Monday, March 30, 2009

More of Baby R

Is this a beautiful baby, or what??

Meeting Baby R

It occurred to me that I never posted pictures of when I took May and Janie to meet lovely and sweet Baby R on March 7! She was 48 hours old. R is such a beautiful baby girl! Mom L and Dad D are truly blessed to have this wonderful baby.
Each of our children, whether biological or adopted, has arrived in this world as a little baby. It was great to show May and Jane a baby and to open more dialogue about their beginnings. Janie asked if Baby R was born in China! LOL! We also have had MANY talks about birthfamilies, adoption, and personal history - all prompted by the arrival of Baby R! She is amazing in so many ways.

It had snowed that day and the sky was so beautiful as we drove to see them in the hospital. I felt SOOOOOO excited to meet this teeny, tiny person who was SO BIG in this world!
I battled back happy tears as L handed R to me to hold. This baby is an amazing person! Janie and May both were in awe at the sight of tiny baby R. Jane was afraid to hold her, but May opened loving arms to welcome R. She was so tiny and so perfect!
Things have changed since I have visited a newborn in the hospital! She wore a little alarm on her ankle that would shut down the whole hospital if it went off! Very cool.

As we were getting ready to leave the hospital and go back home, R's daddy, big brother and one of her four big sisters showed up for a visit. So, I got to take a few shots of them, too. Aren't they all amazing?? I let Mama L have a short break from my camera lens. She looked beautiful, too (always does!).
Here we are meeting R at the hospital two days after she was born:


Before I continue, let me just say how plain my hands look in all those crocheting photos! LOL! I am letting my natural nails "rest" from my fake nails for a while (I do this periodically) and my fingers look really short to me! Plus, my hands are aging and becoming kind of dry and puffy. I am NOT complaining! Let's hear it for aging!!! WOOOOOOO!!! HOOOOOOO!!! So much better than the alternative (being dead!)!

I'm no hand model. :-)


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Learn to Crochet - Lesson 7 - Afghan Stitch (zig zag)

Learn to Crochet - Lesson 7 - Afghan Stitch (zig zag)
And now for your final lesson. How to make the pattern that makes the zig-zag pattern in afghans.

You will start with a chain that is at least 1.5 times as wide as you want your afghan to be. The extra length will be taken up once the zigs and zags start forming.
For my example, I wanted to make 2 zig-zags with 9 Single Crochet stitches on each ascending and descending part of the zig or zag or "V". You need 1 extra stitch at the top to work THREE stitches into. And, you SKIP 2 extra stitches at the bottom to make the work start climbing back up again. So, for each full "V" shape, I will need 9+1+9-1. I like to leave a little wiggle room, so I make 44 Chains.
Once you calculate how many chains you will need, and you have finished the chains, lay them down on the floor (or a table) and form fake zig-zags to see if it looks about right to you. Remember -- you will need about 1.5 more length to your chain than what you really WANT the size to be when it is finished.
When you are finished with your chain, turn around and skip the first Chain (as always) and do 9 Single Crochet stitches. Into the next Chain (the 10th) do THREE Single Crochets into that ONE (the 10th) Chain stitch. After making those 3-in-1 stitches, make 9 more Single Crochet stitches into the next 9 Chains. Now you are ready to form the bottom of a "V" by SKIPPING 2 chains. Just finish your 9 and then ignore the next 2 Chains. Now do 9 Single Crochets and you are at the top of the "V" again. Do 3 Single Crochets into ONE Chain and then continue with the 9 Single Crochets down to the bottom of the "V" and SKIP 2 Chains.

Skipping the 2 stitches on the down side of the V:

3 Single Crochets in ONE stitch to form the up part of the V:
Continue this same way until the end of the FIRST ROW. Add your 1 additional Chain stitch to turn around.

Now, things change a little. You can see that you have been adding 2 extra stitches by making the TOP of the "V" - right? Well, now you need to do a little Math in your work and subtract back OUT those two extra stitches. If you forget, your sides will be SUPER CROOKED!!! LOL!

Here's the math: (Do NOT apply this to the first row you work on the Chain row. Do that first row as above.) On the second row, and all following rows, start with the extra chain at the end of the finished row. Turn around and do 2 or 3 Single Crochets, then SKIP 1 of the stitches (you just subtracted 1 of the 2 extra stitches). Work your way across the entire row (in my case, 9sc, 3sc in 1, 9sc, skip 2, repeat). When you get to the very last part (the final 9 Single Crochets), do 7 of the 9 and then SKIP 1 stitch and do the remaining 2 Single Crochets. You have reached the end and can now add the extra Chain and turn back around. Make sense?

The logic is that when you do the inside zigs and zags, you are doing the proper math by adding 2 extra stitches in the top where you do 3 in one hole, and then removing 2 stitches at the bottom of each zig zag. But. at each side, you need to remove one stitch. Therefore, you skip 1 stitch at each side before adding the extra Chain stitch and turning around.
After you do about a billion rows (remember the addictive quality of crocheting! LOL!) you will do these steps without even thinking about them or having to count them. Your work will just flow and you will be in that meditative state.

That ends this course on learning to crochet! I hope you are crocheting!! Send me email with any questions, and send me photos of what you work on!! I would really LOVE to see.


Learn to Crochet - Lesson 6 - Yarn Changes

Learn to Crochet - Lesson 6 - Yarn Changes

So, now you are making long chains of Chain stitches, and going back to do Single Crochet stitches into the Chains.

What about when you are running out of yarn in your skein, and need to tie another skein on; or you want to change to a different color?

There are two ways of ending a skein or changing colors: Tie Off, or Weave In

Tie Off
This is the method I use, for one personal reason. When I was a kid (I hate to admit these horrible stories about myself, but this is how we grow and teach, right??) my Mother had an afghan in her linen closet that was made by my Grandmother (my Daddy's Stepmother, who was just a WONDERFUL, kind, warm and loving person). This afghan was lovingly placed over us when we were children and were sick and on the couch. Nice, right? Well, kids are creative. I had plenty of time to look CLOSELY at that afghan. To pick at it. To find the worked-in ends and WORK THEM OUT and create huge holes in the afghan. :-( Later in life, when I learned how to crochet, I determined that no future person would be able to work MY ends out of my projects. So, I tie little knots to secure any ending. When I change colors, I tie. When I end a skein, I tie. I basically do at least two square knots (sometimes, three) and I pull the ends tightly. Then, I cut the loose yarn ends about 2-3 millimeters from the knot. To my knowledge, none of my knots has ever been picked out or let loose. And, I have washed our afghans TONS of times in the washing machine and dried them in the dryer. They are USED and not treasured.

So, I tie things off and work the little knot under the surrounding stitches so they don't show and poke out all over.

The two little 6 inch ends from starting the project and ending the project get looped through the end stitches and tied in. Then, I separate the 4 ply yarn into two sets of 2 ply, and I make tiny square knots with that yarn. Then, I cut the ends off about 2-3 millimeters from the knots. I work the knots back into the near-by stitches so they don't show.

Weave In
When changing colors at the end of a row, with a color you WILL use in the future, you basically incorporate the long pulled-out strand of yarn into the end stitches of your project until you are ready to change colors back to the color you stopped. Make sense? Just keep the skein near you and try to keep it from tangling in the project and the color you switched to. GOOD LUCK! LOL!! Hmmmmmm ... I think I remember a second reason why I decided to use the "make little knots" method instead of dragging those "not using right now" colors along beside me.

Do we think I have an issue with TANGLES?? LOL!

Life is too short to be untangling yarn knots all the time. :-)

Crocheters who use the "weave in" method, also work in the ends when they END a skein. When you are finished with a color, or a skein is running out, leave a strand hanging loose about12-18 inches. Also, start your NEW skein (or new color) by leaving a strand of yarn hanging out about 12-18 inches from where you start using that skein. When you are finished with the project (or you could go back as you are working) you go back and weave the loose strands of yarn into the project alongside the color that they are. Bad grammar. Use your hook to pull the loose ends into the project so they are not noticeable.

And, not able to be found by naughty ... er ... CREATIVE children with time on their hands!


Spring Break Relaxation

We interrupt Crochet Talk for some glimpses into how May (8), Irene (6) and Jane (5) relax during Spring Break:
May reads and listens to music:

Irene draws, colors and traces:

Janie enjoys the computer:

Eventually, Irene joins Jane at the computer:

Ahhhhhhhhh ... peace and quiet. At least for that moment. LOL!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Learn to Crochet - Lesson 5 - Single Crochet Stitch

Learn to Crochet - Lesson 5 - Single Crochet Stitch

Well, now you have your long chain. Now what? Let's do a second row and learn to do a Single Crochet.

TIP: Make sure when you hook the yarn strand (yarn over hook = yo) that you are getting the entire strand (4 ply means that there are 4 small strands that are wound together to form the one strand of yarn). If you are doing a stitch in the next row and the stitch into which you are working seems a little thin, look closely and see if you missed one or more of the 4 ply strands. If you did, do not rip out the row and redo it! Simply look closely and gather the rest of the strand into your new stitch. Does this make sense? It will. No matter how good of a Crocheter you are, you will undoubtedly miss a few of the 4 ply strands now and then. No biggie. Catch them up on the next row.

At the end of any finished row of crocheting, add one chain stitch (I nicknamed this the Turn-Around Stitch MANY years ago, so I would never forget it! LOL!). Since you are on your FIRST row, and they are all chain stitches, it is kind of silly to add one chain. But, you need to know to ALWAYS add that chain at the end of any finished row.

For right-handed people like me, (sorry, Lefties) you will now be working back toward the left side of your project. For the chain, you pretty much just let it fall straight down below your hands as you worked. Now, you will begin working right-to-left and building rows.

You now need to decide whether you would like your finished work to have a "flat" look, or a look with raised-looking rows. If you look at each chain stitch, you will see that it produces two strands of yarn in each stitch. If you work your new stitches in the front (near you) side of the chain stitches, you will get a "flat" project. If you decide to use the back (away from you) side of each chain, your rows will be raised and provide more texture to your finished project. The flat way makes the project go faster. The raised way makes the rows more visually interesting, but takes more yarn and goes more slowly. You get to decide. :-)

For my project shown in the pictures, I am working the front side of each stitch; thereby, creating a flatter look to my finished project. I'm in it for the SPEED, Baby!

However, I have now added a fairly equal second half in Single Crochet stitches with them worked into the BACK part of each Chain, so you can see the difference. The "flat" side with stitches worked into the front part of each chain took 8 rows. The side worked into the back side of each chain took 11 rows to get the same length. See below.

Single Crochet

After adding the extra chain at the end of the finished row, take your hook and place it into the SECOND chain stitch. This does not count the additional chain you added at the end of the previous row, which remains as the one on your hook. Plus, you need to remember to skip the first stitch in order for your sides to be nice and straight. We will check this after working at least 6 rows. After poking the hook into the second chain, draw the strand of yarn up through that second chain. You will now have two loops on your hook. Hold your hook horizontally, and wrap the yarn over (yo) your hook and draw it to the right through the two loops that are on your hook. They will go into the project as the Single Crochet and you will be left with one strand remaining ON your hook. TA-DA!! You did your first sc. :-)

Remember NOT to pull the yarn out too much. You are still striving to make each and every stitch the same size. Make them large enough to pull the yarn through with your hook comfortably. You should not have to poke and pull at the stitch to get it to come through the loop. It should slide through without strain or tension. Remember to keep things loosey-goosey ... but not TOO loosey-goosey! If your stitches are too long/loose, your project will be too filled with undesired holes and gaps. Make the stitches just big enough to get the hook through with the yarn on it. Go for uniformity.

Soooooo ... after that first Single Crochet, make sure the loop that remains on your hook is not too close to the row or too far away. Make needed adjustments.

Now, poke your hook into the third chain. Loop the yarn over the hook and draw it back to the right through the chain. You have those two loops on your hook again. Hold the hook horizontally, and pull the yarn through the two loops. Again, you will have one loop remaining on your hook. You have completed TWO Single Crochets!

Continue to make Single Crochet stitches into each Chain stitch until you reach the end of your row. When you have complete sc in each ch, add that one extra "turn-around" chain. Then flip your growing project around, so you are ready to go back to the left again.

Again, skip the first stitch (now you are working sc into sc stitches) and make your Single Crochet into the second stitch. Do this all the way along your row. Add the extra ch at the end of the second row of sc, and you are ready to turn around again.

Keep doing this until your project is finished. Periodically, lay your project down on the table to see when you feel it is long enough. A blanket should always be longer than it is wide. You will be able to judge this.

Below is a series of me crocheting 3 Single Crochet stitches:

Here is me holding the work with my right ring finger and pinkie:

Here is how my project looks after doing 7 rows:

After a while, check how your side edges look. They should be pretty straight if you have made your stitches the same size, pulled the yarn at the same tension, and remembered to add the extra Chain stitch at the end of each row:

Next lesson: Yarn Changes (Changing colors of yarn. Ending a skein. Tying off or weaving in ends?)


Learn to Crochet - Lesson 4 - Chain Stitch

Learn to Crochet - Lesson 4 - Chain Stitch

Hold your hook in your dominant hand (for me, this is my right hand) and hold the strand of yarn you have pulled loose from the skein in your other hand. Hold the hook like a pencil and let the yarn go through your fingertips.

Once you get some of the project finished enough to hold onto, you will want to hold it between your pinkie and ring finger behind your hook as you work. This will come naturally with time.

Hold your hook against the yarn about 6 inches from the end of the yarn, and loop the yarn around the hook, near the tip, twice. Leave about 6 inches of yarn hanging below the part you have wound around your hook. Now pull a strand of the yarn through the circle you have created on the hook. This takes some getting used to before it comes naturally. If you cannot easily get this first circle and chain going, simply tie a small circle into the yarn, with about 6 inches of yarn hanging beneath the circle. Then, pull a loop (chain) of yarn through that first tied circle.

Continue to pull small loops of yarn through each chain stitch and try to make them all the same size. But, while you are new to crocheting, don't fret too much over this! Uniformity will come with experience. Don't worry.

Make your chain strand as long as the width of your project. For a little Barbie blanket, this might be 25 chain stitches. For a blanket for your couch, this might be 150 stitches.

After you have made a long enough length of chain stitches, put your work away and wait for me to teach you the Single Crochet. We will work those along the chains tomorrow.

If you have any questions or comments, please email them to me, write to me in Facebook, or leave them here in a Comment.