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!