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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 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


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...