Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Flowers of August and July

It's been an odd summer. Torrential rains in July, followed by a cool August, made for plenty of wildflowers on the roadsides, but hardly any tomatoes in the garden. Miles have been sparse too, but there have been a few rides (literally just a few). Of course I can't take a bike ride without taking wildflower photos, so here are some of the blossoms I saw in July and August....

Mid-July, clockwise from upper left - salsify, wild sunflower, Queen Anne's Lace, yellow coneflower, and wild bergamot:

(Wild bergamot is like the Phyllis Diller of flowers. The petals and stamens look as maniacally dishevelled as the divine Miss D's hair.)

Next up, clockwise from upper left - crown vetch, spiderwort, birdsfoot trefoil, hare's-foot clover (charming name!), and spotted knapweed:

I do occasionally drag my eyes from the wildflowers to look at other things, like sandhill cranes in a soybean field. There were three that day, but as soon as they saw me get out the camera, they split up and began evasive maneuvers. So here's a shot of one of them:

Wildflowers are much more accommodating - unless there's a high wind, they mostly sit still for photos. Below, clockwise from upper left - curly dock gone to seed, hoary verbena, lesser centaury (new flower for me this year!), rough-fruited cinquefoil, fireweed with fleabane, and Turk's Cap lily:

Late July - Mr. M and I participated in a local MS ride. It was a damp and foggy morning, not very conducive to photos, but I had to snap these flowers and outbuildings (the barn on the left has two barn quilts, though they don't show very well in this photo):

After we got home and did our laundry, the sun came out. Guess which jersey is mine:


Early August - a short solo ride along roads that seemed to float on a billowing sea of Queen Anne's Lace, wild chicory, and hawkweed. It's hard to do justice to the amazing quantities of QAL that bloomed this year:

A doe and twin fawns crossing another, less-flowered road:

Other wildflowers seen that day included, clockwise from top left - wild bergamot going to seed, whorled milkweed, exotic-looking horsemint, the first lavender asters of the year, and the very beautiful lesser purple fringed orchid (another new flower for me this year):

Mid-August - Mr. M and I did another short charity ride together. I believe I set a personal record that day by not photographing any wildflowers (the exception that proves the rule?). Instead we have, clockwise from upper left - self-portrait with water weeds, Mr. M on a country road, shadow shot, a new use for a cycling helmet, and Iris the bike reposing on a rustic bridge:


Summer is the time of year when every ride or drive brings continual glimpses of beauty, and the list of flowers rolls like a litany off my tongue as I recite their names to myself.

"But beauty vanishes; beauty passes." There's frost in the not-too-distant future; let's savor summer while we can.


Prayers for the people of Texas who are seeing not flowers but flooding right now.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Two Patterns Published, and a Tutorial for the Apple Dumpling Hat Join

It's hard to think about Autumn when summer is still at its peak - which is probably why I didn't blog about these patterns when they first came out last month. (It couldn't, surely, be anything to do with lack of organisation on my part. Oh no.)

Now, with goldenrod marching across the fields and September breathing down our necks, the time seems right to mention Love of Crochet's Fall 2017 issue, in which are appearing the...

Photo courtesy Love of Crochet

and the...

Photo courtesy Love of Crochet


The Apple Picking Mitts feature double rows of mock cables at tops and cuffs, with back loop only, front loop only, and crossed stitches giving plenty of interest and texture. A simple hdc body with built-in thumb gussets makes this project quick, fun, and well-fitting.

The Apple Dumpling Hat uses simple rounds of extended hdc, worked in the back bar, for stretchy texture:

It's topped with a darn cute stem and leaf (though I says it as shouldn't):

Click here to check out all the lovely patterns in Love of Crochet Fall 2017. Both digital and print issues are available.

Image courtesy Love of Crochet


And now, the Apple Dumpling Hat join.

Any variation of hdc worked in the back bar makes for a striking stitch - but how do you keep those raised ridges flowing smoothly at round joins? Visible seams are a pet peeve of mine, so I developed a special join just for this project. It's a hybrid of the Slipped Slip join and the Mock Invisible Join, with some travelling join vibe thrown in for good measure.

The magazine pattern calls it a "Modified Join". Here's how to make it:

1. Start with a round of hdc foundation stitch. (The first hdc made in each round will be called the "starting hdc", and the last one will be called the "ending hdc".) Bring the two ends together, RS facing outwards, to form a ring. Pull up working loop to about 3/8" tall and remove hook from loop. (The arrows in Photo 1 show where the loop is about to go.) 
2. With working yarn above and behind work, insert hook from WS to RS through top loops of starting hdc.
3. Place working loop back on hook and pull it through to back of project.

4. Drop loop again, turn work so WS is facing you, and insert hook from bottom to top through the back bar and back loop of the ending hdc. (I'm calling them the back loop and back bar because that's what they would be if viewed from the right side. Slightly confusing, I know.)
5. Place working loop back on hook, and ...
6. Draw it down through the other two loops.

7. Turn the work again so the RS is facing you. Pull the working yarn to tighten the join. The top of the starting hdc should "merge" with the top of the ending hdc as in photo below.

8. To start the next round, chain 4 (does not count as stitch), skip 1 stitch, ehdc in back bar of next stitch.
9. When you get to the end of the round, make the ending stitch in the back bar of the skipped stitch, keeping the ch-4 behind the work. The round start/end has now shifted one stitch to the left.
10. Ending stitch made and Modified Join complete.

This combination of sneaky join and shifting round start makes the seam much less noticeable. Here's how it looks after several rounds, wrong side (left photo) and right side (right photo):

Pretty subtle, huh? But all is not perfect. See the little arrow in the right-hand photo above? It's pointing to the last stitch of Round 3, which has developed a gap.

There are two ways to avoid a gap like that: pull yarn tail very firmly in Step 7, and make the first chain of the next round very tight to "lock" the join. (Be aware that if you pull things too tightly you can get a puckered seam. The road to perfect tension is not an easy one.)

The best way and time to tighten a chain stitch is after it's made: so chain 1, then press thumb against working loop to keep it from slipping. With other hand, grasp work just below the chain. Tug hook firmly upwards until chain shrinks to a fraction of its normal size (see photo below). Release thumb and gently pull yarn tail to snug loop on hook; work rest of chain stitches normally.

Whew! Making this join is much quicker and easier than writing it out. :) If you have any questions about the technique, feel free to ask in the comment section below.

I hope you'll find this join useful for making an Apple Dumpling Hat of your own, and for other projects too.

You may do whatever you like with objects made using this technique, but you may not reproduce or re-post the text or photos without permission. (Links to this post are welcome.) If you do reference this technique, please credit the author.

Thanks for viewing, and happy crocheting!


P.S. Are you ready for Fall? Or (like me) still loving Summer?

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Snapshots from the Chain Link 2017 Design Competition

One of the best parts of attending a CGOA conference is seeing what other people are making. (And wearing!) Being surrounded by so much creativity is inspiring, and nowhere is the creativity more evident than in the Design Competition.

Here are some highlights of this year's entries....

Each of these three pieces won a prize. The lovely wrap on the right was constructed
entirely from chain stitch and single crochet.

This amazing wall hanging won the People's Choice Award.

Another prize winner - a beautifully creative combination of beadwork and crochet
by Hazel Furst. Notice that many of the capital letters are musical notes, and the
hangers are made from conductor's batons.

That gorgeous shawl in the foreground was designed by Susan Lowman.

Never heard of this designer.... (cough)

A stunning Tunisian capelet by Juliette Bezold, who used contrast stitches to highlight
the increases and decreases. Sweet!

"Rainbow in Cloud" - this adorable blanket took first prize in the Home Decor category.

Peacock-feather detail from an amazing outfit. I wish I could have
gotten a good shot of the entire project.

Fabulous hairpin lace tunic by Annette Hynes.

Detail of a lovely freeform crochet wrap by Kristin Lynn. Star stitch, Solomon's knots,
and bullion stitch are just some of the interesting techniques used.

"Rock Steady Seasons of Indiana" by Gwen Blakely Kinsler. How creative is this!

I know you've seen this project already,
but check out the ribbon! I won a prize! :D

There were so many beautiful entries - I wish I could have gotten photos of them all. (A complete album should be available soon on the CGOA website.)

Next year's conference is in Portland. Start making your travel plans!

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