Friday, August 29, 2014

Rocky Mountain Sunset Hat and Cowl

Isn't that a delightful name? Chosen by the Love of Crochet team, it's perfect for this cozy duo stitched in a soft, deep aubergine yarn, accented with colour-changing stripes that shade from topaz to bright rose to subtle amethyst.

Photo courtesy of Love of Crochet

The set was made with Classic Elite Yarns Liberty Wool, a smooth, light worsted with a soft hand and beautiful drape.

Here are the hat and cowl on my dining table in March, freshly completed and ready to be shipped off to Love of Crochet:

Both projects feature the Mock Invisible Join, which gives a virtually seamless look to the cowl and the hat band. Half-double crochets worked in the back bar offer great visual texture, and dropped stitches create the illusion of woven stripes.

Here's an inside view of the Mock Invisible Join, showing the unused colours being carried up the inside of the work:

The Rocky Mountain Sunset Hat and Cowl patterns are currently available in Love of Crochet Autumn 2014.

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Love of Crochet has provided downloadable tutorials for the Mock Invisible Join and the Invisible Join (click here for the links). Or you can check out my tutorials: Mrs. M's Mock Invisible Join, and the Invisible Join.

Thanks for viewing, and happy crocheting!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

And In a Stunning Twist of Fate, the August Giveaway Winner Is....

...Amanda of Crafty in the Med!

I've seen Amanda around Blogland's comment sections for years, but only "met" her a few weeks ago when her giveaway and mine were both featured on Linda's Crafty Corner. Our giveaways were announced within a day of each other, and ended within a day of each other.

And wouldn't you know, out of all the lovely gals who entered my giveaway, Amanda's is the number that came up:

Many thanks to all who entered, via comment and email, for your sweet and encouraging remarks. I wish I could send something to every one of you.

Wouldn't it be fun if we could all sit down and crochet (or knit) together.... :)

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Frogging Fuzzy Yarn ~ a Crochet Tip

In an Ideal Crochet World there would be no need to frog. ("No Need to Frog" - what a lovely title for a short story.) Stitches would flow from the hook in a gentle, even stream, yielding beauty and balance from the first chain to the last join. I wish I lived there, but I don't.

My crochet world is full of mistakes and reverses and changes of heart, and since I work on a limited yarn budget, this means lots of frogging and re-using. ("Lots of Frogging" - not a good title for anything.) Today, I've been swatching some lovely soy/wool yarn. It's soft and loosely twisted and altogether lovely, but boy does it like to stick to itself! A recipe for frogging disaster.

My normal instinct, when frogging, is to yank the yarn up and away from the work as quickly as possible. But with fuzzy yarn, this is Not a Good Idea. Pulling up, or pulling sideways, causes extra friction, which means more chances for the yarn to catch on itself and turn into a knotted mess.

Here's a better way:

Gently grasp the project in one hand, next to the stitch you are frogging, and pull the yarn smoothly down in a straight line from the base of the stitch. Take your time, pulling only one stitch at a time, and moving your hands frequently.

Your fuzzy yarn will thank you. :)

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Do you have any frogging tips?

Knitters, what works best for you?

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monday Ride

Every year at about this time, the inner Mrs. M begins to dread the approach of autumn. All it takes is a glimpse of these...


...and summer seems all but dead already.

Why do I associate goldenrod with fall? I have no idea. Yet its appearance every August fills the Micawber soul with sorrow. I try to ignore the yellow peril as it spreads across the countryside, covering marsh and field, but resistance, of course, is futile. Summer will end (blogger emits tiny hiccuping sob). Fall will come. And after that, the seemingly never-ending cold of a Wisconsin winter. It happens every year. We're doomed.

All the more reason to ride while I can. :)

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A warm and sticky Monday morning, but there's a strong wind blowing to mitigate the dampness of the air. Though rain is in the forecast, for now the sun shines brightly.

A few miles out of town, small peach-tinted blossoms peep out of green bushes on the far side of the verge. Usually these bushes are hidden by tall grass, but the verge has been freshly mown, giving a glimpse of the tangled growth beyond.

The flowers remind me of tiny speckled orchids. The wildflower book identifies them as Spotted Touch-Me-Not, or Jewelweed. Don't they look exotic?

More signs of impending autumn:

Much better to focus on this cheery orange milkweed, or Butterfly-weed:

(Why do so many of the most beautiful wildflowers have "weed" in their name?)

Miles later, a trio of birches guards the entrance to a shady drive which rises from the road and curves tantalisingly out of view. Where does it lead? I wish I could explore it....

The road climbs up towards the high prairie. If you were sitting on my handlebars and looking back over your shoulder, here's what you would see:

(Red-faced rider, green and gold cornfields, telephone wires stretching away into the blue distance. Not to mention the orange jersey and the purple helmet. Very colourful.)

At the top of the road I have to stop for a photo of the corn, which is taller than I am:

Across the road I spy some orange Hawkweed. This is one of my favourite wildflowers, but I've hardly seen any this season (though the yellow variety has been extremely prolific). I love the fringed, flame-coloured petals with the sun at their hearts, the burgundy-tipped buds, and the bright yellow stamens:

The hawkweed is growing in a large lawn which surrounds a rather nice barn:

Though the lawn has obviously been recently mown, the hawkweed plants have been spared. I think whoever lives here must be a kindred spirit. (Either that, or hawkweed grows really, really quickly.)

Around a few corners, then it's time for a shadow shot:

I had thought the swallows were already gone, but here on the high prairie some remain. They swoop and swirl over the road, or sit on the wires above the ripening corn:

This is the time of year when wild sunflowers and their many cousins smile from the roadsides and shine out from the tall grass:

Miles on, the Queen Anne's Lace is still going strong. I'd never noticed until today that its buds can be pale pink:

Here the verge is covered with QAL:

In the few miles left to go, I think of the flowers I've seen this season, and the ones I've missed. Every summer is different; a variety that takes center stage one year may be barely visible the next. But what a blessing to live, and be able to ride, where so many wildflowers thrive; to learn their names and their various haunts. When autumn comes and the flowers have gone, I'll still remember where they stood. Here was a glorious stretch of Queen Anne's Lace, I'll think, and there a huge patch of wild bergamot. On this road the blue flag iris grew; on that hill I saw the bittersweet. Up there is where I found an apple tree in bloom, and across the way a carpet of violets. The daylilies were nearly solid along this stretch; remember the wild geranium in that wood? The familiar roads will blossom with the ghosts of April and May, June and July; and when spring comes again and the flowers return, it will be like meeting old friends.

A good ride.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Building a Fantasy Yarn Shop

Thanks to coffeedog on Ravelry, whose forum comment sparked the idea for this post....

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If you could have a yarn shop, what would it be like?

Mine would value knitters and crocheters both. I'd have plenty of crochet magazines, crochet hooks, and a generous selection of z-twist yarns, in addition to all the usual knitting-oriented paraphernalia.

I would have tester yarn balls, so people could try before they buy.

Lots of deep comfy chairs.

A scorn-free zone for synthetic fibers.

Free teabags, with really hot water available to make a proper cuppa. (And free coffee, for my coffee-drinking sisters in caffeine addiction. And sugar and real cream, of course.)

A magic cat or two - magic in the sense that they would be somehow allergen-free.

Magic yarn that frogs easily no matter what the fiber content.

Ice cream every Tuesday.

Yarn rebates for FOs - simply show the finished object, with yarn receipt, to receive cash back on the yarn you used. Ten percent would be about right, I think. (This would be an incentive to finish projects. Completely antithetical to normal business practice, I know.)

And no yarn shop would be complete without a crochet turtle or two, wandering amidst the stunning sock samples which, in my fantasy realm, I will have knitted myself.

I wish I had knitted these, but I didn't. Photo taken in the
Red Fish Dye Works booth, Knit and Crochet Show 2014.

Gosh, the more I think about it, the more ideas I get. Of course I'd have to suspend all the normal laws of economics to make it work, but hey, this is a fantasy, remember.


If you could dream up the ideal yarn shop, what would it be like? What would it be called? And would you rather be an owner or a customer?

Leave a comment, and we'll build a shop together.

(In our dreams.)


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Speaking of yarn, wouldn't you like a chance to win some? Check out these givaways:

The above is mine. Below is Amanda's, from Crafty in the Med.

Ah, summer.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Recently Published Patterns and a Giveaway!

It's been way too long since I've had a giveaway, so while I was at the Knit and Crochet Show I collected a few goodies to pass on to one of you.

On offer: some swooningly beautiful hand-dyed yarn from Nightingale Fibers, a luscious lanolin lip balm from Long Island Livestock Company, and a cheery pink mini-cozy hook or needle bag by Namaste. (Bag is 8½" long by 3" wide.)

Also included in the giveaway will be a copy of either Crochet More 2014 OR Crochetscene 2014 - whichever the winner prefers. Each one features a pattern by yours truly (details below).

Which would you like to win?

How to enter:

1. Leave a comment telling me which magazine you'd like to accompany the goodies. (Be sure there's a way for me to reach you.)


2. If you can't leave a comment because you don't have an online profile, send me an e-mail (see my profile for the address), and include your chosen magazine in the subject line.

That's it!

~ This giveaway is international.

~ The deadline for entries is Saturday, August 23, 2014 (midnight, US Central Daylight Time).

~ The winner will be announced on Monday, August 25th.

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I'm very excited to announce two more recently published patterns. Firstly...

Mountain Shadows Bracelet, in Love of Crochet's Crochet More 2014

Mountain Shadows is a quick, fun project that uses graduated stitch heights worked in front and back loop rows to create the bead-tipped "mountains" of the name. The pattern is available in two widths, 3/4" and 1-1/8".

Here are the magazine versions, made with Capri by Steinbach Wolle:

Photo copyright Love of Crochet

The purple model is my original sample, 7/8" wide and worked in Planet Penny Cotton Club yarn:

Crochet More 2014 is available now on newstands and in craft stores. To see all the lovely patterns in this issue, check out the Ravelry page or Love of Crochet's website.

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And secondly...

Atomic Rose Poncho, in Interweave Crochet's special issue Crochetscene 2014:

Photo copyright Interweave Crochet

Atomic Rose features swirly floral-centered motifs with join-as-you-go chain stitch borders. Half double crochets worked in the back bar give the "roses" great texture. Each motif takes just a few minutes to make, so this project grows very quickly. The wide neck opening allows several different styling options.

I was lucky enough to see the finished poncho modelled live at the CGOA banquet this year, and I have to say it had such lovely drape and movement, it took me a moment to recognise it as my own pattern!

Here's the Atomic Rose in progress, using Soft Linen by Classic Elite Yarns:

On the blocking board (miraculous transformation by water):

And again on the model:

Photo copyright Interweave Crochet

Crochetscene 2014 can be ordered online here, and will be available in stores August 12. The fun, hip patterns in this issue can also be seen on the Ravelry page.

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Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win one of these great magazines and the other goodies pictured above!

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

For Swallows, read Summer....

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Swallows on a wire
are you making winter plans?
Please don't leave too soon

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Humid with a Chance of Flowers

I very nearly called this post "Too Sticky for Pictures"....

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It's a thundery Sunday afternoon. Earlier in the day, the rain fell in straight rods from air that could no longer contain the weight of its own moisture. Though the rain has stopped, the humidity is unrelieved as I take off for my ride.

I've been hoping for weeks to reprise last year's wildflower ride, but as the flowers are now past their peak in terms of variety, I've decided to just shoot what I can.

On the edge of a marsh a few miles out of town grow sunny drifts of heliopsis:

These cheery blossoms, known also as oxeye or false sunflower, light up the roadsides from mid to late summer.

Across the way is a cornfield edged with spotted knapweed, an invasive species with ravishingly pretty flowers:

The heavy air diffuses the sunlight, creating glare and making photography awkward. And the stinging insects seem to thrive on this weather, so whenever I stop I am thronged by hungry little buggers who sting right through my clothing. This is a good incentive to shoot and run (or in my case, shoot and ride).

Just up the road we find clouds of flowering spurge (with Bouncing Bet in the background):

And Bouncing Bet (with flowering spurge in the background):

Bouncing Bet is also known as Soapwort, but I think Bouncing Bet sounds much more fun. :)

Notice the camouflaged insect - it coordinates perfectly with the buds:

Clouds and corn:

I like this gate/fencepost:

A towering cumulus with thunder on its mind....

The cloud cover increases, bringing relief from the heat of the sun. Instead of being hot and sticky, the air is now cool and sticky - like riding through gazpacho.

Some miles later, my road leads into a shady wood. There's a silence here that is almost alien - a deep green quietude, not unfriendly, but watchful and waiting and everlastingly patient. It feels as though the trees might be thinking, "We were here before you came, and we'll be here long after you've gone."

Flowers grow in the shade of this wood. A lone columbine, relic of spring, holds up a single pale blossom. Brighter and bolder are the daylilies, still wet with the earlier rain:

There are clearings, too, edged with all kinds of plant life. Tiny white blossoms just opening on a tall plant I've never seen before - can it be some kind of amaranth?

This majestic bristly seedhead is about 7 inches long:

Some rather gorgeous dock:

White campion (I think), its seedhead looking like a fuzzy little melon:

A yellow flower I don't recognise, which turns out to be evening primrose:

White yarrow:

Wild parsnip going to seed:

Don't the umbels look space-age and delightfully 60s-ish?

Where the road leaves the woods, a thistle makes a pop of colour:

Around the bend, wild cucumber drapes some hidden plant below, climbing in fantastic shapes and scenting the air with a faint sweetness:

The cloud cover grows denser, and a few drops fall from the sky. Swallows dot telephone wires:

A new barn quilt for the collection (though really I suppose this is just a large shed):

Away down the road, a pair of turkeys cross, their young 'un lagging behind:

(The air was so thick, and the photo so fuzzy, I used the "pencil sketch" photo-editing option to make the turkeys more visible.)

The parent turkeys disappear quickly into the brush, but the little guy is just visible when I pass, so I snap his picture on the fly:

Some time later, the sun makes an effort to break through the clouds...

...and abruptly succeeds. When I've got less than two miles to go, the sky turns suddenly blue again:

A good finish to a sticky ride. I've collected a few insect bites, but the flower photos are worth it. :)

How's your weather?

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