Friday, February 16, 2018

Crochet Hexagon Update

Have you been watching any of the Olympics? I've been working on my Crochet Hexagon Afghan most nights while watching. The afghan is coming along. 

I am attaching the hexagons together with whip stitch using a blunt point tapestry needle. It is not a fancy technique and I prefer it to crocheting them together. I like to do hand sewing and it is quite relaxing to piece the hexies together. I wasn't sure how it was going to look. The edges of each hexagon are different colors. I am choosing one of the colors and sewing it to the next. I was a bit worried that it wouldn't be up to snuff but with all the colors, the different colored sewing yarn isn't really noticeable from far away. The overall feel of the afghan is crazy colorful and fun. 

It feels good to not be looking for perfection in a project. I am not going to enter this afghan in any fair or contest. I am defintely not what you would call an expert crocheter - I just get by. My family - who will be fighting over this blanket - could care less if the sewing threads don't match. So I am just going with it and enjoying the process. It feels nice to just let go and see where it takes me.

The other day, I posted a video on IG of me steaming my hexagons using a steamer. Here is the link. I have had this Jiffy Steamer for over 20 years ago. It is still going strong. I think it cost $115 back then. I have gotten my money out of it many times over. You can buy one now on Amazon - here is the link. It is a real miracle worker. I remember using a similar steamer at CEY to stretch sweaters out in size by almost 8-10" when they came in too small from our sample knitters (those were the days of oversized sweaters). You really do need one if you do a lot of knitting or crochet. It makes any piece look more professional and finished.

As you can see in the video, before steaming the hexagons were curled up and quite uneven. After steaming - they are nice and flat and easy to sew together. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

My 83 Year Old Mom's First Painting - Finished!

Thanks for the nice comments about my Mom Nancy's new hobby - watercolor painting. She had her second class and she finished her first project. My nephew sent a photo of the painting. Doesn't it look great? 

When I checked in with her after the class, she sounded so excited and proud of herself. She told me about the next project she would be doing, about the people in the class and about the teacher. I am so excited for her and the new things she is learning. It takes nerve at 83 to try something new. Here is my Mom Nancy with her finished painting.

So many people think they can't learn a new hobby and they just give up learning. I know that there are so many good teachers out there teaching adults of all ages. It helps people's self-esteem and health, I am sure. I think every nursing home should have some kind of art therapy program. 

My friend Robin has been learning to draw and paint and she has recorded it all on a blog which you can see here. Recently she began taking an on-line watercolor class with Liz Steel and is loving it. You might want to check it out if you too are interested. There are lots of classes on Creativebug, Craftsy, and Skillshare available for all kinds of art. They aren't expensive and many are available with an inexpensive monthly membership. Check it out if you have ever wanted to learn to paint or draw. 

Remember - you can't just think about it - you actually have to do it. Pull out the paper, the paints (or the yarn, fabric and thread) and do it. Every attempt will get better. It just takes faith and a zeal to learn, not being afraid of failure, and the will to conquer a new art. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Brand New!!!! Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book + A Giveaway

It is Valentine's Day and so I thought I should do something for all of you who are still reading here. I've got a great chance to win the brand new Vogue Knitting Ultimate Knitting Book.

This is the third edition of this "must have" book for serious or not so serious knitters. It's amazing to think that the fine folks at Soho have published this book in three different versions. But then when I think about it - what knitters knit and are interested in changes so much over the years. Who better to update such information than the women who work at the top of the industry. Remarkable too to know that it has sold more than 1,000,000 copies in its different versions! WOW. That is a book that is in a lot of knitter's libraries. 

This new edition of the Vogue Knitting Ultimate Knitting Book includes beautifully illustrated how-to illustrations with complete and clear instructions on how to tackle each technique - and there are hundreds of them. It is a fantastic resource for sure. 

The Vogue Knitting Ultimate Knitting Book is split up into different sections like in the past and covers anything a new or experienced knitter might have a question about. 

The sections I found interesting - because they are new to the book and more representative of what knitters are making now are:


Designing Sweaters - including how to measure yourself to knit to fit

Directional Knitting - for those of you want to knit every which way - FUN!

Accessory Designing - how to design hats, mittens, gloves, etc.

Shawl Knitting - to follow the trend that seems to not stop

I'm going to hold on to the two other versions of VK Knitting Book and will place this one on my library shelves next to them. Thanks Trisha, Carla, Diane, and crew for working so hard and keeping the craft relevant. 

Do you want your very own copy of the brand new Vogue Knitting Ultimate Knitting Book? Here's how to enter the giveaway.

Answer the following question in the comments:
Tell me what your favorite knitting or craft technique is now. What is piquing your interest? What do you want to learn? 

Please as always, leave an easy way to get a hold of you - email, Rav id or blogger id. 

Contest ends Sunday February 18th at 11:59 p.m. U.S. Addresses only. Thanks for reading! 

Contest is over. Congrats to D who has won the book. She wrote -
I knit mostly charity hats, but would love to learn fair isle and how to make socks or sweaters that fit. Thanks so much for your continuing inspiration, Kristin.

Friday, February 09, 2018

83 and Still Learning Something New + You Can Too!

A few weeks ago, Julia and I were visiting Mom in New Jersey. We went on a little adventure which I wrote about here. When we were visiting The Kubert School, we discovered that they also teach "regular" folks -- not only enrolled students. I encouraged Mom to sign up for a watercolor class. My Mom hasn't picked up a paintbrush too many times - mostly for painting something in the house. She certainly doesn't consider herself an artist. I know she has an undiscovered talent. As my sister Laurie says "where did it all come from?" At age 83 - it is going to be fun to watch Mom discover her talent. Her first class was last week and she had a great time.

Luckily my nephews Nicholas and Francisco were at Mom's house tonight. Francisco snapped some photos of Mom and her paintings. I'm hoping there will be a "second version" after her next lesson. (I'm trying to get Mom to take photos of her progress on her phone. Fingers crossed she can figure that out!) 

I can't wait to see what she paints tomorrow. Hopefully Mom will be able to send me a photo to share with all of you. 

There is a fantastic children's book called Emma. It is written by Wendy Kesselman and illustrated by Barbara Cooney (one of my favorite children's book illustrators). It is out of print now but you can pick it up used here)

I used to read this book to Julia over and over when she was small. I loved the possibilities it offered both children and adults. The story is about a 72 year old woman named Emma who teaches herself to paint. 

She doesn't tell anyone about it but she becomes obsessed with painting. 

Her family discovers her talent and tells her she is good. She covers her house in her paintings. The last page of the book is beautiful. It reads 

"Emma was surrounded by the friends and places she loved. 
And she was never lonely again." 

I know that not everyone can find art classes in their area and that is where sites like SkillshareCreativebug, and Craftsy come in. There is so much out there to learn. For the small investment in a monthly membership, you can spend hours learning and exploring something new - all in the quiet of your home. 

Of course, watching the techniques will not make you a success. You will actually have to practice and do it versus just thinking about it. 

I feel fortunate that I have been able to teach on both Creativebug and Craftsy and on PBS's Knit and Crochet Now. I have no clue how many people I have helped to learn something new. And I love that I too can take classes here at my home and learn something new from someone who comes from another part of the world. 

I hope you all are having a good weekend. Let me know what you are learning this winter if you have a chance. 

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Sunday Lambing - Lots of Photos + A Video

On Sunday, I was helping The Farmer at the barns with morning chores. I brought my DSLR camera because it was a nice cloudy day and I was hoping I might get some nice photos of little lambs. As I was poking around the various groups of sheep and lambs, I noticed one that looked to be in labor. I decided to stay and hope I would be able to watch her lamb. 

Amazingly, I haven't witnessed a birth in a few years. It seems I am never at the barns at just the right time. Most times, lambs will be born when no people are around. The ewes know what to do and most lambs will be born with no problem. 

The ewe that was in labor was a nice calm older sheep and we figured she would deliver fine. As it was, it took a long time. The feet and head came out but it seemed like the lamb was rather big. Many times when there is a big lamb, the mama can't deliver it and the lamb will suffocate. It was lunch time and The Farmer was a hungry guy. We decided to pull the lamb so he could get on with his day. 

Now this part happened very fast and I do not have photos because I was the one doing the pulling. The Farmer is so good at lambing season - he knows just what to do after experiencing so many births. He got the ewe down on the ground.

Then reminded me what to do. 
"Pull one leg out at a time. They should come right out. Then pull both on both legs and the lamb should pop out." 

I did what was instructed and voila. 

He went home for lunch and I decided to stick around and take more photos. And an IG video (I have embedded it at the end of this post). 

I watched the ewe clean the lamb. It really is quite amazing to watch - even though I have seen it many times. The ewes are always so calm and methodical and just keep at the licking and cleaning. The ewe will nicker and the lamb will answer back with a little baahhh. Amazing every time.  

I noticed another sack coming out. She was carrying twins. 

I missed the second lamb's birth because I got antsy and started walking around looking at other things. The second one came much faster than the first. Here is a little video though - less than a minute - of the two lambs getting up on their wobbly legs and beginning to look for milk. 

So much has happened since Sunday. It is impossible to document it all here. Every day seems to fly by and I wonder what I have gotten accomplished. Yesterday we had another weather event. Snow - then ice. I have got to get outside to take care of it all. 

In between life, I've been busy working on some fabric designs for my Spoonflower shop. It is really so time consuming - lots of computer work staring at a screen, tweaking files. I've ordered some test fabrics to make sure the files are okay. I'm excited about seeing the results. More about that soon. 

Hope you all are having a good week. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Scrappy Crochet Hexagons with Extra Colors + More Inspiration

I am working away on my Scrappy Crochet Hexagon Blanket. I stumbled on this idea to make the rounds in two different colors. This way, if I am working along and run out of a color, I can pick up another and complete the round. I wouldn't do all the hexagons this way because it makes for more ends to weave in but once in a while, it is fun to throw in a hexagon with more than three colors. When the blanket is done, it will give the person snuggling under something to discover. 

A few years ago, a lovely woman named Maria came to one of my summer classes. We were painting lampshades but whenever we were in the "discussion" part of the weekend, Maria whipped out her new project - a crochet hexagon afghan. Maria was totally obsessed with her hexagons - as it seems many people are. I contacted Maria to ask her if I could share her pattern and she said sure. 

The Hexagons that Maria made are different than the ones I am making. They begin as a circle. In the last round, they turn into a hexagon. 

You can follow Maria at "quiltmomoffive" on both Ravelry and Instagram. She is a super talented woman who knits, crochets, spins and weaves! And she is lovely on top of it all.  Thanks Maria for the inspiration! 

And more inspiration ---- My blog friend from "across the pond" Adaliza made a gorgeous crochet afghan from my yarn several years ago. It was called Gypsy Rose and you can see it here. This winter she is working on a second one. Check that out here. Gorgeous work from another talented woman. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Lambing Season 2018 + Thoughts

The sheep have begun lambing. Actually it has been going on since late December. There are about 40 lambs so far from 32 mothers. That means that the twinning percentage isn't too good. Most farmers look for twinning percentage to be at least 150%. It may change as lambing progresses. 

Twinning is a result of many things. It is mostly thought of as result of genetics. Rams and ewes who were born as twins are more prone to produce twin progeny. Feed, health of the ewes and rams, and weather all contribute to the twinning percentage. Last year, we had the highest twinning rate ever. Could it be that the ewes' bodies are taking a year off and recovering? Was the weather poor when they were ovulating and dropping eggs? Here is an easy to understand article that explains how a shepherd can increase their twinning percentage. 

(This mama doesn't want 1 of her lambs so the ewe is tied to the wall so the lamb can nurse and she can't butt it away. Hopefully she will accept her soon.)

This year, The Farmer has a new helper named Andrea. She works on a veggie farm in the growing season and wanted to learn about sheep. Andrea has been a great help. She is learning all kinds of things about animal production and husbandry. Andrea is upbeat and positive and very pleasant to be around. And that 20-something level of energy is so fun to watch. We both try to see if she can exude some in our direction. The other day Andrea got to witness a lamb being born for the first time. She was thrilled to see it and couldn't believe how fast the lamb got up and nursed. (Ewes frequently lamb during the night or very early in the morning when humans aren't around.)

I so appreciate Andrea's help. I have a lot going on here before the release of my next book (more about that soon). We have raised sheep since 1980. This is our 37th year of lambing. Just writing that -- how is it possible? I remember how excited I was when our first lambs were born and how I marveled at the ewes' ability to mother. Most of the ewes just know what to do. I remember the sadness I felt when a lamb didn't make it. We used to name all the lambs. We don't do that anymore -- only one of the lambs has a name this year - Horatio. Not sure where The Farmer got that name but it fits the little guy. He is being supplemented with a bottle because his mom has teats that are difficult to nurse from. His twin figured it out but Horatio was slow to start and probably would not have made it without milk fed from humans. 

After all these years of raising and watching sheep, I have become more realistic and grounded and know that not every animal will make it. I am used to the things that can go wrong. There is not always a good outcome to every situation. I have seen "things" that most of you could not ever imagine (unless you are a doctor, nurse or have seen service overseas). Some days we used to call our farm "Daily Tragedy Farm." Not all days but some days - things just go wrong and there is not much to do to fix them. I think all of this has helped me become a better person - more pragmatic and matter-of-fact when faced with situations in life that are not wine and roses. But don't get me wrong - some days I just want to run back to the suburbs where I don't have to walk on ice, haul in wood for the furnace, and worry about the lives of so many critters, much less the health and feeding of my little human family and the messy farmhouse. But then I realize that I would be very bored and not as fulfilled. I need all the craziness and lack of knowing what comes next that our farm and our lives offer. It keeps me challenged, if sometimes overwhelmed and confused about what direction I should head in. 

(The ice at the barns below. We do have some sand trails around to walk on.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Scrappy Crochet Hexagons - Progress and The Pattern

Here is what I have so far. 

I've been working every evening on my Scrappy Crochet Hexagons. At the beginning of every evening crochet session, I weave in the ends from the night before. I am piling them up each morning. Soon I am going to sew them together so I can get an idea of how many hexagons I will need to make to complete the afghan. I think this will be a multi-year project. 

Here are the directions for the hexagons I am making. 

Kristin's Scrappy Hexagon Crochet Afghan

Use worsted weight yarn and a size H (5.0 mm) crochet needle. I used my Color By Kristin/Julia yarn that has 93 yards for 50 grams. Each of my hexagons weighs approximately 6 grams. I will be able to determine how many hexagons and how much yarn I need once I begin sewing the pieces together. 

To Begin: With Color 1, chain 6. Work slip st to join in a circle. 

Round 1: With Color 1, [Chain 2 (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc, ch 1], 
*(3 dc, ch 1)* - rep bet *'s 5 times,
join with a slip st to complete round. 
Break yarn leaving a 6" tail. 
You will have 6 spaces created by the chain 1 between each set of 3 double crochets. This space is where the pattern will build out. 

Round 2: With Color 2, join yarn in one of the chain 1 spaces, 
[ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc, ch2, 2 dc - work these sts into the open space created by the ch1 in first round], 
*(2 dc, 2 ch, 2 dc)* rep bet *'s 5 times, (this sequence is worked in each of the ch1 spaces created in the first round),
join round with a slip stitch to complete round. Break yarn leaving a 6" tail. 
The piece will begin looking like a hexagon.

Round 3: With Color 3, join yarn in one of the open 2 chain spaces. 
[Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc, ch2, 2 dc - (work these sts into the open space created by the ch2 in second round), - then work 2 dc in the next open space], 
*(2 dc, 2 ch, 2 dc) in each ch2 spaces, 2 dc in next open space)* rep bet *'s 5 times around the hexagon,
join round with a slip stitch to complete round. Break yarn leaving 6" tail.
Hexagon is complete. 

My hexagons are 3 rounds. Use this same pattern and keep adding rounds of crochet to enlarge the hexagons to your desired size. Each "corner" will be worked the same but there will have more "2 double crochets" between each corner as the hexagon grows larger. You'll get it once you begin working - trust me. 

I like this pattern because it is easy to memorize. It is also a bit lighter in weight than other hexagon patterns which often place 3 double crochets in the corners and open spaces. This pattern will use less yarn but might not be quite as warm. 

I am using my worsted weight wool/mohair/alpaca yarn which has been produced three times by three different yarn companies. It went by the name of "Julia" when produced the first time by "Goddess Yarns." Next, it was produced by Nashua Handknits and it was again called "Julia." Lastly, it was produced by Classic Elite Yarns and had the name "Color By Kristin." 

Sadly the yarn is no longer available although Webs has 2 colors left at a great price here. You might also be able to find it on eBay and Etsy. I doubt there will ever be another yarn quite like this one and luckily, I have a whole bunch of it that I am hoarding for my own knitting and crochet projects for the next umpteen years. I'm not sure what I will do with it all but crochet seems like a good way to use it. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Back Home in A Town of Immigrants

Right now, Julia and I are “stuck” in New Jersey. We came down for a quick visit to stay with my Mom before Julia has to start her second semester of college. Today, there is a snowstorm going on and we are staying for another day. We are trapped in my Mom’s lovely house for the day. It is nice to be here without any holiday hullaboo or reason to travel and leave. 

Yesterday we acted like tourists in my home town. It has been over 30 years since I have lived here in New Jersey. My hometown Dover is a town about 35 miles west of NYC. My Dad’s family were immigrants here in the early 20th century. His Mom Frieda came from Germany in 1911 when she was 10. His Dad Archie was the 9th child of immigrants from England. I spent the first 18 years of my life here and my Mom is still here as is my sister Jenn.

Dover has always been a town of immigrants. When I was young, my Mom would always interview us about our friends and want to know their last name. From a last name, she could surmise an ethnic background. This is just the way it was. I never thought that question was odd. My friends and I frequently talked about our heritages - and they were diverse - Italian, Irish, German, Scottish, English, Jewish, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Norwegian - on and on. That was just what we did. We were all proud of our individual ethnic backgrounds and frequently shared the customs with each other. 

As I drove into town the other evening, I stopped at ShopRite to pick up a few things. It is a bit of culture shock coming into Dover from rural western Massachusetts. Dover has always been a welcoming town for immigrants. When I was young, throngs of families moved into town from South America and Puerto Rico. As they moved in, many of the more established immigrant populations — the people I grew up with and went to school with — moved out of town to the suburbs of Dover. They did not want to be in a town that began to be more and more Hispanic. Property values went down. My family stayed and they are still here. ShopRite was filled with families of all different nationalities. The shelves are lined with items I don't see on the shelves of Foster's Market in western Mass. Dover is now a Hispanic majority town with 70% of its residents of Hispanic heritage.

As I drove down the Main Street of Dover the other evening to my childhood home, I could not believe how busy the town was. Every building is occupied with a business of some kind - restaurants, small stores, insurance agencies, banks, doctors, lawyers. There are no empty buildings. The Christmas decorations were still up and the town looked alive. Coming from western Massachusetts where our local towns struggle to keep the young people employed and businesses move in and out at an alarming rate, it made me think. By welcoming immigrants, Dover has remained alive and thriving. Don’t get me wrong - for many years, it was a bit of a ghost town. Strip malls were built outside the town and businesses left.  But Dover has had a reawakening - most likely one of many over its 300 plus year history. It might not be the town I grew up in but it is still here - reimagined and lively and full of community. 

Yesterday we decided to explore a little. Julia, Mom and I went downtown and walked around looking for a place to eat lunch. With so many restaurants to choose from, we chose El Paraiso. The menu was in Spanish, the tv was playing a Spanish "judge judy" type show and the waitress helped us choose a meal called enchiladas. The food was delicious -- but nothing like what I think of as an enchilada. Today as I am writing this post, I discovered the restaurant was Honduran. 

After lunch, we went to The Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Arts which is housed in the old Dover High School (later Middle School) building that my sisters and I attended. Joe Kubert was a neighbor of ours. My sisters and I went to school with his children. "Mr. Kubert" was a world famous cartoon artist. In the 70's, he and his wife Muriel started the school. The school began in an old "mansion" and they later purchased the school building and moved it there. There is a fantastic art supply store in the basement with good prices. It was great to see the old school still serving as a center of learning with students coming from all over the world to learn cartooning. The Kubert family still runs the school and his boys Andy and Adam are successful artists and teachers. The school also offers a correspondence course in cartooning and many of their students have become famous in their own right. 

Late in the afternoon, we travelled down to East Hanover. Kam Man Market was the third stop in our cultural discoveries for the day. We had a blast wandering the aisles of the store, looking at the labels, trying to figure out what the different things were. I purchased some noodles, soy sauce and Asian cooking utensils - things that I enjoy cooking but cannot find near where I live. Some photos from the market are at the end of this post. There are other locations of this market in NJ, NYC, and Quincy MA. It is worth a trip. They also have a bakery, noodle shop, and to go food court. 

The storm is over now and we will head back to western Massachusetts tomorrow. It has been fun to discover new things here in Dover and introduce Julia to other cultures that she cannot experience in our rural community. On the next trip, we will explore a little more and learn what more Dover has to offer.