Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Busy Autumn, Best Advice

Most of my lovely listeners know that we moved just over 2 years ago and house prices being what they were, our townhouse was not breaking even and was not approved for a short sale (boo!). We got some good renters in there and were biding our time until the market turned. It did late this summer - the DC Metro (subway) came through almost all the way to our house driving the home values up. The house went on the market, went under contract in 5 days and we're closing very soon!

On top of that, the autumn has been extremely busy - I took a volunteer job as PTA treasurer not realizing the sheer volume of hours that it involves to do a good job without prior bookkeeping skills and Hamburke's has been very busy with mostly local orders (yay for local!) and the kids have activities that overlap. I've neglected to write, well, for a while, so today, I'm going to pass on my very favorite crochet tips.

Get a GRIP! If you have the regular Boye or Bates hooks that are just a thin piece of metal, you may have noticed that your hand hurts after a while. I've been switching over to Clover over the course of the last year and I can go for so much longer! After I found the Soft Touch, I stumbled upon the Amour hooks and love them! Crochet Dude has some great ones as well. I'm faster and can crochet much longer without a break for my hands to uncramp or stop tingling.

More than anything else, sizing crochet is a challenge without the wearer right there! I've spent more time taking out hats than getting them right in one go after adjusting a pattern. Last spring, I came across a blogger, Anne Granger, that had made a chart to help - "size/age", head circumference, hat circumference, crown circle diameter and top of hat to bottom of ear - and it's EXCELLENT! I haven't had to pull a single hat out for sizing problems since I measure the crown circle!  I printed out just the size chart, put it in a sleeve and tucked it into the front of my patterns binder.

Speaking of my patterns binder, ORGANIZING my patterns is huge. I buy or acquire most of my patterns online rather than from books or magazines and for portability, I print them out. Reading patterns on my phone just gives me a headache! That's a lot of paper, folks, and I'm kind of a reuse-reduce-recycle nut so I try very hard to only print them once. So I take care of that paper - I have multi-page capacity sheet protectors that I slip the patterns in and have them in a 3" 3-ring binder organized (with tabs) for hats, booties, sweaters/cocoons, blankets and "other" (this tab has the viking hat with attached beard my husband wants me to make).  I also write the name that I sell the product under as I often rename an item to sell it. Listen, folks, I have 3 very different hat patterns called "The Elizabeth Hat" and 2 "Everyday Soaker/Diaper Cover" - if I went with the pattern name, I'd be even more confused and confusing!

Hooks - I don't have a special crochet hook organizer with slots for the different sizes. Instead, I have a smaller, zippered makeup bag that I got for 50 cents on clearance at Target. I think a zippered pencil pouch would also work well and might be prettier (yeah, there's a reason it, and all of it's twins, were on clearance). I also keep stitch markers, a pen, nail clippers for cutting yarn, tapestry needles and a small retractable tape measure in this case.

Projects - I keep the plastic bags that my yarn comes in inside the box to use for organizing projects. They're just simple clear 2mil open-top bags (think ziplock sandwich bag quality plastic but produce bag size and shape) but I use them to store unfinished projects. I put all of my yet-to-be-used yarn in them along with the pattern and if it's an order, the printed packing slip. I reuse them until things fall out of them.

Yarn - this is something that I need to work on. There are a zillion-trillion ideas out there for organizing yarn. I keep mine in clear plastic file boxes organized mostly by yarn weight and use (sport weight cottons are in one, worsted weight cottons are in another and kitchen cottons are in a third. All else is in my ottoman) and scraps (anything less than 10g) go in a plastic shoe box to be used for embellishments. I found out today, though, that I'm not as organized as I wish I was as I pulled out a worsted weight cotton from the sport weight bin... oops! and that's the one that's over flowing so I'll have to clean it out again and track my inventory better.

Finally, I know that I don't know it all - there are very few people who do. My first go-to when I don't understand a stitch is YouTube and I look for well known crochet v-loggers who tend to be concise and not overly chatty (it's distracting when I'm learning something new). Sometimes a stitch sounds complicated on paper or is poorly worded or mis-named by the designer. Last week, I was working on a pattern that called for a V-stitch - no problem - that's a dc-ch1-dc in the same stitch, skip the next stitch but the pattern wasn't working out like I expected it would. The designer had put in her own definitions of a V-stitch - dc2 in the same stitch - in the notes and I hadn't noticed it b/c I just skimmed that part (even worse - I was working with black yarn so it was hard to see what I had done). This is a simple example but there are a bunch like it - Crochet Street blog just published the difference between a bobble, popcorn and puff stitch using Moogly blogger Tamara Kelly's videos - you'll see how words and video are so excellently paired! I watched Tamera's 3 videos yesterday and I cannot tell you today which one is which (wrong side, right side or drop and pick up). My second go-to resource is my mother-in-law when she's in town - she's been doing this longer than I have and can sometimes sort out what the designer is saying better than I can.

So - review of pro-tips: find a comfortable hook (don't be saddled with grandma's arthritic handmedowns), learn or reference sizing, find ways to organize your crazy crafter space and don't be afraid to search out help!

So - review of pro-tips: find a comfortable hook (don't be saddled with grandma's arthritic handmedowns), learn sizing, and find ways to organize your crazy crafter!

I'm leaving you to gaze upon this cutie patootie in a custom request knit-look crochet hat that will very soon be on my Etsy page!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer Vacation: DIY Art Day Camp

I love arts and crafts (obviously) and this summer, I wanted to share with my kids. I came up with the idea for Art Week after visiting the VMFA (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) downtown with out-of-town friends (hey - who knew that it was free?). I brought up taking the kids to the museum over the summer to a couple local friends and when they were receptive, I sprung the week-long DIY Art Day Camp idea on them! We picked 2 or 3 activities for each day that we anticipated would take 2-3 hours for the kids to complete (we underestimated how long kids take on some projects - most were done in 20 minutes).

Day 1
Monday, Aug 18

We got a late start after a sleepless night but our resident artist let us in on the secret to drawing (psst - it's finding the simple shapes in an image)

Day 2
Tuesday, Aug 19

We made it downtown without getting lost and over an hour in the museum before the younger kids started melting down.

Day 3
Wednesday, Aug 20

I think this was the most fun! I taught them a little bit about watercolors (I set out a still life but mostly, they painted minions) and we did a Michelangelo style painting (they painted the papered-over underside of my dining room table).

The little kids had fun too with Paint With Water books!

Day 4
Thursday, Aug 21
Tie Dye

BYO Shirt! It's so humid here though that these are still hanging in my shed (it rained last night and this afternoon).

Day 5
Friday, Aug 22
Kid Craft

This one kind of fell apart. I had a couple things that had to be done in the morning and my friends have kids who nap but I did one of the activities anyway!
This is ribbon embroidery done on paper

I also finished this lovely Christening/Baptism/Dedication baby gown and booties (both will be listed soon!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Baptism Blanket - free crochet pattern

I had a request last night for the pattern for this blanket:

Truth is, I made it up and used my KAL (knit-a-long) creation skills to create the image. (eh - I'm not a big knitter -it takes me forever and I make a lot of mistakes - but I have fun with washclothes with pictures on them). Instead of the purl replacing a knit stitch, I used a ch1 space to draw the picture, dot matrix style.

I make this rectangular. Typical sizes I get asked to create are 24x30 (baby) and 32x40 (toddler)

So here's the pattern:

generally, I use a 5.5 mm hook with sport weight yarn (my fave - knit picks shine sport).

Row 1: dc foundation chain row (how to HERE) made to the desired width minus double the height of a dc (that's the trim)

Pause -
1-Since gauge is not that big of a deal for this pattern, count your stitches here - it just needs to be an even number. I make various sizes of this blanket and have never written down the number of stitches. The toddler blanket shown has about 100 stitches across. My gauge is generally around around 3-4 stitches per inch.
2- Grab some graph paper. Using your number of stitches, draw out your image using 1 square across = 2 stitches (double crochet) and 1 square down = 1 row. For the toddler blanket, I use 10 holes (20 stitches) as the width of the vertical portion of my cross (width of stipes) centered on the blanket, 10 holes (10 rows) including the top row down to the patibulum (crossbar), the patibulum is a total of 56 stitches wide (10 holes out on each side including the last hole that makes up the stipes). The stipes continues down an additional 19 holes/rows for a a total of 38 rows down. Yours doesn't have to be the same as mine.

Row 2 & 3: ch2 turn, dc in the same stitch, dc across, dc, ch2 turn
Row 4: assuming 100 stitches (use your graph if you got something different or have a wider or narrower stipes), dc in same stitch as the ch-turn, dc 39, *ch1, skip a stitch, dc in the next stitch* repeat from * to * 9 times, dc 40, ch2 turn
Row 5-12: dc in the same stitch as the ch-turn, dc 39, ch1, dc 18, ch1, dc 40, ch2 turn
Row 13: dc in the same stitch as the ch-turn, dc 20, *ch1, skip a stitch, dc in the next stitch* repeat from * to * 9 times (the last ch1 should be under the ch1 space), dc 18. *ch1, skip a stitch, dc in the next stitch* repeat from * to * 9 times (the first ch1 space should be under the ch1 space in the row above), dc 21, ch2 turn
Row 14-21: dc in the same stitch as the ch-turn, dc 20, ch1, dc 56, ch1, dc 21, ch2 turn
Row 22: dc in the same stitch as the ch-turn, dc 20, *ch1, skip a stitch, dc in the next stitch* repeat from * to * 9 times (the last ch1 should be under the ch1 space), dc 18. *ch1, skip a stitch, dc in the next stitch* repeat from * to * 9 times, dc 21, ch2 turn
Row 23-40: dc in the same stitch as the ch-turn, dc 39, ch1, dc 18, ch1, dc 40, ch2 turn
Row 41: dc in same stitch as the ch-turn, dc 39, *ch1, skip a stitch, dc in the next stitch* repeat from * to * 9 times, dc 40, ch2 turn
Row 42 & 43: ch2 turn, dc in the same stitch, dc across, dc, ch2 turn
Row 44: ch2 turn, dc in the same stitch, dc across, dc, ch2 do not turn

Pause -
Starting trim rounds here - you can do any trim you want. I kept this one simple with 3 rounds. You can pick a different one that you like better if you want.

ROUND 1- turn the blanket so that you are working down the side of the blanket, sc in the same stitch as the turning chain, sc down the side putting 2 stitches in the side of every dc. At the corner, ch1 and sc in same stitch. sc across; at the next corner, ch1, sc in same stitch, sc 2x in the side of each dc; last corner now, ch1, sc in the same stitch, sc across except the final stitch where the ch 2 is. Join with a slst in the ch2 space. ch4  do not turn
ROUND 2 - dc in same stitch as chain, working down the side of the blanket, *ch1, skip a stitch, dc in next stitch* across. At the corners, ch2 and dc in the same ch1 space. join with a slst when you get around. ch1, do not turn.
ROUND 3 - In the ch2 space, sc-ch1-sc2. sc in each dc and ch1 space. In the ch2 space of the corners, sc2-ch1-sc2. join with an invisible join slst bind-off.

I don't write a lot of patterns. Please let me know if you have any trouble with it or find a mistake. Thanks!

Don't want to make it? I can make it for you! Check me out on Etsy!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Manuscript & Cursive - our summer project

I'm kind of a stickler for handwriting. I think it teaches more than just letter recognition and formation but organization and planning - and I'm not alone! This article talks about some differences in brain patterns associated with manuscript, cursive and typing (favorite quote: "When the children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas."). This article talks about how taking notes by hand is a kinesthetic learning activity which requires cognitive processing verses on a laptop where students tend to take notes verbetum. And this article talks about the benefits of cursive (spoiler: functional specialization that leads to efficiency). There's more but these are a good place to start.

I have 3 kids in public schools here in Virginia and only one of them ever spent time learning cursive (ok - the youngest is just going into 2nd grade). That one had a 3rd grade teacher who is much older. I looked into whether is was still included in the curriculum and it is - it's under English SOL 2.10 and 3.8 but since it's not tested, very little time is spent on it. Studies say that most classrooms (nationwide) devote an average of 1 hour per week to handwriting. I remember spending 15 to 30 minutes each day on handwriting AND my papers always got handwriting grades - I don't know if this was the case with my peers as I went to Catholic schools and hubby went to DOD schools.

So, this summer, I decided that we should work hard on cursive since they weren't getting it in school. I bought 3rd grade lined paper and a cursive handwriting book (from the makers of Handwriting Without Tears - it's not as formal as the cursive I learned and is very - um - vertical - rather than italicized but it's also taught in a verbal manner (for example, "magic c, up like a helicopter, keep going, slide down the pole, bump the line and travel away" is lower case d) which works for my kids, especially my son. I do a week's worth of lettering with dates on the specially lined paper and put it in the workbook for them to do in the morning before they can do what they want.

I recently made this solid elf hat for a neighbor! Visit Hamburke's on Etsy for more styles and colors

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Yes Day - a success!

Several years ago at a Scholastic Book Fair, one of my children chose this book: Yes Day by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

They read it and wanted to have a Yes Day of their very own. So we had one - ice cream for breakfast, their cousin over for the day, some now-forgotten activity that I would typically have said no to without quite a bit of planning, a lot of junk/fast food, a late afternoon trip to the pool and staying up "late" (my kids idea of late is not equivalent to others experience - I think it was 8:30). I picked the day after school got out b/c it seemed like a fun way to kick off the summer and gave them a mini-break between school and summer vacation (who doesn't need something to make transitions fun?). And thus began our summer vacation kick off tradition!

This year was no different except that I turned the tables on them and asked them to tell me in advance what they wanted - they planned breakfast, lunch and dinner, they decided they wanted to go to the pool with friends and invited them and they even shopped for it (I paid, of course).  I love that we have moved to a community where it's safe to lets my kids run around independently and have the confidence to plan something like this.

So on to the rest of summer - summer bridge workbooks, summer reading list, some minor household chores and LEARN TO COOK! Maybe with this:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere but not a drop that I'm drinking

I need to drink more water. I know I feel so much better when I do but I got out of the habit (again). Recently, I noticed that I was taking some ibprofen before bed and in the morning for a dull headache. I've been kind of lethargic and unmotivated. I've been losing my train of thought, forgetting things and being unable to judge length of time passed (I'm not all that great at this to begin with). I've been hungry and no matter when I eat, it's not satisfying. And I've been going thru the $20/tub of lotion at break-neck pace.

One day last week, I did drink a lot of water and had an epiphany - I wasn't drinking during the day! I found that I wasn't even finishing my first 16 oz cup (that's about 1/2 a L - I bought these huge cups 3 or so years ago specifically to drink more water). A little background - I don't buy juice or soda for the house and I don't drink alcohol regularly so my drink choices around the house are water or 1% milk. I'd have my mug of coffee in the morning over breakfast with my husband and then pour a glass of water from the Brita pitcher in the fridge. It would proceed to "sweat" next to me while I drank sips here and there but the majority would still be there 6 hours later when the kids got home from school. Sometimes, I'd have a mug of hot decaf tea in the evenings too.

So I posted on my facebook timeline also joking that I should set alarms (since I am constantly using that feature on my phone). Among the suggestions to find my favorite bottled water to put water bottles in the fridge to ecofriendly reusable bottle alternatives (honestly, guys - having water available isn't the issue, it's actually drinking the cup sitting next to me), one friend said "There's an App for that..." So here I am reviewing water drinking  iPhone apps. There are 2 kinds of drinking water apps - the track your water consumption apps and the find free drinking water apps. I'm looking only at the track consumption apps today.

The one that kept coming up in searches first is Waterlogged Drink More Water, Track Daily Water Intake, Get Hydration Reminders by Daily Water, Inc. It has a nice user interface. The home page tells you your daily goal (which you can easily change by tapping it) and how far you have to go to meet that goal both visually (a water bottle or glass that fills). The scientist in my loves that you can easily switch to metric (which I have). You record when you drink something either by the 16.9oz/500mL bottle or 8oz/250mL glass (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, full) or by entering a volume. You can see what time you logged the drinks by clicking "Edit Drinks" and see a graph of daily water consumption to compare days. It's integratable with FitBit (which I don't have). But the one thing that is missing from the free version of the app is reminders. With the free version, you can set a single "time reminder" (such as everyday at 10:30) to remind you to drink but to set more, you need to upgrade (I can't figure out the price - lifetime subscription is $2.99, unlock reminders is $3.99 so I do have to purchase both?).

The second app that shows up in searches is Daily Water Free by Maxwell Software. There are some things that I like better - the ability to set you serving size, free notification settings - but I don't generally like the home page. It's a grid of 9 glasses (unchanged if you change your goal) which toggle checked (for drank) or unchecked and I'm sure I'll accidentally check or uncheck something. And there are ads that hide your goal too. The other thing that's difficult is that you can only set a single serving size and it's all or nothing unlike Waterlogged where you can enter a volume or choose a portion of a serving. You also can't see what time you logged your serving.

Day 1's results: 2500 mL consumed and I remembered what we needed at the store last night (bread for sandwiches and milk) and made banana bread this morning after drinking my first 500 mL of water this morning.

I'm going to try these out for a couple more days before I move on to App#3...AppCrawlr - you are my best friend!

ShopTalk - these cutie booties are available in an assortment of colors and appliques.

UPDATE: Week 1's progress via Waterlogged (I think I'm going to figure out what each price point means). It's before 10am on June 11, so I'm doing good so far today.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


So I was up late one night and saw Kristen Bell promoting both Disney's Frozen and the Veronica Mars movie! It's on Amazon Prime Instant Video and I'm hooked and it turns out, I missed way more than I thought of the series - 22 episodes per season and 3 seasons... oops! Well, I'm thru season 1 and 1/2 thru season 2 (Duncan just left).  When the kids are at school, I can watch on the big screen while I work but when they're home, I'm on earphones on the laptop. I can work while I watch on the screen but the headphone cord gets in my way!

Last week was Spring Break for my kids. We went swimming at the neighborhood indoor pool, bowling (with my daughter's boyfriend - when did she even grow up that much?) and on a Family Scavenger Hunt at Maymont Park in Richmond. I also made a new product - my first for sale garment - a Christening gown!