Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Helpful Hint #15: Presents—Ask before executing!

Now a word about presents—specifically, knitted and crocheted presents. Actually, this applies to any craft present upon which you have devoted hours upon hours of your free time—forsaking food, sleep, and bathing in some instances—to get it completed by the appointed due date. For us procrastinators, this would be Christmas Eve, the night before the wedding, as the baby is being born, etc.

Always, ALWAYS, check first to see if the recipient is interested in a handmade item. Over the years, I have heard horror stories about people who suffered terrible disappointments over the reception of their present. One woman I met once told me that she had sweat blood for SIX MONTHS making a shawl for her prospective daughter-in-law. She triumphantly presented the finished item to her at the bridal shower. The bride-to-be’s response? “I’ll never wear anything like that!” Another friend of mine once found a handmade item in the local thrift shop. Yes, you guessed it…she had given the item to someone several months back.

I find the best thing to do is to either wait until someone requests something, or just ask. It is better to find out ahead of time that either the person would LOVE something handcrafted by you; or, frankly, they’d rather have a Playstation.

Then I go into Business Analyst mode. I ask them what they would like for colors, how large or small they want the item (“blanket” usually means “afghan” – check, to make sure they don’t want something large enough to cover the bed), what type of fiber (some people do not want wool in any form, other people would sooner pet a live tarantula rather than touch acrylic), etc. Just ask anything that occurs to you, no matter how trivial. Clarify statements like, “I want the colors mixed in together.” This could mean they want a variegated yarn, or they want big blocks of color or stripes—you just don’t know until you ask.

Then go for it! I’ve had very good results sticking to the above technique, so much so that one person has asked me for more than one thing…LOL!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Quick and Dirty iPad Cover - Free Pattern

If you went wild and crazy and bought an iPad for yourself or a loved one (as in my case), and you suddenly realize you should have bought a cover (you thought that rolling, accordian thingy Apple promotes for the cover would suffice), and UPS is due at your front door ANY TIME NOW, then you need a quick and dirty iPad cover that can be whipped up in no time:

Quick and Dirty iPad Cover

Measurements:  8" wide x 11” long
Gauge:   12 stitches = 3” in garter stitch.  Row gauge is not critical.
2 skeins of Plymouth Encore Worsted in #0848, or color of preference
Needles:  Size 13 (9 mm) needles
2 buttons, size 7/8”
Stitch explanation:
Garter St Patt
Row 1 (RS): Knit across.
Patt Row: As Row 1.
Seed St Patt
Row 1 (RS):  *k,p; rep from * across
Row 2 (WS):  *p,k; rep from * across
K2tog:  knit two together
SSK:  Slip, slip, knit.  Slip first stitch as if to knit, slip second stitch as if to knit, then return both stitches to left needle and knit them together through the back loop.
Inc:  knit through the front and back of stitch 
NOTE:  You will be knitting holding two strands of yarn together.
Cast on 22 stitches.
Rows 1 – 5:  Seed St
Row 6:  inc 1, k across, inc 1 on last stitch.  24 stitches.
Row 7:  k
Continue in garter st until the article measures 20.5 inches from the edge.
Next row:  k2tog, k across to the last 2 stitches, ssk the last two stitches.  22 stitches.
Next 2 rows:  Seed St
Next row (button hole row):  K5, k2tog, yo,k8, yo, ssk, k5
Next 2 rows:  Seed st
Cast off in pattern.
Fold the article over (Button Holes on top) and sew up the sides.  Sew buttons into place.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Helpful Hint #14: It’s in the bag!

I realize I’ve posted a hint before concerning project bags, but it occurs to me that I have another hint concerning size…

You see, for ages now, I’ve always misjudged what size my project bag should be. For my take-along projects, I hate bringing a large bag out places, so I always optimistically try to cram a large project into a much smaller bag. I confess I’m doing it right now with my Autumn Stripes Afghan. Eventually the afghan is going to need a bigger bag. The question is: How big?

This is where my hint comes in.

One day, I came to a realization…the yarn I’m using for a project IS going to be the final project (if anything, maybe a little less). SO, if I can fit all the yarn I need for a given project into a bag comfortably (without squashing it down and forcing the zipper closed), then ergo, I can fit the project into the bag!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Helpful Hint #13: Keep your supplies organized!

The other day, I decided to make something that required doubling up worsted weight yarn—which in turn required Size 13 knitting needles. My original idea was to do the project in the round, but using a 16” circular wasn’t going to cut it. I dove into my under-the-bed bin to search for my #13 dpns (double-point needles). Yes, you guessed it…I couldn’t find them! I rooted around in the bin for ages. I found every other size dpn in creation, in every conceivable material (wood, bamboo, aluminum, etc.), but NO SIZE 13s! I ended up having to go with Size 13 straights and just knit the project in a different way.

This brings me to my hint: For God’s sake, organize your supplies!

This is a clear-cut case of “Do as I say, not as I do.” I have my circular needles in my closet in one of those hanging organizers, I have my yarn grouped according to quality (nice yarn in one large bin, rot-gut acrylic in another), and all my crochet hooks are in a special pouch I crocheted. My straight needles and dpns, however, are in a haphazard MESS in one of the bins. The best thing I could probably do is to find containers for the straights and dpns, and perhaps rubber-band needles together so that I don’t keep ending up with one size 8 and one size 13.

Finding the time for this is another matter…

Friday, August 5, 2011

Helpful Hiint #12: UFOs…frog or finish!

Okay, this is clearly a case of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Seriously, though, UFOs (Unfinished Objects) are a sad reality in craft-dom. We start out a project with the best of intentions. We spend oodles of money on the yarn (the LYS was having a sale—$100—a bargain!), we scour the earth for the perfect pattern, we spend MORE money on just the right needles, we cast on or make the starting chain, and then—   

Well, there are many reasons why a project becomes a UFO. It could be that:
    1. You suddenly needed to make something else for someone’s shower (people always seem to be breeding), tossed this project aside, and just never got around to it again.
    2. You quickly discovered that the stitch pattern is almost impossible for you to master, short of an advanced degree from MIT.
    3. Partway through, you discovered that the item is just NOT going to be quite what was advertised—that model looked WAY better in that sweater than you ever will, even if you go on a crash diet.
    4. You ran out of yarn and not only can’t you find the same dye lot again—you can’t find the same COLOR period because it’s been discontinued! 
This (d) happened to me recently (okay, months ago) with the Granny Stripe Afghan. Patons no longer makes one of the colors I was using. So, I’m faced with my own helpful hint. I need to either find the other yarn colors and at least crochet up to the point of the missing color, and just have the item be a Granny Stripe Shawl instead of an afghan; or I need to just rip out the whole thing and use the yarn for something else.

I need to do this soon as UFOs do have a tendency to haunt you…and they DO attract MORE UFOs!