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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

5 Must-Have Crochet or Knit Baby Shower Gifts

Yup, "Aunt Phyllis" is gearing up for some upcoming baby showers and arrivals!  And, though I've written about baby wear before, I'm not sure I've done it in an organized way all in one place, so I'll be putting together a series of posts on baby gifts that will link back to this outline post.

So, first, I wanted to do an overview of "baby essentials" (and then focus on items that can/should be crocheted or knitted).  Boy, does this concept mean different things to different mamas!  Basal Baby has simple, beautiful gift subscriptions for organic cotton basics for baby's first year, but it's a bit pricey.  Primary.com also has baby and kids clothes in simple styles and bright colors, and you can get 25% off on your first order (enter code: WELCOME25).  Now I haven't tried nor have any affiliation with either one but each caught my eye during research for this post.

I think the most comprehensive and well-thought out checklist for baby essentials and add-ons I came across is the one on Squawkfox.  There's a downloadable checklist and some great tips on how to save $$ on baby clothes.

So, here's what I'm going to be concentrating on in terms of baby shower gifts you'll want to crochet or knit (starting at the top!):

1)  Hat

Depending on when baby is going to arrive, which may dictate the style and thickness of yarn you use, a handmade hat could be the perfect baby shower gift.  There are just so many beautiful crochet and knit baby hat patterns out there!   And it can be a quick and easy project with yarns that you already have on hand but still a really special and useful item.  In a future post, I'll be discussing the different styles and constructions of baby hats and suggesting some ways to make decisions from the vast array of choices you have!

2)  Bib

The bib truly is a canvas, for baby with his or her food but for you as a creative crocheter or knitter.  Chances are your handmade bib is going to be a keepsake and used for photo sessions with baby, which frankly gives you a lot of latitude to create something one-of-a-kind and really special.  One thought is to package together a set of practical, easy-to-wash bibs along with your handmade gem.


3)  Sweater/Jacket

You might want to save this project for baby's first birthday so that you can really plan a customized style, color and yarn weight that fits just right.  A baby sweater or jacket is a great project for the crocheter or knitter who's ready to experiment with garment construction.  Again, the patterns out there are endless, so, in a future post, I'll explore some ways to choose a pattern that will result in a fun project for you and an amazing wearable for baby.

4)  Blanket

A baby blanket is a great crochet or knit project for the beginner because it gives you the chance to hone your stitching skills while creating a useful item that baby will drag around for years!  Which should steer you towards choosing a soft yet sturdy and easily washed yarn choice.  In a future post, I'll concentrate on providing the various sizes of baby blankets based on intended use as well as the yarn properties to consider when planning your project.

5)  Booties

If you're looking for a baby shower gift that will have the future mom and guests ooohing and ahhhing, little baby booties get them every time!  Add a coordinating hat, and you'll be getting orders on the spot.  Top considerations for this project include a) fit so that they aren't easily kicked off by baby and b) style (Mary Janes, cowboy booties, etc), so I'll be posting some tips and tricks to optimize and customize.

I'm really looking forward to exploring these and other crochet and knit projects for baby with you!!  I've got placeholders in each category where I will insert links to the future posts as they get done, so you might want to save this post link since it will have everything in one place.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

3 Critical Tips for the Crocheter Who's Beginning to Knit

What's the expression, we tend to learn the hard way?!  Well, I think I'm in that spot...  Nothing that can't be worked around, but I have discovered some great tips that I wish I had learned about BEFORE starting my Vintage Sweater project!

TIP # 1:  Using the right amount of yarn for the long tail cast on.

This casting on business is such a pain in the neck, definitely my least favorite part about knitting.  But, so far, I really like how the long tail cast on looks; plus, I needed to do a 1x1 ribbing cast on for the bottom of the sweater.  There's a great video on YouTube for that particular cast-on, and, once you get a rhythm going, it's not that hard.

But, I really wish I had seen this article before I started (I've gotten the back done and am currently working on the left side of the cardigan): No More Estimating Tail Length for a Long Tail Cast-on by Coco Knits.  I'm definitely trying this for the right side of the sweater.

TIP # 2:  How to stop stockinette from curling

Well, I'm not going to be able to do anything about this problem except follow some of the after-the-fact tips given in this article by Loveknitting.  I always thought it was me:  I wasn't doing it right or I wasn't blocking properly, etc.  But it's not us; we just didn't know these tricks!  I kind of like the idea of adding some ribbon and have seen that inside of sweaters before, so that might be my solution this time.

TIP # 3  Do some research BEFORE starting your project

This is the toughest tip for me!  I usually just jump into a project without really thinking about it too much beforehand.  But, this is a good lesson for me:  I need to slow down, really read through the pattern, think about all the instructions, and do a little investigating before starting.  Great tip for life in general in a way, though I probably will still keep jumping in ;-)

What critical tips have you experienced?!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Focus

What a great vacation in Jamaica I had!  And there was some wonderful crochet sightings during my stay (see photos on my Facebook page).  I took the opportunity to unplug as much as possible and try not to think about things; I figured, with a clearer mind, the right path(s) for me to take would just pop into my thoughts...

Well, not sure that happened, but one thing that did help me was to start reading Dave Crenshaw's The Focused Business: How Entrepreneurs Can Triumph Over Chaos (note:  my affiliate link below).  He's got a clever (albeit a bit hokey after a while) way of presenting how easily small business owners can get distracted from their mission and goals (or have a hard time formulating them in the first place).  I especially like how he gives an action item at the end of each chapter, having led you through how to do that action item throughout the chapter.

His basic premise is Focus, Master, then Diversify.  Simple message, hard execution!  But there are a lot of tips on how to embrace this message and make it your own.  Focus has always been my toughest challenge; I am a great example of someone distracted by bright, shiny objects (as my recent purchase of polymer clay will attest!).  So, I am going to be focusing on focusing...

With that in mind, if you are one of my Ravelry pattern purchasers, thank you so much, and you'll be getting a very short (just 3 questions) survey soon asking for feedback.  I hope you'll take a few moments to respond.  If you're not a pattern purchaser, then I'd love to hear from you as well:  please let me know why -- contact at manycreativegifts dot com.



Thursday, May 26, 2016

Featured Fruit of the Week -- Cherries (Red)

We are entering cherry season.  They are not only one of the sweetest and tastiest of the red fruits, but they are also packed with health benefits. Cherries are a great source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and B-complex, phytochemicals, anthocyanins, and melatonin, all of which make cherries helpful in lowering bad cholesterol, maintaining healthy skin, protecting DNA from free radicals, fighting the risks of heart disease and colon cancer, and helping to fight insomnia. They also help reduce inflammation and arthritis pain.

At market, cherries usually can be found starting in June and lasting throughout the summer. Look for cherries that are shiny and plump with no blemishes, cuts, bruises, or stale and dry stems. Sweet cherries should be firm but not hard, while sour cherries should be medium-firm. Look for cherries with the stems still intact, they will have a longer shelf life. Also, try to buy organic cherries to avoid pesticide contamination.

You should store cherries unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and wash just before eating. Let them come to room temperature; the flavor will be much better. Use your fresh cherries within 2 to 4 days. Cherries can be frozen, but you should remove the pits first (otherwise, they will take on an almond flavor from the pit). Place pitted and washed cherries in a plastic bag with all the air removed and freeze, or place cherries on a baking sheet, freeze, and then store in a plastic bag. Frozen cherries can last in the freezer up to 10 to 12 months.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

5 Reasons Why Crochet is Better than Weed

Well, to be clear, I myself have not tried marijuana -- really, never have.  I've smelled others using it, but I've never had a desire to try it myself; hey, a beer or two does me in, so I've always been nervous about trying anything stronger.  But I do have friends who extol its virtues: it eases stress and relaxes you; it has health properties, etc., etc.

This morning, I really needed a stress-easer!  I thought my head was going to explode with that rush of panic that hits when you realize you didn't do something you were supposed to do.  Thankfully, I quickly discovered that I had more time than I realized, but my head was still feeling the effects of the panic, on top of having had a half cup of coffee on an empty stomach!  So, I sat down, took a deep breath, and started to knit a row on the sweater I'm making (more on that later...).  By the end of the row, I felt soooo much better.

That's what got me thinking about why knitting and crocheting really are superior forms of relaxation than the usual chemical ways people seek to ease their stress.  Specifically,

1)  It's Cheaper.

I'm told that 1 gram of the good stuff costs about $20.  Hey, for that price, you can buy 100 grams (which is about 350-400 yards, depending on the thickness of the yarn) of hand-dyed wool yarn or 300-400 grams of a fine quality manufactured yarn.  And it'll take a lot longer to use up the yarn than smoke one joint!

2)  You Know What You're Getting

One of my big fears about trying marijuana is a lack of knowledge about exactly what's in it or if it's been "laced" with anything (maybe now with legalization and regulation that's less of a concern), but have you ever heard of a yarn ingredient scandal??

3)  And, If You Don't Like It, You Can Return It

I doubt your pot source is going to be willing to take back any unused portion of your purchase, but local yarn shops usually have reasonable return policies.

4)  You Can Do It Legally in Public

In fact, Worldwide Knit In Public Day is coming up on June 18, 2016, and the Upper Northwest Knitters of DC are celebrating at Laliguras Restaurant on Connecticut Avenue, details here!  Though I guess you could say that both activities seem to still have some stigma attached to them :-).

5)  No Munchies

It's hard to eat and stitch (messy in the least), so it's actually a great way to inhibit mindless munching, which actually further reduces your costs and is better for your health ;-)

Now, arguably, the creative aspects of both could make the two activities compatible; it would be interesting to hear about experiences in which people have tried to crochet while smoking pot!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

3 Critical Steps to Enjoying Fruits and Vegetables

Now, I know you're wondering what in the world this has to do with crochet, but stay with me, it's all about the crochet lifestyle and getting back to a more natural and healthy way of life.  A really important aspect of achieving the crochet lifestyle IMHO is enjoying healthy and natural foods.

My friend Helen and I started a project a few years ago about choosing and preparing fruits and vegetables in all the different colors for optimal health and nutrition.  She's the author of a fantastic children's book Eat Lots of Colors: A Colorful Look at Healthy Nutrition for Children that really gets kids off on the right foot in learning about fruits and vegetables. Well, our follow-up project has been dormant for a little while, but with summer fast approaching, it seems like a good time to revive our tips for healthy eating.

Which brings me to the 3 critical steps:

1)  Choosing Fruits and Vegetables in an Optimal Way

I know, we're all in a hurry when we go to the grocery store (or better yet the farmers' market).  So, we start grabbing whatever looks good and hope when we get home that it actually is good and that we know what to do with it!  But there is a better way, and, if we consciously slow down a bit, it'll pay off in the end.  It's important to pay attention to what's in season and to utilize all of our senses in choosing the best fruits and vegetables.  Helen and I have some great tips on how to do this with ease.

2)  Storing those Fruits and Vegetables Properly

Once you've spent the time and money to choose the best fruits and vegetables, it's a real shame when they go bad because they weren't stored properly.  We'll break it down for you to make this aspect of healthy eating a cinch!

3)  Preparing Fruits and Vegetables to Really Bring Out Their Charms

Ok, you've bought the best of the best and lovingly stored everything to keep it fresh, but now it's time to actually prepare your bounty.  Helen and I have got some tried and true recipes that will help unlock the amazing tastes and nutrients of your fruits and vegetables without a lot of time, unnecessary ingredients, or preparation.

Sounds good Phyllis, but we want some details!  Ok, then come back each Thursday for our Featured Fruit or Vegetable of the Week!



Friday, April 8, 2016

Metro Yarn Crawl 2016

I can't believe the annual DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia) Metro Yarn Crawl has come and is almost gone.  Last year (here's the post), my friends Nina, Mary, and I visited some of the Virginia stores, so, this year, we figured we'd check out some of the Maryland stores.  Unfortunately, a favorite store the Yarn Spot closed not too long ago, so we started our adventure by heading up to Boyds, Maryland to visit Knit Locally.  For a city girl like me, I really felt like I was going on a trip to the countryside, though there seems to be a lot of development going on up there (the whole I-270 corridor keeps growing and growing).


We got there just as the store was opening (took about an hour's drive from NW DC).  What a fabulous and magical place!!  It was just amazing, the selection of yarns, books, and jewelry all fit together so beautifully.  But best of all was the fact that Dana was there that day (she's also known as StitchenWitch on Ravelry and has an amazing blog that I had actually come across a few weeks ago:  www.mypurlsofwisdom.com).  She made some great recommendations to us, both yarn-wise and pattern-wise, and I got some great stuff.  Oh, and be sure to visit the rest room while you're there, trust me!



Then off to Woolwinders in Rockville.  It's a smaller, more modern shop, but they've done some fun redecorating since the last time I was there.  The clock in the picture is crocheted, and I hope you can see the yarn ball and needles stenciling on the wall behind us.



Our third stop was Second Story Knits in Bethesda.  This was a really fun stop as well.  It's under new ownership and is just a more friendly and comfortable place to be now.  The yarn selections are top notch, and it is in the heart of the redevelopment of Bethesda that's going on right now.




Oh, and I forgot to confess to the yummy lunch that we had at IHOP; the chicken florentine crepe was quite tasty ;-).  Ah, another perfect yarn crawling experience with two besties, what more could a girl want on a chilly spring day!