One Step Looper Tool

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This very cool tool came on the market about 6 months or so ago.  I was hesitant to get it in the shop because of some less than ideal experiences with the half round plier, as well as the $30 price point.  Jennifer saw the tool in action at another business and came back with some very infectious enthusiasm for the tool, so I decided to order them.  They were backordered for a short while but finally arrived today at the shop.  Below is instructions for how to use this tool as well as pictures.???????????????????????????????

This tool can be used on copper based craft wire, precious metal wire, as well as scraps from head and eye pins.  In this example I am making a finding that has loops on both ends.  It can be used to incorporate beads in chain, make rosary link style jewelry, earrings, and more.  The sample is made from a scrap of wire from a head pin.

The first step is to insert the wire through the jaws of the plier and into a small hole at the far side of the plier.  Note: This tool is designed for right handed people but I was able to work it fine.  I would not expect other lefties to have much difficulty with the tool as it is so easy to use.

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Once the wire is in position you simply close the pliers and they cut and shape the wire into a loop.???????????????????????????????

You will likely need to do a slight amount of reshaping to get the loop properly centered at the end of the wire.  To do so you simply pull the wire slightly to your left against the jaw of the plier before you remove it from the tool.???????????????????????????????

And this is what your finished finding should look like.

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To do a loop at the end of a wire that already has beads on it is just as simple.  The tool is designed so that the beads nest right up to the edge of the plier.

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If you love to make your own earrings but struggle to make your loops consistent and uniform, then this tool is the answer to your prayers.

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Crochet Beaded Ropes….or “Yes, I do still bead on occasion.”

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I know I usually blog about my experiences with knitting, but I do still do some beading as well. It has become difficult in recent years do to aging eyes, but I do still enjoy it almost as much as knitting.  So today I am going to talk a bit about the first off-loom bead-weaving technique I learned; Crochet Beaded Rope.

This fun technique is enjoying a bit of a resurgence and I couldn’t be more pleased.  It is still my favorite technique because it is so portable.  All your beads are pre-strung before you get started so once strung you can take your project anywhere.  When I was first doing these necklaces it wasn’t unusual to see me working on one in doctor’s office waiting rooms and even in restaurants.  Here are a few of the necklaces I have made.

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As you can see I definitely prefer to go simple with my designs.  Most of my ropes are simple spiral designs but I do have the stray striped design.  Other bead artists have taken the art form to some extreme heights with very elaborate patterns.  Some even have patterns that do not repeat.  Because you have to string your beads in advance according to pattern, planning the pattern out in advance is necessary.  These elaborate designs awoke a question in my mind this morning about planning.  I have seen some books with these patterns graphed out in them.  Beading graphs are used for lots of techniques, especially peyote stitch.  There are even sites on the internet where you can download free files of these graph papers.  But I have never seen graph paper for crochet beaded ropes.

So what do you do if you have an elaborate pattern in mind that needs to be graphed out?  It occurred to me that with a little modification you can adapt other graph paper to be used for planning out a crochet beaded rope pattern.  My first thought was to try and use peyote graph paper.  Note:  The picture below was taken from a graph paper obtained from Fire Mountain Gems website.

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When I looked at the paper above I realized that the orientation of the “beads” in it are turned 45 degrees from the orientation of the actual beads in the rope.  I first thought I could turn the graph and then put diagonal lines in to mark off my “territory” when the light bulb came on and I realized that brick stitch is the correct orientation.  So I then downloaded a brick stitch graph, pictured below, and again taken from a Fire Mountain Gems website graph.

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Now what do I do?

To start planning your rope you need to block off the pattern in the needed width.  If you want a rope that is 6 beads around, you will need to draw parallel diagonal lines on the paper that are 6 beads apart.  Whatever the bead circumference for your rope will be, that is how many beads wide you need to block off on your pattern.  Once the tedious part of the job is done, the fun begins!  Start coloring in your pattern with coloring pencils.  I recommend using pencils that are erasable because you will likely want to make changes as you go.

After you are done with your design then you are ready to start stringing your beads.  I usually recommend reading the graph from the bottom up but you can do it either way.  But do you read from left to right or right to left?  Assuming you want the finished rope to look exactly like the graph it is very important you string correctly.  The correct way depends on if you crochet left handed or right handed.  

If you crochet right handed: read your graph left to right and bottom to top or right to left and top to bottom.  

If you crochet left handed: read your graph right to left and bottom to top or left to right top to bottom.

If you do not know how to do this fabulous technique, we will be offering regular classes starting in April.  Or you can schedule a one-on-one.

Repetitive Motion Injury and Knitting

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One of my resolutions for 2013 was to finish knitting a sweater for my husband that I started before we bought the shop.  It wasn’t too long into the year that it became very evident that I was not going to meet that goal so I went to back-up resolution number 1: get it completed by the end of March.  Oh yeah…his birthday is this Saturday.  Well, this resolution may prove to be unattainable as well.  Yesterday was the first day I was able to do any knitting in almost a week. 

Since I knew I wasn’t going to have the sweater finished in time, I was working on a revised goal that included getting the sleeves done last week.  I knew I had probably in the range of 20 hours of work left on them so I worked furiously last Monday morning on them.  I think I worked for a total of 4 hours.  I worked another 2 hours at the shop on a Scarf of the Month sample for May.  With six hours of knitting under my belt for the day Monday there was no knitting going on when I got home that evening.  When I got up the next morning I was experiencing some pretty severe shoulder pain, mostly in my left shoulder, yet in both shoulders.  In other words….knitting was out for the rest of the week.  A very important lesson was learned that day.

I know now that I need to follow some very basic rules for avoiding repetitive motion injuries.  Let’s talk a little about my history.  I used to be exclusively a crocheter.  In my 20’s it was nothing for me to crank out an afghan in 3 weeks.  In those days I was also an organic chemist and an avid cyclist.  All three of these activities were very hard on my wrists and I ended up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  I had the surgery eventually as all the palliative and preventive measures tried gave me little relief.  With this history under my belt you would expect I would be sensitive to the issue of repetitive motion injuries.  But sometimes we simply do not learn.

I am now over 50 and I truly know that I have to treat my body with much more respect.  I am working out some management routines that will allow me to stay on track with regards to getting tasks done and yet take care to prevent further injuries.  As a business owner I always am fighting the time-battle.  There are always more projects to get done than time to do them.  There is always paperwork to be done.  There is also the never-ending housework battle to be fought.  My least favorite task in  the world is ironing.  As a result of my hatred of ironing I only wear my clothes that do not require ironing.  I  have lately been finding it necessary to discard several of those shirts resulting in a shortage.  Yet my shirts that require ironing are plentiful and still in good shape.  So here is this weeks plan of attack:  Knit for no more than an hour and then iron a couple shirts.  Repeat as necessary to complete the ironing or until it is time to go to work. 

There are certainly other ways to address the challenge of staying healthy.  Here are some ideas:

knit for an hour and then walk the dog

knit for an hour and then clean the kitchen

knit for an hour and then read for an hour

knit for an hour and then search Ravelry for an hour  (certainly fun but maybe not the best plan)

As you can see there are certainly plenty of ways we can continue to enjoy our crafts, get projects done, get other tasks done, and stay healthy.

In the coming months we will have a local chiropractor come give some presentations on preventing injury while still enjoying our hobbies.  Keep an eye out for announcements on these sessions in our newsletter and on our Facebook page.    

It All Comes Down to Color

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Multi-color scarves and shawls are all the rage at Ravelry right now.  One of the most popular patterns now is one called Color Affection.  This pattern uses at three colors of sock or lace weight yarn.  I just finished a shawl like this called Geyser Stretch by Stephen West, a new favorite designer of mine.  While I still love the colors I selected, I am not as happy with the results as I believe I could be.  This result has birthed a new blog post  which is something I needed to do again anyway.  I want to tell you about my color selection process and where I went wrong.

Geyser Stretch

The most challenging part of many craft processes is often color selection.  I have been a practitioner of many crafty hobbies throughout my 50 years.  I have witnessed others struggle with color selection in all of them.  I don’t mean to sound as though I don’t struggle as well because this project is proof that, even at my age, I still struggle.

When it comes to knitting and beading projects most people select the pattern first.  This is the logical starting point.  As the owner of a bead and yarn shop my approach, out of necessity, tends to be a little lopsided.  In knitting for the shop my first choice is usually the yarn.  Whenever I get a new yarn in the shop I tend to scramble to get a sample made to promote the product.  So I will tell you my process with this shawl and many other projects I knit for the shop.

In this particular instance I needed to make a shop sample using a new yarn called Asikita.  Once I decide on the yarn to make a sample with my next task is usually to find a project.  This is where Ravelry becomes indispensable to me.  The search function in Ravelry defaults to searching for a pattern.  But this function can be used to search all kinds of things including designers and yarn.  By typing the name of the yarn I have selected into the search window, and then selecting “yarns” in the drop down menu, I can find the yarn in their data base.  When you do this search it is possible to get more than one suggested yarn.  Select the correct yarn from the list and you can then navigate to the projects that members have made using that specific yarn.  By doing this search I came up with the Geyser Stretch pattern.  Once the pattern was selected, the next task was to choose the colors.

I had 8 colors to choose from for this project and needed to select three of them for the project.  I am particularly fond of the combination of turquoise and brown.  I gravitated to those two colors first.  The third color was a little harder to select.  I auditioned the cream but found it seemed a little bland.  Since I also like pink and brown I started to look at that color for number three.  I also love pink and grey and the brown selected has grey undertones so that seemed like it would be a good third color.  When you look at the three colors laid together in skein form they still look really good together.  The next step then became assigning A, B, and C to the colors.

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I decided that I wanted to make sure that the turquoise and brown touched each other yet I didn’t think using those two colors for the stripes would work.  This thought led to the decision to stripe the pink and the blue.  I then read the pattern to see which of these colors should be assigned as color A to ensure that the blue and the brown would touch.  This thought process led to A being the turquoise, B being the pink, and C being the brown.  Once these decisions were made it became time to start the knitting.  It did not take long to realize I had not completely thought my colors through.

There were a couple of steps in the color selection process I neglected.

The first thing I should have done was to list out all the possible combinations that could be made with these three colors.  For this pattern and these colors there were three different combinations.  There was one combination I never even considered.  I never considered using the brown and the pink for the stripes and the blue for the border.  In my mind I had made one assumption that I never tested.  I assumed I needed to place my darkest color on the border.  This approach to color and borders comes from my background in piecing quilts.  I either puts lights and mediums in the body and darks in the border, or I put mediums and darks in the body and lights in the border.  My preference is the former.  In any event I want to set-up contrast.  I considered the pink in the shawl a light, the turquoise a medium, and the brown a dark.  With this particular paradigm I was left with only two options; the one I used and the one I rejected.  The third option was to stripe the body with the light and the dark; the pink and the brown; and use the medium for the border.  Do you think that is the way I should have gone with this projects?

The other part of the process I completely neglected was to do a mock color layout.  Doing a mock color layout means taking your skeins of yarn and laying them out in the order they will be knit to get a more concrete sense of how the finished project will look.  If I had performed this step there are two things I did not anticipate that may have very well become obvious.  The mock layout would have undoubtedly revealed to me that striping the pink and blue would reveal a garment that would look like a baby garment.  It is also highly likely that I would have realized that there was yet another option available to me that I did not yet see.

Color Combo B

Color Combo A

What is the moral of this story?  The moral of this story is two-fold.  First of all you need to create as concrete as possible an image of your anticipated garment.  Secondly you need to learn to identify personal paradigms that cause you to neglect certain options available to you.  In other words; Play around with your color as much as possible before you get out the needles.  Have FUN with your colors!  They are not to be feared.  I may not be as happy with my shawl as I would like to be but I still like my shawl.

Critter Crochet

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One of the current popular crochet styles is Amigurumi.  Amigurumi is a Japanese style of crochet used for making small stuffed animals.  While I have been impressed with the wide range of and creativity of these patterns I only recently tried my hand at the craft.  I have a few books on the topic in the shop including Cuddly Crochet, Crochet Softies, and Amigurumi  Toy Box.  Thanwa, the woman who worked for me last year, is expecting her first baby any day now.  I decided to make a critter for her as a shower gift.  Fortunately she chose the theme  of jungle animals for the baby’s room with an emphasis on giraffes.  Crochet Softies includes a pattern for a giraffe, so that is what I made.  Pictured below is the finished example.  I am now working on the snail in the same book.

One truth I have unfortunately come to terms with in recent weeks is that I really am not a crochet fan anymore.  Mind you, I learned to crochet before I was 10 years old.  I struggled to learn to knit well into my 20’s before I finally gave up.  When I moved here to the Sierras I finally endeavored to tackle the craft again, with success this time, and the rest is history.  I enjoy knitting so much more that I find crochet far less fulfilling.  That being said, crochet is a more adaptable technique for the shaping required to make these wonderful stuffed toys.  I am also making a knitted monster from the book Knitted Monsters.  When I am finished making Angus I will have to revisit the topic of knit versus crochet when making animals and toys.

Alternative to the I-Cord

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If you have ever made a draw-string bag then it is likely that you knitted an I-cord for the draw string.  I have never been a fan of I-cord.  Firstly I don’t really enjoy making it.  Secondly, it is usually not quite right for one reason or another.  It can be too big, too bulky, too stretch, or just too….  Kumihimo is currently one of the hottest new trends in beadwork.  I recently decided to explore it’s applicability to knitting.  I have had a knitted bag on display in the shop for as long as I have had the shop.  I decided to pull it down, wash it and put it to use.  When I pulled it down I discovered there wasn’t an appropriate drawstring on the bag.  Fortunately there was plenty of yarn leftovers inside to make a drawstring, but only using Kumihimo braiding.  There wasn’t enough for an I-cord.  This dilemma is what got me thinking about braiding my drawstring.

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I did a standard 8-cord braid.  You can do a braid with more cords but not less.  Depending on the type of board you are using you may be able to use as many as 36 cords to make a very thick, strong and sturdy cord.  In this case I was using two different colors of yarn.  I wanted to make a spiral pattern in my cord but goofed when I loaded the board.  I have a broken pattern instead that looks more like hounds tooth.  What is it they say, there are no mistakes, only design options?  In this case I learned a new pattern for braiding.  The more cords you use the more design options you have.

The negative part of using a braiding board to make a drawstring instead of knitting an I-cord is that the braiding does take longer.  It is still an immensely portable technique though and you can take it with you to work on in those many fleeting idle moments that occur throughout the day.  It is pretty easy when you get comfortable with the technique to figure out where you left off.  That being said, I do need to add that the more cords you use the more confusing it can be.  It can also be a little more confusing to pick up where you left off if you are doing a flat braid instead of a round braid.  Didn’t I mention you can do a flat braid?  Yes, you can do a flat braid with a square braiding board.  You can do a round braid in either a round or square board but it is rather difficult to do a flat braid in a round board.  It is important to know that you usually need at least ten cords to do a flat braid.  The math side of my brain says you should be able to do it with as few as 6 cords but I haven’t had time to test the theory out yet.  

Key points to remember:

1. Always use bobbins when braiding a cord to minimize tangling.

2. For round cord cut your strands at least three times your desired length, and two times your desired length for flat braid.

3. When doing a flat braid be sure to complete a full cycle before you put it down so you will know to start at the beginning of a cycle when you pick it up again.

4. Have fun!

The braid I have made is nice and sturdy, a bit stiffer than what I would have gotten from an I-cord, much stronger, and definitely thinner.  My cord is about 5mm in diameter using 8 strands of about a DK weight yarn.  So consider braiding your next draw string or any other cord you need to make for your knitting or crochet project.

Marketing Books

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We love books!  Just about every hobby enthusiast I know says these same words.  Even with the growing trend towards digital books there is still that love affair with books.  Yet in spite of this love affair we still need to market them.  The best way to market any book for a hobby is to make samples from the book to display with the book.  We do make samples regularly in the shop for our print publications.  I recently did a series of photos of some of the knitting samples around the shop.  Below is a slide show to get you interested in what we have to offer.  Hopefully I will get the same sort of slide show created for beading and crochet samples soon.  Admittedly we don’t get as much to sell to the crochet crowd but we do have some great stuff none the less.

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We love to knit samples for the shop.  Doing so not only gives us the chance to play with new yarns when they come in, but it also gives us the opportunity to check out the patterns in the books we carry.  We have samples from several of the currently available books that you can see in this slideshow.   My favorite of this collection is by far the perpetual calendar.  I have created numerous scarf patterns from the stitch patterns in this book.  I have also used this book for creating the blocks for the Block of the Month class series.  There is a crochet version of this calender also available at the shop.  While the crochet calendar is now out of print I have still been able to get it for the shop from a distributor that still has stock.  Be sure to check out both of these calendar as well as the many other fabulous books we carry.

Multiple Personality Scarf

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When I got the yarn Lustrous by Sublime I knew I would be knitting a scarf with it before too long.  I met with my sales rep a couple weeks after it arrived and she told me about a scarf being made with it at one of her other shops.  I put my own little twist on it and this is what resulted.

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I had fun knitting this simple scarf and decided it would make a perfect project for beginning knitters.  You have to cast-on 200 stitches.  After casting on that many stitches most new knitters should have the technique firmly planted in their brain.  It is a simple rib pattern so the student would learn to knit and purl, and they should also get the grasp of reading their stitches and learning what each one looks like.  There are also three color changes in this scarf so yet another technique can be marked off the list.  And let’s not forget the bind off.  Binding off 200 stitches should have the same result as casting them on…A firm grasp of the technique when done.  Lastly, since this pattern uses multiple colors, and the scarf can be folded in a multitude of ways, the student will have a fashion accessory that will be very versatile.

I can’t wait to do this scarf again.  we have a holiday tomorrow and my husband and I will likely take a drive somewhere so I will have lots of knitting time.  I am planning to do the next scarf with the Sugar Rush yarn.  This yarn has been discontinued and is on clearance so this pattern will hopefully help sell the last of the yarn.  Don’t worry, we have plenty of it in stock in lots of colors.  I will only use 3 skeins in this sample since they have one third more yardage than the Lustrous yarn.  Hopefully I will have more pictures soon.

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I started this blog nearly 2 years ago but never went any further with it.  It was intended to be a part of the website.  About the same time I started the blog I also lost my laptop and all ability to continue to update the website.  So I had another blog false start using Blogger.  I had so much difficulty trying to manage photos on that site that I finally threw my hands in the air and gave up on blogs.  I did eventually go back to using Facebook to promote the shop and classes but I found that more and more I really wanted to do a blog.  I have been very busy knitting and beading in the past few months and I really wanted to share what I am doing and what I am learning.  Since photos are an integral part of sharing what I am up to I have once again returned to this blog.  So here goes again with WordPress.

With Fourth of July  just around the corner I have been working on patriotic themed projects.  Beads and fiber jewelry are very much in my focus right now.  I will be offering my very first fiber jewelry class in a few weeks with my own variation of this knit bracelet.  I had enough beads left over and already strung on the red crown perle cotton to do another bracelet only narrower.  I absolutely loved the new version.  I offered to make one in blue as a raffle prize for a fundraiser and while doing  the blue one I started thinking about a patriotic one.  I really love making and wearing this bracelet and am very excited about the future of this class series.

Once I was done with the knit bracelet I turned my sights on one of my bead soups.  One of the more fun aspects of buying seed beads in bulk and tubing them myself is the leftovers and the really fun bead soups that can result from them.  A few years ago I started making the soups with strictly delica beads.  One of the delica soups is a red, white and blue soup.  We offered a class last year on a beaded bracelet called Colorful Connections.  One of the students who did the class used our fall blend delica soup and her bracelet was simply wonderful.  So I followed in her footsteps and did the same bracelet using the red, white and blue soup.  Time is always short with me so I needed to be able to make the bracelet rather quickly.  In order to speed it up I did two-drop peyote stitch instead of regular single drop peyote.  I was able to make the bracelet in just a few days and just love the result.  I made random color tubes and color specific tubes from the soup.  Then I added single color tubes for more red, white and blue tubes.  Since I did the tubes in two-drop peyote I did have to modify the clasp a little.  I can’t wait to wear my bracelet!  Photos will be posted later today.

 

I am a little late but here are my knitted bracelets and one beaded star spangled bracelet.  The class for the knit bracelet is coming this month.