Saturday, June 30, 2007


I finished the market bag. I love the way it turned out--and if I'd gotten up earlier today I could have inaugurated it at the Farmer's Market, but I didn't. Or I'm too lazy to shower and go. But there's another one Wed. afternoon and I can stop--oh, no, wait, Wed. is July 4th. Hmm, I wonder if they'll have it with all the holiday stuff going on. Maybe they'll put some note in the paper. Anyway, I like it; it's the free Lily Sugar 'n Cream Market Bag pattern with only 2 rounds at the base and I used a larger (K) hook recommended on the yarn/string label, which made it bigger. I'm still knitting away at my ribbon scarf, but it's awfully slow going. Hopefully I'll get faster as I keep working at it.

And--the lilies are blooming! Aren't they beautiful? I wish they flowered longer, or again, but this is their one blaze of glory for the year.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Need Four Hands!

I've been working on knitting, and getting a bit less cramped about it, and my scarf is coming along. But in going on the Lion Brand website looking for the scarf pattern from the ribbon label (with bigger letters), I found 2 other knitted scarf patterns that use 3 or 4 strands of various types of yarn and great big needles they call "speed stix." They're size 50! You cast on 5 stitches and knit until the shortest ball of yarn runs out. Hooray, I found some knitting patterns just my speed--big needles and thick yarn. I'm determined to finish the ribbon scarf before I tackle the giant needles projects, but may not make it. At JoAnn's when I was looking for the speed stix I, of course, had to cruise the yarn aisles and found the most interesting string-like stuff for only 97 cents a skein. It's Coats & Clark Royale Lovebeads, a polyester & acrylic blend. I snapped it up to make market bags. Of course, I had to start one once the idea grabbed me, so now I've got 2 projects going, one knit and one crochet. I need 4 hands! Or to quit my job so I have all day, every day, to write, then play with yarn, then write, then play with yarn...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Sugar 'n Cream Box

I decided I needed a break from my struggle with knitting, although it's going pretty well. I'm about 6" into it and still have 15 of my original 16 stitches left--and the edges seem to be straighter, not so many bulges and dips. Today I organized my patterns into a bigger binder and ran across one to make boxes out of Lily Sugar 'n Cream. They looked so cute I couldn't resist making one. Naturally, I didn't use solid colors and break off every row like the pattern said, but I think it turned out darned cute in variegated. I'm fascinated by watching the colors stack up and blend when I work with variegated yarn. I also went to Michael's to return a book I bought over the weekend, and darned if I didn't buy more $2/skein novelty yarn than the amount of the return. I have got to stay out of stores for a while and crochet or knit up some of this yarn!

Had a smoking slip this afternoon, but I've only got 2 left. I swear I won't buy anymore. I promise.

Monday, June 25, 2007

This Has Nothing To Do With Crocheting or Smoking

I have been writing for about 8 years, sending things out, trying to get published. Haven't had much luck aside from an online zine that quickly went belly-up, one poem in a magazine devoted to poetry 2 yrs. ago, and this spring a short story in a university literary journal. I've got one novel manuscript needing a final, I hope, rewrite before agent-seeking and another first draft nearing completion, which will need at least a couple years' work before it sees the light of day. Last fall my writer friend, Jenny, found a flash fiction contest she thought we should enter. (Flash is a very short story form that has from 50 to 1500 words, depending on who is doing the defining.) They were supposed to notify the winners by 5/15, but sent an email that they were running late. We were complaining just last night that we hadn't heard from them again, but this morning I did. My little story, Octopus, is a finalist, not a cash prize winner, but will be included in their Ultra-Short edition. I'm so excited I'd be dancing if I wasn't at work! This is a picture of me writing on the patio of our bungalow in Bonaire in January, not on my upper Midwest patio which doesn't look anything like this, neither does my garden.

Look! Real Knitting!

After I finished the Flying Spaghetti Monster Hat yesterday, all of my yarn projects were complete. I sat for about an hour wondering what to do when Don lit a cig and I thought, that's what I'll do, smoke. I needed a project--fast. Didn't want to mow the lawn or clean or anything, so I decided to page through the Cool Girl's Guide to Knitting I'd gotten at Barnes & Noble earlier in the day to see what their easiest project was. Another hat. Not interested. I had bought more ribbon yarn at Michael's on Saturday and wondered what I could do with it. On the label is a pattern for a beginner knit scarf. That's what I could do (since I'd bought the right size needles, just in case)! I cast on 15 stitches and got started knitting on 16 stitches just like the pattern said, tongue poking out the corner of my mouth for better concentration. In an hour I had 3 inches of knitting! Not perfect but beautiful to me. After supper I went back to it, counted my stitches, and got 15. Recounted. Still 15. I looked at my little piece of knitting, no runs. I must have lost one somewhere but I couldn't see where. Oh well, who will know? I'm determined not to smoke.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Finally, I've completed the Mystery Project!

Here it is! The moment you've been waiting for! What do you get when you combine a base hat, balls, eye stalks, and tendrils? You get a Flying Spaghetti Monster Hat, that's what you get. Isn't it hilarious?

This hat will become a sort of family traveling trophy. Someone will get it for this next Christmas, keep it a year, and then re-gift it to the family member with the most need. Should be good for years of laughs and envy.

Yet Another Hat

I bought a new book filled with crocheted hat patterns--and couldn't resist making one. You see, I already had the ribbon yarn I needed and the correct size hook--and you know how I love making hats. Besides, even buying yarn and books the way I have been I'm still not spending as much money as I would be if I were still buying cigarettes. So it's all good, right? I love this ribbon stuff, the colors are vibrant and the pattern was fairly simple, once I finished the first row which asked you to make a half-double crochet popcorn stitch in every other chain of the start chain. I thought it was rather cruel to start right off with the most complicated part of the entire hat. The rest was two rows of triple crochet and then half double crochets for the hat, and rows of single, a popcorn row, then a row of singles for the brim. Simple--once you get past the 58 popcorns to start!

Still not smoking--(except for a very few slips)--with 25 days in the bag.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Crazy Move

Yesterday after a visit to the chiropractor to see if he could make my over-crocheted left forearm stop hurting, I stopped at Patti's Yarn Shop to see if she had buttons I could use for eyes on my eye stalks. She did. While there I asked what might possibly be the craziest question I could have asked--can you teach me to knit? What was I thinking? I already have a crocheting injury, that's why I was at the bonecracker, and now I want to learn yet-another craft guaranteed to exacerbate said injury? Well, Patti's no fool, she could see the yarn addiction in my eyes, so she said sure, found a nice pair of birch needles for me to use (shockingly I had a skein of yarn in the van), invited me into her kitchen, and we began with casting on. Before I had 10 stitches on, the buzzer sounded indicating a customer had come in. So she went to wait on them while I prowled the shelves fondling all the yarn. On the heels of the customers came, one by one, 3 older ladies carrying bags of knitting. They made a beeline for the kitchen and plopped themselves down in the remaining chairs. Seems I'd butted into an impromptu knitting bee! Dorothy was sewing together a pretty deep rose cabled cardigan, Edna pulled out a cute yellow seed stitch sweater she's making for a granddaughter, and Iris was looking for an easy sweater pattern she could make with ribbon yarn and size 13 needles. In between customers, Patti came back to pour coffee for her guests, demonstrate to me how to knit, and field questions from the other 3. Back and forth she went most of the afternoon. Dorothy who sat on my left, kept leaning over to encourage me that I was doing the stitch correctly. In time I noticed that none of the other 3 ladies had made so much as a single stitch; they were drinking their coffee and comparing their ailments. When I commented on it, Iris shook her finger at me and said, grinning, "Listen, I'm 91 and I can do what I want." Guess she told me. Naturally the knitting motion made my arm ache, so I kept stopping between rows to shake my hand and let the muscles relax--the ladies had quite a bit to say about that too. I stayed for about 3 hours and never once did any of them knit! But they sure could talk! Even if I never become a regular knitter I'm so glad I was there to be a part of that little group for one afternoon.

Step Four--Tendrils!

This was the easiest part to make, just chains of various lengths made out of fluffy chenille yarn. I'm so anal I ended up counting chains trying to make them really various. Sheesh.

Didn't do very well in the stop smoking world yesterday. For some reason I smoked 2 in the morning while on the computer. But I'll do better today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Step Three--Eye Stalks!

If I thought that making a pair of these would be easy, I was wrong. I tried to write down how I made the first one but evidently wasn't totally exact since eye stalk #2 is a bit fatter. But I don't think that will make much difference in the finished product. I think I'd better slow down a bit with my crocheting--I woke up at 3 AM with my left arm totally numb and aching (which makes no sense, but there you are) and spent a half hour trying to get some feeling back in it so I could go back to sleep. Maybe a trip to the chiropractor this afternoon would help.

Still not smoking--although I confess I'm tempted right now.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Step Two--Balls!

As you can see by the photo, I had a bit of trouble judging the size of my balls. But they were pretty easy to make as long as I kept moving the stitch marker to the last stitch in each round so I knew where I was in case I lost count.
It's getting a bit easier not to smoke. The image of me lighting up will pop into my head but I'm able to erase or ignore it much better this week than last.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

One more thing...

I'll go write in a minute but I wanted to put on a better picture of Don. When I showed him my blog he commented that he thought he looked like an ogre in the picture with him in his hat.

He's a great guy, very supportive of my various passions (he calls them my manias). I'm glad I ran slow enough that he caught me 30 years ago!

Step One--make base hat

I'm still struggling not to smoke. I've made a stack of washcloths, but was looking for something different for a treat. I searched the web and found a pattern that tickled my funny bone and looked like it would be interesting to make. You know how fixated I can be and hats are about my speed crocheting skills-wise. I decided to put each part on the blog as I complete it, partly because I'm having such fun putting things on here and partly because it's going to take me a while to make all the hat parts before I assemble them into the fabulous finished product. So, here's part one--the hat base.

And now I'm going to work on a story because I've been sloughing off my writing to crochet.

Ooh, more and better hat pictures

While transferring pix from camera to computer I ran across a picture of Ann, me, and David in hats I made at Christmas, and Ann with her first hats and David & Abby in their hats I made. Aren't we a handsome bunch? I think those big smiles mean we're all glad the holidays are over.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Yarn I couldn't resist

Last month I went to The Clearing, a folk school in Ellison Bay at the tip of Door Co., WI to work on a novel manuscript. I took my washcloth crocheting for those times when I wanted to smoke and think. After a day and a half I realized that my desire to smoke was greater than the amount of yarn I had packed, so I consulted a friend and set out for the local yarn shop. They had skeins of cotton yarn in colors I hadn't seen so I picked up a few since everything in the store was 20% off. Killing time I roamed around looking at all the projects on display and all the yarn and books. The sight of a pile of yarn in a corner stopped me dead. I picked up a skein and fondled it. It was stiff silk yarn, a fair trade product, made from the sweepings of Indian sari mills sent to Nepal to be spun then sold by Frabjous Fibers. Remember I was in a tourist area so the price was high, but it was too beautiful to leave there, besides I had some mad money tucked in my wallet. Too enamored of it to wait to work it until I got home, I bought a hook and consulted with Hermi, another crocheter at The Clearing who crochets purses to felt, and got to work. Hermi showed me how to make a flat bottom on a seamless purse and led me through the steps. I worked on it alternately with my washcloth (the silk yarn was rough enough to make marks on my fingers) and finished it the next week after I got home from writing camp. I found some perfect black plastic handles at a yarn shop in Green Bay and lined it with black dupioni silk. Not an everyday purse, but it just glows. I love the idea that women in Nepal have their own money and can support themselves through something that would have been thrown away.
And I'm on day 15 with only a couple of slips. Crocheting has helped keep my fingers busy when the desire to light up gets too strong.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Washcloths! Washcloths! Washcloths!

So what do you do with a big bag of skeins of variegated cotton yarn? And you're desperate to quit smoking? You crochet washcloths (or dishcloths) every time you want to light up, that's what. I found a variety of free patterns (isn't the internet great?), tried them all in an effort to keep from lighting up. They're great for that, small and easy to tuck in my purse or pocket for those times I used to grab a quick smoke. Sugar 'n Cream has a lot of pretty colors and the leftovers from the zig zag purse were just right for edging. If you haven't showered with a crocheted or knitted (thanks, Ann!) cloth, you need to try it. They're just rough enough to exfoliate a bit and the soap rinses out easily.
Up to day 14 and have only smoked one twice when frustration got the better of me. Chantix is a miracle drug.

Finally, a Purse for Me!

Now that every other woman in my life had a cool crocheted purse it was finally time to make one for myself. In Easy Crocheted Accessories I found a pattern for a cotton purse with zig zag stitches that really appealed to me. I agonized over the colors to choose--and bought way more than I needed for the pattern--but finally settled on a rainbow. It took a bit of ripping but I finally got the hang of the pattern stitch and hooked away. When it came to making the back of the purse I decided to divide the biggest color block in half diagonally and spent a happy afternoon working out how to do it. Quickly finishing the back, I proudly showed my husband the 2 pieces--only to discover that the front, the pretty part, was 3 inches longer than the back. And of course it is crocheted from bottom to top and the top is shaped. Arrrgh! I was staring at it in frustration (while smoking, naturally) when Don said, "can't you just add rows to the bottom?" My first instinct was to say no, but the more I looked at it, the more it seemed possible. It was a solid color and straight single crochet, what harm would there be in trying it. I did, and it worked great. I crocheted a few rows, measured against the front and kept going until the 2 pieces matched. Whew. It didn't take long to sew the pieces together, sew the flaps over bamboo rings for handles, and line it with plain muslin. Plain linings for flashy things, flashy linings for plain things--a good rule of thumb. Now I carry my pretty purse with pride and there aren't any cigs in it.

Taking a Break from all the Purses

By the time I got done with those purses I needed a break. In Portable Crochet was a pattern for a cute baby hat with popcorn stitches around it, and I wanted to try making popcorn stitches. I had a skein of crayon-colored variegated chenille baby yarn in my stash. Hmm, fate? Or precognition? Then I saw the neighbors carry their newborn son into the house. Aha! Babies need hats! I was off and hooking away. When it was finished it was so cute--but way too big for a newborn. Luckily I remembered the toddler daughter of David's friend, so I delivered it to her and got to spend an hour coloring on a rose covered front porch. Can't smoke around babies, you know. Down to 15 cigs/day.

More Purses--gotta avoid those "habit" cigs!

Thank heavens for easy purse patterns! I'm going crazy with the desire to light up. What is this demon nicotine that claws at my brain? Aarrrgh!

Right after finishing Abby's purse for Easter I started in on a black one for my daughter, Ann, which I lined with an awesome red, black & gold Asian print. Very cool--and I especially liked the multi-colored scraps of fabric in the hairy stripe yarn I used on hers.

By then Mother's Day was looming, I still was desperate to smoke, so I moved right into making a purse for Mom in a soft olive green lined in a print with her favorite autumn colors. She loved it and showed it off to all her bridge buddies that week.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Purses--who knew they could be so easy?

The seamless purses in the Quick Crochet, Huge Hook book were fascinating with bright colors and interesting yarns. I decided to try one. I smoked less while my hook flew. I gave away the first one, made in black & white bulky yarn with gold and silver threads and lined in red dupioni silk. Then I suddenly needed something to keep me occupied in husband's hospital room just before Easter (can't smoke in there!) and something special for our son's fiancee's Easter basket. Thank heavens for WalMart's clearance bin! Found 2 skeins of Lion Suede in a yummy caramel and one of a variegated eyelash in peach, yellow, caramel & wine. It was a small enough project to carry to the hospital and used a hook big enough to satisfy me that I was accomplishing something. I picked up the eyelash yarn to make a couple of stripes in the purse and added it to the handles just because I loved the way it looked. I lined it with a flashy turquoise scarf print fabric with a tiny bit of stretch so the purse would be roomier. She loved it.

My determination to quit smoking took a dive worrying about my husband's recovery. Didn't give up on quitting but put it on the back burner for a few weeks until he's back on his feet and I'm not so frazzled.

Permission to Crochet Outside the Box--a revelation

Browsing the crochet books at Michael's I pulled one off the rack--Quick Crochet, Huge Hook--hmm, this could be interesting. The biggest surprise was a sample swatch that had thick & chunky yarn alternating with ladder yarn with a Q hook. Solid fabric and open fabric--in the same piece! And the sky didn't crack! That gave me ideas--I could use the novelty yarns I'd been unable to resist buying (on sale) in hats and scarves. Suddenly patterns were suggestions rather than commandments; I could change them and it wouldn't be wrong, just different, just creative. While I worked on my new ideas, it was hard to smoke as much as I had in the past. This was good.

Another pattern showed using that hairy yarn for something besides boas. They're cute but I can't knit and it seemed to me all that fuzz around your neck would be annoying. So I decided to use it to edge the turn-up single crochet rows on my easiest hat pattern. It worked--and looked good. Now I had another idea to keep my hands busy hooking and not lighting up.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mittens--warm fingers driving home from work!

After spending a month in Bonaire, my hands wouldn't warm up especially driving home from work. None of my gloves, not fleece, not wool kept my fingers warm on that cold steering wheel. So one weekend I searched the Web for crocheted mitten patterns that looked fairly easy and gave them a try. They were a bit clunky, not soft like knitted mittens, but they sure were warm. As an added bonus, I couldn't figure out how to smoke while wearing them!

Always remember--weave in tails as you go!

My crocheting got interrupted after the holidays by a month-long Caribbean vacation. I didn't take my yarn and hooks, but did take my smokes. I imagined that I'd be so relaxed and productive writing on Bonaire that I'd smoke less. Wrong! I ended up buying packs of horrible-tasting cigs whenever I needed more, saving my last pack of American ones for the trip home. I had to face it, I was an addict and needed help.

Help came in the form of info from our daughter, Ann, who quit with the help of a new drug, Chantix, which removes the cravings and withdrawl. You can continue to smoke while taking it (without poisoning yourself like with the patch) and kind of wean yourself away from the habit cigs, the ones you light almost without thinking. (For me, that was those first thing in the morning ones.) I kept smoking through some husband-ly health problems, still crocheting. My most satisfying project during those months was finally putting together some woven & crocheted blocks I had made as a teen. I found them in the basement, couldn't believe I still had them, and spent a week weaving in tails and crocheting them together, then weaving in more tails.

Shawl--read twice, crochet once--lesson learned

The easiest looking garment was a simple, lacy shawl made with mohair yarn and a Q hook--my kind of crocheting, quick and easy. So I made it but didn't exactly follow the pattern and got what amounted to a scarf. My beautician loved it when I gave it to her. Frustrated that it hadn't turned out the way I envisioned, I began again. This time I followed the instructions to the letter, even made the start chain longer, and it turned out! And it was beautiful. Just the thing for a cold winter evening reading or watching TV. Even my husband likes it when he's chilled. Good thing he looks good in earth tones!

Still smoking but worrying more about burning my project.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hats--an innocent beginning

Before Christmas, I decided that I should crochet hats for my daughter and future daughter-in-law to match the mismatched gloves I was giving them for Christmas. I bought a few skeins of yarn and a hook, resurrected an old very-easy hat pattern, and got hooking. I really enjoyed making them. I realized that if his sister and fiancee got homemade hats, my son would want one too, so I made one for him. Then making hats for the other three members of my writing group would be fun and economical, which led to the decision to make one for my boss and her husband. *pant, pant* I barely got them all done before the December 24th deadline.

After Christmas, my daughter asked me to teach her how to make hats, and my husband, who is always cold, said he wouldn't mind having a wool hat. Time to buy more yarn. Did you know there are big yarn sales around the holidays? We brought home much more yarn than we needed to make a hat or two. An online search yielded a bunch of simple patterns for shawls, afghans, and mittens. An addiction had been rekindled--and I'd passed it on to my daughter.