Sunday, November 17, 2019

#WhyIMake ~ What Inspires Me To Create

"What inspires you to make?", has asked this question as part of their "Blog Personality of The Year, 2019" competition, which is part of their blogger awards- The Crafties. Thank you for asking me to share my story. Here goes...


What inspires you to make? Who knew such a question could stump me? As a maker, inspiration can come so easily and naturally that I don't stop to analyze what it is that truly inspires me to create.

In the beginning, my children were what inspired me to re-learn to crochet at the age of 26. My grandmother taught me at the age of 8, but I had never learned to read a pattern so a whole world of crocheting was closed off to me. As it is, when I did decide to retry my hand at crocheting, my grandmother had to talk me through how to make a half double crochet over the phone. (This was way before the beautiful world of YouTube tutorial videos!)

Once I got the hang of doing all the stitches I decided to learn to read patterns. I have never ripped out so many rows of crochet in all my life, but I never quit trying. I was determined to create things for my kids. I made them sweaters, and outfits, and toys, and blankets, and all sorts of goodies as babies.

Teo & Stefani (ages 4 and 5)

Stefani & Teo (ages 9 and 7-1/2)

My daughter went through chemotherapy for Leukemia when she was nine, and I used my love of crochet to create items to donate to the hospital where she was treated. I always say this was the start of Bizzy Crochet because it really was. That was the beginning of Bizzy Crochet the crochet blogger. But, then my son was turning 8 and he wanted to have a Pokemon party and give all of his friends a Pokemon plushie. I didn't want to spend all that money, so I thought I would try my hand at designing some plushies to put in his goodie bags. It worked like a charm. The kids were happy and I discovered that I loved to design! His love of Pokemon was the beginning of Bizzy Crochet the crochet designer.

Pokémon Charizard

I have been designing crochet patterns for 13 years now, and have published more than 100 patterns. Most of them have been self-published, but one time I even got up the guts to submit a pattern. I have discovered along the way that I crochet and create more for the process (or the learning) than for the end product. I don't like to make the same thing over and over. It drives me nuts! Because I am a "process" crocheter I use every new pattern as a way to challenge myself to do something or learn something I've never done or learned before.

Zen Baby Hats

Lush Garden Bavarian Stitch Afghan

Medallion Sampler Afghan on 
(I called it the Woodsy Owl blanket while I was designing it.)

Prairie Sisters- part of the Prairie Family Adventure Set

Rocket Ship with Astronauts and Aliens

My designs these days tend to be abstract "inspiration" blankets. I like to create blankets that are a tribute to literature, movies, and pop culture that my family is into without using anything copyrighted or previously created. I am passionate about creating one of a kind items. I research the subject I want to make a blanket for by studying the color palette (if it has one) and characters and repeating themes. Then I use that information to craft blankets that subtly represent my subject. When you look at it I want it to feel familiar, but I also want it to draw you in and make you look closer to figure out where all the characters and items are represented. I like it when people ask questions so I can tell them about my design.

Little Mermaid Inspiration Sampler

Grimm's Fairy Tales Inspiration Sampler

Ugly Christmas Sweater Sampler 

Nightmare Before Halloween Sampler

Alice in Wonderland Inspiration Sampler

I love using my imagination. Designing allows me to tap into my creative side and explore. It allows me to tell a story, and sometimes it allows me the opportunity to introduce my audience to a part of myself I might not otherwise share with them.

I also love to teach. Since I make for the love of the making, I like to teach people how to do what I do. I started turning all of my blanket designs into tutorial videos. Many people have reached out to tell me what a blessing they are because it helps them to expand their knowledge of new stitches, with the added bonus of picking up tips and tricks along the way.

When I was growing up I was always told that I was weird and I talked too much. I was a really sensitive kid and I was always trying to fit myself into someone else's mold. As I have learned to embrace my individuality, I have found the freedom to express myself in my creations. I tend to gather around me those that hang out on the "fringes" for one reason or another. We make a mighty army of creativity, and I absolutely LOVE watching others turn my designs into their own personal works of art. It feeds my soul watching others expand their knowledge and gain confidence in their abilities.

What inspires me to create? I would have to say, people. From my family to my online crochet friends. Sure, the world around me inspires me to create projects, but in the end, I create projects to interact with and reach out to and strengthen people. Helping others realize their talent is what fuels my creativity.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Achieving the Right Gauge for the Exeter Gansey Cardigan

Exeter Gansey Cardigan by Annie's Crochet

When you make a garment, whether you are knitting or crocheting, achieving the right gauge is a crucial component of the preparation process. I did a Facebook LIVE on Sunday, Nov 3 and talked a bit about the gauging process for the Exeter Gansey Cardigan we are making together starting November 17th. (You can click here for the details.) However, I was waiting for a response from Annie's Creative Team about what the appropriate gauge swatch should be. I have received confirmation from them, so I feel confident in going forward with gauge training for our sweater.

On Sunday, I mentioned that we need to be more concerned with our width gauge than our height gauge. That was confirmed through Annie's, as the sweet lady that responded said exactly what I said about the instructions for achieving the right measurements within the pattern. The pattern merely tells us that we will work to a given length in the established pattern finishing after a certain row or on a certain side of the work. These kinds of instructions are very easy to "fudge" a height gauge for. Because you will be working to YOUR measurements, not the gauge you achieved when you did your swatch. The swatch wants you to go through row 21. I have never achieved 4" working to row 21 regardless of which hook I used. So, I was grateful when I learned from the representative that the height gauge was not as important.

If you would like to practice gauging, chain 20 and then follow the Pattern Stitch starting with the Basketweave and go through row 21.

If you would like to watch the first video, click here: Bizzy Crochet LIVE Gauge Video- November 3

Here are my samples:
I started with an F hook instead of the H the pattern calls for just so I would have a base to work off of. I usually use an F hook when I use #3 Light yarn

Then I tried a G hook, still not quite there.

Finished my trial with an H hook. Right on the dime with an H hook. But, here's where I am seeing a potential problem. I'm very comfortably at 4"- might I get too big as I get even more comfortable with the pattern? 

The one thing that Annie's representative did mention was making sure to wet block my gauge swatch. I, personally, achieved an exact gauge match to the recommended hook size in my width. However, I am going to go down one hook and then do a wet block to see if that doesn't work better. Here is why- I would rather be a 1/2" off on my gauge and be able to block my sweater to the finished size than to be right on with my gauge, in the beginning, maybe loosen up when I get comfortable with the pattern, and possibly end up with an overly roomy sweater in the end. I don't want this thing dragging behind the person that's going to wear it. I want it to be an attractive, finished garment.

Hopefully the #7/4.5mm will be the charmer...

So, I will do a LIVE demo of how to wet block your gauge swatch this Wednesday, November 6, 2019. Make sure you join me @ 7:00 pm CST on the Bizzy Crochet Facebook page!

My next blog post will be about WHY we will need to block our cardigans to achieve our best work!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Exeter Gansey Cardigan CAL -Let's Talk Yarn!!

In November, I will be having a CAL (crochet along) for the Exeter Gansey Cardigan (which is part of Annie's Signature Design: 2019 Fall Collection) on Sunday evenings on my Bizzy Crochet Facebook page. I will be having a live chat each Sunday at 7PM CST and we will work through questions about the pattern and anything else you can think of.

I will be making the 2XL size, so I researched some of the yarns I could use to make my cardigan without breaking the bank. This is by no means a comprehensive list of yarns to use, but it is a good list, and a place to start in case you are planning to search for something different as well.

If you would like to join the CAL, you will need to purchase the pattern. You can get the pattern here:

Now, let's talk about the yarns you can use to make this pattern: 

Each of the yarns in this list varies in skein size and price, but each of them falls very closely within the parameters of the original yarn for gauge. Each link within the individual yarn descriptions will take you directly to that yarn. Some of the links are affiliates. 

1-King Cole Majestic DK yarn is the original yarn for the pattern. It is a 1.75oz/50g skein for 1.95 Pounds (1.11/oz) or $2.52 USD ($1.44/oz). I have not personally used this yarn, but it is a wool blend with some very pretty colors. The place I found that had the best price and the best selection for this yarn was Wool Warehouse- UK (this link will take you right to the yarn). They ship worldwide and provide amazing customer service!

2- Hobby Lobby Baby Bee Sweet Delight is the yarn I'm thinking about using. I've used this yarn multiple times in everything from blankets to sweaters and hats for babies. This is a very sturdy, but very soft acrylic yarn. The best part is that it's crochet gauge matches exactly to the original yarn used in the pattern. Now, that doesn't mean I'm not going to have to do my own gauge to make sure *I* match with the pattern, but at least I know my yarn is a near-perfect replacement for the original. The other thing I like about this yarn is that you get a lot more bang for your buck. I'm a blue-collar yarn girl, so I like a bargain! haha. Sweet Delight is a 4 oz skein for $5.29 USD ($1.32/oz). Where King Cole would cost me $78.12 USD, the Sweet Delight will only cost me $74.06, and if I watch Hobby Lobby for their every other week 30% off yarn sale, I can get it for $51.84 USD!! The downside to this yarn (for my non-US friends) is that Hobby Lobby only ships in the US.

3- Let's talk quick about my second choice for my sweater, even though is a slightly thinner, more delicate acrylic DK weight yarn than the Sweet Delight...Hobby Lobby's Soft & Sleek DK. I am currently using this yarn to knit the Gansey Stole (another gorgeous Annie's pattern) and it is fantastically soft. It is another one that would be a bigger bang for your buck, although I do worry that it is not a yarn that would stand up well to being sat on. This one might be better for the scarf you're going to want to make to go along with it! Annie's also has a crocheted Gansey Stole. This yarn is $4.99 USD ($1.25/oz) and is generously sized at 4oz. Trust me, this stuff is so soft you just want to snuggle the skeins. You'll get no judgment from me if you do!

Knit Gansey Stole
pattern link above

Crocheted Gansey Stole
pattern link above

4- Another DK yarn that will hold up like gangbusters and won't break the bank is Stylecraft Special DK. It is acrylic, they have an amazing color range, and their skeins are 3.5oz/100 gms for 1.95 Pounds or $2.52 USD. The same price as the King Cole, but twice the size. I have not used this yarn, but I know lots of people who have and they swear by its durability and quality. Once again, Wool Warehouse UK had the best selection and the best price that I could find. Don't let the whole UK thing scare you, though. They have really reasonable shipping prices and they have a long track record of fairly quick shipping, even if you don't expedite it!

5- If you're looking for a non-acrylic, non-wool alternative, I have two cotton yarns that should work well for you. I would love to say Hobby Lobby again, but I can't. While I really do Love their Cotton yarn, it is too big for this pattern. So, instead, I am going to recommend two other brands. Both can be purchased through Wool Warehouse for very reasonable prices.
The first is Drops Cotton Light. It is a 1.75oz/50g skein of 50%poly/50%cotton blend. So, your shrinkage will be minimal. Best of all, it is a 1 Pound or $1.29 USD per skein. You can get a 2XL sweater for $40! That's not bad at all. I love Drops yarns. They are all beautiful and make lovely garments.
Second is Stylecraft Classique Cotton. This is a 1.75oz/50g skein of 100% cotton. They have a lovely selection of colors available. This is 1.79 Pounds or $2.31 USD/skein.

If you've made it this far into my yarn chatter, then I hope that you will have found something you can use. I didn't want to give you cheap choices that weren't going to hold up in the end. I also didn't want to just point you toward all the really expensive yarns. I wanted to give you some options that included some of my favorites and some unknowns with good reputations.

Good Luck! If you are joining the CAL, make sure you let me know on my Bizzy Crochet Facebook page! And make sure to tell me what yarn you end up choosing!


Monday, October 21, 2019

Christmas Around the World CAL Weeks 2 & 3 Recap

Week 2 of the CAL was the Pine Trees and Candles sections of the blanket. In week 2 we worked on the Spike Stitch, Fans, and Bobbles. We also learned how to make pinecones to embellish the Pine Tree section later. 

Charlotte Yost Huffman was the "winner, winner, chicken dinner" with her pinecones. She got out an old Annie's pattern from 1991 that she knew she had stashed away and made the CUTEST pinecones! She was kind enough to share the instructions with the FB CAL Group! Here are the instructions, just in case you want to try it: Chain 18, picot (sl st in 3rd ch from hook), skip 2 ch, (DC, ch3, picot) in remaining chains. Roll into shape and tack together.

Week 3 is the Sweater portion of the blanket. This particular section gave us all the chance to work on the Waistcoat Stitch. Some people decided that they were happier doing regular sc's and dc's, which was perfectly fine. This section was very forgiving if you chose not to use the Waistcoat Stitch. The only real benefit from the fancier stitch is that it gives the work a "knitted" look. But, if you just do regular stitches into the regular loops of your sc's and dc's, it looks just as fabulous. This section has proven to be a favorite for many of the participants. It's slow going, but it comes with a great sense of accomplishment!

As you can see, we are in all stages of work in the group. We have a large variety of color palette's happening. Lots of people are using their scrap stash to do this blanket. You know me- I'm a HUGE fan of using up your stash! The original Christmas Around the World Blanket was made with stash, so I know it can be done!
If you have been tossing around the idea of joining us on our Christmas Around the World Journey- do it! You have nothing to lose, except a limited time free pattern...Just a reminder that the pattern will only be free until the end of November. At that time, it will become a paid pattern. So, even if you are thinking about doing it later, I would jump on it and save the weekly downloads to a thumb-drive so that you can do them when you are ready! You can either receive them in the files of the CAL group on Facebook, or you can get them in your library on Ravelry.

This week in the Facebook Group we have started the sign-ups for the Sock Exchange. This is our second year hosting this goody exchange, and we have a nice big group signed up to exchange goodies all over the world. We are also having another Mystery prize giveaway. This week our group moderator, Wini, is hosting the even *I* don't know what the winner will get! If you haven't joined us yet-you're missing out on all the fun! Bizzy Crochet's CAL Group on Facebook.

As usual, videos are produced weekly to help you on your CAL journey. Make sure you come follow me on YouTube so you can keep up with all of my crochet videos! Thank you so much to everyone who has already followed me, and given me great feedback on my videos for the Christmas Around the World blanket!

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Week 1 is Underway!!

Week 1 of the Christmas Around the World CAL is well underway. We just had our Saturday morning live chat in the Bizzy Crochet CAL Group on Facebook and I got some very good feedback from everyone. 

It is agreed that this week one pattern is a little challenging- probably an intermediate level- but that the instructional video really helped. I absolutely love the triumph everyone is experiencing when they conquer this challenge! You can just see it in their posts. You should absolutely feel pride everyone! They are all turning out lovely!

Some people are venturing out and using their own personal color schemes, which I love! I love it when you guys make my patterns so personal! The beauty of a Poinsettia is that they come in SO MANY colors that you can't really go wrong. Even if it's a really different could feasibly be out there somewhere! I can't wait to see what Tiffiny is going to do with this lovely mint. (picture below)

Created by Tiffiny Ferguson

We have several Dr Seuss/Grinch inspired blankets started. My tester, Vannessa, is carrying on the tradition of a Grinch inspired blanket that one of our group members, Elizabeth Smith VanHorn, started last year with her Grinch inspired Ugly Christmas Sweater Blanket. It's going to be so much fun to see what everyone comes up with. Dr. Seuss opens the color palette wide!

Vannessa's Dr. Seuss/Grinch inspired Christmas Around the World (2019 Christmas CAL)

Elizabeth Smith VanHorn's Grinch inspired Ugly Christmas Sweater Blanket (2018 Christmas CAL)

I can say this- regardless of which way you go with this pattern color-wise it is a lot of fun to stitch up. Week one focuses much of it's time on front post and back post double crochets. If you're looking to increase your skills in these two stitches, or if you are like me and geek out over fpdc and bpdc, then this is the pattern to do! Embossed Crochet is my new obsession- so expect to see more from me!

You can receive the pattern through- Email, Ravelry, or in the files of the Bizzy Crochet CAL Group on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Christmas Around the World CAL 2019

Hey everybody, did you know that I have another Christmas blanket CAL starting...right about now??? It's called Christmas Around the World, and it focuses on Christmas symbols that are common throughout many different countries. It's amazing how many things are used in Christmas celebrations throughout the world that cross borders and unite us all.

From October 2 to November 20, you can join in on the Second Annual Christmas Blanket CAL with me and my awesome gang of helpers: Theresa, Niamh, and Wini.

This CAL you will be able to join us via email, on Ravelry, or in the Facebook CAL Group. It is completely free until November 20th. As usual, there will be support videos throughout the CAL for those that need them!

We have four different colorways to inspire you. The original by Biz is a Boho Comfy Well-Traveled color scheme. Then we have Theresa's jewel-toned creation, Niamh's Traditional colorway honoring the love and memory of her Gran, and Vannessa's Dr Seuss/Grinch inspired colorway.

Biz's Boho Comfy Colorway

Theresa's Jewel-Toned Colorway

Niamh's Traditional Colorway

Vannessa's Dr Seuss/Grinch Inspiration Colorway

I hope you choose to join us! There will be lots of fun in the Facebook Group:
 Giveaways, an International Christmas Sock Exchange (goody swap), Additional Patterns, and just some general Christmas themed silliness. 

One of the additional patterns will be the Around the World accent pillow pattern:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Lady Frances Baby Blanket Test

Lady Frances Baby Blanket Test- In Progress

Just in case you don't follow me on Facebook, the latest design I am having tested is called the Lady Frances Baby Blanket. It is named for the little baby it was designed for, Adelaide Frances.

A great group of ladies has joined me for this test. Theresa, my friend who has tested almost every pattern I've put out since about 2010 (I think), and a few that are new to the Bizzy Crochet testers group- Tammy, Tracy, Debbi, Mik, and Sakura.

This is Tracy (upper left), Mik (upper right), Debbi (right center), Theresa (lower right), and Tammy (lower left). Everyone is doing a bang-up job!!

Debbi's in progress LF

Mik's in progress LF

Theresa's finished LF

Vannessa's finished LF

There are more samples to come with some really fabulous color schemes to spark your creativity. This pattern is scheduled to come out in August, so keep your eyes peeled to this spot! I can't wait to get this pattern in your hands!