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1. Determine a need.  Or want.  Doesn’t really matter.  Ahem.  So, you’ve decided to make an afghan!

2. This is tricky, either (a) choose your yarn, or (b) choose your pattern.  In this instance, I went with pattern choice first.  I’ve had this book

for nearly ten years.  And I hadn’t made a single afghan out of it.  There are some pretty cool ones in there.

3. If you chose your pattern first, now find yarn.  Or vice versa.  I went with an acrylic yarn.  This is a comfort gift for a family in very sad circumstances, and I would hate to send an afghan along with care instruction in this situation.  (Can you imagine?  “I’ve been thinking of you in your time of need, so I made this for you.  Make sure you hand wash it and lay it flat to dry, okay?”  Yikes.)  Someday, enough superwash wool for a single afghan will be in my budget, but for now, it’s not.  This afghan is warm and cozy, AND it can be put in the washer and dryer.

So there.

4. Crochet.  Crochet.  When you run out of one color, drive like a bat out of hell to the craft store or yarn shop and pray they have more yarn of the same dye lot.  And crochet some more.  (Or, if you prefer, knit.  Knit.  Aaaaand…you get the picture.)

5. Wash.  Block.  Okay, okay, I know most of you fiber folks are saying, “You don’t block acrylic, Aimee,” and rolling your eyes.

But here’s the thing: I do.  For two reasons.  One, it helps make the finished item straight and square, which is always nice when you’re giving a gift.  Two, I always find after washing acrylic items that I end up with a bunch of these,

because acrylic doesn’t splice.  Yep, little ends that had been woven in sometimes pop out the first time it’s washed.  I’d hate for the gift recipient to find these after throwing it in the washing machine for the first time.  I had over twenty of these to snip on this afghan.  Tacky.

6. Take photos!  Document your work!  You’ll enjoy looking back on it.  Trust me.

That’s it!  Congrats!  If you’ve made the afghan for yourself, snuggle up.  If not, wrap it up and gift it or ship it.  This guy’s in the mail right now.

10:31 am – At the elementary school, gluing hands across the walls

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11:13 am – Researching termite contract costs for the next year

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11:55 am – Can you see the birdy in our tree?

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12:37 pm – An ex-sweater, awaiting its use in a special gift

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1:19 pm – The love interests of Charles II, to take my mind of the morning craziness

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2:30 pm – Our house, which will no longer be ours by the next 12 of 12…we’re under contract as of today!

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4:09 pm – At the coffee shop, with correspondence

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4:40 pm – Decorating said correspondence

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6:26 pm – The aftermath of Tuesday’s accident

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6:28 pm – My idea of a great afternoon

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6:55 pm – On the phone with Daddy

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7:40 pm – Since the time change, dinner time keeps sneaking up on me

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For more 12 of 12 fun, visit Chad’s blog!

I have been crocheting lately, just not saying much about it.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that a friend of ours had lost her sister.  It was not a sudden death, but of course, it is a tragic and heartwrenching loss.  I decided on the spot that our friend would need a hug, so I spent the week crocheting this for her.

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Pattern: Feather Stole by Elizabeth Myers
Yarn: Reclaimed Acrylic/Angora
Hook: I’ve already forgotten (oops…E, maybe?)

If you like it, if you want to compliment it, I ask instead that you visit the Scleroderma Foundation and make a donation with our friend’s family in mind.  Even if you can only manage a dollar or two, please consider it.  This is a disease that – in its most serious form – can completely debilitate its victims, with no known cure and unknown cause.

I’ve felt oddly out of crochet mode since finishing the stole.  I’ve worked a bit on a hat and some other things for the Mattaponi project.  I know I’ll get back in the mood shortly.  I have too many unfinished projects and too many hanks of yarn tempting me from their drawer in the closet.

Today, Mom and I visited Knitch for some yarn fondling and to find her a set of DPN’s.  (She’s going to knit her first socks!)  Yarn was fondled, and DPN’s were purchased, after which we headed out for an amazing lunch.  I needed a few hours of not thinking about the near future.

In a couple of weeks, Jason and I will be driving to Seattle, where I’ll leave him to find a room to rent, and I will hop a plane back here.  Again, Mom & Dad come through, offering to watch the boys while I’m gone.  I’m decidedly unthrilled at the upcoming indefinite period of single parenting, not to mention missing my best friend in the world like crazy.  Still, I know it’s what needs to happen, and it is only temporary, after all.  Jason’s already lost one position to a Seattlite, for the sole reason of distance.  One that we know of, that is.  He needs to be local to get the interviews.

We’ve had two showings in the past three days, after a drought of more than a month.  I hope this is a sign of things to come, and that the rebate for first-time house buyers in stimulus package encourages more lookers and an offer or two.  As our Realtor says, “Everyone wants a deal,” but what ‘everyone’ fails to realize is that they’re already getting a deal.  Regardless, we can’t afford to be too choosy.  Serious offers will be considered and counter-offered, and a deal will happen.  Someone is going to get an incredible deal, indeed.

Last week, we had parent-teacher conferences.  Kalen’s consisted of, “Any questions?  No?  Here, sign these forms…he’s doing great.”  Nicky’s was nearly as simple.  Consequently, I spent too much time just chatting with the teachers, wonderful women all.  Okay, not too much time; nothing but good can come from being friendly and on good terms with your children’s teachers.

The boys have taken the news of Jason moving very well, which leads me to wonder if they really grasp it.  They had been prepared for the possibility of his getting a job and moving before the house sold, but this is a quick decision and thus a quick blow.  We’re working on assigning simple chores that will help them fill Daddy’s shoes and give them some responsibilities and distractions.

Forgive my stream-of-consciousness, a literary style I greatly despise.  My brain seems to be in that mode lately, though, so I suppose it’s best to just let it go.

[Note: I came up with all sorts of punny, cheesy titles for today’s post: Sock It To Me, Sock-cess, Put a Sock On It…aren’t you glad I resisted temptation?]

Back in November, in the midst of Christmas crafting, I made a pledge. I promised myself that January would be dedicated to making something (maybe even more than one something) for myself. Just for me. I’ve gotten a bit side tracked on other projects (more on that another day), but I have, in fact, kept my promise to myself.

First, I finished my hat.

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Pattern: Driftwood Cap by Ellen Gormley (Interweave Crochet, Fall ’08 )
Yarn: Knitpicks Bare, DK weight, Dyed by Yours Truly
Hook: Handcarved, probably an H

I love it.

After I finished the hat, I recomitted to making my first pair of socks.  If you’ve seen my new Twitter feed over on the left, you may have read some of my frustrations and triumphs as I crocheted them.

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Pattern: Origami Turkish Socks by Deb Burger
Yarn: Knitpicks Bare, fingering weight, Dyed by Moi
Hook: F (Hero)

This pattern is unique for socks, in that you crochet them flat, based on the measurements of your foot, then seam them up, hopefully for a perfect fit.

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I have to admit to a lot of frustration at the beginning of this project.  My first two tries ended up with cuffs waaaay too large for my ankle.  I did finally figure it out, though, and once I got that fixed and started on the foot, it went really quickly.

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As you can see, the foot portion fits like a glove.  The cuff is a bit loose; it sort of feels like I’m wearing a loose turtle neck around my ankle.  But I can get used to that.

I’m ready to try my second pair of socks.  Jason bought me some Alpaca Sox when he was in Seattle last week, and he informs me that he’d like to see them crocheted up sometime soon.  See how he twists my arm?  Every crafter needs a good enabler.

As Jason suggested, I used my Kool New Yarn to make myself a hat.

Unfortunately, out of the thirty or so hooks I own, I can find every single one except my only “I” hook.  Seriously.  I have 3 “N” hooks, 2 “J” hooks, and multiples of several others, but I only have one “I,” and it’s nowhere to be found.

So, I used the hand-carved hook I bought for my Grandma at Fisherman’s Wharf when I was in high school.  It felt like it might be a little bigger than my “H” hooks (yep, I have two of those, too).  Apparently not.  The hat is approximately the right size for a seven-year-old girl (gamely tested by one of our friends at karate class).  I do not have the head of a seven year old girl.

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I briefly considered simply giving the hat to said seven-year-old, before remembering my pledge to do make things for myself after months and months of gift making.  Plus, I love that yarn, so I frogged it halfway and am adjusting as I go.  It really is pretty.

In dyeing news, I was so thrilled with the end result of this yarn, I decided to use the last two packets of Kool-Aid (orange) in the pantry.  But on what?  Ah-ha!  The ugly yarn I dyed last summer!  And we’ll add a bunch of yellow food coloring in for good measure.

Before, a greyed-out pile of pink and blue yarn.  Blah:

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During – I tried in vain to get a photo that didn’t look like overcooked pasta:

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After – much better:

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This is going straight into my stash.  It’s not a soft yarn, so I’m loathe to make a wearable out of it.  We shall see what it becomes!

Last summer, I bought a skein of Knitpicks Bare fingering weight, with the intent of dyeing it to crochet my first pair of socks during the Olympics.

Didn’t happen.

With the advent of the new year, and our major housework behind us for the time being, I was inspired to pull out that skein and do something with it.  I had told myself many times that January would be a month of crocheting purely for myself.  And if it’s going to be indulgently mine, shouldn’t it be my favorite color?  A semi-solid green was my goal, so I decided on the crock pot method, with lemon-lime in two glasses, lemon-lime and lemonade in one glass, and lemon-lime and blue raspberry in the last glass.

Step One:

Dye it!  (OK, for all of you in the know about dyeing, this shouldn’t be step one, should it?  Step one should be soaking the yarn.  I was a little over-eager and plunged right in.  Literally.)

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So, since I missed a step and shoved the dry yarn right into the dye, it exhausted instananeously.  The result of this was that not all the yarn got hit.  And I was out of any variation of green Kool-Aid, with a strict prior oath to myself NOT to buy a single thing for this project.  Dang.

After letting it heat up for a couple of hours, I crossed my fingers and over-dyed most of the skein with a mixture of blue and yellow food coloring, rinsed it, spun out the water, and hung it to dry.

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Ooh, pretty!

Even more pretty once it’s all skeined up.

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I’ve begun crocheting my socks, and I’ll give details on those once I figure out what I’m doing and can take a photo of some sort of progress.

Last night, I made the mistake of browsing Ravelry’s Kool Way to Dye group’s gallery at 10pm.  By 10:20, I was setting this up for a microwave dye with another hank of Knitpicks Bare (DK weight) I had on hand:

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(That’s a mug set inside a Corningware dish.  This time, I did remember to soak the yarn first, but it still exhausted so quickly I was left with big-time white space.  I remembered as it was happening that this is common when dealing with superwash.  Pretty when it’s what you’re going for, but not at all what I wanted.)

After a couple of spins in the microwave, I had something not at all like I wanted.  I had set out with the intention of doing a mostly blue skein with some reds, pinks, purples…or something like that.  This was not it.

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So, I set up for another dye.  More blues!  And, hey, let’s add a little grape to make it a purplish blue.

Ugh.  I didn’t even take photos, I was so unhappy with it.

At this point, I thought, “What the hell?  I hate it, so what’s the harm in really playing around?”  I put more water in the tea kettle and mixed up some orange for a little dip dyeing.  Then repeated with the packet of strawberry I had in the pantry.  Jason called it a “rainbow of fruit flavors.”

I went to bed with this hanging in the laundry room.  I was not happy.

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As soon as the boys were on the bus this morning, I went in to ponder my mess.  I was still not happy, but I figured, if all else fails, I can put it up for sale or trade on Ravelry.  Someone might like it.

So I reskeined it.

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Umm…that’s not so bad…

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In fact, that’s pretty darn gorgeous.  I’d call it a keeper.  Jason suggested I make myself a hat, and I think I will.

The garage sale is finished!  All together now:

Woo hooooooooo!

We loaded up the car for a Goodwill run after closing up shop this afternoon, and as we pulled in, Jason said, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a Goodwill.”

Wha-?

So, of course, you know I had to initiate him.

The CD’s were on sale for 25 cents, so I left him browsing through those while I pored over the sweaters and searched for bargains in the woven shirts (aka bag linings to be).  Two Goodwill stores later (yes, we drove to the next town over to see what they had, too), and here’s my haul:

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The red and blue fabrics will be made into valances for the boys’ bedroom, because they need something up there when the house is on the market.  (The hardware for their pull-down shades is pretty bad.)  The sweaters (100% wool) are – of course! – going to be frogged for yarn for holiday gifts.  I’m pretty excited about those sweaters, because I’m drawn to more neutral tones when I shop, so my stash is limited when it comes to brighter colors.  Not for long!  The orange looks like it will be laceweight, but oh well.  I couldn’t resist the color.  And it’s lambswool.

We also snagged some filters for the cool mist humidifier ($1.51 each…that’s about 80% off retail price), a book for Nicky, and a Halloween decoration.  We’re heading back to the one near us tomorrow to see what’s half off.  I am in need of some bag lining fabrics, and tomorrow starts a new week (= new sale!) at Goodwill.

Since we’ve now given my mother-in-law her birthday gift, I can share the handmade portion:

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The two green yarns were reclaimed from sweaters, and the third is a variegated cotton.

I used the pattern for the Easy Peasy Crochet Bag.  Well, the pattern itself isn’t all that different from tons of other bags I’ve made: crochet a rectangle for the bottom, then crochet in rounds up the sides.  However, she always uses three yarns held together, which makes every bag quite unique, and she includes the picot edging and twisted cord handles, neither of which I’ve ever done on a bag before.

The lining is the piece de resistance, in my opinion, mostly due to its reclaimed nature and the fact that it was fate that kept it hidden in the back of the linen closet and therefore out of the donation bin several years ago when I took its entire sheet set to Goodwill.  It is the exact colors of the yarns.  Pillowcase Kismet.

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To sew the lining in, I followed Future Girl’s tutorial.  I’ve hand-sewn linings into bags before, but this explanation is so clear and simple, and it created a much nicer finish than I’ve had in the past.

(And I must say, while I was upset at first about the need to give up plarn crochet because of my hand/wrist pain, I am enjoying the process of working with actual, fibrous yarn soooooo much more!)

I now know why I saw so many women in Seattle last week wearing scarves without coats.  This is a trend I wasn’t familiar with.  However, I finished my scarf and blocked it yesterday, so of course I had to wear it all day today.  And boy, it does make a difference!  It kept me nice and warm when a jacket would have been a bit too much.

And here’s a close-up of the stitchwork:

Obviously, I came up with a solution for the edging.  It’s a simple border of chain stitches, six between each loop.  I’m really happy with how it came out.  So happy, in fact, that I think I’ve found my new favorite souvenir.  A scarf from every trip…why not?

I did enter it in the Make It Pink challenge as well, so there’s a dollar for Susan G. Komen.  If you’re crafty, whip up something pink to support the cause!

I didn’t do much crocheting on our trip, and I spent a grand total of about seven minutes on my friend’s computer, so my hand is finally feeling pretty much back to normal.  (Yay!)

The sum total of my crocheting for the trip was four more spider webs for my Halloween curtains.  I need to ramp that up a bit if I’m going to have them ready for the big night.  I typically have the Halloween decorations all up by now, but the trip threw us off schedule.  I’d like to get Spot the Skeleton out in the yard soon.

Since we got home, I’ve been working on my souvenir.  I chose that beautiful pink Peace Fleece with the CraftStylish Make It Pink Challenge in mind.  There isn’t enough in the skein for a prayer shawl, but I knew it would make a lovely scarf.  I quickly set my heart on using it for the Road to Bruges scarf from this season’s Interweave Crochet.  Unfortunately, I mis-read the yardage, which I realized quickly upon beginning to crochet the pattern.  I frogged the first few curves of the ribbon and reevaluated.  Oooh, I know!  If I make the ribbon narrower and shorter between the curves, surely I can have a narrower scarf out of just one skein.  I’ll worry about the border when I get there.

As you can see, it’s turning out beautifully.  However, that “worrying about the border later” thing isn’t turning out so well.  I’ve begun and frogged five different variations of border.  The original pattern for the edging won’t work with my recalculated ribbon.  I’ve tried adapting it several ways, and it still won’t fit.  Even if it did, I’m concerned that there wouldn’t be enough yarn to go all the way around.  The last attempt was a round of double crochets, but I didn’t like how that looked at all.  I suppose it looks fine without a border…but I’d prefer to have one.

I really don’t want to put this project on the back burner.  Any ideas?

My boys

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