All That Yarn - More Yarn Stories
Corner to Corner pattern in 2 colors.
Corner to Corner done in Squares
Uh, oh, My Stash is Growing!
I just can’t help myself! There are several new skeins and a few more storage bins in my stash of all that wonderful yarn.
I blame the really good sales for contributing to my obsession. Who can resist a terrific sale?
My current problem began when Wal-Mart had a Black Friday sale on not just one but three kinds of yarn one November, with select skeins selling for just $1.88 each. My sister and I just had to get some, and I filled a shopping cart to the brim with skeins from the sale.
When a regular, inexpensive yarn is in the two dollar or under range, it is hard not to run out and jump on such a great price. We didn’t go to the early Friday opening, but went around 12 noon and so we didn’t run into a big batch of people. But there was plenty left for us to dig through in the bins.
There were three types of yarn on sale that year at Wal-Mart: Red Heart’s With Love, Lion Brand’s Hometown USA, and Bernat’s Baby Blanket. The color choices were not as numerous as on the shelves, but they did have a lot of yarn choices available in their cardboard bins.
It was stacked with 3 bins on each side of the aisle. My sister had to dig deep into the bins to reach some of the colors. She ended up with a paper cut from a label, and said that she hoped there were no white ones in there that might have gotten stained with her blood.
We bandaged her cut and then dived into the bins again. Finally, we came up with the brilliant idea to wear our winter gloves as we could handle the skeins and get out what we wanted but with less chance of a paper cut. Who knew yarn labels could be so sharp?
I had determined that the average afghan (we make) needed about 12 skeins of 100 to 200 yards each. We started tossing skeins in the shopping cart, in groups of the same colors, and ended up with a shopping cart filled to the top. I have never bought so much yarn at one time. Not even the boxes I get from Smiley’s Yarn internet store are that big, and they have great prices but very limited choices, in my opinion, due to it being only discontinued yarn brands.
When I went to the check out I asked if there was a limit on how much yarn I could buy, and the clerk said that she didn’t think so. She filled bag after bag with my purchase. I estimated that I had about 100 skeins total when I left the store to put it in my car. Then I went back in with the empty cart so we could continue our shopping for other things on our list.
When we got home we split up the yarn by brand and by colors, sorting it into the new bins. That way we knew what we had to work with; and if we had to mix with a white or a solid, to use the amount of variegated or ombre colors we had purchased that day. Some of the choices were limited to what was left in the bins (when we got there) and we had to mix and match a few to make enough for an afghan (or throw) pattern. There were some nice color combos to work with in the coming months.
We did have enough to work on right away and make a couple more quick afghans out of the Bernat yarn before our annual donation delivery which we did during the first week of December. By the time we counted every crocheted afghan/throw that we donated, we had 51 total afghans/throws to give to the shelter in 2015. They had the hard part in choosing who got which color. Frankly, I don’t think I could make that decision as I liked all of the color combinations we delivered to them.
My car was so full of afghans (one per plastic bag) that there was barely enough room for me to drive, and definitely no room for a passenger. Lucky for me, the shelter had some helpers to help me carry in all those afghans/throws made from all that yarn. We made several trips and covered a good section of the floor around their office Christmas tree. They even took my picture to put on their Facebook page and I held up an afghan made by my sister so if she couldn’t be there with me at least she was there in the spirit of her crochet creation in the photo. Frankly, there was no room to fit her in the car along with all the afghans/throws we had stuffed in there.
I have been working on a few afghan patterns with the new yarn, and letting the other yarns in the bins wait for inspiration to strike. My boxes of yarns have multiplied, but I’m working my way through it. Then after Christmas a friend gave me a few more skeins of yarn that she was clearing out of her stash (before she moves out of town), so I have even more yarn to play with and compliment the patterns in my files.
The photo is of one I just finished with Red Heart With Love in colors of Fruit Punch (the variegated) and Boysenberry (the reddish one). I used the Corner to Corner pattern I found on Red Heart’s website in the free patterns section. I used just two colors even though the pattern called for more. It’s a very simple pattern and one that I used in my Scrap Afghan throws (the multi color one and the one with white borders) in my other blog’s photos.
Example of a Finger Crochet Scarf
Teaching Something Trendy?
I was asked to teach something new and trendy called “Finger Crochet”. Since I was at a loss as to what that was, I searched online where I found some YouTube videos that gave me the basic directions. It didn’t take me very long to figure out how to do it, and to take notes on the variations offered on the various YouTube videos.
Then I went to find patterns to print out for the students to take home. Red Heart had some listed under “Hand Crochet” as well as “Finger Chaining” and “Finger Crochet”. There seem to be several variations on the name but it is all the same technique.
The basics of Finger Crochet are this:
Use a thick or very chunky yarn to work with (about 30 yards). The thicker the better, up to finger size (ropes would work, but might be hard to work with). I even found a YouTube with a woman who used 11 yards of various materials, all worked together, to make approximately 3 feet long scarves.
Start by making a slip knot about 5” from the end of the yarn. You will use the 5” to tie later. (no cutting in this pattern, so stow those scissors)
Using your fingers (or even a Q size crochet hook if you prefer) to make a chain. Basically pull the main yarn through the loop, repeat.
Stop about 5” from the end of the yarn and fasten off (pull the last bit completely through the last loop, and pull it snug). Or when you reach about 110” long chain. Any longer might be too cumbersome.
Use the 5” ends to tie the (very long) chain together, so it is one big loop. Use a square knot as that holds better.
Now loop the chain around (in your hand, or around your neck) as many times as you want and make sure it will slip easily back over your head.
Then use the long ends (where you put the square knot) to tie around the multiple loops (one tie, loosely, if you want to re-do it for different looks), and you are done. The ties can be tucked in under the strands if you want to hide them.
That is all there is to making it. I think those who know how to crochet, or even knit, can do it easily without needing a “formal” class.
The only problem that occurred in the class I taught were with those who could not master tying a slip knot. I tried showing various ways to make a slip knot, but it seemed to be beyond understanding for a couple of people. One even drew out the directions on the back of the pattern so she’d know how to do it when she got home.
Other people started their chain and took off with it. Until they suddenly realized they were at the end of the yarn and it was done. It was fun for them since they mastered it right away. A few found it repetitive and a bit boring to do. Some liked being able to sit and chat while they worked on the chain. The patterns say you can finish it during one TV show.
I did find out that using just a chunky yarn was not the best for all people. Some did well using it and some still had difficulty trying to get their loops the size they wanted. Some pulled too tight and then had just knots and not loops.
The mesh type yarn that was popular for making ruffled scarves a few years ago was the best for making even finger chains. The best yarn to use was the Red Heart Boutique Sashay or a generic version of it (off-brand, generic label).
We also tried some very old (discontinued) Lion Brand Woolease that ran thin and lumpy over the length of the yarn. The yarn with a thick and thin type of strand like ooo-----ooo---ooo--- One lady did a very nice job using it and had a nice even tension that made small but symmetrical loops.
For me, it takes about 20-30 minutes to make one chain out of 30 yards of Red Heart Boutique Sashay or similar yarn. The hard part is if I ran into a splice or knot in the yarn. This kind doesn’t usually have knots joining a new piece to the last of the old piece when manufactured; instead they stitched together the ends. I ended up with two smaller scarves due to a half-way through my project splice that I had to take apart. I think less is better as 110” of chain is a lot to work with when looping it around to make a neck scarf. But it is all personal preference in how you might want to do it.
I printed out several patterns to show the variations on how many loops make whatever kind of length or bunched chains for shorter scarves. Some pictures looked silly with a couple of looped chains, especially the two colored ones (like Red Heart Team Spirit yarn). The better ones were more classic colors of white, gold, black, dark red, etc. A little glitter (some have sequins, some metallic threads on one edge) also made a better looking scarf. But it all depends on what the creator wants to wear this chain scarf with, and any kind of color that they would like to use.
I purchased a lot of it on some very good online sales. Since I think the trend is wearing thin and the color choices are very limited now, prices are great. I needed to find more yarn since I gave away most of what I had on hand to my first class. I think after this last class, where only two people showed up (and it was also a free class) I may be out of the Finger Crochet teaching business. It is one trend that seems to be drying up.
Update: I was asked to "teach crochet" at a nursing home one afternoon during a "knit in public" weekend. I explained that a couple of hours was not enough time to teach crocheting. I decided to do the Finger Crochet instead which was easier and required no crochet hooks.
The ladies who sat in on the class were able to work with the Sashay "yarn" to make chains. I had pre-cut the yardage in the skeins into half of the total length. That made for shorter chains (only a few feet instead of yards long) and a quick easy project. The ladies were delighted with their new "necklace/scarf" and put them on right after they finished them. Even those with cognitive problems were able to chain with their fingers with little help from caregivers.
This would make a good, quick craft project for any elder care situation where people can use their fingers to make a chain.
Variety of Yarn Types to Mix and MatchClick thumbnail to view full-size
More on Cool Specialty Yarns
Where I live, we are almost always behind in catching the trends. I had a junior high school teacher that told me (when I was in 9th grade) that Wyoming is about five years behind the national trends. I think it still holds true, but maybe three years now instead of five.
The problem is that by the time I find out about a trend in yarns, it is over with or just about over. That’s good for getting a sale or clearance price on the materials, but leaves the patterns all but unusable without the original, fashion yarns to make them.
The current yarn code system (the number on the skein icon) doesn’t really work when a feathery or eyelash yarn is considered a #5 or #6 and the actual base thread (that the “fur” comes out of) is smaller than a #3. I don’t know who came up with the system, but it is sometimes very terrible for trying to substitute an old, abandoned yarn type with a similar one still available. Especially if the pattern does not describe the yarn, but just lists it as a name and how many skeins the pattern calls for to make the item.
I have a book that has some wonderful ribbon and other novelty type of yarns shown and described by the author who was promoting the yarn line. Unfortunately, by the time I found the book on the shelf in my local yarn shop ALL of the yarns in the book had been discontinued and could no longer be found, even on eBay’s listings.
A few years ago I found a lot of eyelash yarn in the clearance rack at Hobby Lobby. I grabbed all I could as I knew I had not come across it before and probably would not find it again. There was Elf Eyelash and Yarn Bee Party Girl styles in blues and browns. White was hard color to find, and I ended up with more colors than neutrals to work with.
Since the patterns were tear off sheets on the store shelf, and some on the internet, I didn’t have a lot of directions to use so I just made up some scarves with what I had found. Who needs a pattern to do just all knit (garter stitch) or stockinette stitch (knit a row, purl a row)? Anyone can make up their own simple pattern. Make the Cast On row as wide as you like, use whatever size needles you want (though I’d recommend #11 and up for novelty yarns), and knit it as long as you have yarn to use. My rule of thumb is to get close to the last few yards and figure out (measure it) how much I use in a row then leave at least that much plus 10” to cover you for the Bind Off row. That way you have enough to finish without running out of something you may have just one ball to use.
I even started out with odd balls and skeins of yarn from an eBay seller who had yarn in lots from estate sales. Some of it was very strange, and the colors were peculiar, but you get what you get in a mixed lot.
I tried matching a color with an acrylic yarn color and pairing off the specialty balls with normal skeins. I didn’t know what I was doing, but it turned out rather nice. The acrylic strand filled out the thinner specialty strand while knitting and made it sturdy and colorful.
Basically I knit with two strands and made the scarf as wide and as long as I felt looked right. I gave away or donated a lot of them so I don’t have any examples of the scarves but I still have some of the paired yarns waiting to be worked on.
A special yarn can become a unique one-of-a-kind scarf, when you make the design decisions about how to use it. When the yarn is no longer available in the stores or online, then your one-of-a-kind becomes totally unique, and irreplaceable. Here’s hoping the recipient will enjoy it for years to come.
Easy Hat and Scarf setsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Happy Mistakes and Mistaken Identity
When I was at college I liked to work on knit and crochet projects in my free time, or just to do something else besides studying. I even had a class where my homework was to make something. I really liked that class, I could sit in the dorm lounge and knit and tell everyone I was doing my homework assignment.
I decided to make a hat and scarf for myself with school colors at Concordia College in Moorhead Minnesota. The school colors were maroon and gold when I went there. I have a hat pattern that I like to use which has double strands of worsted weight acrylic (for the wash-and-wear ease). I alternated the colors in stripes and I added a scarf in a different pattern with the yarn left from making the hat.
I don’t know if I made up the scarf pattern or if I found it somewhere. It is an easy pattern starting with four rows of garter stitch. Then the pattern rows with four rows of knit 1, purl 1 ribbing followed by four rows of garter stitch. Change colors and repeat.
When I went to Chadron State College in Nebraska, I decided on making a neutral color hat and scarf set. The school colors were close to my other college colors (red and white) so I wanted something different this time.
I picked up two super size skeins of white and two in off-white at the local Pamida. I was planning on making two sets and giving one away. I packed all four skeins in my bag to work on.
The CSC graduate assistants went on a long road trip to a conference, so I thought since I was not allowed to drive (per school rules) I would knit my hat and scarf set while riding in the van. It was that or fall asleep and maybe be pranked by the other people.
The trip started out before the sun was up, and since I had light colors I was able to cast on and knit in the semi-darkness before dawn. Since it was all knit (garter stitch) I didn’t have to worry about trying to follow a pattern in the dark. I had grabbed all four skeins so I pulled out two and cast on with both strands.
I was about half way through the hat before it was light enough to see what colors I was working with on my needles. I checked the labels as it was not looking right, and to my surprise, and dismay, I had grabbed a strand of white and a strand of off-white instead of two strands of the same color!
The effect turned out rather pretty so I decided to continue on the way I was going with two colors. When I finished the hat, I started the scarf and used the same two colors on it as well. I have had several compliments on the unique color combination. I try to tell them it was a mistake, but maybe it was a lucky decision to do something different.
Over the years I have worn both hat and scarf sets during the winter months, and kept very warm. The Concordia colors are now recognized as “Harry Potter” or “Gryffindor” colors, or sometimes another sports team’s colors, so I usually have to explain about when and why I made the set. It was funny the first time someone called out to me “Gryffindor?” in a store, and it took me a moment to figure out what they were talking about. Then it was “Oh! you mean my scarf colors.”
Lucky for me I didn’t want to make one like the long scarf from Doctor Who. I did have someone ask me about making one of those long scarves exactly like the one a certain Doctor Who wore in the TV show. I told her that it would be quite a task, especially matching all the colors, and I would have to charge a lot for my work. She changed her mind when I mentioned the price.
One thing with the internet is that I told her that she could go online and found some already made at etsy.com or even Amazon. They were running around $200 each for such custom work. I think I set my price at double the cost of materials, which would have been high since wool yarn is more expensive and the amount of colors would have meant a lot of skeins with using only parts of each skein to do the stripes. I would have had a lot of leftovers that I didn’t want.
I don’t offer to make scarves or hats for people, but I do offer to teach them how to knit or crochet so they can make their own. I don’t get a lot of takers, but when they have to think about making it themselves, and then they start to appreciate the price I may ask for my work.
I’d much rather donate my work to charity, give gifts to my friends, or attempt to sell at craft fairs than try to quote a price for custom work. Sometimes it is better if they want to learn to knit or crochet and make their own pieces. I'm willing to teach them, for a private lesson fee, or have them sign up for my community education class.
Super Easy Hat
Super Easy Hat Pattern
Original pattern revised by Nancy Pawlowski
Materials: Worsted weight (standard #4 on skein icon) 4 oz. of main color (MC), and 4 oz. of contrasting color (CC); or use 8 oz. of main color. Size 11 knitting needles (14” length) Yarn needle for sewing seams (metal is better for this than plastic).
Note: use 2 strands of yarn held together throughout the hat. Either 1 strand MC and 1 strand CC or 2 strands of one color.
Pattern: Cast on 30 to 35 stitches with the 2 strands held together.
Work in garter stitch (knit every row or purl every row) until hat rectangle measures 18” from the beginning cast on row.
You may want to measure it by wrapping the rectangle around your head to make sure it is not too tight or too loose.
Bind off, leaving an end for sewing. You might want to leave about 20” (both strands together) for sewing the seam and gathering the top. [A good rule of thumb is twice the length of the seam to be sewn.]
Gather tightly and secure with a couple of whip stitches. Sew the cast on row and bind off row together for the back seam.
Weave in loose ends to hide them (do not cut the yarn shorter than 3” when leaving an end like to change colors or finish off).
Other color ideas:
- Do stripes by alternating bands of color.
- Make it a “tweed” by using 2 different colors together at the same time. Like a light and a medium or dark color together.
- Alternate stripes and tweeds and solid bands of color for a unique look.
- Create school colors by alternating stripes with 2 or 3 colors.