  • US G (4 mm) hook
  • Tapestry needle
  • Polyester fiberfill stuffing
  • Two flat post earring back
  • Felt (Optional)
  • Hot glue 
  • Worked in a spiral; do not join rounds unless otherwise noted. Do not turn at ends of rounds.
  •  Repeat directions following * to end of round, unless otherwise noted.
  • You may find it easier to do the embroidery before completing the candy pieces as the opening is quite small when finished. After round 4 for the small size, or 5 for the large size, drop the yarn to do the embroidery and then pick it back up to finish.
ch: chain
sc: single crochet
hdc: half-double crochet
sl: slipstitch
inc: increase (crochet two stitches in one space)
dec: decrease (crochet two stitches together)
BLO: back loops only
Gauge is not crucial for this project 
Small Size
Make a magic ring.
1:  Sc 6 into magic ring. Mark end of this and following rounds. Do not join.
2:  *Sc inc, sc.  (9)
3:  *Sc inc, sc 2.  (12)
4:  *Sc.
5:  Sl to join with first st. BLO: ch 1, *sc dec. Sl to join with first st.  (6)
Tie off, leaving a long tail to close up bottom.
Large Size
Make a magic ring.
1:  Sc 6 into magic ring. Mark end of this and following rounds. Do not join.
2:  *Sc inc.  (12)
3:  *Sc inc, sc 2.  (16)
4-5:  *Sc.
6:  Sl to join with first st. BLO: ch 1, *hdc dec. Sl to join with first st.  (8)
Tie off, leaving a long tail to close up bottom.
Cut a length of embroidery floss at least 4 feet long. With a double thickness of floss, backstitch around the spiral of stitches, starting close to the center. Insert the needle from the wrong side and make a small stitch (about 1 sc). Moving around the spiral, pull up needle in the next space and stitch back two, so the stitches form a continuous line. Be sure to insert the needle in front of the thread from the previous stitch for the smoothest line.
Stuff candy with a small amount of polyester fiberfill. With a tapestry needle, weave yarn tail through remaining stitches and pull tight to close. Weave in end.

Hot glue the earring backing in place, either in the center or toward the top (recommended for the large size candies). If desired, cut a circle of felt slightly larger than your flat post earring back. Press the post through the center of the felt and glue in place. I find this attaches the post more securely than only gluing it to the yarn.

You're ready to wear your love of candy on your sleeve. Or, rather, your ears. Happy Chocolate Day!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Pattern Review: The Sandra Sweater

Once in a while, when I knit something that will take more time and commitment than a hat or some fingerless gloves, I actually follow a pattern! I know, it's wild.

Awhile back, I picked up a bundle of back issues of Knitscene from Interweave, and it's become my favorite knitting magazine. Lots of great ideas and patterns that actually look good on the people wearing them, which seems like no small feat when you check out some of the other knitting mags out there.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 1967.:
Ok, that one's from 1967, but you get my point.

One of my most recent pattern-following successes was The Sandra Sweater by Odessa Reichel. It's from the Fall 2012 issue and has the kind of retro styling I'm drawn to, and that will continue to be fashionable for years to come. 

The original
Cute as it is, when I use someone else's pattern, I rarely stick to it completely, and this sweater was no different. I used a stash yarn I picked up on ebay I don't even know when (a Merino wool blend from ICE yarns). and had a gauge that was....close enough.

The yarn
I got 20sts for 4 inches rather than 21. Based on my measurements, I could go with the size 34 1/2 for a snug fit or 36 1/2 for a looser fit.

I did some math....
Trust me, it's worth it. And actually kinda fun.

Pattern gauge
21 sts / 4" = 5.25 stitches per inch

My gauge
20 sts / 4" = 5 stitches per inch

That doesn't sound like much of a difference, but it can really affect your sizing when spread over a whole garment. You can figure out how much with just a little more math. 

Pattern measurement for Back
I calculated this by dividing the number of stitches by the gauge per inch.

Size 34 1/2
90 sts / 5.25 = 17.25"

Size 36 1/2
96 sts / 5.25 = 18.28"

Size 34 1/2 using my gauge
90 / 5 = 18

Following the size 34 1/2 pattern with my adjusted gauge would get me a size 36. That sounded just right to me, so I followed the directions for that size. Since my gauge was close to the original, the adjustment is relatively minor, and I can just size down from what I might have chosen with the correct gauge. If your gauge is way off, it can be rather trickier, as you may have to make up a new size based on your gauge.

Math homework completed, I was off to knit!

I didn't have another color of the yarn in question, and didn't particularly care for the thin stripes in the design anyway, so I omitted those.

The wip
The mock cable design on the front worked up easily and more quickly than a traditional cable knit. I also found it much less bulky, which worked well for the relatively fine yarn and made a nice, thin sweater perfect for the cooler days in my very un-chilly climate (New Orleans).

The finished product

Overall, I'm quite happy with the result. If I were to knit it again, I might add a little extra length, as the cropped cut limits the sweater's usefulness (at least in my wardrobe). My one complaint was the total lack of directions in how to seam the puff sleeves. I would have been much happier (and would have put off seaming a much shorter time) if there was some indication of how to best ease in that extra material. Google failed me on finding a tutorial, and I was left to my own trial-and-error devices. I ended up doing a couple folds at the top and sewing the sleeves in through a double layer of fabric at strategic points. I'm not, however, convinced this was the best way to go about it. C'est la vie. I do think they turned out all right anyway.

Happy knitting!

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Resolutions

Image result for new year's resolution
Do you make New Year's resolutions? Have you ever made a yarn-related one? For many years I either didn't make them at all, or made half-hearted ones. I made resolutions I hoped would help me get into a particular habit or get closer to a particular goal, but they never worked all that well. And they didn't work for the most classic reason: I couldn't stick with them. They ended up feeling like too much, I'd miss a day or blow a self-imposed deadline and feel I hadn't kept the resolution already so missing more days was no longer meaningful.

The 3 Steps to Completing your 2016 New Year's Resolution

For 2015, I changed the pattern. I made a single, very specific resolution, and I kept it! I resolved to publish 12 crochet patterns before the end of the year. That's one a month, of course, and my plan was to complete one every month. It didn't quite work out that way, but even though some months I published nothing and some months I published two patterns or more, the work got done. I reached my goal. There are two specific reasons I think my resolution worked for me this year in a way resolutions haven't worked for me in the past.

1. It's quantifiable. I didn't resolve to write "more" patterns; I resolved to write 12. Having a real count made the goal concrete and achievable in a way that "more" could never be. Once I'd gotten a couple done, there were only 10 left. A couple more, and it was only 8. There's an inherent reward in working toward a concrete goal like this oneit gets closer with every step.

2. It's personally achievable. What I mean by that is the resolution was attainable through my own actions only. Your goal might be to get published in a national magazine, but that isn't a very good resolution because ultimately it's not up to you. It's up to the magazine editors. Instead, you might resolve to submit something to a magazine twice a month. That way the resolution is something you can achieve all by yourself. I used the word "publish" in my resolution because I planned to be mainly self-publishing here on the blog and selling patterns myself on Ravelry and Etsy. I did have a few patterns come out in magazines, and of course I counted those, but I made sure not to rely on others to achieve my goal.

With this in mind, I think I'm going to repeat my resolution. I know I can do 12 more patterns this year. And I'd like to add to it by making a resolution about this oft-neglected blog I've started. I think I can do 50 blog posts in 2016. I'm not positive I'll make one a week, though I think that's a good goal and will help keep me on track, and I've got a couple "vacation" weeks planned into the number for when it just isn't going to happen. I know I can do it! (And hey, I'm already down to 49.)

To wrap up my year, here they are in order of appearance, the patterns I published in 2015!

1. The Mod Bob

2. Zebra Chevron Legwarmers  FREE!

3. Candy Hearts  FREE!

4. Lucky Clover Headband  FREE!

5. Irish Flag Koozie  FREE!

6. Power Tie Coffee Cozy in Happily Hooked Magazine #14

7. Uterus Bean Bag 

8. A Twist of Lime Summer Cap in Happily Hooked Magazine #17

9.  Rainbeer  FREE!

10. Candy Cane Coffee Cozy  FREE!

11. Christmas Light Ornament  FREE!

12. Puffed Wheat Winter Hat (forthcoming, in Happily Hooked #23!)

Happy New Year and Happy Crocheting!