Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lacy Hooded Cowl Pattern

I've had numerous requests for the pattern for my Lacy Hooded Cowl that I created for my co-worker, Alice's wedding gift. So here you are!

Lacy Hooded Cowl
By Celeste Dunn
Celestial Designs
Crochet Designs by Celeste

I created the cowl in a half double crochet openwork (one row of half double crochets, one row of half double, chain one, skip next stitch, half double across, then a row of half double crochets again). I created a rectangle 46" long by 20" wide, starting with a foundation half double crochet row (160 stitches), using a size "J" hook. Joining the 2 narrow sides, I created the cowl which hangs nicely down the front. The 20" width allows the lacy cowl to be drawn up as a delicate head covering, yet leave a nice collar on the back of the neck.

2 skeins #2 Fine Lace Yarn - I used Patons Lace (3 oz. / 498 yds) in the colorway of Midas.
Hook size: J
1 tapestry hook (for weaving in ends)

Special Note:
This pattern calls for a foundation chain of hdc. To FHDC, begin by chaining 3, yarn over and insert hook in first chain. Yarn over and draw through. Yarn over and draw through 1 loop (this is the next chain). Yarn over and draw through all 3 loops on hook. Yarn over, insert hook through chain just created. Yarn over and draw through, yarn over and draw through one loop (next chain). Yarn over and draw through 3 remaining loops. (This will now count as the second stitch). Continue across until you reach the correct number of foundation stitches.

Row 1: FHDC 160 stitches. Turn. (Approximately 46" long)

Row 2: Chain 3 (counts as first HDC and one chain). HDC in 3rd stitch from end. *Chain 1, skip next stitch, HDC in next stitch. Repeat from * to end of row. Turn.

Row 3: Chain 2 (counts as first HDC). *HDC in chain 1 space. HDC in next stitch. HDC in next ch 1 space. Continue to end of row ending with HDC in last HDC stitch, HDC in ch 3 space, HDC in 2nd ch from end. Turn.

Repeat Rows 2 and 3 until piece measures 20". Fasten off, but do not cut yarn. Fold cowl in half crosswise, hold open ends togeter. With yarn and working through both sides to join, hdc in stitch row ends. Chain 1 over the chain space ends. HDC in stitch row end. Chain 1 over chain space ends. HDC in stitch row end. Continue to complete the join and fasten off. Weave ends in.

I plan on another one in Porcelain (which is a self-striping blue lace yarn).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lacy Hooded Cowl

Weddings! I seem to have jumped into the wedding vortex sometime between July and August.

One of my co-workers, Alice announced earlier this year that she will be marrying her American boyfriend in her native Germany (rumor has it a castle will be figuring into the wedding somehow) in early September.

Alice just loves my crochet and was one of the first people I actually made something for (a cancer hat for her mother). So, of course, I wanted to make an extra special gift for her wedding. She has a wonderful sense of fashion and accessorizes often with cowls and scarves. So the logical step was to make a lacy cowl.  While the idea was percolating in my mind, I came across an Annie's crochet catalog and there, in the pattern section was a pretty hooded cowl. Now I honestly didn't want to purchase and have shipped a pattern -- especially since I didn't particularly like the stitch pattern used. But I really liked the look and drape of the cowl, so I made up my mind to create my own.

If you look in one of my previous posts, you will see a crocodile stitched shawl that I made my older sister. I used Patons Lace yarn which is acrylic/wool/mohair and has a nice halo effect. It is a mid-range priced yarn and I actually bought more than I needed, so I had 2 skeins left. The color is called Midas but is actually a self-striping yarn in white, beige, walnut, sage, deep purple colors. Perfect colors for Alice!

Lacy Cowl

I created the cowl in a half double crochet openwork (one row of half double crochets, one row of half double, chain one, skip next stitch, half double across, then a row of half double crochets again). I created a rectangle 46" long by 20" wide, starting with a foundation half double crochet row (160 stitches), using a size "J" hook. Joining the 2 narrow sides, I created the cowl which hangs nicely down the front. The 20" width allows the lacy cowl to be drawn up as a delicate head covering, yet leave a nice collar on the back of the neck. I love the way it turned out. I think Alice will love it, too!

Delicate Lacy Hood

Lacy Hood with Collar

Then a couple of weeks ago, my youngest son and his fiancée announced that they're going to get married this fall -- at our house! OMG! Another wedding gift to prepare (and house to clean and yard to fix . . .)

I loved the look of this stitch pattern and the way it turned out with the Patons Lace, so I decided to make my daughter-in-law a shawl (she doesn't wear hats or cowls). As they are planning an Autumn wedding, complete with pumpkins, cornstalks and hay bales, I chose the Patons Lace Bonfire. But when I went to Joanns to purchase it, alas, they didn't carry this particular color. But what they did have was Patons Lace Sequins in black. PERFECT! My daughter-in-law just loves black! So I purchased 4 skeins and have started the shawl with a half double crochet grid pattern. So far it looks wonderful -- the sequins are very small, so the sparkle is subtle and quite charming. I think she will love this! More later . . .

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Amigurumi Love

This year I will have worked at the same company for 16 years, and what this means is that I've made my co-workers just about everything that I could think of that's easy, quick and everyone would like. So I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what I could crochet for birthdays this year. Then the answer came when I asked my co-worker / best friend Sue (who's birthday is early in the year) what she'd like this year.

I've got a reputation for my beautiful crochet work, so I felt comfortable asking for ideas. Surprisingly, she chose an amigurumi maneki neko (good fortune cat popular in Japan).

Last year, I had brought in the sock monkey I made my granddaughter and a lot people fell in love with the amigurumi concept. So I wasn't daunted, but a little surprised at her choice. But that didn't stop me from locating a free pattern online (My Maneki Neko by Kathy Wishnie of Belgrade, Montana - Mountain Weaver Fiber Art Studio blog) and after getting Sue's approval, set off to make a traditional maneki neko!

First I had to determine which paw should wave (it makes a difference in what you wish for). The right paw waving, summons good fortune. The left paw means wealth. She chose the right paw. That was the only 'customization' I allowed. Luckily, these little  amigurumi don't take up much yarn, so I chose what I had in my stash.

I also find it extremely difficult to embroider faces on amigurumi, so was a little stressed when it came time to put this little guy together. Then I had an inspiration! Fabric pens!!!! I bought a set when I was quilting so that I could make quick labels on my creations. After studying the samples in the pattern, I chose this face and the rest was easy . . .

Of course, on Sue's birthday, everyone went crazy. I got three more orders (which is good because all 3 birthdays fall one right after the other.

First my boss wanted a magician's rabbit in the hat. (Inside joke about our recent web site project and the unorganized project management.) So I found Pull a Rabbit out of your Hat by Linda Green on Ravelry and whipped one up.

Since his birthday closely followed Sue's, I presented "Gompy" to him right away. As I often do, I made quite a few changes to this pattern. Instead of sewing the unstuffed head into the inside brim of the hat, I stuffed the head and sewed a crocheted base on it. then I attached a black yarn thread from the center top of the hat (on the bottom in the photo) and the center of the underside of the head (there's only a head in the hat). That way, the rabbit keeps its shape and the ears sit up beautifully. Also, over-enthusiastic admirers can't separate the bunny from the hat.

"Gompy" has turned into our department mascot. He has a prominent place in our work area. :)

Well, "Gompy" led to the next request from the department director. She lives with 2 floppy eared rabbits: grey and white and black and white. So I set about looking for the floppy eared amigurumi.

This is one reason why I just love Ravelry. They have such creative artists / designers and you can always find a pattern that just speaks to you. So it was with the Floppy Eared Easter Bunny by Jessica Legan. I showed it to Amy and she fell in love.

So here is what she received on her birthday! The grey bunny was the recipient of the fabric pen treatment, but I couldn't draw any color on the black bunny so I had to try my hand at embroidery on crochet. I used a pearly white embroidery floss and I'm not quite as happy with the affect as I am with the pen treatments.

Well, Amy's birthday is immediately followed by Alice's and she requested a monkey (she had fallen in love with the sock monkey last year).

So I once again went on the hunt and found Monkey with Banana by Betsi Brunson (again on Ravelry -- see what I mean?)

Isn't he ADORABLE?

Well, I've put aside my stuffed animal rush for the time being (the next birthday isn't until fall).

But that doesn't mean I don't have a dozen more projects planned and a few more in the works!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New Beginnings

This week, April 4th, my dearest husband and I became grandparents. My youngest son, Ben and his fiancé Ashly had a son, Owen Benjamin. As you can see, it was a very proud moment for my husband, Steve.

I wanted to make something special for my new grandson and the parents. I remembered seeing free patterns for a car seat blanket. This blanket has strategic holes for the straps and buckles and there were actually 3 different patterns for this project. After going through all three, I decided to take the plunge and re-try my hand at making granny squares.

You see, granny squares and I aren't very compatible with each other. My first major crochet project was a granny square afghan. It was absolutely gorgeous with a royal blue, light blue, green and yellow (at least I think it was green -- I know the center of each granny was yellow!) Anyways, I bought all of the yarn necessary (cost me a bunch of saved money from my chores) and got started. For some reason, squares just bore me to tears and if you're one stitch off, they get all wonky. I rapidly got frustrated and put the whole shabang away. I would take it out ever-so-often and make a couple of more squares, but there were so many to do . . .

My younger sister took the afghan in hand (spare yarn and all) and tried to take over and finish the project. I don't know how she ever did on it. Whether she finished or gave up as well.

But this project intrigued me.

So I grabbed the royal blue yarn (Caron One Pound) I had bought for the blanket. I had some left-over rich chocolate brown (Caron One Pound) from making a hooded cocoon for the newborn. (Forgot to take photos of the finished project, darn! I'll have to hope I can get a photo from my son when they use it.) Anyways, I grabbed the 2 yarns and my crochet hook and attempted to make my first hexagon granny. The end product was so beautiful that I jumped in. What I absolutely love is that there are only 30 hexagons, 4 half-hexagons and 2 triangles to make. It doesn't seem like an impossible number to me -- and that's half the battle.

According to the blanket diagram, the 2 triangle pieces form the opening for the buckle, so I made enough hexagons and the 2 triangles and laid out the central part of the diagram.

I am so excited with this pattern so far -- I can't wait to finish all the hexagons.

I will post the completed blanket.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Do I Really Have to Block?

Trust me, I asked this so often -- and most often told myself, no -- I really don't need to block this finished piece of crochet. And actually, I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong!

Sure, you can skip blocking for afghans and blankets, but blocking is an essential part of crochet, especially for clothing items and lace.

And to be honest, it wasn't the blocking per se that I objected to, it was the fact that I did not have any way to block. I live in a 110 year old farm house with hard wood floors. We live on an extremely tight budget and I couldn't justify the purchase of blocking paraphernalia that is available from craft / yarn / online stores. They were just too darned expensive. Sooooooo, I skipped the traditional forms of blocking and when a pattern really needed that extra step, I fudged. I would stretch and steam on an ironing board (which didn't lend itself very well to even blocking). Or I would enlist my 20-something son to grab an end while I gently pulled a damp   piece to the best shape I could. (Sigh!)

But I've just completed a crocodile stitch shawl for my older sister's birthday and I must say, it really needed to be blocked. That is, dampened and pinned to a surface and allowed to air dry. How the heck could I do that?

Well, the answer came during a visit to Walmart in my weekly grocery shopping. They had a display of foam floor tiles for a workout room. You know the kind, they have the interlocking pieces, so you can snap a bunch together to make a large square or put a bunch in a row for a long mat. Best of all, they were almost half the cost of comparable foam pieces used for crafts. So today, I bit the bullet and bought a package of 6 tiles (under $20) and brought them home.

Here are 2 of the foam blocks snapped together. Luckily, the underside doesn't have any pattern to it, so I flipped them upside down to avoid leaving ridges.

Actually, it became a moot point since I decided to cover the mat (the foam smells AWFUL) with a gridded flannel fabric I've been hanging on to for years.

It will protect my crochet projects (who knows what these blocks are made of) and hopefully, will provide a barrier to the smell getting into the yarn.

So, I bought the foam pieces, snapped 4 of them together and put them on my cutting table, then wrapped the surface with the gridded flannel fabric, pinning the underside with safety pins.

Next, I took the shawl and a wash basin with cold water and Woolite. I gave the shawl a good soak, washed it a bit and then rolled it up in towels and squeezed as much water out as I could. Then it came time to try my new blocking setup.

It took some pinning, unpinning and repinning, but I finally got the piece stretched to the correct size and shape I was hoping for.

Let me explain briefly -- when I completed the crocheting, the shawl (which I call the Calico Crocodile for its lovely colors) was 60" wide and 22" long. This was a little disappointing as I was hoping for a nice wide triangle to cover the shoulders and a long drape in the back.

Well, after stretching and pinning, the finished shawl is now 70" wide and 32" long. After it is thoroughly dried, I will add 6" fringe along the sides. This should make the shawl an elegant addition to my sister's wardrobe. I am absolutely tickled with the way it is turning out.

In this photo, you can see the crocodile scales and the calico colors. As of this evening, the shawl is almost completely dry. In the morning, I will remove it from the blocking and add the fringe. Of course, I will then post the final image below.

Stay tuned . . .

. . . and here it is -- completed!  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Shamrock Bunting

For 36" bunting

Make 7 shamrocks using the pattern found here:

Chain 121.
Using stitch markers, mark every 15 chains from beginning. These will be the chains where you will attach the shamrocks.

Now, at the second chain from your hook, sc through each chain to the first marker. Insert hook into the marked chain and then through the stitch at the top of a completed shamrock, yarn over, then pull through both the stitch on the shamrock and the chain, then slip stitch. Sc through the next chain and in each chain to the next marker. Again, insert hook through the marked chain, then through the stitch at the top of another completed shamrock, yarn over, pull through and slip stitch. Continue to the end, attaching shamrocks with slip stitches and sc in each chain between. Fasten off and weave ends in.

For a longer bunting, add 15 chains for each additional shamrock.

Here is what mine looks like hanging from the cabinet at my cubicle at work.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Making Time to Crochet

It's hard to always make time to crochet. I work full-time and care for a disabled husband. For a while there, I was almost obsessive about my craft time. For nearly 2 years I was crocheting every spare minute -- turning out hats (which were donated to cancer patients), gifts, items of clothing for myself, even purses!

But as always happens, I've hit a slump. I'm working on a gift, so I can't just ease up and let the inspiration return. In fact, after I finish this gift, I must start another right away for the upcoming birth of my first grandchild. How do I keep going? As much as I hate to admit it, I just have to force myself to set aside the hours and plug away.

But I have to admit, this slump may not be long lived. I absolutely love the way The Calico Crocodile shawl is shaping up. It's just beautiful as you can see.

Here is a close-up of the actual stitch pattern. It looks hard, and takes some getting used to, but the end result is always stunning.

I just started the third skein and will use that one completely -- I think the shawl will be the right size at that point. Then, as a final touch, the pattern calls for fringe and I intend to try to match the fringe to the stripes.

I think my sister will just love this shawl!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Too Tense or not Too Tense

Well, I've learned a valuable lesson with my latest project. I am crocheting a triangle shawl as a gift, using the crocodile stitch. I just love this stitch and the whole look of the thing.

In fact, I've made a bunch of hats with this stitch for my charitable work.

Anyways, I started this shawl, using an acrylic, wool, mohair blend yarn and was progressing along with the first skein when I noticed that the shawl was very small -- it looked like I would need a lot more yarn than I originally purchased and it was rather expensive. Since we are on a very tight budget, I knew that I couldn't buy any more, so with the second skein, I began loosening my tension.

Now, I've watched the "speed crocheters" on You Tube and even my 26 year old son crochets fast and rather loosely. So I asked him how he does it and after he explained, I began my 'loose' experimentation with the crocodile stitches.What an amazing difference!!! The shawl took on a beautiful lacey look. Not only that, but it was draping better and looking more like the pattern photos. I finished the 2nd skein and was progressing into the third when I suddenly realized -- the shawl looked WONKY!

The early tight rows bowed inward, while the later looser rows created a nice straight edge. I tried to stretch the lower rows -- no good. I tried to ignore it -- everyone else didn't seem to notice (in fact, I have been receiving rave reviews on this shawl). But I DID!

I pride myself on my beautiful stitch work and the professional look of my projects and this was just plain wonky.

So, over the weekend, I decided enough was enough. I began to rip out the shawl to the very beginning and start again.

Let me tell you, frogging out mohair yarn is not easy. It's not a matter of pulling the yarn and the work unravels. The halo strands of mohair tangle and tighten and all around drive one crazy, but I succeeded in stripping the shawl down to the first skein. I've stopped at this point and took one of the frogged skeins to begin again with my new loose technique. I am quite, quite pleased.

The piece on the top is the original and the darker piece on the bottom is my reboot with looser stitches -- what do you think?

Now, you may say, what about gauge? Didn't you test your gauge first? I know, I know -- all professional crocheters tell you that gauge is essential. I just HATE it. Besides, this pattern was open ended when it came to gauge. Since it is a triangle shawl that begins at the point and increases, the idea is to just keep adding rows until you get the size you want. Besides, no matter what I used to do, I could never quite reach the correct gauge. Now I know why -- my tension, though consistent throughout a project -- is just too tight to be adjusted by one hook size or sometimes even two hook sizes.

So the moral of the story here, dear friends, is to keep the loose tension from now on.

Besides, I'm actually becoming one of the speed crocheters now, too! :)