Showing posts with label crochet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crochet. Show all posts

Tis the season for RSI's

Chances are you're probably in that holiday craft twilight time - the mad dash to get all those projects finished that you have in mind for your handmade gifting this season. I feel your pain, I have a list myself. I am also fortunate in that I get to knit and crochet as a source of income - so that's a lot of time spent with my hands and wrists in repetitive motion which could lead to repetitive stress injury or RSI. Even without the worry of RSI's, working long hours on knit or crochet projects can make for some pretty sore and tired hands, aching shoulders and a complaining spine.

So what can you do to reduce pain and fatigue while you craft?

Use proper body mechanics

I know I've spent some time on my nice comfy couch with feet propped up and needles in hand, in front of my favorite show only to be terribly disappointed when I can't move without pain just 30 minutes later. How is it I can spend hours in my craft room and barely tolerate the comfort of my red cushy leather couch? It all boils down to proper body mechanics.

Keeping your spine in proper alignment will help reduce pain and fatigue. Your grandmother was right - sit up straight. We all have three natural curves in our spine: the cervical (neck), the thoracic (upper back) and the lumbar (lower back). Proper alignment of the spine means keeping these natural curves lifted, not collapsed or held. Picture your spine as a gentle S curve, with each vertebrae stacked gently on top of each other. When you sit, you should feel your ears balanced over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips and your spine lifted. If you have a chair with a lumbar support, make sure it is in the proper position and uncross those legs! Crossing your legs while you are seated will cause the spine to twist in an unnatural position which will lead to an aching back and shoulders. Speaking of legs, make sure your chair is at the proper height for you. Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle - no dangling feet and no knees pointing up. When seated, you should be able to have both feet comfortably on the ground while maintaining that 90 degree angle. I personally don't use a chair with a back. My favorite crafting chair so far is a padded storage stool. It's the right height, it's comfy and it serves a purpose (it holds my spinning fiber). I make it a point to sit up into proper spine alignment while I work but when I notice I'm starting to slouch I move on to the next point.

Take frequent breaks

It's important to take frequent breaks. If you notice yourself slouching or your shoulders are starting to squeeze in on your neck then it's time to move around. Get up, do a few squats, or a few lunges. Gently stretch your fingers back, give yourself a mini hand massage, lift your hands up to the sky and stretch out your spine. Do anything that will gently stretch those muscles and joints and get the blood moving.

I save my dusting and vacuuming for some of my "break" times. And fortunately with two large breed dogs that like to shed a lot, it's a daily break time opportunity.

De-stress your workspace

The quickest way to sit in a hunched or stiff position is to have a stressful workspace. Try not to have too many projects out at once, especially if you're planning on them all going out the door at once! This is a visual cue of a pile of work that needs to be done. Pull out one project at a time, work on it for a while then put it away before pulling out your next work in progress. This will keep your workspace de-cluttered and will help you remain calm. Stress? What stress, I'm almost finished with this and I see nothing else that needs to be done right now. That's my yarn zen mantra - it's a little simplistic but it works.

I hope you get to enjoy your crafting as much as I enjoy mine.

~Happy Crafting!~

Disclaimer: I am not a physician and can not diagnose or treat any condition. The advice given here is my personal opinion for my situation. If you are having difficulty, please consult a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Are crochet terms universal? Short answer? No

Has this ever happened to you? You have great yarn and you're looking for the perfect pattern. You finally find it, start crocheting your little heart out and it looks nothing like the photo. You rip it out, start over and still, it's not even close! You start to think that maybe there's a typo but the whole pattern? It may be a matter of the crochet terms that you're used to - they aren't universal.

In most patterns, there is usually a section that gives a definition of the terminology used in the publication. But what about those antique pattern books? Some pattern books published in the late 1800's and early 1900's in the United States also used British English crochet terms. And with all those lucky pattern finds on the internet, chances are you'll come across some stitch terminology that you're unfamiliar with.

Use the following table to translate between US and British English crochet terms.

single crochet (sc)double crochet (dc)
double crochet (dc)treble (tr)
half double crochet (hdc)half treble (htr)
triple crochet (trc)double treble (dtr)
slip stitch (sl st)slip stitch (sl

Finding the right size yarn

Fingering weight, hand dyed yarn from Color Energy Designs
Fingering weight, hand dyed yarn from Color Energy Designs
Finding the right yarn for your next project can be tricky; especially if you've decided that you want to use a yarn that's different from the one listed in your chosen project. Much of the yarn industry is standardized in terms of labelling but every once in a while you come across an absolutely stunning yarn without all the easy markings. In that case, you can use the wraps per inch (WPI) method to determine the yarn weight. To get the yarn WPI, wrap the yarn around a pencil and count the amount of times you can wrap the yarn in an inch. Take care not to wrap tightly or stretch the yarn while wrapping. In a yarn store without a measuring tape? No worries. The distance between the end of your thumb and the knuckle is approximately an inch.

Once you've determined your WPI, use the chart below to view your yarn weight and type. Then let the crafting begin!

Yarn Type
Common Uses/Qualities
Doilies, fine lace, airy shawls. Beautiful drape; blocking is usually key for getting that desired effect.
Socks, shawls, kerchiefs, fingerless gloves. On smaller needles, provides solid texture. On larger needles, nice fluid drape.
Baby clothing, lightweight sweaters, and various lightweight accessories.
Baby clothing, lightweight sweaters, accessories, blankets/afghans, heavier socks.
Mittens, sweaters, scarves and hats. Blankets/afghans.
Aran is similar to worsted. Blankets, winter accessories, fall & winter sweaters.
Heavy sweaters, blankets, hats, cowls. Usually knits up quickly (depending on the project).
Super Bulky
5 to 6
Yarn rugs, heavy sweaters, thick blankets. Depending on the project, a very quick knit.

Fiber fanatics rarely come up for air

Has it really been weeks since my last post? And did I really miss a couple of Monday sweet tooth challenges? I would feel bad but I do have a really good reason...well, okay excuse....well, an answer. I'm blaming it on a now dwindling yarn stash, the neighborhood annual street fair and the autumn edition of Crochet! magazine.

This year was the 5th annual Delaware Ave Street Fair and the perfect opportunity to get some feedback on my work. The trouble with selling online is the lack of personal interaction and the inability to gauge customer reaction. I did manage a few sales but the focus of the street fair was yard sales and entertainment, not crafts and as many of you know, handcrafted items do not come with yard sale pricing. I don't consider the day a loss though because I had great feedback, gave out every business card I had and had an opportunity to see what customers really like (and what they really don't). I do confess though, I did cringe every time I heard the comment "oh crochet, my granny used to do that". I'm not at granny status or mindset yet - not that there's anything wrong with that, but the word granny conjures an image I'm just not comfortable with.

I was relatively on task until I saw that my Nook had downloaded some more issues and Crochet was among them. I settled in with my coffee and within an hour I had started the Carmine Cropped Cardi project. I was doomed and extremely narrow minded in my view of the world. If it wasn't related to yarn, single or double crochet then it didn't exist. The picture in the magazine was a deep blue button down cardigan with a ribbed waistband. I was almost finished with the top when I decided I wanted to change the front of the cardigan. The yarn I used just seemed too pretty for buttons and bands so I excluded them.

The next project was the Cascading Leaves bag and once again I was hooking my heart out. I was in love with the design but the bag in the picture was a solid green. I'm not a big fan of the color green so I opted for a tweedy cotton blend instead. I also love lots of color variation so instead of sticking with one color throughout I raided the stash yarn barrel and got to work. I finally came up for air after a week (or so) and set the Nook aside for a couple of days. Has the sun always been this bright?

I know I'm in trouble though because I just looked at my Nook library and I'm remembering that I may have overlooked some previous issues....

Happy crafting!


Announcing new Youtube channel!

"You need to start a Youtube channel". My sister has been after me for ages to start one to share some "how-to" crafting techniques. I didn't really mind the thought of one except for the whole being on camera thing. I am probably the first human in history to have the most documented cases of 'non-photogenicus'. (Well maybe not the most documented - thanks to the delete function on every digital camera device. And yes, it is the first feature I figure out on ANY device especially if it's not mine)
But still I kept thinking about it. I'd like to be able to pass some information on to my sisters, children and nieces and nephews. I just don't want the whole world to be able to SEE me while I'm doing it. And then yesterday my cousin posted a pic for crochet directions along with a question. I tried to answer it but I really couldn't get my point across. (Sunday morning, limited coffee) My answer was to prop my smartphone up on my coffee mug, grab a ball of yarn, a hook and push record while making up a sample. Quick upload and it was on Youtube.
The one thing I noticed immediately? Nobody can see me - it's all yarn, hook and hands. THAT'S not bad at all and it was so painless I decided to make some more. Soon after the first video, I noticed another crochet pattern/chart request for information posting and made another video. I can't lie - I was in craft nerd heaven. Let me know if you would like to see a demonstration for a pattern/chart question by sending an email or posting in the comments section.

There once was a girl with a golden curl .... the middle of her forehead.
When she was good - she was very good.
When she was bad - she was horrid.

Years ago my mother made similar hats for my younger sisters. Sadly, both she and her crafting room are no longer available for advice or patterns. My sisters and I have looked high and low for the original pattern without success. Then we decided why keep looking when we can just make one. (A benefit of craftability - no, it's not a word but it should be!)

Girl with a Curl Bonnet

Materials used - Red Heart Super Saver yarn in yellow & white plus a very small amount of blue and pink. (This was all from my stash basket but certainly everything was less than one skein)

This was made in two pieces. The back was made by working rows of single crochet and the bonnet part was made by working a long rectangle of loop stitches. I attached the bonnet to the back using a whip stitch and then embroidered the curl and face on the back. Voila! Craftability once again to the rescue.

Unfortunately, I did not write this down as I was working but I think the crafty person can tailor this to their needs. Here is a link to the youtube video I used for the loop stitch tutorial (lots of fun!) Crochet Loop Stitch

© 2013 E. Stilson-Ouderkirk

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is absolutely, without a doubt, the best time of year for the crafty person.Well in my humble opinion anyway. I love stretching those creative muscles, learning new techniques and the holidays always give me the perfect excuse. (Like I need one)

I was poking around the library and found Leslie Stanfield's 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet. Heaven in a book.
Excellent library find!
After flipping through the book I knew I needed to break out the stash basket, needles, hooks and get down to business.
Practice flowers in progress

Lucky me, I just happened to have some florist styrofoam in my craft room. It's amazing the things I find in there. I'm pretty sure I purchased that piece on sale about five years ago with no particular project in mind. That's how I fill my craft room - clearance racks and sales. I let the items that surround me spark creativity.
The flower patterns in the book are easy to follow. The pictures are amazing. There are even a few embellishment projects (which I may use later). Instead I decided my table could use a holiday centerpiece complete with a snowman. The centerpiece is a combination of knit, crochet and needle felting.
I'm pretty sure this is one book I'll add to my library - the project possibilities are endless and who doesn't like flowers all year long.
Merry Christmas!
© 2013 E. Stilson-Ouderkirk

Spring Kitchen

I have spent the entire previous week doing my version of Spring cleaning. It doesn't necessarily mean I've gone through and made things spotless! My version of the big spring clean is to clean out the old dull tired looking kitchen towels, pot holders, placemats, etc. Time to bring some of those bright spring colors in! (As I'm writing this, we are once again getting hit with another winter storm here in the north eastern US - I'm muttering "lovely" with as much sarcasm as I can muster)

I made the flower pot holder by adapting a crochet pattern I found online. I love this pattern and will probably make a few more. The pattern can be found here: I love the classics!

The v-ribbed pot holder and the red and orange placemat were patterns I found in Vintage Crochet for your Home book by Coats & Clark. Again, you can't go wrong with the classics, or is it vintage? Either way, I love it!

The lime-green, white and orange hand towel pattern was in my latest (Spring 2013) issue of Creative Knitting and was the catalyst for my need for festive colors in the kitchen. I'm including a link to the related tutorial here:

Now that my kitchen is a little brighter, the rest of the rooms seem a little dull. I'm now looking through the yarn stash and thumbing through my stack of pattern books and thinking about the possibilities that this week will bring. That's one of the true gifts of crafting - we really can make our little bits of the world as bright as we need it to be.

Daisy Napkin Rings

Who's ready for Spring? I was ready long before the first flakes of snow ever hit the ground last October. I really want to see some color (other than white) so I decided to make my own flowers. The festive colors are a welcome change from this northeast winter and the white landscape outside my kitchen window.  I'm already thinking ahead to placemats, cozies and some new curtains with some colorful daisy trim. I am determined to have a one season only kitchen! Get rid of the winter blahs - add some color!

I'm offering the Daisy Napkins Rings pattern as a free download - just sign up to get my newsletter. And don't worry - I only post about once a month (I don't want to take away from your yarn time).

© 2013 E. Stilson-Ouderkirk