Sunday, May 28, 2017

Those "Go-To" Patterns

Do you ever find yourself going to the same patterns over and over again? I know I do. Recently I've been making a box of toys for a friend, and even though I scour Ravelry for something new and different to make, I always end up coming back to the same toys. Why do I do that? 

Well, I'm going to talk about a couple of patterns today that are my "go-to" patterns for quick and easy gifts. I'm going to tell you why patterns become my "go-to" projects, and you may find that we look for the exact same things. Who knows?

First up is a knit owl pattern that I simply adore. It's name is "Seamus the Owl Knitting Pattern" by Linda Dawkins. I have shared this little owl pattern in the past on here, and even had a whole IG road trip story making owls from WI to Florida. (picture below) One of the reasons I like this pattern so much is because it is relatively seamless. It is knit in the round on double-pointed needles, and only the butt and top need to be sewn up. There are two little wings that you have to knit individually and sew on, but if that is the worst thing that happens to finish off a toy...then I can deal with it. Another reason I like this pattern is that I can use any combination of needle and yarn sizes and create a variety of owls. The green and blue owls in this picture were made with size 4 dpn's and baby yarn. The olive green owl was made with size 6 dpn's and worsted weight yarn. I'm a bit of an overstuffer, so from the angle of my picture the blue and olive owls look close to the same size. They aren't. The two green owls show the true difference in sizes. Now, what if I used a size 10 to 13 needle and a yarn like Lion Brand Homespun?? What a fun and chunky owl that would be!! 

These are some of the owls from my IG road trip. 
Meet Pudge, Annabelle, and Squirt.

I tend to name the toys I make if they don't have a designated home to go to. Making these guys really helped make a long road trip shorter. 

Speaking of road trip toys...the second of my "go-to" patterns is "Beans the Cat Knitting Pattern" also by Linda Dawkins. The Beans kitties were the original road trip toy all made while going from Florida to WI. It was so fun to do on Instagram with all my friends there. Part of the gang is pictured below.

This little gang of rogue kitties is (from L-R) Calico, Blue Raspberry, Pistachio, and Sunset. In total I made 7 kitties in the car on a 16 hour trip. Their construction is much like Seamus in that only the butt and top get sewn up. There is an i-cord tail that you attach and voila! you have a kitty. These work up even faster than Seamus does, and they are so. darn. cute! 

I did come up with a crochet Beans pattern that I share for free on the blog. Here's the link if you would rather crochet some kitties

My last little guys that are part of my "go-to" pattern list are "Hedgehogs" by Purl Soho. This one uses two different size yarns and two different size dpn's for construction. But, beyond that, it's pretty straightforward. It's essentially one-piece construction in that once you reach the end you simply stuff it, sew up the butt, and knit some little ears on it. There are no separate pieces that have to be sewn on later. When you're done're done. Well, of course, other than embroidering on a quick face.  This is a joyful little pattern to use. One more favorite feature of this pattern, really of all the patterns, is that I use up my scraps to make them. Each toy only takes a little bit of yarn. They are perfect for those balls of yarn that just take up space in your stash. They aren't big enough for a blanket, unless you make squares, and sometimes I'm just not in the mood to make squares. These toys are a great alternative for your scraps. 

Now, I know that I focused primarily on knit toys in this post. The reason I shared them is because I'm rubbish at creating knit toy patterns, so I wanted to share my favorites from that world first. I struggle to achieve the same simple values from crocheted toys. Maybe it's because I can do so much more in crochet, so I feel like my toys have to be really detailed? When I crochet a toy for someone, I either pull from my cache of personal patterns, or I make up a new one. However, there is one small grouping of crochet toys that are simplistic and can be used for quick and easy gifts. The Lion Brand amigurumi toys are very simple construction with basic shapes. GREAT for beginners or for people that just need a quick toy. That collection is where the little frog from my last two posts came from. 

BUT! If you are looking for some fun, free crochet patterns that make great gifts for anyone, I want you to tap into my patterns! I'm sharing pictures of some of my favorites to make again and again. Some are more detailed than others, but I love making them. 

For little girls (or they could be adapted for little boys) the Pocket BFF's

And the Barnyard Gang, which can be for boys and girls alike...There is a CAL on FB for the Barnyard Gang from May 27th to June 12th with bonus instructions for a "Mrs Farmer" character, so join us if you can!

Well, other than the last two patterns I posted, could you tell what the overwhelming theme was in the patterns I picked out? Yep...easy assembly and few parts. I'm sort of a lazy crafter. I am a process knitter and crocheter (I just figured this out about myself), so I knit and crochet for the experience of knitting and crocheting. I'm not driven by the finished product...I'm driven by the doing. Yet, I don't like complicated. I only like complicated when I go into something knowing that it's going to be a challenge. If my brain deems something is too difficult, then I quit. Give me simple. Give me quick. Once in a while I will run into a pattern that just oozes difficulty and potential hair loss and I feel compelled to make it. Those moments are rare. LOL!!

As a matter of fact, I'm on the hunt for a shawl on which to use my new Scheepjes Whirl yarn. My three picks are Lost In Time Shawl by mijocrochet, Secret Paths Shawl by mijocrochet, and Edlothia by Jasmin Rasanen. My chart skills are not strong, so I'm not sure I would come out of the Edlothia pattern with any hair left. I'm leaning heavily toward the Lost in Time....I'll let you know what I decide. 

Tah for now!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

CAL (Crochet-Along) TIME!!

Just in case you aren't on Facebook and haven't been following the Bizzy Crochet page, we are starting up a Crochet-Along (CAL) today, May 27th, until June 12th, and we are making the Barnyard Gang Toy Bag!! If you have wanted to learn how to make amigurumi, but haven't had the nerve to do it yet...this is the perfect time to jump in the pool with us! The whole pattern, from beginning to end, is broken down into simple instructions making it easy for you to create the set without headaches. Theresa is our resident tutorial guru, and she does a fantastic job!

Now, the CAL is being hosted on Facebook, but we also have a Ravelry group where you can talk about it! Today's pattern release includes the Part 1 of the Barn and roof sections, plus there are files with our schedule and materials. Please join us if you can...if you have time. I promise it won't take much to do, and we will have lots of fun! :) It's a GREAT stashbuster, and there's even a bonus pattern for a Mrs. Farmer created by  Theresa.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Let's Talk Project Bags

It seems I'm always a little late to show when it comes to the latest trends. Sometimes it's because I am rebelling against the latest hyped up band wagon, and sometimes it's just because I really don't have a clue how cool and useful something is. Today's project bag subject started out as the first and finished up as the second. 

There are SO MANY project bag creators and producers out there. If you are on IG (Instagram) for more than a minute, you will see someone who crafts project bags, or just bought a new project bag. Project bags have become a staple "prop" in IG pictures. When I started seeing them come across my feed I was not impressed. I thought "just one more fad that will do nothing but take up space in my already limited storage." So, I avoided all of the cute pictures of all the cute bags created by all the talented makers for as long as I could. I have a few favorite subjects; donuts, comic book characters, and woodland creatures. These also happen to be some of THE MOST POPULAR project bag subjects!! One day this really cute bag with really cute little woodland creatures showed up on my feed on sale, and he was including some free stitch markers with any purchase that day only. The next thing I knew, I had clicked on the link to his etsy page, and purchased the bag. I was suckered in by a sale...but, who among us can say this has never happened to them? I daresay very few!! LOL

(This little bag comes from Whimzee Stitches hailing from New Orleans, LA. Rick keeps a great stock of whimsical project bags and accessories on hand, and is constantly updating his shop.) 

Now, I owned this little bag. What was I going to do with it? One day I was in dire need of something to take along a small project to the Dr's office. I grabbed this bag and stuffed it with what I needed, and took it along. After that one use I was hooked, and now I use it constantly. Here, you see it in use for my mini frogs from last week's post. 

This next little bag is one someone made for me about two years ago, but I didn't know what to do with it so it sat in my stash unused. Once I started using the project bag I purchased, and after seeing a few other people on IG using the smaller bags for notions, etc, I went and dug this one out and started using it to hold all my notions and hooks. It's brilliant. I have everything I need in one spot. The fabric keeps the needles and scissors from poking through, I always know where the hook for my project is, and I can keep extra things in there like safety pins and stitch holders. AND it's small enough to fold up and tuck into my project bag!

I know that I need to start looking at getting myself some more project bags. They have more uses than just having a bag to haul your projects around in. They are also useful for those of us that have more than one WIP going on at the same time. If you have a project bag for each project, you can use it to safely store your item, your yarns, and your notions/instructions for each project. It won't float around your stash getting separated and forgotten. You won't come back to it a year later and wonder what in the world you were working on. You won't have to frog or throw out half done projects because you can't even remember what hook or needles you were using. For myself, my WIP's that don't get stored safely end up getting cannibalized for other projects. I want to purchase more project bags to store my WIP's in. Here's a woodland animals camping scene small project bag that I would like to get.  And a Star Wars notions bag I also want. Just to name a few.

If you've been on the sidelines like I have about getting yourself a project bag because it seems like a senseless use of your yarn budget, I encourage you to try and think of it as an investment in your project. You will actually be taking better care of your fibers, be they organic or synthetic, therefore making it a wise investment!

Happy shopping! 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Magic of Changing Your Hook and Yarn Weight

Happy Mother's Day!!

I am thoroughly enjoying my lazy Sunday, so I figured today is as good a day as any to start blogging again. To start off my foray back into regular blogging, I am going to talk about the magic of changing the recommended hook size and yarn weight in a project. I'm sure I'm talking to a bunch of old pro's at making modifications to a pattern, but just in case a new crocheter happens to read this post, I am going to talk about the modifications I have made to a simple beginner's pattern from Lion Brand called the Amigurumi Frog

This particular pattern calls for regular worsted weight/aran weight/10ply yarn and an H hook. For me, that makes a frog that is about 4" tall/wide (first picture). I decided that I didn't want to make a frog that big. I wanted to make more than one frog in rainbow colors and put them together as a baby gift, so I decided to go with a #3 light/DK weight yarn and an F hook. That produced a frog about 2" tall/wide (second picture- I wish I had a side by side). 

What is the significance of this, and why would I write a blog post about it? Not everyone who is new to a craft knows that you can use the written pattern as you see it and make something "new" just by changing up the hook size and yarn weight you work with. No, it's not a new product. You are essentially making the exact same item as the pattern, but what is "new" is that you can then take your resized toy and do more with it. 

**I am going to take a quick moment and emphasize that this is something you would do with toy patterns or afghan patterns. I do not recommend making these sorts of nonchalant changes to a clothing pattern. Clothing is MUCH more precise and you don't want to create a Barbie sweater when you are trying to make something for the new baby in your family.**

So, what do you do with your resized toy? I'm going to reference the Amigurumi Frog as a sample;  If you go down in size, you can make more than one in a variety of colors, sort of what I am doing with my rainbow frogs, and make a learning set as a gift for a baby shower. 
My favorite way to go with toy patterns is to shrink them down and make up a fun bag to house all the characters, then give them as gifts for new babies or donate to children's homes. Some of the projects that I have made in the past using someone else's toy pattern, and creating a special bag to go with, are the Frog Pond Bag and the Whimsical Castle Bag

I encourage you to find a pattern and play with a different hook and yarn weight than recommended. Stick to the instructions, and see what size you can come up with. Maybe make one according to the recommendations, and one with a different hook/yarn? This will also help you become familiar with your gauge if you are new to the craft, or have just never really paid attention to it before. It's very useful to know what your work looks like with different tools. 

Well, I'm going to go visit my mama since it is Mother's Day. I hope this helps someone. 
See you next week! :)

Saturday, May 06, 2017

The Fate of My Website

Good morning, folks! 

So, this post is about the fate of my website. I have had a website for two years now, did you know? I wanted it to be this great place where I could share my free patterns, and when I got to the point of writing patterns for sale, you could get those there as well. It didn't happen that way. First of all, it wasn't terribly user friendly. I'm not super tekky (although I did take 3/4 of a HTML class about 8 years ago, so I understand some of it just not all) so everything took me a LONG time to get posted. Second, the website would not allow me to do what I wanted. I could share my free patterns as .pdf downloads, but it was really hard to format the pages to look the way I wanted them to. Also, I could NOT set it up so if you purchased a pattern from my website you would get the instant download. I ended up having to send people to more than one spot to access all my patterns totally defeating the purpose of the website. 

The final straw for me, after battling with an extreme dislike for my website, was the technical difficulty through my web host that has made accessing my website completely impossible for more than a week now. No email from Vistaprint explaining anything. Every time I call I get a recorded message stating that certain people are experiencing difficulties with accessing their websites (you don't say!), and that they are aware of it and searching for an answer. Really?? For more than a week now? Get some new tech people. 

Of course, I say that as a consumer who knows absolutely nothing about programming a website. Who knows? Maybe there's some uber virus killing their server? Either way, I saw this as a chance for me to finally escape the clutches of something I felt bound to keep open since people were accessing it daily. Vistaprint made it easy. No more website for now.

It is my intention to have a website again. Or maybe just a really cool and fancy blog? I don't know. Where do people get all these really cool blogs with different pages and .pdf downloads and fanciness? I have, obviously, neglected all of this for too long now, and it's time for me to jump back on this horsey and tame it. 

You will see more of me here. Hope that's ok! :)

Tah for now!