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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Holidays

We'll, it is that time of year again. So hard  to believe how fast this year has gone by. Usually I do a reflection back over the year by going to an early post in which I've listed my goals and seeing how I've done. But I'm actually posting fromy new iPhone :-) and am still figuring things out. Plus, unfortunately, I am at the hospital because a family member is having a health issue. So in many ways this experience is putting things into perspective as I figure out what the next few months will be like. Enjoy your holidays, embrace the good in life, and I will return when I can with, hopefully, good news. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 and Ready to Save?

Happy Thanksgiving!  The holiday season is here, hard to believe how quickly it arrived.  But after spending a good part of yesterday cooking (and cleaning up behind all the cooking), Phyllis is ready for some feasting today :-)  We hope you too are settling down to a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration today (and Happy Hanukkah as well to celebrants).

And to sweeten the holiday, Many Creative Gifts is offering some savings on crochet patterns for Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday -- just use coupon code Cyber2013 on our Ravelry store, and you will get 15% off your entire purchase until 11:59 PM EST on Monday, December 2nd!

We've also just introduced crochet kits for our Beaded Owl Pin and the Turkish Love Knot Bracelet!  They are now available in our Etsy shop, and you will receive 10% off with coupon code CYBER2013.  The savings won't last long (also ending December 2nd), and this will be our last promotion for the year.  The kits include everything you need to make Phyllis' crocheted creations, and they will make great stocking stuffers!  So go place your order before it's too late ;-).

Thank you so much for following the blog, visiting us on Facebook, and providing support year after year.  We really appreciate your interest in crochet and our offerings, and we hope to continue bringing the best of crochet to you for many years to come!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Plug for Craftsy


What is Craftsy?
 

It's hard to believe that any crafter hasn't heard about Craftsy by now, but I thought I'd share a little information about the organization since I am an affiliate.  They've got some great online classes (though I still haven't made it all the way through the knit socks class yet), many of which are free, so it's definitely worth checking out, so read on:

Craftsy is a worldwide craft community offering online classes. It also has a marketplace where independent designers can sell their patterns; a shop with great deals on yarn, fabric, and class kits; and a projects section where members share pictures of their latest craft successes. With over two million members and counting, Craftsy has something for just about everyone, in categories ranging from quilting, sewing, knitting, painting, photography, cooking, and more.

Craftsy Logo

Behind the Scenes: The Making of a Craftsy Class

Before filming even begins, hours and hours are spent determining what content will be covered in each class, and how to best teach specific techniques to the camera. Instructors work with an instructional designer to create an in-depth outline of each lesson, and decide how to best prepare props or “step-outs” that show what your project should like at different steps. Instead of a scripted class, instructors follow their outlines on camera to create an authentic and engaging teaching experience.

Most Craftsy classes are filmed in one of five Craftsy studios in Denver, CO, assuring that every part of the production process goes off without a hitch. They fly in instructors from all over the world to spend several days filming, then spend several weeks turning hours of footage into a two to three hour class experience that has been watched, rewatched, and reviewed by industry experts. The final result is an HD-quality video that takes you in-depth into specific topics in any given craft category- from cooking and fine art to sewing and knitting.



What IS the Craftsy experience?

Craftsy classes are designed to have all the benefits of an in-person class, with none of the drawbacks. Available online and on-demand, you always have world-class instructors at the tip of your fingers. You can retake the class as many times as you want, and the 30-second repeat feature allows you to watch the same section over and over again until you get every technique just right.

Watching a Craftsy class is like having a first-row seat with some of the best instructors in the world. Even better, classes have a 100% money-back guarantee.

Try online learning today with a free mini-class from Craftsy! Choose from 23 Free Craftsy Classes ranging from drawing and painting to sewing and quilting, from knitting to cake decorating and more.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Formulas for Crocheted Shapes

I just had to share this chart that I found (both in US and UK crochet terms) for figuring out how to make different shapes, like circles, squares, triangles, and hexagons, in crochet!  I really like how user-friendly it is, laid out very nicely.

I found it during a search for a formula for shawl making.  I've been working on creating a shawlette pattern and have been getting frustrated because, frankly, I've just been winging it when making each row rather than figuring out mathematically how many stitches I need on each row in order for the shawl to "grow" into the shape I want.  Let's face it, crochet (and knitting too) involve math, there's just no way around it if you want an accurate and well-shaped crocheted item.  It's worth doing some up front planning because you're just going to get frustrated and end up wasting time along the way (and still end up going back to making calculations :-)

So, back to the drawing board!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Slow

I might just have to move to Norway!  There's a movement there called "Slow TV", with a very basic premise:  viewers watch people engaged in an ordinary activity or traveling in real time.  No plot, not much talking, just the activity or vistas for hours.  Now, you probably know where I'm going with this -- the scenes are travels through the fjords or train trips; the activity is knitting!  Yup, Norwegians are sitting around watching people knit (I suspect they are doing some of their own while viewing ;-) And it's quite a hit there, though I doubt it will gain much traction here in the U.S.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a clip of the actual show, but here's a YouTube video about the phenomenon:



I, on the other hand, have been watching "Fast TV" -- Breaking Bad.  I never had seen an episode during its six-year run but finally decided to renew my subscription to Netflix and give the pilot episode a try since so many friends of mine have recommended it.  Well, I am hooked!  I've made it so far to a little past the middle of Season 4 and have still avoided finding out how it all comes to a close (or does it since I have heard talk of spin-offs?!).  Don't tell me!  I am so enjoying watching it unfold, though I've discovered I can't watch more than three episodes back to back, just too much to handle.  Not sure I've ever been a binge TV watcher before but this show really could change that for me!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blogger Blues

I'm still not totally sold on this new interface that Blogger/Google has foisted upon us!  But I did get to meet a nice neighbor as a result.  Kay posted a notice on our community billboard, asking for help with making changes to her blog.  She especially wanted to give people a chance to sign up to receive her blog posts via email, so we were able to find the Feedburner widget and install it into her blog.  Got me thinking about my blog and what changes I should make (and whether my Feedburner widget is working properly since I haven't had any new signups for a while :-(  Any suggestions for me?

In the mean time, I have to let it slip that I've entered into a collaboration with a local yarn company that I am so excited about!  More to come since we are about to launch some really fun crochet projects this month.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Humpty Dumpty in Crochet

Sorry to have been AWOL for so long, but I used the government shutdown to stay away from the computer.  I have discovered that staring at a computer screen and staring at a crochet project seem to have different effects on my eyes, the latter being so much more preferable!  And, a lot of crocheting I did!  Here's my latest project -- Humpty Dumpty in Crochet.


The pattern is now available in my Ravelry store at this link:  http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/humpty-dumpty-in-crochet, and if you purchase before October 31st, he's 20% off with this Ravelry coupon code:  Humpty2013


Now, you might be asking, why Humpty Dumpty?  Well, here's an example of how a crochet designer can get inspiration from just about anywhere.  I have family who lives in Bethesda, MD.  So, when I go to visit, I often cut across Connecticut Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue by going down Bradley Boulevard.  One day there was a bit of a back up, so as I was sitting there, I looked over and at the end of a house's driveway was a little stone Humpty Dumpty sitting on the retaining wall.  He really brought back memories of the children's nursery rhyme, and I did a little Wikipedia research to find out more.  Anyway, he got my creative juices flowing, and this is the result!

What's been inspiring you lately?!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sponsorship of the DC Rollergirls!

Many Creative Gifts is now a proud sponsor of the DC Rollergirls, the non-profit local league of women's amateur flat track roller derby!  Their eighth season began last Saturday at the DC Armory, and we attended the first bout between last year's champions Scare Force One and the Majority Whips.  Even though the Majority Whips did not prevail (routing for them since Carla Ganiel, aka "Surly Jackson" is a wonderful part of making my sponsorship happen; please check out her blog at whipmyassets.blogspot.com), they made an amazing comeback, ending up only 15 points down.


Even DC Mayor Vincent Gray was there to open the season.



Here I am with the "mascot" of Scare Force One (don't tell Carla!)


These women are amazing athletes from all walks of life, and they are passionate about roller derby and giving back to the community.  Read more about the DC Rollergirls on our website and find out about how you can support this wonderful organization!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Busting Out!

Just got a message today that Petunia has already outgrown one blanket because her fleece is growing so fast!  Doesn't she look great in her new blanket?






Also, the rams were let loose on the sheep yesterday, so there should be a flock of lambs in about 5 months!  I love getting news from the Owens' farm and really hope to get up there to Sunbury, PA, some day soon to visit.  Sounds like they are going to have overnight accommodations on the farm in the near future, so that should make the trip so much better.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Spin that Wheel!

Just read a great article on Vanna White in the Washington Post.  She's been on "Wheel of Fortune" for 30 years now, hard to believe how that much time has passed.  With technology, it's interesting how she doesn't have to actually physically turn the letters anymore.  I don't know why people are so critical of her, I think she's quite smart -- she found a way to make a nice living working 35 days a year (they tape 5 to 6 shows each day!) wearing beautiful dresses and not having to really say or do much (though apparently she's called upon to talk with the audience while there are breaks in filming, which I think could be quite challenging). Oh, and I thought it was interesting that her motivation for going into television was her uncle, actor Christopher George (I always loved his wife Lynda Day George on Mission Impossible.  They were quite the "it" couple back in the 70s.  Sadly, he passed of a heart attack in 1983).


The reason I paid attention to the article is because I know that Vanna is an avid crocheter and has built quite a yarn empire for herself as well.  "Her contract, estimated to be worth millions, gives her the freedom to dabble in real estate and crocheting, hobbies she’s since turned into business ventures. Among knitting enthusiasts, Vanna is known for her popular line of yarn, from which she recently donated $1 million to St. Jude’s Hospital."  Unfortunately, that's all the article says about this aspect of her life, but I really liked this statement of hers:  "What people don’t know about me is that I’m a pretty good businesswoman,” Vanna says. “Yes, I do this little ol’ game show, but I know the show isn’t going to last forever, so I’ve gone into different ventures. But I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging.”  I think there could be some very interesting business lessons we could learn from Vanna!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Afternoon Tea

So, my latest obsession?  Antique Victorian quadruple plated silver teapots from the Aesthetic Era!  It all started from the fact that I've been reading this summer Gil MacNeil's series of books about a yarn shop owner in England.  It seems no matter what's going on or what time it is, the answer is "let me put the kettle on."  They drink tea all the time!  I love tea, so I started thinking that I need a proper tea pot so that I can have afternoon tea with "biscuits" and "digestives" while crocheting and dreaming about sitting in a lovely yarn shop by the sea (no offense to Looped Yarn Works, but English accents by the water, how wonderful would that be?!)

My search started at www.englishteastore.com because who better?!  And pretty quickly, I came across the Brown Betty, a teapot with quite a history. It goes back to the end of the 17th Century when the British Ceramic Teapot came into being.  The original Brown Bettys were made out of red clay from the Bradell Woods area in Stoke-on-Trent and left unglazed. The teapots are still made in Stoke-on-Trent with the same clay from the original area, and it is thought that the Brown Betty makes the best pot of tea because of the type of clay that is used and the shape of the pot.

But, right before hitting the "buy" button, I started thinking I should get a stainless steel teapot because I already have a very nice, simple stainless steel creamer and sugar and thus I'd have a set.  Well, in the search for stainless steel, I got led to silver plated teapots and eBay and quadruple silverplated and "vintage" and "antique" and finally to the gorgeous carved and embossed teapots (repousse) from the Victorian Era.  (I also recently saw the movie The Butler, and of course, there are scenes of him carrying in a beautiful, shiny coffee/tea set to the Oval Office:-)  It's amazing all of the information out there about the process of making quadruple plated items, the different designs and finishes, and the different companies that made such tea sets back in the mid-to late-1800s.

I lost a few auctions but found a lovely pot being sold by a lady in Florida.  The pot's been in her family since her grandmother, so that made it more attractive.  Plus, she was offering it on a "best offer" basis, so I was able to negotiate a fair deal with her and avoid the whole whoo-haaa of the auctions.  Whew.





So, as you can see, I shined up the pot and the silver plated tray that I had not had a full appreciation for before all this and was able to enjoy a spot of tea while crocheting!  Ahhhhhh!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Figuring Out How Much Yarn You Need

Figuring out how much yarn you need for a crochet project is probably one of the most frustrating things about being a crocheter and a designer!  One helpful tool is the "Crocheter's Handy Guide to Yarn Requirements" by Ann Budd, but of course the guide can only offer a starting point since it's based on using the single crochet stitch (but there is a conversion chart to other stitches).




One technique I've used to estimate yarn usage is to make a gauge swatch in the specialty stitch pattern I am using, then unravel and measure how much yarn I've used for that number of stitches and rows, then use those figures to do some calculations when I've figured out how many stitches and rows the finished product has.  This method can give a rough enough estimate that will help you be able to indicate in your pattern how many yards/meters of yarn the pattern maker will need, especially if it's less than one skein's worth.  It's worth doing this because a number of crocheters have plenty of half-used balls of yarn around and want to be able to predict whether they've got enough yarn to make your pattern (remember your frustration when making something and coming up two rows short on yarn!).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Perseverance

I'm back!  Oh, and what a glorious little stay-cation I had!  The weather cooperated, so I got a lot of pool time in, finished reading Gil McNeil's series of books on the yarn shop owner in England (I really hope she keeps the series going), and submitted a design to Inside Crochet magazine (and have a few more projects in the works, some nearer to completion than others).

I also tried to get some magazine reading done as well.  I think I've rediscovered my appreciation for Entrepreneur magazine (I'm sure they're glad since it's renewal time!).  One interesting article I read was on the Angie's List founder.  When asked what she thinks her best trait is, she responded "perseverance."  That was an eye opener for me and a good reminder about how important it is to stick to things.  Of course, it's better if you can whip things out in an efficient and timely manner, but you know, life happens.  So, it's better (I think) to keep sticking with it, to persevere until something is done, even if it takes a lot longer than you thought it would and you feel like you're never going to get it done.  Now, it's also important to know when to abandon something because it's just not turning out as you thought it would or something more important, better, [fill in the blank] has come along.  Better to cut your losses and move on rather than persevering through something that's not going to yield a good or satisfying result.  Problem is, it's often hard to know right away the things to keep working on and the things to let go!

So, long-time readers, you know how I try to use this blog for many different purposes, including as an accountability tool.  I've still got a few months til the end of the year and will be trying to sort out what I've promised you in 2013 that I think I should follow through on and what will fall by the wayside :-)  One of my assignments I've been thinking about was the one to identify my customers and sketch out a little bio about each representative one.  But, the Angie's List article had me shifting gears to thinking about my crochet students instead as a starting point. 

I think I've identified three types of students:  1) naturals, 2) those ultimately not interested in crochet, and 3) the perseverers.  As a teacher, it's important to have experience with all three and work out how you approach each type, but I'm sure you're sensing that the third category is the most challenging and most rewarding!  More to come...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Classic Granny Square with a Twist

It's fun sometimes to go back to the basics, and nothing screams crochet like the granny square.  There are so many variations on making a granny square, and this website has quite a collection.



But, here is a photo tutorial on how to make a simple, classic granny square.  The interesting twist in how the square is started.  Enjoy!

I used some Red Heart worsted weight yarn and an H hook:

Round 1:  Chain 7.  In first chain (also referred to as "7th ch from hook"), make 3 double crochet (dc) stitches.   


 Then, chain 4 (that will be the corner) and 3 dcs into same first chain (second side made)



 Chain 4 (second corner made) and 3 dcs into same first chain (third side)


Chain 4, but this time, make only 2 dcs into first chain (first picture below) because you are going to slip stitch into the third chain of the original chains you made at the beginning and count that as the third dc to finish up the fourth side (second picture below)





Now you've finished the first round!

To start the second round, either cut and fasten off this yarn if you're going to use another color and attach the new yarn color in a corner, or slip stitch into the corner to keep using the same color (red in my case) and chain 3 (will count as a dc)
 
Now, make 2 dcs next to the ch-3




then chain 4 and 3 dcs (new corner)



To get to the next corner, chain 2, then 3 dcs in next corner



To finish this corner, chain 4 and make 3 dcs.  Then, chain 2 to get to the next corner.  Repeat the [3 dcs, ch 4, 3 dcs] to make the remaining corners.  When you've finished the last corner, chain 2 and slip stitch into top of ch-3 at the beginning of the round.



Ok, round 2 is done!  To make the third (and more rounds if desired), you'll want to fasten new yarn to one of the corners and make the corners in the same way as the corners in round 2.  When you get to a chain-2, make 3 dcs in that space and chain 2 to get to the next corner.


If you feel like the square is too air-y and open, then you can chain 3 in the corners (rather than chain 4) and chain 1 along the sides (rather than chain 2).

After the third round, my square is 5 inches.  The third round took up almost 19 feet of yarn!  The second round used up about 12 and 1/2 feet of yarn, and the first round used almost 7 feet.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

See You in September!

Let's face it, August is a slow month, so it's going to be my catch-up month.  I might still put up a post or two (anyone want to guest post?!), but my plan is to use what would be posting time to 1) finish July's newsletter ;-), 2) finish up a couple of projects and get them up on Ravelry and Craftsy, 3) do some tech maintenance, and 4) relax (what's that?!).

So, I hope everyone takes a bit of time this August to catch up!  See you officially in September!!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Being an Etsy Seller

You know, MCG got its start on Etsy!  It was, and still remains, the place for crafters and artisans to sell their wares.  I especially loved the Alchemy function, where you could find requests for custom made items and bid on fulfilling them.  That's how I ended up making an axolotl for a woman in Canada who had lost her pet axolotl.  I never did find my notes for the pattern (a crocheter on Ravelry had asked me), but considering he (and he is a he, I researched the differences!) was made from a handspun yarn, etc., he really was meant to be unique and the only one :-)


But, I digress.  This post is about evolution and adaptability, both of which are positive spins on change, which sometimes can elicit negative feelings.  Sometimes, change really is good.  For example, I have not particularly kept up well with my Etsy shop.  Since I now concentrate on making patterns rather than the items themselves, I post the patterns on Ravelry, though I can't bring myself to close my Etsy shop because I've been on there since the beginning in 2005!

So, why not also post patterns on Etsy?  Well, putting aside the costs associated with doing that (which are a bit more than on Ravelry), the biggest concern for me was that a pattern purchaser on Etsy would not have access to the pattern immediately - she or he would have to wait until I was able to make it home to my computer to send the pattern electronically (though I have had a few purchasers request hard copies mailed to them).  Maybe it's just me projecting my desires onto others, but if I find a pattern I like, I want to be able to download it right away and get started (or at least read and play around with it).

Well, the other day, I was looking around on Etsy (it still remains my home page and a great source for pins to my Pinterest boards) and I saw a pattern that I clicked on and was given the choice to purchase it as a digital file!  Whoa, instant downloading available on Etsy!  A game changer?!  I won't know til I try, but obviously it's time to rethink my Etsy shop :-)

The bigger point here is you just have to be open to change and to be willing to rethink and adapt to changes, many of which turn out to be good.  And just because something didn't meet your needs in the past doesn't mean it's not worth reconsidering in the future.  Sometimes, it's worth giving second chances (or even thirds ;-).  Your business plan (or life plan) is not a static concept -- it has to bend, grow, change and adapt as the world around it does all those things.  It's easy to get caught up in whatever actions you're currently pursuing and just stick to those, but do take the time periodically to step back, do a little research into what new things are out there, and then think about what (positive) changes you want to make to adapt!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Herringbone Double Crochet

It's amazing how many variations of the basic stitches there are in crochet, and how a small change in the order of steps can make a stitch look so different.


I'm specifically thinking about the herringbone double crochet stitch.  By making a few slight changes in the regular double crochet stitch, you get a new stitch that creates the illusion of herringbone.


It's hard to explain in words, but here goes:

1)  yarn over and insert hook into next st (same as usual)
2)  yarn over and pull up a loop through the stitch AND THE FIRST LOOP ON YOUR HOOK.  This step is different than the regular dc; you should have 2 loops on your hook
3)  yarn over and pull up a loop through THE FIRST LOOP ON YOUR HOOK.  This step is also different than the regular dc; you still have 2 loops on your hook
4)  yarn over, and pull up a loop through the last 2 loops on your hook to finish the stitch (same as usual).

I hope this short video also is helpful to you in giving this fun variation on the regular dc stitch a try!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Eggplant

I harvested the first eggplant yesterday!  






In fact, I think I might have waited a little too long because it was a little squishy, but I cut it up into chunks and put the chunks to soak in some cold water and salt for about 1/2 hour to an hour, and they were fine.  Then, I harvested a few cherry tomatoes and a Serrano pepper and chopped those up too.  A little olive oil and garlic in a sautee pan, some seasoning, then the pepper and tomato.  Once they cooked for a few minutes, I added the eggplant and continued to stir every few minutes (I kept it on medium to low heat).  Once the eggplant looked like it had softened and cooked through lightly, I poured in some Rao's Tomato and Basil sauce and just kept cooking the mixture til it had bubbled and cooked for about 10 minutes.  And voila!




I prepared some Fucilli, added the sauce, and we had a pretty good meal!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hoot, Hoot

I'm so excited to announce that my Beaded Crochet Owl Pin pattern is in Issue 43 of Inside Crochet magazine!  An editor sent me these great photos that really highlight the pins:





Issues of Inside Crochet magazine seem to now be available on iTunes and Pocketmag.  Issue 43 should be in stores in August here in the States.  I also will be allowed to post the pattern in my Ravelry store in about 6 months :-)


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hooked on Murder

I have vowed this summer not to do any serious reading!  I am stocking up on fun, light reading that keeps my attention but that I can pick up and put down while at the pool.  Oh, and I decided to go with a crochet and knitting theme :-)

Well, so far, I've read two wonderful books that fit the bill.  The first, Hooked on Murder by Betty Hechtman, was an easy and enjoyable read.  I totally agree with Earlene Fowler's description on the jacket that it is "a gentle and charming novel... Its quirky and likable characters are appealing and real."  Crochet club member Molly Pink gets caught up in a murder mystery and does a little amateur sleuthing to try to solve the crime.  The book even includes the group's crochet pattern for a granny square and a recipe for pound cake!  I'm getting ready to read the next book in the series Dead Men Don't Crochet (admit it, pretty corny and clever titles!)

And, the second,  The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil, is a bit more thoughtful and serious with a British twist.  Jo Mackenzie finds herself widowed with two young boys, starting over in a small town as a yarn shop owner.  Despite a whole other set of quirky characters, the community embraces Jo, and she is headed towards a brighter future.  I think I'll probably pick up the next in this series of books as well.

Both books were relatively quick reads and entertaining, and both authors know their fiber arts!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Meet "Petunia" My New Adopted Sheep

For those of you who have been following my adopt-a-sheep adventures for a while know that my first sheep "Princess Maple Leaf" met an unfortunate end not to long ago (see post here for more details and our website page) and that Caroline Owens of the Owens Farm assigned a new sheep to me.  Coopworth # 217 is quite lovely, isn't she?


Thank you to those of you who all made fine name suggestions, but out on my balcony yesterday, it hit me -- Petunia!  I have some beautiful white petunias growing right now in planters, and they are doing well, even with the heat we've been having lately.  Even though the petunia is a delicate looking flower, it really is quite hardy, grows well, and withstands the elements like a trooper.  Hopefully Petunia will do the same!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Resources for Crochet Symbols

I'm seeing more and more patterns that have schematics with crochet symbols in addition to the written instructions.  I really haven't worked with crochet symbols that much, but I can see how a stitch diagram could really help in making an intricate design.  So, look out for some posts in the future about crochet symbols, but in the mean time, check out my new tip on Lifetips with resources for crochet symbols.

3 dctog
bobble stitch


Friday, June 28, 2013

The "Farm"

Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I have a "farm", aka a few pots out on my balcony ;-).  I spent a lot of time and even more $$ to get things set up this year, but I am so happy that I did. I've got tomatoes, eggplant, Serrano peppers, chocolate beauty peppers, and an Asian melon plant!  So far I see tomatoes, serranos, and eggplant emerging. I love going out on the balcony each morning and afternoon, fussing over and watering the plants. Then, in the morning, I sit for a bit with my mug of chai; in the evening, I sometimes take a glass of wine out with me. Aaaaaah.



I use those Aqua Globes AG011706 Glass Plant Watering Bulbs, 2-Pack also. They really do work, though supplemental watering is still necessary I think, especially on hot days. And they look pretty :-)

And I saw a lady bug on a leaf the other day, that's got to be a good sign too, right?





It's funny though, I don't crochet out on the balcony. I think it's because I don't want to expose my project to the elements, and I can just see me knocking on my neighbor's door, 5 floors down, "excuse me, might I retrieve my ball of yarn from your patio?!"  Nope, I use the farm as my escape to unplug, unwind, and look around and see what's going on around me. Aaaaaaaah.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Rose Valley and Princess' Wool

"My Rose Valley" is a beautiful blog by a Swedish woman living in Switzerland with her American husband and three children. She covers all sorts of crafts and has some great crochet patterns. I especially love her Maybelle Crochet Flower that she is working on translating into Swedish in her latest post (her English is so good).  I aspire to have such a seamless, special look to my blog. Mmmm, it might be time for some more revamping...


On another note, I just got the shipment of chunky yarn made from Princess' wool (remember, this year I said I was NOT going through that whole skirting and cleaning process again!  I still haven't carded, much less spun, her wool from last year). There's a lot of yarn in that bag!  I can't believe this is it, that's all the wool that I'll ever have from her :-(. So, that just means that I will have to come up with a really special crochet project for it!  Help me decide what to make!




Friday, June 21, 2013

Breathe

That's it really, just remember to breathe today :-). Deep, cleansing, healthy breaths. Count at least to 4 or 5 as you inhale, then even more slowly as you exhale. No matter where you are or what you are doing, at least three times today, stop and breathe. You'll feel better and be able to get back to the task in a new light. Just breathe!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Round Up of Crochet and Knitting Tutorials

I found myself aimlessly wandering around Facebook this morning but soon found that there was purpose to it after all!  Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in your current CAL or design project, but it's worth taking the time to go back to basics and learn or brush up on some basic and not so basic techniques.  I think it helps in getting the creative juices flowing again.

The first ones I came across are actually mainly knitting tutorials, but I find that knitting demonstrations make me start thinking about how to achieve a similar effect through crochet.



Juniper Moon Farm has a great round up of tutorials, including one on how to crochet an i-cord.

The Crochet Geek has an amazing collection of crochet tutorials, many of them geared towards beginners.

And this Pinterest board says it all:  Beginner Crochet Tutorials

Please visit my Many Creative Gifts YouTube channel for a growing collection of crochet tutorials too.

So, I hope these resources will help you try some new crochet stitches and techniques and brush up on some that you hadn't thought about in a while!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bargello Crochet

So, I came across this crochet technique tonight as I was catching up on Facebook posts on my page.  It's called Bargello (Florentine) Crochet since it is based on the needlework technique of the same name.  By using multiples of some basic crochet stitches at various heights and widths, you can create a pixelated effect and the illusion of waves. Bobwilson123 has created a free video tutorial, and you can download the written pattern for free from this link on her website.  Mmmm, I'm getting inspired, watch out!




Friday, June 7, 2013

Editorial Calendar

One of the things I struggle with is posting on a regular basis. It's not that I don't have lots of things to share with you, but for some reason, when I sit down at the computer to compose a post, all the ideas go flying out of my head. But, the other day when I was reading Smartbrief for Social Media, I came across an article about "editorial calendars" and a step-by-step approach to creating one.  [update:  here's the link to Sprout Content and the free ebook download]

Basically it's a way of planning out the content and timing of posts ahead of time. The process wants you to first think about your target audience and what they would want to read. Then, figure out two to five specific categories of information on which to concentrate. And to finish, get it scheduled on a spreadsheet, with dates, post titles, and social media links. But, of course, the most important step is going to be sticking to it!

I am committing to go through with this process and share it with you because YOU are my target audience :-). Let's see if I can describe some of you properly, but that will be the next post.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lion Brand Cotton Ease Yarn Giveaway and 2 FREE Patterns

I'm such a lucky crocheter!  AllFreeCrochet contacted me about trying out Cotton Ease yarn by Lion Brand.  I had actually already used it before and love it.  You can read my full review of the yarn here, enter the contest to win some yourself here, find my Radiance Lap Throw pattern here, and the Baby Hoodie Sack here.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Coopworth # 217 and a Naming Contest

We've got a new sheep!  Coopworth # 217 is a two year old ewe who is carrying on the line of Coopworths originally from a well-known breeder in West Virginia.  Her grandmother, Honeysuckle, came to the Owens Farm when they first moved to Pennsylvania.  Honeysuckle was known for her exceptional fleece and had a ewe (# 140) who also had beautiful white fleece.  In the fall of 2011,
# 140 was bred with their natural-colored ram Baritone and had twins: a ram lamb and my # 217.





Number 217 spent her first year as part of the Owens' Sheep Camp.  She was haltered, led around, given treats, entered into Lamb Races and Hide and Go Sheep, and got to play with lots of children.  As a result, she's really quite friendly and curious about people.

After that cushy first year, she spent the winter with a group of other yearling ewes and rejoined the flock this spring.  Right now, she is out to pasture and will be getting her first blanket next week to protect that beautiful fleece.

So, it's time for another naming contest!  Since her grandmother was named Honeysuckle, I hope you'll keep that in mind in coming up with a sweet name for # 217 in her own right.  Please post your entries (no limit) on our Facebook Page (I'll have a post on which you can comment and add your entry). I'll have some nice crochet treats for the winner, but I do reserve the right to end the contest and just come up with a name of my own liking for her.  Good luck!



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's a Winner!

The Market Bag got done in the nick of time and posted to the contest page!


And I got an email saying that I had won one of the Online Presence Review from Dream Your Success.  I'm really excited about this opportunity to have a fresh eye look at my site, this blog, all my social media posts, etc., and give me some insights on how to bring it all together and where to channel my energy and of course will share what I find out.

Which got me to thinking about how there are Talkers and Doers.  I'm a sucker for webinars and other resources that are supposed to give you insights into the latest business technique, and I recently signed up for a free newsletter and mini-course on the Facebook Landing Page.  Now, this fellow sure spoke well about how he did research and came up with a fool-proof template that really helped his business grow, but he really didn't explain what the landing page is about and how to take action steps to actually make one of your own.  So, I did a quick search for "how to make a Facebook landing page" and up popped Heather Porter's website, on which she's got a free video that takes you step-by-step through the process of what the page actually looks like and how to create one!  I haven't actually watched and implemented the whole video yet, but I can tell that, once I've thought through exactly what I want to go onto my FB landing page, I'm going to be able to actually get it done!  So, that's the difference in my opinion between the first guy (talks nicely but ...) and Ms. Porter (who actually gets things done and helps you do them too!).