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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Thoughtful Thursdays

As another NatCroMo comes to a close, I've been thinking a lot lately about my yarn collection, material possessions in general, and how to get things organized and decluttered while "sparking joy." Yes, I too have gotten sucked into the Marie Kondo method), though, in my defense, I saw her make an extensive presentation in L.A. about two years ago, and there's a lot to her philosophy and methodology.

Anyway, my point is that the things that surround us should make us happy.  Of course not everything can be beautiful and artful, but we should be thankful for their presence in our lives and the functions they perform for us each day.  But, I think I need to call myself out -- why can't everything be beautiful and artful?!  We should be striving to create or surround ourselves with things that make us and others happy.  One of my tag lines from the beginning has been "be thoughtful" and true to your giving nature.  So, once in a while, I want to take a Thursday post and focus on thoughtfulness, towards others and, even more importantly, towards ourselves.

There used to be the cutest little flower "hut" on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street, and, many springs ago, I used to stop by every Friday on my way home and pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers, which often lasted the whole week til the next Friday.  It was an extravagance that I felt like I could finally indulge in, and it brought me such moments of joy seeing that bouquet in the middle of my little 4-seater round glass dining room table in my efficiency apartment. 

These days, I've been trying to have green plants around the condo to help with air quality, but I'm thinking this spring might be a time to bring back a little extravagance.  Please spend a few moments today thinking about something that you used to do for yourself and your surroundings that brought a little joy and spark to your day and see if you can recapture that feeling.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Happy NatCroMo 2019!

Welcome Crocheters (and knitters too)!

Thank you for joining me on my blog day for National Crochet Month (NatCroMo), it's hard to believe how quickly March is passing by.

For my followers, thank you so much for sticking with me as I experiment with crochet-related topics and blogging formats.  For the newcomers, I'm so glad you're taking the time to visit and check me out -- my goal is to provide practical and useful information that will make your crocheting time easier and even more fun! 

First, a big thank you to Marie Segares (the Underground Crafter), who in conjunction with the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) revived the Crochet Designers' Showcase for NatCroMo.  Every day this month, a different crochet designer who is also a member of the CGOA will be featured, and each designer will share a free crochet pattern or a 25% discount on a premium pattern (I'm doing both, read on!).  I love being a corporate member of CGOA because the organization provides so many resources to small crafts businesses and the dedicated officers and members are so supportive.  And Crochet! Magazine is such a great collection of patterns and the newest happenings in crochet.

Marie and CGOA also have partnered with some of our favorite companies to offer great prizes, including yarn, crochet hooks, notions, pattern books, and more! Find out more information about the other participating designers, the schedule, and how to enter to win the prizes in this post


Next, a huge thank you to Laurel Hill, who generously sent me this beautiful crochet hook in celebration of NatCroMo.  And I mean that!  I'm usually so skeptical of free stuff for my "honest" review, but this opportunity was better than I could have expected.  The hook is so smooth and comfortable to hold, and I really like the head of the hook as well.  I'm usually not a fan of wooden hooks, but this hook feels substantial and sturdy, and did I remark on how smooth it is?!  It really is a quality hook at a reasonable price.  Check out my previous blog post with a video on "How to Cleverly Start a Double Crochet Row" to see the Laurel Hill hook in action!

In preparation for Easter, I also recently recorded a video for my YouTube channel (please subscribe, I'm really getting into this movie-making thing!) to demonstrate how to create a Crochet Bite-Size Bunny, and the written pattern is free on Ravelry and LoveKnitting.

I was hoping to also have a brand new premium crochet project and pattern available for discount for NatCroMo, but "due to technical difficulties", it's not quite ready yet, soooooo... I'm giving a 25% discount on ALL of my patterns for purchase in my Ravelry store!  Just type in "NatCroMo2019" as a one-time-use coupon code until April 11th (11:59 PM EDT).

I hope you've enjoyed this post and want to subscribe to future posts (see subscription box in left column).  Thank you for celebrating NatCroMo2019 with me, and Happy Crocheting!!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

How to Cleverly Start Your Double Crochet Rows

Hello crocheters!  First, I want to wish you a Happy National Crochet Month!  I hope you've been enjoying the happenings so far, and here's a great rundown of all the ways to celebrate:

I'll be one of the designers participating in the CGOA 2019 International Crochet Month Designer Showcase on March 23rd, so please come back here to see a special post with some special surprises!

But, to whet your appetite, here's my new Jumprope instructional video on how to cleverly start a double crochet row to make a smooth side with no "holes."

How to Cleverly Start Your Double Crochet Rows by manycreativegifts on Jumprope.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mindful Mondays

Another periodic type of post I want to concentrate on this year involves mindfulness and just how much crafting, and specifically crochet, can help us achieve a meditative state.  Of course those of us who craft regularly know the relaxation and calmness that comes with getting lost in our projects and,  more importantly, the anxiousness and unsettled feeling that comes with not crocheting.  Seems like the rest of the world is catching on!  There have been a number of articles recently that focus on the benefits of knitting (though we know those benefits carry over to many other types of crafting), but I thought this one did a good job of capturing the range of specific benefits that can be achieved.

So, periodically on Mondays, I'd like to look a little deeper into these health benefits, the science behind them, and some practical tips for how to incorporate crocheting into your life if you're new to the craft and some new ways for the more experienced crocheter to rediscover and relish the benefits of crochet.

Today's fun fact is that using your fingers in crafting actually builds up their cartilage rather than wearing it down and helps stave off arthritis.   Even if you already have arthritis, you can improve it by soaking your hands in warm water and using larger needles or hooks for your projects.

Got some tips of your own you want to share?  Please leave a comment with your suggestions.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Fiber Fridays

Hi Crocheters, "Fiber Fridays" will be periodic Fridays when I post about the fiber world.  I thought I'd start with wool because that seems like a logical place to start, and there's a raging debate going on right now between animal rights activists, who feel that shearing sheep is cruel to the animal, and wool yarn providers, who point out that domesticated sheep need to have their fleece shorn.  I think you know which camp I fall into, though, like many debates these days, I also believe there's a middle ground that should be satisfactory to most.  Of course I believe there should be a lot of attention paid to sheep being cared for and properly shorn; and, if that's the case, then wool yarn is a great asset to humankind.  That's why I did a lot of research and wanted to know where my wool comes from before adopting Chausette from Owens Farm and having her fleece spun into beautiful yarn.

*If you'd like to learn more about the details of the debate, please read and follow Clara Parkes!  She encapsulates the discussion far better than I can and makes the case for shearing in an informed and rational way.

So, why is wool yarn so coveted?  Well, first I should say, "wool" is a very broad term; there are more breeds of sheep than breeds of any other livestock species (with the exception of chickens and other poultry). Worldwide, it is estimated that there are more than 1000 distinct sheep breeds, with over 50 breeds in the United States alone.  As a result, the different properties of each breed of fleece yields the different textures and qualities of different types of wool yarn.  I'll be going into more details in future posts, but suffice to say for now that insulation is the primary characteristic of wool that makes it so great for clothing.  A woolen sweater keeps you cozy and warm by trapping air between its fibers. It also allows perspiration to evaporate (wick) through the fabric, which helps keep your skin dry and comfortable.

Chausette will be sheared any day now, so stay tuned for before and after pix as well as the beautiful yarn her coat will produce!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, New Aspirations!

Happy New Year, Crocheters! 2018 was an eventful year in many, many ways; 2019 promises 365 opportunities to try new and different things. This year, I'm using the word "aspiration," defined as "a strong desire, longing, or aim; ambition; a goal or objective that is strongly desired,” rather than just "goals" because I really want to tap into and capture the passion and desire behind the goals I want to achieve this year.

In 2018, I concentrated on being active on social media (please visit and like our Many Creative Gifts’ Facebook page and follow our Instagram!) to the detriment of blogging. I’ve been posting on Facebook a lot of beautiful crochet from so many wonderful crocheters and more personal photos on Instagram. This year, I plan on continuing my social media experiments (because it really is hard to know what works and what doesn't) and maybe even adding more videos (our YouTube channel still does have some oldies but goodies on there). Plus, getting back to the blogging...

Also, Many Creative Gifts is entering into some new partnerships! I don't want to jinx anything, but I'm really hoping this is the year we'll be offering some new patterns and kits as well as some electronic crochet tools.  That's all the tease I'll give for now!

So, to all of you who've signed up and stuck with me to get updates from my little corner of the crochet world, thank you so much and Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Design and Crochet A Baby Blanket With This Simple 3-Step System

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of "Preserving the Legacy of Crochet."  There are a lot of ways to capture and preserve the amazing art form of crochet for present and future generations, and I'll be talking a lot about this topic in future posts and in my new book project (now you know one of the things I've been up to during this dry period of posting!).

One way that the needle arts seem to make it from generation to generation is through baby keepsakes.  Everyone has a special "binkie" or hat or something that a beloved aunt or grannie crocheted or knitted.  These days, with all the registries and gadgets available for gift giving, I still think that the best baby shower gift is a crochet or knit baby blanket.  With the right yarn and size choices, it'll be a cherished part of baby's first few years.  And it's a great project for the beginner crochet or knit designer. 

Oh, a word on that:  I will be doing a series of blog posts geared towards the intermediate crocheter (and I think they will be helpful to knit designers as well) who wants to veer away from other designers' patterns and start designing her or his own projects.  I'm not talking about becoming a professional crochet designer (though we can explore that topic as well later on); this is about pursuing "Discovery" this year through exploring crochet and expanding your skills.  There tend to be two kinds of crocheters:  process ones and project ones.  Those who enjoy the process don't care if they end up with anything in the end; they just like crocheting and trying new stitches and techniques.  Project crocheters are on a mission and want a beautiful finished crochet item at the end.  I hope there's a little here for each, but I am gearing these materials for those project crocheters who want to take the design journey from the beginning to a purposeful end.

So, how to get started?  In designing a blanket project, I use a three-step process (not necessarily in the order below, but we'll talk about that more next time) to bring it all together: 

1) Choose the size of blanket you want to make.

I tend to start here because choice of size tends to set the boundaries of my "canvas" and helps me make decisions in steps 2 and 3.  You, of course, do NOT need to start here; many people find a yarn that they just love and want to build a project around it.  Alternatively, a crochet designer will see a stitch pattern that's perfect and will start experimenting from there.  Choosing your starting step is part of the fun!  And we'll talk more in future posts about each step separately so that you can mix and match as you discover what sequence you want to follow (and even that can change from project to project).

I've scoured the internet in search of all the different variations in blanket sizes and have come up with a chart that contains as many different blanket sizes as I could find, based on U.S. "standard" measurements (though I use that term loosely because there were quite a few discrepancies in the measurements for certain types of blankets).  Of course, now, I need to figure out a way to make that chart available to you!  I'll put the [place marker] here and edit it with a solution shortly and will include it in the separate posting on size.

I've found that the expectant mother usually has receiving, crib, and playpen-type blankets already covered, so I like to make the crochet car seat blanket pictured below.  It looks hard but is easy to make and can be made in all sorts of color combinations.  It's got a modern crochet look to it, and it makes for an unusual and useful gift in a versatile size (18x21 in/45.5x53 cm).  From a design perspective, the smaller blankets, like the car seat, burpie, or cuddle blankets, allow for more choices as I'll be discussing below.  Also, frankly, the smaller blankets are less time-consuming to make, especially if the baby shower or arrival is fast approaching.

But, again, only you know what you want to make in light of your unique knowledge about the recipient, just some food for thought as you consider your options.

2) Choose the yarn and hook you want to use. 

Softness and durability are going to be critical to success in your yarn choice.  It needs to be non-irritating, easily washable (for the mom's sake), and soft (for the baby's sake).  With the great strides that have been made with synthetic fibers, I don't mind using acrylic yarns anymore.  And good yarn companies, like Berroco and Plymouth, have reasonably priced synthetic options these days.  Synthetics tend to be a good choice for babywear because they are washable, don't trigger allergic reactions, and come in wide color selections, especially traditional baby colors.

If you want to stick with natural fibers, I'd recommend alpaca or bamboo.  Both will be pricier, but they have natural softness, anti-bacterial properties, and good drape and breath-ability, which make them great choices for a baby blanket, especially if you've chosen a smaller-sized blanket as discussed above.  Unfortunately, they need to be hand-washed, so that might be another reason to choose a small project that won't get a lot of wear and tear to make it easier on Mom!  In fact, you really might want to save "pure" versions of these yarns for a hat or sweater project.  You might want to look for yarn blends that have alpaca or bamboo in them but have other fibers like cotton blended in that give the resulting yarn different properties like wash-ability.

Now, there are a lot of natural and machine washable merino yarns out there as well that are easy to work with and so soft, but be sure that wool allergies are not an issue. 

Please also consider the thinness or thickness of the yarn.  You might want to think about the season in which the baby is arriving and the climate in which he or she will be living.  Frankly, it's also totally fair for you to think about the weight of yarn and the hook size combination that you will  enjoy working with; after all, you'll be the one with this project in your lap for a while, and you'll want to use the tools that will unleash your best inner crocheter or knitter!

Which brings me to the hook (or needle) choice.  I've always tended to pick the yarn first; then, after reading the label and experimenting with different hooks, I settle on the "right" hook to use for the yarn and pattern I've chosen (see below).  But, if there is a certain size hook or needle that you prefer using, you certainly can make that choice first and build your yarn and pattern choices from there.

3) Choose the stitch pattern you want to make.

If you end up choosing a traditionally-known "baby yarn," often the company will include a baby blanket pattern on the label or its website that's especially designed for that yarn.  This is just such a great and easy way for you as a beginner crocheter or knitter to gain confidence in your new-found skills and get that baby gift keepsake made in no time!

If you're ready to stretch those skills, then you might want to look on Pinterest or in craft books and magazines for stitches you would like to use in designing your own blanket.  If you've chosen a monochromatic yarn without texture, then you can really go for a complex stitch pattern; if you've chosen a textured or multi-colored yarn, you will probably want to keep your stitch choice on the simpler side.

Directions on how to make the stitch will give you the multiples you need in order to make the repeating stitch pattern, so all you need to do is make a swatch, measure it (both before and after washing the swatch according to label directions to really test it), and divide the measurements into the blanket's dimensions to determine how many stitches and rows you need to complete the project.  For example, let's say your 4 inch x 4 inch swatch has 20 stitches across and is 10 rows in length.  If you are making a 16x20 inch blanket, you'll need a total of 80 stitches across and 50 rows.  Also, decide whether or not you are going to make a border around the blanket so that you can factor it into the measurements as well.

So, a word about swatching.  I've never been a big fan of it, especially when achieving an exact size of the item isn't critical.  Now that I've been knitting more and realizing how different yarns react to soaking and blocking, I'm starting to appreciate the need to make a swatch and put it through its paces before making a knit project.  I think we've got more leeway as crocheters, but swatching is still the right thing to do.

Ok, so that's it for now; after taking these three steps, you should be ready to get started on designing a baby blanket.  But, I know how overwhelming all of the choices out there in each of these three steps can be, so, in future posts, I'll be breaking down each step even further to help you make decisions that will work for you!