Boredom Induced Crocheting

Roughly eight years ago I began teaching myself to crochet as a means of combating pervasive boredom. See, I had this job that was lacking in actual work for me to do. The days were painfully slow; I needed something to occupy my mind and help me feel like I was accomplishing something.

Over the years crocheting has been a creative outlet that is relatively cheap and, unlike sewing, portable. There have been busier times where significantly less crochet has taken place but even while finishing my undergrad, balancing classes, homework, work, & the demands of parenting, I usually had one or two very slow moving crochet projects sitting around.

One such project is a blanket for my daughter. I have been working on the stupid thing for three years now. Just this last weekend, though, I finally finished it. FINALLY! (That was my daughter’s actual reaction when I knotted that last stand of yarn off the hook.)

What started with one Mockingjay square turned into a hefty almost full sized bed covering monster. I’m not kidding, this thing is a beast. It probably weighs five pounds at least.

Some of the favorite themes covered in this blanket are: Doctor Who, Sherlock, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Night Vale, Hamilton, 4-H/horses, & the Princess Bride. There’s also a book shelf and a cactus. The large purple squares at the bottom were made by my daughter’s Great Grandmother (on her dad’s side) who passed away the year I started the blanket. Needless to say my girl loves this thing. And I’m pretty happy to have it done already. (haha)

(You can see the blanket in progress here, here, & here.)

Much like eight years ago my life is currently in a season of boredom. This one due to the time gap between getting accepted to dental school and actually starting it. I should point out that boredom is relative. I tend to thrive on a certain level of craziness in my schedule and life. Sitting around is not my strong suit and I’ve, more than once, been accused of not knowing how to relax. (I do think I’m getting better at it though.) Once again crochet has been helping to fill the time, keeping my hands busy and entertaining my restless mind.

Lately I’ve been all about the quick projects. Almost instant gratification is the name of the game here. And hats are where it’s at!

These two are a new baby gift for one of my sisters. Her two year old just got a baby brother. Hopefully I get these to them before it’s too warm for the tiny boys to wear them!

(You can find the free pattern for the aviator hats here.)

I picked up this variegated wool-blend yarn during my Christmas shopping with no specific purpose. I just really liked the colors, it was probably in sale, & I enjoy working with something other than acrylic yarn now and then. I first tried a hat pattern that had more detailed texture (the one following) but all the cool texture got lost in the colors of the yarn. This horizontal ribbing still incorporates some interesting texture but it doesn’t look overly busy with the constant color changes. There was no pattern for this one, just an idea for the texture and the basic hat shape. I’ve already  worn this colorful hat a few times but it’s really better suited for fall or winter. I’m sure it’ll quickly become a regular in my cool weather hat rotations.

I’ve had the “Ups & Downs” hat pattern in my Ravelry que for quite a while now. The different textures on the band of this hat made it fun and interesting to make. I first started this with the colorful yarn above but it was a little too crazy. This lavender soft acrylic that was in my stash is a much better match for this pattern. The braids on this one are a little wobbly. They’re made up of very tall stitches that are twisted together after the hat is finished; the last one is looped over the button to keep the braids in tact. Apparently my tall stitches could use a little work. I’ve got a whole other skein of this yarn and there’s a pattern for matching fingerless gloves. I might give those a go this week and see if my tall stitches don’t improve with practice. Why the heck not? I’ve got the time.

And, lastly, is this spring baggy beanie I threw together to use up some yarn leftover from a Christmas project. I’m planning to mail this one to a friend. It’s not her typical color scheme but it’s made from the same yarn as the hat I made for her daughter. A little mother & daughter matching is always fun.

So there you have it. A (finally!) finished blanket and a plethora of hats.

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What I’ve been making: the holiday edition

After I finished those five viking hats a friend had requested (a paid gig. Woot woot!) I had just enough time to make a few Christmas presents, small ones.

First there’s the basic eat flap hat for a preschool aged girl:

I varied the pattern slightly by doing taller stitches (triple crochet I believe) in the back loop only on the east flaps. Honestly, I didn’t plan or record what exactly I did here, I just messed around a little until I liked the results.

I made another small hat out of the remainder of this skein of yarn but forgot to snap a pic. That one had no ear flaps, a couple bright turquoise stripes, and a cute picot stitch edging also in turquoise.

My next project, and one I was particularly excited about, is this crocodile stitch pixie hat:

It’s for the daughter of a good friend (who happens to be my Goddaughter); she (the mom not the one-year-old daughter) knits. And not just regular once in a while knitting but really cool, fancy stuff like entire sweaters. She’s been knitting since we were in high school almost twenty years ago (Yikes! How did that happen?!?!) so I wanted to make something very distinctly crochet for her daughter. Plus I’ve long admired that crocodile stitch and this was the perfect time to give it a try.

While I do love this little winter bonnet it’s something only a small child could pull off. It’s quite whimsical!

I used a medium weight (4) yarn for the pixie hat instead of the fine the pattern recommended; the hat is thick but not overly bulky. Because of that I followed instructions for a smaller size but used the measurements for the larger toddler size.

I also made a V-stitch scarf for my boyfriend’s family gift exchange. Each person brings a generic gift in the ten dollar price range and they do a thieves exchange where once you open a gift it can be stolen. In which case you’d then either steel someone else’s gift or choose another.

The scarf was my generic female gift and it was a big hit. Buuuut of course I forgot to take a picture of that too (I finished it later on Christmas Eve) but this is the yarn I used.

Last but not least is the “So Good you’ll borrow it” beanie I found on Elk Crochet’s blog.

I made it for my boyfriend’s stocking but there was so much yarn leftover and I liked his hat so much that I made a baggier version for myself the first week of the year. I have to say, I loved this yarn. It’s so light & soft and it showed the texture of the special stitches on this pattern quite nicely.

I feel like I’m forgetting about something but that’s probably everything I got done before the holidays. Currently I’m working on an obnoxiously bright scarf for one of my daughter’s friends.

It’s a fairly straightforward scarf pattern. The cool X-stitch that makes this pattern unique was getting lost in the busyness of the yarn so I stepped up the double stitch legs of the X & Made them triples instead. This definitely helped but they still don’t stand out much. I do like the fun, colorful yarn though (it’s Caron Simply Soft in Rainbow Bright).

I’m also planning on pulling out and hopefully finishing my daughter’s blanket this week… It’s been almost done for a couple months now so it’s probably about time. We’ll see how that goes though. If I do finish it that’ll deserve a major celebration post.

What I’ve been making

Judging by the level of activity around here nothing. Luckily things are not always as they seem and there has been some making going on. Many types of making actually: crocheting, sewing, baking, and especially mess making (under the guise of home improvement projects).

First there was my Halloween costume:

Up until this year I’ve never been to an adult Halloween party or really even dressed up. Typically I’m busy making my kids’ costumes; making myself a costume as well isn’t even a fleeting thought. 2017 has been a very different year though (I can hardly wait to write my annual year in review post (which will likely happen in February at this rate)).

My boyfriend loves Halloween and doesn’t have kids which means he usually does dress up for Halloween. In fact, I’m pretty sure he started talking about Halloween costumes in April. When I told him I’ve never been to a real Halloween party he decided we needed to find one or, better yet, host one. Which we did. It was small but fun and our costumes were the best!

He got his online but I made mine. Sewing with shiny super-stretch fabric and somewhat stretchy pleather was a new experience for me. It was a fun project though.

And then there’s the Viking hats…

Last Halloween I was working on a Viking hat with an attached beard for one of my baby nephews. A friend of mine had asked if I could make him some for Christmas. I just didn’t have time last year with classes and everything else but this year when he asked I thought I could do it. But he wanted five hats. Five!

I wasn’t sure if I could do that but I bought the pattern (last year I eye balled it but having actual pattern makes the process so faster) and some chunky yarn and made one hat, but only the hat. It didn’t take long at all so I thought, yeah, I can make five (especially since he’s paying per hat). Little did I know the horns would be annoyingly time consuming.

I’ve finally gotten all the hats, horns, and beards complete. Once I attach three more beards these will be done and I’ll be happy to ship them off (and get paid) so I can move on to all the Christmas presents I want to crochet.

Baking wise I did the usual couple of pies for Thanksgiving but that’s old news. Something new and different I made, though, was this peanut butter chocolate cake for my son’s 13th birthday.

My boy loves his chocolate and peanut butter and this cake hit the nail on the head. If When I make it again I’ll reduce the baking time just a smidge, it was crumbling, and make more frosting. The frosting was the bomb dot com!

And of course there’s been plenty of random meal making,

I think the home improvement stuff deserves its own post, especially since a lot of it is still in the mess phase, but here’s a couple teaser pics. Because this hasn’t already been a picture heavy post at all…

Wordsmiths

Even though it wasn’t finished I gave my daughter the Fandom blanket I’ve been working on. It was her birthday (back in January); I wanted to give it to her for a special occasion and there was no way I was waiting until next Christmas. So instead she got a P.I.P…Present In Progress. Which sounds a bit like RIP so I made a tombstone to go with it…

Which apparently I did not get a picture of. Hey, I was super exhausted that day.  Her birthday fell on a week that I was working extra shifts And the kids had extra appointments and activities. Really it was just an outline of a tombstone that I printed out and wrote on, nothing spectacular. I wrote the dates Fall 2015-Winter 2017 (because this will be finished this winter) on the tombstone. My daughter was impressed with how long I’ve been working on this. (My first post about this blanket-to-be is here.)

While I’ve shared some of the squares as I made them. (Like this and this.), there are a couple that I’m especially proud of that I haven’t yet.

These four are the latest additions.

From left to right is Wesley from The Princess Bride (she’s a huge fan of the book and the movie), Shakespeare, a quote from the musical Hamilton  (the daughter literally knows all the words. To the entire show, no joke.), & a horse (that’s pretty self explanatory).

I found both the horse and the Princess Bride pattern on Ravelry (here & here respectively) but had to get creative to make squares that represented her two favorite wordsmiths (Shakespeare and Hamilton in case that wasn’t clear).

After scouring the Internet I came to the conclusion that no appropriate Shakespeare patterns existed. So I did what any good crafter would do and made one myself. There are websites to help with that. Basically you import a picture as a JPG or whatever, set the parameters (how many pixel/squares for example), and a pixilated picture is generated.

It took some playingaround to get Shakespeare’s face to look even close to right and that resulted in a square I knew wouldbe way too big. To par it down I took a screen shot of the pattern on my phone and cropped it in. I followed the screen shot (shown above) as a pattern. Even though I cut a row or two from the Bard’s forehead region he’s looking a bit long in the face.

Oddly enough I had trouble finding a Hamilton related crochet square and that was including a thorough search of Pinterest. I tried putting the logo, the one with the guy on top of a star, into the pattern generator but couldn’t get a clear picture. The guy looked like a jagged rectangular nothing. It was not good.

What I did find on Pinterest was more than a few images of Hamilton cross stitch projects. And guess what….

Cross stitch is also made of pixels!

Who knew? So, once again I took a screen shot on my fancy-dancy phone and used that as a pattern.

After some zooming in and lots of little black square counting I’ve got a pretty decent Hamilton square. (My daughter pointed out that I could have just made one that said “And Peggy!”. It would have been more simple but the quote I made is pretty cool as well.

And of course my girls was super excited about the quilt squares.

She suspected that I was making something for her birthday but had no idea what it was. She’s wanted a “Fandom blanket”, as she dubbed it, ever since I made this one for a friend’s baby almost two years ago now.

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I also got my daughter tickets to see the Lumineers in Grand Rapids. That’s what I call a present with a bonus. She was excited and I got to go to a super cool concert with her. It was a win win win.

Annual Christmas Craziness

Like every year (especially since going back to school), the few weeks before Christmas in mid December were Kuh-razy with a capital K. Finals/end of term projects for me and pre-holiday demands and events for the kids have me running around nonstop like the proverbial headless chicken. Because this is an annual thing I’m mostly prepared for it, as much as one can prepare for an already intense life to kick into hyper-speed.

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At one point (Tuesday), less than half an hour before the class period it was due, I was finishing a hefty presentation …from home…forty minutes from campus. All I could think was “How the Eff did this happen?”

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At another point, a day or so after the presentation procrastination, I was hustling my cranky kids out of the car to (quickly!) pick out a Christmas tree so we could get to the sledding hill across town where their aunt who was visiting from out of town was waiting for us with some cousins. It was cold, windy and already dark but gosh darn it we were going to get some sledding in. And we did. Just a bit before it was time for me to make dinner for 11 people. Directly following that I squeezed in an hour and half nap and headed to work for the night. Over the next couple of days I got six hours sleep. Total. In a span of 48 hours. I made it to my last test (it could hardly be called a final), attended my little guy’s school holiday concert, got the tree up and decorated before the kids left for the week, finished a paper, and worked another shift before finally crashing for 11 hours straight (and subsequently being an hour late for work Friday night).

But then my semester was officially over and a very strange thing happened…  end-of-finals-week-meme

I had free time. Well, relatively free time.

So I did what any sane person would do and began making some Christmas presents. There was just under a full week and making a list of things I wanted to make was as far as I had gotten.

First there was the Slytherin robe one of my sisters asked if I could make…

I used soap and drew the “pattern” out on the fabric. Other than the sleeves being a bit long (for growing room of course), it turned out perfectly and I expect I’ll see my nephew wearing this for a few years.

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And then there was a random hat made with chunky yarn for my mom, a scarf/cowl thing for my brother’s girlfriend, a “fallen leaves” baggy hat (for the same brother’s girlfriend), and a “Little Sister” hat for my God-daughter. (The other God-daughter got some My Little Ponies but she’s getting an Anna cape for her birthday in January.)

Sadly, I only got pictures of the Little Sister hat. It’s a bit big but should be perfect this spring or fall.

After that it was the holiday.

(Okay, that’s actually the before-Christmas craziness there.)

And that, dear readers, sums up this year’s round of pre-Christmas/finals week craziness.

Almost an Adventure 

I think I had an adventure the other day, it’s hard to say.

See, my oldest son is 17. He’s a senior in high school. He took driver’s ed this past January. My life being the complicated mess it is, we didn’t get his pernut until the end of August. Needless to say he’s not one of those kids who’s eager to start driving. Even now that he’s got his permit I have to twist his arm to get him to drive (figuratively not literally, usually at least). He has to log at least forty hours of driving before taking the next level of driver’s training and being allowed to road test for his actual license. At this rate we may end up waiting until he’s 18.

Back to my adventure…my son asked if he could go to a friend’s to “study” after school. I wasn’t too keen on having to go pick him up later in the evening so I gave him conditional permission. Thinking it wound deter him, I said if he went he would have to drive home. My plan failed, he was fine with that so he did. And we took the freeway home.

There in lies the adventure.

adventure is out there

In his interview on The Art of Charm podcast, Jon Levy talks about adventure. How some people have a higher tolerance for novelty and excitement, that adventure doesn’t just happen by chance, and how adventure pushes us past our comfort zone thus bringing about personal growth. Levy defines adventure as something  that is “exciting and remarkable”, something that “possess adversity or risk” (or even just  perceived risk),  and as I already mentioned something that “brings about growth”. So maybe riding in the car while my 17 year old is driving at 70mph doesn’t seem like much of an adventure but by Levy’s standards it sure is!

Well, maybe not by his standards  (we’re taking about a guy who had travelled the world doing done crazy shit), but at least by his definition. There was a perceived risk. Any parent who had ridden with their teenager knows what I’m talking about. 70 doesn’t seem all that fast when I’m driving but put my kid behind the wheel and, holy hell, it’s terrifyingly fast.And my white knuckle grasp on the nearest handle proves that it was exciting. Obviously it’s remarkable, I’m remarking about it right now. The experience was definitely just out side my “skillset” which pushed me to grow, to rationalize my fear and trust my son’s capabilities just a little more. It was a (very) small step towards adulthood for my son and towards me, as a parent, acknowledging his immanent adult status. That right there is the very real adventure in parenting.It will definitely make you uncomfortable, if you’re doing it right it promotes self-improvement, and it sure as shit gives us challenges to overcome.

Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking my life is boring, and occasionally the day-to-day does feel pretty  mundane, but there is endless opportunity for adventure, excitement, and growth in my quiet, small scale life. I bet there is in yours too.

On a somewhat random side note, there’s been progress on the WIP fandom blanket. I made this….

It’s adapted from this hat pattern.  One of these days I’m going to have to sit down and come up with a plan for the blanket layout but for now I’m really enjoying these themed mini-projects, err, squares.

Baby Viking Hat

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The finished hat

My family grows in leaps and bounds. My youngest was one of six babies born in a ten month time period. This past year I got a total of four new nephews, all between March and the end of June. Somewhere around early June my sister, the mom of one of those babies, asked me if I’d be willing and able to crochet said baby a hat for Halloween, a viking hat. It seems my sister is much better at planning ahead than I am. She knows how busy I am and had a specific goal in mind for her child. Maybe I was the person to help her accomplish that goal, maybe not. Considering she asked me half a year in advance I figured I’d be able to find the time. Besides, crocheting a viking hat sounded fun. It couldn’t be as hard as that shark hat was.

I found a pattern online but it was not free. (wah-wah) I totally get why people charge for patterns and it was only five bucks, but I was still resistant to pay for it. It’s my contrary nature in action. “What?”, it says, “You want me to pay?!? Psh, I don’t need your silly pattern, I can figure this out on my own.” And usually I can.

For this one I made a basic beanie (there are five million free patterns out there) with a four evenly spaced front post hdc around the hat. And then I realized that the example viking hat I was following had two front post stitches in the front and back and one on each side. Luckily my firs start of the hat was waaaay too small. It’s been a while since I’ve had regular contact with baby heads, my guestimating skills are rusty. So now my little guy’s stuffed hedgehog has a grey hat.

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The second attempt, first one completed

On the second attempt I made the hat bigger and had two front post stitches together in both the front and the back. (Front posts are the raised lines that run vertically, helping to give the hat the appearance of being a metal helmet.)

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While making the hat without a pattern was no big deal the horns were a bit puzzling. I’ve never done amugarami crochet or even tried a more three dimensional item. It went a lot smother than I thought it would; I figured it out on the first attempt and was able to replicate it pretty closely on the second.

I used a super tiny hook with regular sized acrylic yarn. The stitches are tight and it was a bit challenging to maneuver the yarn with that little thing but the effect is worth it. The little horns are stiff enough to stand up on their own and hold their shape perfectly. And look how cute they are!!! They’re like tiny wizard hats. My water bottle got to cosplay as Gandalf and then Dumbledore that day. Fun times all around!

The bottom edge was a little tricky and, honestly, I would not have mined having the pattern for this part. The ridge is again created by either front or back post stitches, this time single because I didn’t want height. One round of single front/back (whichever gave the bump on the right side) post, there’s a round of double crochet with interspersed bobble stitches. There’s no regularity to those, I just eye balled the spacing. And then the last row was another round of front or back post single crochet.

I finished the beard using this pattern (I’ve made beards before and knew they’re pretty quick and easy) the morning of the 28th when a couple of my sisters and I made plans to go to a local Trunk-or-Treat later that evening. It was as good an excuse as any to get the finished Viking hat to my sister and nephew. My sister brought the baby over to my house a little early as we planned to ride together…good thing too because the hat was still too small. I tried to stretch it but there was no making it fit that kid’s giant head. Aggghhh!!!

I undid the hat up to where the horns were attached and started rapidly crocheting it again. For a third time. This time I used double instead of half double crochet stitches for the body of the hat. It was quick and dirty crochet time here. I got the body of the hat finished moments after we arrived at Trunk-or-treat and he wore it as is for the evening.

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As we were driving home I added the bottom edge but even without it my nephew was a pretty adorable little viking.

A couple of my previous projects made appearances this Halloween too!

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Sherlock scarf…I thought I had blogged about this somewhere in there but couldn’t seem to find it.

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Originally a Cabbage Patch style hat, this one got a new life as Dorothy’s braids.