Friday, December 7, 2012

Matching Yarns -- A Tale of Adventure

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

Or so begins one of my favorite tales of adventure. Lewis Carroll waxed poetic about slaying a beastie -- the Jabberwocky, to be precise. I slayed my own personal Jabberwocky this morning. Yes, I am being overly dramatic. Have you met me?

Last year my great good friend Wally Andersen ordered a hat, a scarf, and a flower pin for his mother for Christmas. I used a beautiful red yarn with a metallic red element in it. Wally loved it. His mom loved it. And then
                                               she lost
                                                             the hat.

So Wally's mom sent the flower pin back to me via Wally, her request being that I make her two hats in the same yarn so that her set would once again be complete and she'd have a backup hat in the event that her hat was misplaced again. Easy, right?

Yarns are, of course, dyed in batches. The dye for these batches is mixed via a recipe, but if you've ever been to a church or school function where all of the desserts are made from the same recipe but by different bakers, you know that not all incarnations of that recipe come out exactly the same. Or even close.This is how my mother became famous for her fudge slices, which have always been far superior to any other baker's rendition of the same recipe, but that's another story for another day. The labels on most skeins of mass produced yarn are imprinted with a dye lot number so the stitcher can purchase multiple skeins from the same batch, thus ensuring that the color matches exactly. Some brands have no dye lot, in some mystical way guaranteeing that any skein one purchases from any batch of this yarn will magically match. But matching dye lots is the most failsafe way of getting the same color.

Yesterday I took a trip to Michael's in Lakeview to match the yarn from Mother Andersen's flower pin. Let's just look at the bigger picture here. I went to a craft store, located in a largely gay neighborhood in the third most populous city in the nation, in early December, to purchase a specific and one-year-old shade of sparkly red yarn. "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe."

Michael's didn't have red yarn in the brand I was looking for. They had black shimmer, magenta shimmer, turquoise shimmer -- no red shimmer. Several other brands had red shimmer yarn, so I checked them all out. This one's too bright. That one's too bluish. The one over there is a garish color of red not even found in nature. I even thought I could mix a flat red with a metallic red of a different brand to achieve my color of choice. To no avail.

I had decided I would make a voyage to the JoAnn Fabrics on Elston Avenue -- or, as I call it, the Disneyland of Yarn -- over the weekend to see if they could bail me out with some closely matching yarn. The only flaw in that plan is that I rely on public transportation, and going from Rogers Park to Elston Avenue via CTA is a one-hour, two-busses-and-a-train investment each way. But I adore Wallace Soren Andersen, so it was an investment that I was willing to make.

And then this morning, I remembered something wonderful. My mother, the one who makes the best fudge slices in the known universe, had taken me to Hobby Lobby in Batavia last month and purchased for me $50 worth of the yarn of my choice. And one of the skeins of the yarn of my choice was... Red. Shimmer. Yarn. And it matches pretty closely to Mrs. Andersen's flower. Pardon my last-minute mixing of tales of adventure, but to quote Dorothy Gale, "There's no place like home."

That's all the news for now. Until next week, Peace, Love and Yarn!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stomach Flu and End Of Days

The Mayans said we have eighteen days left. If they're right, I'm really angry with my body and the flu virus, as I have spent four of my last twenty-one days nursing myself back to health from
The Stomach Flu....

I went on a rock 'n' roll adventure in McHenry, Illinois, where guitarist extraordinaire, Char O'Neill, has her lake house. Last Thursday night, we played an Open Mic at the very awesome Kief's Reef. What a blast! We then proceeded to Mackey's, a bar about a block from Char's, where they also had an Open Mic. Char played, I drank beer. Then we adjourned to her neighbor Tim's house to continue the festivities.

So when I woke up Friday morning, feeling rode hard and put up wet, I assumed it was just a hangover. A hangover I couldn't shake all day. Or the next morning. And then I unswallowed.

Saturday the flu symptoms hit me Saturday like a ton of bricks. No fever (actually my temperature went from 97.5 to 97.2), but hot and cold flashes, headache, nausea, and the like. I took to my bed, where I stayed for the better part of three days. I kept myself hydrated with Gatorade, ginger ale, and popsicles, watched movies, and snuggled with my cats. Roxie and Velma were more than happy to play nursemaids to their ailing mama.
Nurse Roxie

Nurse Velma

I watched lots (and lots and lots) of movies. I slept. A lot.

Yesterday morning I finally felt rather human again. I got up, made some phone calls, and realized that the exertion of getting up and making phone calls had been too much for me. I returned to bed and slept for three more hours.

This time when I awoke, I was ready to go!! I showered, got coffee and sustenance, and got caught up on some work on the computer. I went to the chiropractor who realigned me after three days of being bed-ridden. I went to the market and purchased semi-solid foods upon which to feast. And then I was worn out.

Finally today I feel back to normal. I've actually made it through half of a normal day, and I still feel like I can accomplish things. This is good. But as I said before, if the Mayans were right (no, Mom, I don't think the Mayans were right! I know that Jesus said no one knows when He's coming back!), I'm really upset about all of the time I wasted being flu-ish, because now I'm using up valuable crocheting time playing catch-up!! And you thought I was going to get to the end of this post without having mentioned yarn at all, didn't you?? I've got to get to work -- the holidays are upon us! People need hats, scarves, and fingerless gloves for the End of Days. Or the holidays. Or whatever....

So that's the news for now! As always, my darlings, Peace, Love, and Yarn!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Turkey Babies

On September 30, my cousin Roger texted me this picture:

Sending me pictures of knit and crochet goods is rather commonplace amongst my intimates, because I don't believe I can't replicate something. My response, as always, was, "Sure! Why not?!"

He ordered two: one for his granddaughter Mazzi and one for his niece Addison. So I bought some brown yarn (dreamy gallery owner bought one of the skeins -- I love a man who buys me yarn!!) and I got to stitchin'.

This was a pretty easy hat to replicate. I just elongated my baby beanie pattern so I had enough length to roll it at the bottom. The turkey legs were simple to design. I crocheted a half circle and increased incrementally from eight stitches to fourteen, then decreased from fourteen to four, then put the little white nubbins on the ends, then stitched them to the hat. They turned out pretty well.
This is Addison and her daddy, Adam (who, apparently, is a pilgrim)

This is Mazzi

Both hats are backwards, but still awesome!! And aren't those girls just gorgeous?? My family makes cute kids. There's no denying it! I probably could have sold a ton of these hats if I'd advertised, but I had to keep them under wraps because I didn't know if Roger was surprising the girls with them. So next Thanksgiving, if you know a baby who needs a turkey on his or her head, you know who to call!

In the meantime, the Lyric Opera chorus threw a baby shower for my dear friend Marie Sokolova, so I made Mama Bear and Baby Bear hats for her.
Marie has since given birth to the very beautiful John Sokolov, so there's a gorgeous baby head to go inside that hat now!

In other news, my non-sexual co life partner Wally informed me that I can't have a blog called "I Crochet in Bars" if I don't actually crochet in bars, so I promised him I'd spend more time stitchin' at the Glenwood. It's also good marketing. I've made most of my sales because people have seen me crocheting at the bar. I've found that I've been crocheting much less since I bought my smart phone, and I really need to put down the phone and pick up the hook. This is the busy season, boys and girls! I gotsta get stitchin'!!

That's what's been going on in my little world. I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving. I sure did! Until next time, my darlings, Peace, Love and Yarn!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don't Let the Perfect Get in the Way of the Good

This picture has precious little to do with the topic of my blog entry today -- it's just a quiet little reminder to vote.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program:

This morning I was privy to a conversation between Dreamy Gallery Owner and a gentleman named Tom who owns the Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park. At one point, Tom said that one of the tenets at the Heartland is, "Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good." I would like you to read that again. Go ahead -- it's good for you. I'll wait.

Perfectionism is such a dangerous obstacle in an artistic life. We pull out row after row of a knit or crochet project because there's one stitch that's not quite right. We edit and re-edit a line of a story until none of it makes sense. We erase and re-draw the shoulder of a figure drawing until the whole piece is smudged and torn. We rehearse that monologue until there's absolutely no possibility of discovery or authenticity. Perfectionism is the busywork version of procrastination. "I'm not procrastinating -- I'm working!!" Working on self-sabotage!!

When I first started crocheting in earnest, my Michael told me that when the Tibetans make rugs, they purposely put a flaw in every one because they believe that only their god is perfect. He instructed me to follow this practice in my crocheting. I continue to do this. Why? Because only God is perfect. So I stitch in a little flaw. It's liberating, it's humbling, and it allows me to happily finish projects and to avoid the frustration of constant frogging. You know what frogging is, right? It's when one is knitting or crocheting and tears out multitudes of stitches to eliminate an error. Get it? Rip it! Rip it! Stitching in an error also provides a little game for the recipient to see if they can spot the flaw.

I find my own struggle with perfectionism takes me out of the joy of the present moment. I've recently started paying attention to my tendency to veer into nostalgia for seemingly perfect moments of the past or dreaming of the potential perfection of the future when the real, important, flawed and beautiful present is where my focus should be. Lately when my mind wanders, I consciously focusing on bringing my attention back to the present. Don't get me wrong -- nostalgia and dreaming are both lovely and definitely have their place in a happy life. But it's when we miss out on the glorious fallibility of the present that we're cheating ourselves.

An example: I went camping with Dreamy Gallery Owner and three of our friends a few months ago. I cannot function without coffee in the morning, so I brought Starbucks VIA (magical instant coffee -- the only Starbucks product of which I fully approve) with me. VIA dissolves in any fluid at any temperature, so in an emergency situation I can just dump one in a bottle of water. In the morning, everyone awoke to a strong desire for coffee. Hot coffee. So Dreamy Gallery Owner rinsed out some soda cans from the night before, filled them with water, pulled up the tabs so he could fit a stick through them, and put the cans over the fire. When the water was hot, he put that stick through the tabs of the cans and pulled them off the fire. We dumped the water and the VIA into a bowl, mixed it, and put the coffee back into the soda cans. Combination coffee cup and hand warmer!! Was that a perfect way to make coffee? No, but it was the most wonderful, most memorable cup of coffee I've ever had!!

Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good. Sometimes good is good enough. I'll have more news for you on Friday. Peace, love and yarn, darlings!

Friday, November 2, 2012

"I Crochet So I Don't KILL People"

Last Wednesday my friend Lynn Lundgren, a member of the Lyric Opera Chorus and the crafting fairy godmother of the Opera, gave me a marvelous gift. She floated into the dressing room where I was working at the Opera House -- Lynn makes an entrance not unlike Glinda the Good Witch -- and presented me with a button that reads, "I crochet so I don't KILL people". Of course I immediately pinned it to my shirt. I now strike fear into the hearts of the supernumeraries of Lyric Opera Chicago when I don't have yarn in my hand!

But do I, in fact, crochet to stop me from breaking the Sixth Commandment? Not directly. Angry crocheting comes out uneven and wonky. Mistakes will be made. Knots will rear their ugly, snarled, little heads. And that will just add fuel to the fire -- I speak from experience. Also I like to put as much love into my crocheted goods as possible -- the people who wear them deserve all the love they can get!!

So why DO I crochet? I've been giving this some serious thought in the last week, since the advent in my life of Lynn's awesome pin. I've come up with several rather compelling reasons. Here they are, in no particular order. The repetitive motion and the counting make for my perfect form of moving meditation.  My breathing changes when I crochet. There's a beautiful letting go, which relaxes me and allows me to de-stress (thus the no killing). There are also wonderful people to crochet WITH! I crochet with opera singers, doctors, circus performers, interior designers, scientists, artists, athletes, U.S. servicemen, eleven-year-olds -- you name it! Would I be able to spend time with as diverse a crowd if we didn't share this one interest? Maybe not. It's also quite a conversation-starter on various forms of Chicago Public Transportation. So many people are intrigued by what I'm doing, and a lot of them ask me questions and tell me stories, mostly about their grandmothers. And then there's the yarn!! Yarn is so pleasing to multiple senses! I love the colors. I love the way yarn feels between my fingers. I love the way yarn smells.

I also love to design. I say that I hate it -- apparently I have a special sour face that I don when I'm designing a piece as I go (it was pointed out in two separate incidents in one night by friends who were watching me) -- and maybe the process of designing makes me a little nutso. But when I look at an item I've designed from a picture or replicated from an existing piece, there's no denying the sense of pride and accomplishment I feel.

I wear my pin proudly. It suits my personality. But now you know the real reasons that I crochet. And knowing is half the battle. That's all the news for now, darlings! Until next week, Peace, Love and Yarn!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Monster at the End of This Book

On October 20, 2010, after a painful fight with liver cancer, my Michael passed away. I was in the hospital room alone with him for two hours before he died. One of the many beautiful things about my relationship with Michael was that we told each other how we felt and never held anything back, so when it came time to say our final goodbyes, there was nothing left unsaid. He knew how much I loved him -- how much I'll always love him -- and that he was the best thing that had ever happened to me. He knew I thought he was handsome and funny and brilliant and courageous and tender and somewhat over-protective. By that point he could no longer speak, so he couldn't correct me as he had so many times before: "Not OVER-protective, Ruby. Just the RIGHT amount of protective." All of these things had been said many times before. So I sat with him, held his hand, and sang to him.

On October 22, 2011, I was on my way to a pub crawl with my cousins when I got a phone call from my mom. My stepmother had just called her and told her that my dad had passed away two days before. Yes, on the one-year anniversary of Michael's death, I lost my father. My dad and I had had a volatile relationship for most of my life -- thick as thieves for a year or two, then not speaking for a year or two. We had been estranged for about a year and a half when he died. I never got to say goodbye to him.

The date hovers in my subconscious like a specter. I've been dreading October 20 since late last month. I've been trying to focus on other things. The opera season has started. I'm crocheting a lot again. I'm taking voice lessons. My band has scheduled our first rehearsal of the season. The dreamy gallery owner is a marvelous distraction. And yet October 20 looms. Everyone important in my life knows that I'm going to need a lot of special treatment on October 20. My bosses at the opera have made sure that I'm not in the same dressing room I was assigned to for the past two years on October 20, because I've gotten a tiny bit superstitious about that room.

As I was writing about the impending anniversary of my double-impacted loss, my favorite childhood book came to mind. The Monster at the End of This Book has always held a special spot in my heart, and five years ago when I found out that Michael was unfamiliar with this book, I went out and got him a copy. It sits on my bookshelf by my bed today. The premise of this masterpiece is that Lovable, Furry Grover has heard a rumor that there is a monster at the end of the book. He's encouraging -- nay, imploring -- the reader to not turn the pages of the book so we don't get closer to the end, because we're safe where we are, and damn it, there's a freakin' MONSTER at the end of this book!! Grover ties the pages together with rope, hammers pages together, even constructs a brick wall trying to prevent the reader from turning pages to bring us dangerously closer to the end, where the monster is. But the reader keeps turning the pages -- even the page with the brick wall.

So we get to the page before the end of the book. Grover is scared. He IMPLORES us not to turn the page; to stay where it's relatively safe. To stay on October 19th, as it were.

But time marches on. We turn the page, no matter how scary that might seem. Sometimes the scary page is a calendar page. And do you know what's at the end of the book?

It's just Grover. Nothing to be afraid of! Just Grover!

I am a much stronger woman than I was two years ago. And I have stopped fearing that God has given me all of this strength to deal with bigger and bigger crises in my life. I've realized this strength is to be strong for others in their times of trials. I have experienced great love and great loss, and both of these things have taught me how to love capaciously and not so much fear the letting-go part.

And that's all the news for now. Not all of my blog entries need to be about yarn, you know! Until Friday, peace, love and yarn!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Creative Block

Friends, I should have blogged on Tuesday, and I did not. For that I apologize. You see, I've been nonplussed as to what the subject of my blog entry should be. Divine providence put my friend John DiGilio in my path yesterday, and I was lamenting to him about my ennui. It was clear to both of us that I'm currently suffering from some good old-fashioned creative block. John said I should just write about being blocked. And so I shall.

It happens to all creative people. You're going along, creating up a blue streak, and all of a sudden, someone cuts your power line. Stalled! The words won't come. The color's not right. The yarn's all knotted. You just can't bear the thought of another ronde de jambe. It's scary and feels never-ending, and we rarely talk about it because it's scary and feels never-ending. But there are ways to get through it.

I find the best way to deal with my creative blocks is to first acknowledge that I am blocked. This is an important and oft-neglected step. How can you solve a problem that you haven't admitted you have? This last bit reminds me of my Cute Cousin Roger, who, at the snack table at every family gathering, announces, "Hi. I'm Roger. I'm a grazer." I always applaud his admission, twelve-step-group style. But I digress.

So you've acknowledged your block. You've named the monster. Good on you! Now do something nice for yourself. Seriously! Buy some flowers. Have a cupcake. Take a walk. Go to a movie. It's tough to admit your imperfections! Have a treat!

And now clean something. Scrubbing -- or any seemingly mindless repetitive motion -- allows our mind to wander to more creative pursuits. Einstein lamented that he got his best ideas in the shower. I've been known to keep a dry erase marker in my washroom so I can write ideas on the  mirror when inspiration strikes.

Exercise is good at this point. A brisk walk or a swim clear out the cobwebs in my brain like nobody's business!! You might run or climb mountains or play badminton. Whatever floats your boat. Just get moving.

This next step is going to sound counter-productive, but please bear with me!! I'm a professional procrastinator, and I've learned how to be a functioning member of society anyway -- I know how to unblock!! Here it is. Ready? Don't allow yourself to create in the area where you're blocked. WHAT?? No, seriously!! Listen to me -- I know what I'm talking about! If, like me, you need to write something, crochet. Or dance. Or polish your nails. Sing Verdi. Sing Wagner. Sing the whole freakin' Ring Cycle! Do anything -- anything at all -- that's not remotely related to the area of your block. If you get the impulse to write, DON'T ALLOW YOURSELF TO DO IT!! I'm serious about this. Because sooner or later, the creative compulsion is going to get stronger. And stronger.  And, of course, eventually you'll run out of other things to do. And the compulsion to create starts feeling all invincible because it has won.

And finally, after a day or maybe two of not being allowed to write, you return to your computer or your notebook or your butcher paper and crayons. You return with the fervor of a soldier returning to a lover after a war. You embrace your chosen art form. And you write. And the block is gone. And you sigh a sigh of relief. And the blog entry about busting through creative block gets written.

So that's all the news for now. I'm working both of my jobs tomorrow, so this is going to be my only blog entry this week. I'm unblocked now, so next week we'll be back to two entries. Until Tuesday, Toodle Pip, which is British for Peace, Love and Yarn!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Process of Hanging my Shingle

I'm in battle with Craigs List. Yep, that's right. Me and Craig? We're not seeing eye to eye. In my last post I said I was going to start offering crocheting lessons (and I was right -- my mom DID chuckle when she heard I was adding another thing to my list of stuff I do!!). So I went on Craigs List to post an ad. No big deal, right?? WRONG!! I  set up my account like a good citizen of Craigs List, wrote my ad, read it to my chuckling mother who thought it sounded good, and went to post it. At which time, one of Craig's robotic minions -- not cute minions like these

but rather evil minions such as this
-- emailed me saying that Further Action was Required. It seems I needed to complete a phone authentication. No big whoop, right? WRONG!! I entered my cell phone number, along with my preference to receive my authentication code via text. Then I waited. And waited. And. Nothing. Happened. Now, I am not the most patient girl in the world. So I went back into my email from the Minion. It seems that they had deemed my phone number invalid. WHAT??? So I tried again, checking the number. Yep, that's my number! And what do I get from Craig's Evil Minion? NOTHING! NADA! BUPKIS!!

I then return to Evil Robot Minion, who, for all intents and purposes, tells me to Stop Bothering Him. "You are submitting telephone verification requests too rapidly. To prevent abuse, we require users to wait 5 minutes between requests, use no more than 3 telephone numbers in a 12 hour period, and not use any single phone number more than 3 times in a 12 hour period. Please wait and try again later."  You have got to be kidding me!!
This was Wednesday, friends. It is now Friday and I'm still awaiting resolution. I sent the Minions a very cordial email outlining my plight -- ON WEDNESDAY -- and still haven't gotten a response.

Over dinner Wednesday night, I was relaying my epic tale of frustration to Dreamy Gallery Owner, and he said, "You should just put a sign up in the gallery," and that is what I did. And also I am telling you, gentle reader, that if you or someone you love should need crochet lessons, I can be reached via email at or at the very valid (773)724-7383. I charge $20 per hour, and crocheting starter kits, which contain yarn, two crochet hooks, and a finishing needle, can be purchased for $10. And if you see Craig, you tell him I said It's On!! Until Tuesday, Peace, love and yarn!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Strangers on a Train

Yesterday I was crocheting on the El, on my way to Lyric Opera of Chicago for a rehearsal of the AMAZING new production of "Elektra". I was sitting in a sideways seat by the door, as is my wont, when a lovely young family sat down near me. Mom and three-year-old son perpendicular to me; Dad and four-year-old son across the aisle from them. The mom was watching me crochet and asked how long I'd been stitching. I told her that my grandmother taught me when I was young. She said her grandmother had taught her too, but she'd forgotten. I assured her it was a relatively easy thing to learn. Then she asked me if I taught a class.

Which got me thinking.

Why don't I give crochet lessons for real? Like, for money?? I taught my friends Bernard Holcomb and Tara O'Connor, who are both really prolific after a very short time. My friend Christopher Wilson had a professor at design school that taught him a stupid crochet technique, and I untaught him and retaught him enough so that he could finish his class project, and now he's asking for more lessons because I made it fun.

So I gave the young mom, whose name is Stephanie, my card and told her to call me for crochet lessons.

You heard it here first, boys and girls! I'm going to give crochet lessons! I'm going to put an ad on Craigs List and everything! I can hear my mother chuckling right now, because I've been lamenting the fact that I only have four days off in the entire month of October, but I have a skill, I love to teach, and if I can combine those two things, won't that be a pleasing way to make some dough on the side? My shingle is officially hung, friends! I teach crochet lessons! Thank you, Stephanie! Thank you!

In other news, go see "Elektra" at the Lyric! It's quite a spectacle! There's a river of blood! And Jill Grove's voice is astonishing!! Also, until next time, peace, love and yarn!

Friday, September 28, 2012

She's Ba-ack!!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome back to crochet season!! I've had a very busy and wonderful summer, and I hope you have too! But now it's time to dust off those crochet hooks and get busy!

How do I know it's crochet season? Because I made my first Etsy sale of the season! I'm so excited, you guys! And this sale was to a stranger! It's one thing when one of you, my loyal friends and relations, buys something, but when a stranger seeks my product out on Etsy? That's good news!!

So let's see.... What am I working on these days? I'm trying to solve an engineering problem with a prototype bunny hat I'm working on for the adorable Sarah Bell. The bendable ears are top-heavy and won't stay upright when I sew them to the hat. My dear friend Jay Sangster, who is a brilliant costume stitcher, is going to take a look at my little problem and see what kind of wizardry he can dream up to solve it. It's good to surround yourself with smart, talented people!!

I'm also working on a squid hat for the amazing Wally Andersen. My original design didn't work out, so I turned to Sarah Bell, who does fantastic illustrations of bunnies and squids and various and sundry other creatures, to help me out. She came back with a drawing that looks great and will serve as a tide-me-over belated birthday present to Wally until his hat is completed!

I want to trick out my big, black roll-y suitcase to make it a portable trunk show. I had great luck last year getting sales and orders from a tote bag full of inventory that I was lugging to my regular haunts The Common Cup and The Glenwood, but it would be nice to have something I don't have to carry (just pull) that opens into a wonderland of crocheted deliciousness!

I'm also going to update my Etsy site and add some new stuff, so keep your eyes peeled for that. I'm going to focus on baby things for a while because people love buying cute things for babies!!

Due to scheduling conflicts arising from rehearsals for a show I performed in, I cancelled my Stitch 'n' Bitch sessions at The Glenwood. Since then I've been a semi-regular attender at the Stitching Squirrels Knit Group that meets at Gallery B.1.e. on Glenwood and Farwell on Thursdays from 7:00 til question mark. The people are fun and chatty, there's usually some sort of alcoholic liquor, and the gallery owner is dreamy!

As a side note, some of my talented friends, including Sarah Bell and Gretchen Hasse, are displaying their work at the Coyote Festival in Bucktown this weekend. Go there!!

Well, that's all the news for now. It's looking like Tuesdays and Fridays are going to be good days for blog posts this season, so I'll post again on Tuesday. Till then, as always, peace, love and yarn!! XOXOXO

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Famous Crocheters Through History

What do Queen Victoria, President James Buchanan, Madonna and I have in common? Yep! We all crochet. I was curious about what famous figures crocheted, so I did a little research. Some of the results really surprised me! Really, President Buchanan? Good on you! Perhaps if more heads of state crocheted, there would be less political unrest!!

Meryl Streep crochets, as does Bette Midler. Estelle Getty crocheted, and she even did it on camera as Sophia on "Golden Girls". Debra Messing and Shelley Morrison, Grace and Rosario respectively from "Will and Grace", crochet. Patricia Arquette, Anne Bancroft, Aretha Franklin, Sally Kirkland, Eva Longoria, Alyssa Milano -- the list goes on and on! Martha Stewart learned to crochet in jail. Attagirl!!

"Wheel of Fortune"'s Vanna White and Deborah Norville of "Inside Edition"  not only crochet but have their own collections of yarn, Deborah through Premiere Yarn and Vanna with Lion Brand.

Former New York Giant and LA Ram Rosey Greer crochets. I knew he needlepointed, but the crocheting was a revelation! Lyle Alzado, formerly of the Broncos, the Browns and the Raiders, God rest his soul, also crocheted.

George Washington Carver crocheted. The mind reels!

Men, women; athletes, performers, heads of state, icons -- how cool is it to have this connection to this wide array of people? Crocheting is obviously a craft that stands the test of time and crosses all class, income and education levels. It's simple to learn, portable, and the results can be beautiful! And if you run into Madonna on the street, you'll have something to talk about!!

Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood on Thursday! As always, Peace, Love and Yarn!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fond Farewell to Evil Squirrel

We found out last week that our dear friend, Shawn "Sparky Bobby" King, is closing the Evil Squirrel Comic Book Shop. If you browse my past blog posts, you'll see many mentions of Shawn and his shop. Shawn gave my band Glory Chain our first opportunity to play in front of people. He and crafter extraordinaire Rico Blance also gathered their group of knitters to go head-to-head with my group of stitchers for the holiday craft war to benefit Emmaus Ministries. Their team kicked my team's booty down Glenwood Avenue, by the bye! I arose in the pre-dawn hours (pre-Dawn-Marie hours too!!) to crochet with Rico and the other knitters when Shawn's shop was featured on WGN Morning News.

Shawn is a very special person and has given generously to the Rogers Park community, and I'm so sad that he's no longer able to support his physical shop. However, he has a magnificent online shop at and he is also offering a Nerd Delivery Service, where one of their "esteemed nerds" will deliver comic books right to your home!

Evil Squirrel is hosting a farewell party on Sunday, 10 June. The theme is, appropriately, Zombie Apocalypse, and Glory Chain will be part of the entertainment. Check my blog for further details.

Also, to  Shawn and Rico and all of your loyal knitters at the Evil Squirrel Knit Night, I hope you will all join us at the Glenwood on Thursdays from 7-9 for our Stitch 'n' Bitch!!

So that's the news for now, darlings! As always, Peace, Love and Yarn!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We Come in Piece(s)

Today I want to talk about UFO's. No, not that kind!! I'm talking about UnFinished Objects!! If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may have inferred that I am a procrastinator. It's true -- I absolutely am! I am also prone to over-committing and, the whipped cream on the sundae, I have a touch of the Attention Deficit Disorder. Or I am susceptible to distraction from outside stimuli. Or something. Hey, did you see that awesome -- nevermind! Put it all together, and it leads to a plethora of UnFinished Objects. Addison Spore's carseat blanket? UnFinished Object. My mom's mittens that I was designing for her for Christmas? UnFinished Object. The adorable shell pattern hat that I was making  LAST SUMMER but the cats got into the yarn and tangled it all up into a nest? You guessed it -- UnFinished Object.

Every crafter has these!! I was discussing this issue with my friend Sharon Garvey Cohen, who is a quilter. We start something, we get busy with life stuff, we discover a newer, shinier project, and the original project gets relegated to the UFO pile. Or bin. Or closet. Or room. Brothers and sisters, it is time to dust off these UFOs and give them the love and respect that they're entitled to! It's time to finish the unfinished! I am committing to you, my loyal readers, that I will spend the rest of the month of May, and into June if need be (I'll keep you updated on my progress) completing my UnFinished Objects. And when I blog about it, it happens! I've been working on that spring cleaning a little bit every day, and it's making me a little bit happier every day! You, gentle readers, are making me a better person! And for that, I thank you!

In related news, I'll be returning to the Glenwood for a Stitch 'n' Bitch on Thursday from 7-9. I haven't hosted a   Stitch 'n' Bitch for three weeks, due to other obligations. It will be good to get back at it. I hope to see lots of you there, perhaps UFOs in hand!! Until Thursday, my darlings, as always, Peace, Love and Yarn!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Oh, I DO love a good cause! I really, really do! And my friend Anne Zumm introduced me to a new one! WomenHeart, the Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, has a program called HeartScarves, and I'm really excited to participate in it. From a press release on their website: "HeartScarves Craft Community for Excellence in Community Outreach for having grown from a scarf knitting group founded by WomenHeart Champions into a nation-wide network of volunteers who knit and deliver thousands of red scarves to women heart disease survivors across the country.  The red scarf symbolizes the lifelines of caring and support that exist among us. The red scarves are delivered to women heart patients to give them comfort, support and encouragement. HeartScarves also provides a platform for awareness and education about heart disease in women."

They've teamed up with Red Heart Yarn and created HeartScarves kits for crocheters

and knitters.

You can order these kits from the WomenHeart website for $12.99, and Red Heart Yarn will donate $3 to WomenHeart. Or you can find a friend who's in a heart support group and donate scarves you've made directly to her!! The scarves need to be 4 inches by 52 inches, and, of course, they have to be RED!! So let's do it, my darlings! Let's crochet and knit beautiful red scarves for our friends with heart disease as a symbol of our support and encouragement!!

That's all the news for now -- I've gotta make a red scarf!! As always, dolls, peace, love and yarn!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Boy Beanie Pattern for Bernard

Here's the thing: everybody's very busy right now. It's been this way for quite some time, and it's difficult for two people in the modern world to find time in their schedules to sit down and learn to crochet a hat. This has been the case for Bernard Holcomb and me since I taught him to crochet in October. He's a crocheting machine with the one pattern that he knows -- as you'll recall, he made ten scarves by Christmas -- but man cannot live on scarves alone!!

I've been promising for months that we'd find time to sit down, I-hooks in hand, and make hats. I even went so far as to make it a point to repeatedly swing by his dressing room, stalker-style, during Aida in order to stumble upon him with some time on his hands. It hasn't happened. So, in the spirit of social media, and as a token of my supreme trust in Bernard's crocheting ability, I present the Boy Beanie Pattern. This pattern is from Debbie Stoller's awesome book, The Happy Hooker. It's easy, it's fun, and I can whip one out in about an hour. When I dressed the supplementary men's chorus at the Lyric for Lohengrin, before the fellows went onstage to sing a one-hour act of Wagner, I would ask, for example, Geoff what color hat he wanted. Geoff wanted green. So he went to work and so did I. When he returned after Act I, I had a beautiful, freshly-made green hat on his desk. Magic!

The pattern is for two colors; a main color and an accent color for Rows 10, 12, and 14. I usually do just one color straight through. In fact, I've gotten to the point where I just do 13 rows of Double Crochet instead of the accent rows. I'm smooth like that! You can get creative and switch out several colors if you want -- I just don't like to tuck all those ends. As I always say, if I'd wanted to sew, I would've taken up sewing.

So that's the news for now. Remember: if you want to Stitch 'n' Bitch tonight, go to Evil Squirrel Comic Book Shop -- I'm going to a concert! As always, my darlings, Peace, Love and Yarn!!

Boy Beanie


Red Heart Super Saver 971 Camouflage (MC) 
Red Heart Super Saver 0254 Pumpkin (CC)  

Finished measurements - length = 8'\ circumference = approx 20" unstretched. 

one size fits most ages teen to adult, repeat round 9 for a longer hat^ skip round 

9 for a shorter skull cap. 

Gauge - using 5.5mm (US size I) hook^ after round 4 your swatch should measure 5" 
in diameter. Adjust hook size to obtain correct gauge. 

Stitches - 

si St - slip stitch 

sc - single crochet 

dc - double crochet 

sc tbl - single crochet through the back loop only 

dc tbl - double crochet through the back loop only 

Pattern notes - this hat design is made crocheting in rounds^ each round will begin 
with a number of chains which will count as the first stitch^ and is ended by 
joining the last stitch with the top of the beginning chain creating concentric 
circles, ^^st" denotes the stitch of the previous round. 

Begin - with MC ch 3^ join with a slip st to first chain to form a ring. 

Round 1 - ch 3^ 9 dc into ring^ join with si st to top of ch 3. 10 sts. 

Round 2 - ch 2^ dc into same st^ 2 dc in each st around^ join with si st to top of 
ch 2. 20 sts. 

Round 3 - ch 2^ dc into same st^ dc in next st^ * (2 dc in next st^ dc in next st)^ 
repeat from * 8 more times^ join with si st to top of ch 2. 30 sts. 

Round 4 - si st into back loop of same stitch^ ch 2, do in next st^ 2 do in next 
st^ ^ (do in next 2 sts^ 2 do in next st)^ repeat from ^ 8 more times^ join with si 
St to top of ch 2. 40 sts. 

Round 5 - ch 2, dc into same st^ dc in next 3 sts^ * (2 dc in next st^ dc in next 3 
sts)^ repeat from * 8 more times^ join with si st to top of ch 2. 50 sts. 

Round 6 - si st into back loop of same stitch^ ch 2, dc in next st^ 2 dc in next 
st^ ^ (dc in next 9 sts^ 2 dc in next st)^ repeat from ^ 3 more times, dc in last 7 
sts, join with si st to top of ch 2. 55 sts. 

Rounds 7 , 8, 9 - si st into back loop of same stitch, ch 2, dc in each st around, 
join with si st to top of ch 2. hold MC to back of work 

Round 10 - join CC, ch 1, sc in each st around, join with si st to beg ch . 

Round 11 - with MC, ch 2, dc tbl in each st around, join with si st to top of ch 2, 

Round 12 - with CC, ch 1, sc in each st around, join with si st to beg ch . 

Round 13 - with MC, ch 2, dc tbl in each st around, join with si st to top of ch 2, 

Round 14 - with CC, ch 1, sc in each st around, join with si st to beg ch . 
tie off CC. 

Round 15 - with MC ch 1, sc tbl in each st around, join with si st to beg ch . 

Round 16 - ch 1, sc in each st around, join with si st to top of ch . 

tie off MC and weave in yarn ends with a tapestry needle. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spring Cleaning

In previous posts, I have alluded to the fact that I have ridiculous quantities of yarn in my apartment. This is, of course, de rigueur for a crafter. I also have copious amounts of other stuff. It's not that I'm a hoarder -- I don't want all that crap in my living space -- it's that I'm a dumper. I find myself constantly running from activity to activity, stopping home to DUMP OFF workout clothes and pick up yarn, DUMP OFF yarn and pick up art supplies. It's a horrible lifelong habit that is exacerbated by the presence of two curious and badly-behaved cats named Roxie and Velma (sidebar: NEVER name your pets after murderesses. They will terrorize you). They see new and exciting playthings in each and every item that I drop at home, and they root around and play with it, knocking things over to see if they're toys -- and EVERYTHING'S a toy.

And then there are Michael's things. Michael's been gone a year and a half, and I still haven't gone through his things. It's a big job, and it's easier to deal with his absence by just looking at his stuff rather than trying to sort and dispatch it. There are those who don't understand what's taking me so long. They just don't get it. Everyone grieves differently.

However, it's spring. And it's finally feeling like spring. So it's time to focus on new beginnings. Also I'm only semi-employed til June, which frees up some of my time for new adventures. And one of these adventures must certainly be organizing my apartment. I need to redirect some energy flow, give my eyes a relaxing place to rest. Establish a place where I can dump things in a safe and contained environment. I can feel my sister and neighbor Mia breathing a sigh of relief as I write this!!

I'm making Lily of the Valley my totem flower this spring, especially in my spring cleaning endeavor. Lily of the Valley signifies a return to happiness, and it's time for me to make that return. It's time to set aside my feelings of grief and loss -- I'm not GETTING RID of those feelings; I'll always feel them. I'm just going to find them a nice spot in the closet where I can take them out if I need them. You know, next to the off-season clothes and the skeins and skeins of baby yarn. It's time for me to return to happiness. And spring is the season to do it. And Lily of the Valley is a great reminder.

So that's the news for now, darlings! I'm off to start my cleaning project. No Stitch 'n' Bitch tomorrow -- I'm going to a concert. As always, until next time, Peace, Love and Yarn!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I. Love. Shawls.

(c) Debbie Stoller 2010

I have a new addiction, friends! It's the shawl. Shawls are fun to make, easy to toss in your bag, and the perfect all-weather layering piece.

My aunt Rosalea, who is my crocheting fairy godmother (in addition to being my actual, real-life godmother) and I were discussing the joy of creating lacy crocheted items such as the shawl. They're fun to make and they elicit oohs and aahs when finished because they have such an intricate look about them. They're also fun to stitch because the way that lacy look is created is generally by making one row of a base row that resembles netting followed by one row of some sort of shell design. I never get bored when I'm making a shawl!

Any sport-weight yarn is great for making all-weather shawls, but I like to use Stella yarn because it has a thin, iridescent, strand of nylon that makes the shawl shimmer. Also fun is Vanna's Favorite Glamour yarn. That has a metallic fiber in it. You'll need a larger hook size to achieve your gauge if you use the Vanna yarn because it's thinner.

Shawls are great for tossing in your handbag as an extra layer at any time of year. Even the lacy ones are deceptively warm, but still breathable. They also add a little oomph to any outfit. It's easy to dress up even a t-shirt and jeans with an awesome little shawl. I've been known to wear a shawl as a scarf as well. It can keep your neck warm outside and cover your shoulders inside. I love a versatile accessory!!

I found the pattern in the above picture on Ravelry today. I adore Debbie Stoller, author of the Stitch and Bitch knitting books and the Happy Hooker crochet book. She also has an amazing line of yarn called Stitch Nation Yarn. I'm going to start this shawl pattern tonight at the Glenwood Stitch 'n' Bitch. There's a link to the pattern here: Sidewalk Shawl. I'm doing it without the fringe -- I have cats!!

So that's all the news for now, darlings! Until next Tuesday, Peace, Love and Yarn!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Cure for What Ails Ya'!

I've been sick for the past couple of days. I had a mild version of the stomach thing that's going around. It crept up on me Saturday and was in full-force Sunday and Monday. Today I'm feeling human again. The magical cure? Noodles! RTC Noodles from Rice Thai Cafe, to be specific. Oh, and crocheting. Don't forget the crocheting.

Crocheting is an awesome activity for me to indulge in when I'm sick. The television can be on or not, music can be playing or not. I don't want to do anything that requires a lot of thinking. Nothing intricate or count-heavy. I just want to slow down and breathe and feel the yarn run through my fingers. It's like moving meditation. Crocheting narrows my focus. When I was sick, it gave me something to think about besides how ishy my stomach felt or how bad my headache was. I'd chosen the perfect project to work on in my infirmity. I'm making myself a yoga mat bag. It's basically round after round of half double crochet, so I relaxed my mind into a legato cadence of, "Yarn over, stitch into the work, yarn over, pull through." That and the noodles (and the concern and prayers of my mommy and my friends) are what got me healthy again.

The idea for the yoga mat bag was not mine. I ran into my friends Jason and Angie Bender at one of our fave neighborhood joints, Pillars, a couple of weeks ago and they asked me if I could crochet a yoga mat bag for Angie. I hadn't ever made one before -- hadn't even really thought of it before they asked me -- but how hard could it be? Just a cylinder with a drawstring and a strap, right? And you know my response when people ask me if I can create something new. Say it with me now: "Of course I can!!"

So I took measurements of my yoga mat, chose Lily Sugar & Cream cotton yarn to cut down on the stretch, and started stitchin'!! I used a J hook to increase ventilation and began making a cylinder of double crochet. Wow, even in an unstretchy cotton yarn, double crochet can get a little out of hand! So I pulled it all out and opted for a round of single crochet followed by a round of half double crochet. Now we're cooking!! Looking good! I got it to the length measurement I wanted, stitched the strap in row after row of single crochet, put my yoga mat in to make sure it was functional, and discovered that the weight of the mat in the bag made the bag W-A-Y too long!! I also didn't like the way the seam was structured. And I wanted to make sure it was something I was proud of, especially since I was selling it. SO I tore it out once again. But you know what they say -- the third time's the charm -- and now that purple yoga mat bag is a thing of beauty. A complete stranger who saw me working on it at my favorite coffee spot, the Common Cup, said it was the best yoga mat bag in the city. I thanked him and told him I'd coast on that compliment all day!

Tomorrow is the day that I deliver the yoga mat to Angie. I hope she loves it! I know that I loved making it -- so much so that I'm making one (in pink, of course!) for myself.

So that's the news for now, my angels! Until Thursday, peace, love and yarn!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Creativity EVERYWHERE!!

Watch this video!!

My friend Angela Allyn, creative genius, posted this video with the caption, "Support Creativity. Where EVER you find it," on Facebook today. Well, I watched it and it brought so much joy to my day!! This kid is an inspiration! And his dad, George, who could have said, "Get your head out of the clouds, kid! And clean up all that cardboard crap," instead made space and time for his kid's creativity to take off! And take off it did! The claw machine is miraculous in its simplicity! And the fact that Caine climbs into the boxes to dispense the prize tickets? Brilliant!!

I love that Nirvan, the young filmmaker, stumbled into that particular auto parts store. I love that he couldn't believe that he was Caine's only customer. I love that he created a flash mob. I love that some crazy folk musician wrote and performed a song about Caine's Arcade.

I REALLY want to go to East L.A. some weekend and go play at Caine's Arcade. And I'll totally buy a Fun Pass!! Meanwhile, the existence of Caine's Arcade reminds me that no dream is too big or too silly, and creativity is EVERYWHERE!

Glenwood Stitch 'n' Bitch is tonight from 7-9, 6929 N. Glenwood in Rogers Park. Until next Tuesday, my darlings, peace, love and yarn!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Joining Ravelry

I cheated on my blog last Thursday so that I could attend the Cubs opening day festivities at the Glenwood. Wow, confession really IS good for the soul! I did, however, crochet during most of the game. And of course I hosted my Stitch 'n' Bitch Thursday evening.

In other yarn-related news, I joined today. It's like online Disney World for knitters and crocheters! The community is worldwide (so I guess that makes it more like Epcot. Whatever!!), so if you happen to be vacationing in Kuala Lumpur, you can go to the Ravelry page for the group Knitter in Malaysia and learn where the happening yarn stores are and what patterns the hippest Malaysian knitters are rocking right now. Or if you want to find a Stitch 'n' Bitch in Sligo, Ireland, there's one that meets on Tuesdays at 7:30 at the Clarion Hotel. It's free.

There are 77,055 patterns available right now on Ravelry. 4,915 of those are free crocheting patterns! They break those patterns down into type of item as well as attributes such as design element or crochet technique. Ravelry also has a page of "UGHs", which are projects that didn't turn out quite the way they should have. I can't wait to post my first UGH!!

Every stitcher has tons of extra yarn, right? Lord knows I do!! And yet I still make my mom take me to Hobby Lobby every time I'm in Batavia! Don't judge me! Because on Ravelry's Yarn page, I can sell or trade that extra yarn! This page also suggests projects I can make with each color of each type of yarn on the Yarn page. Fun!!

You guys, I think I've found my new online addiction! There's so much information and so much pretty yarn on this site that I may never see the light of day, or any of my loved ones, ever, ever again!! I wouldn't even NEED to crochet -- I could just live vicariously through those who do and post about it on Ravelry! Oh, who am I kidding? Part of the joy of crocheting is that I can take it anywhere and can be a social butterfly while I stitch. And of course there's my love affair with yarn.

So that's about all the news for now -- I've got to get back on Ravelry!! Until Thursday, peace love and yarn, my darlings!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

THE ARTIST'S WAY, or Crocheting as a Bridge Drug

This picture is so representational of the New And Improved Me of late!!

I'm doing THE ARTIST'S WAY with my dear friend, Monty. For those of you who aren't familiar with this book, it is a twelve-week program for blocked creatives that was designed by the brilliant Julia Cameron. Each week's readings and tasks help to excavate different layers of junk that's keeping us from being authentically creative. It's a really amazing journey and I've been doing it on and off for nineteen years. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a more well-rounded life. It's amazing, because each time I go through it, a different challenge is encountered -- or the same challenge on a different level, as Cameron says our creative journey is a spiral one and we face the same obstacles in different ways until we learn the lesson that lies within it. My most recent ARTIST'S WAY journey was in December with my friends Rick and Sonja, and I had to abandon the work at Week Five because I got too busy with my crocheting business, my blog, and my band. In other words, I was too busy creating to further unblock creatively!!

So Monty and I were both facing rather gigantic life changes, and we thought it would be a good idea to embark on this journey, and a GREAT idea to embark on it together! We're both experiencing amazing and swift progress in becoming more authentic to our true natures. We've just started Week Seven, in which we work toward Recovering a Sense of Connection. And tonight, for the first time since high school, I'm taking an art class!! I start my six-week Figure Drawing class at Gallery B1E in Rogers Park at 6:00 pm. I'm thrilled!

The reason for this art class is that I'm tired of telling myself I can't do things. And if crocheting has taught me anything, it's that I CAN do things. Cubs logo? It's basically just a circle, so of course. Tigger hat? Sure! Eeyore hat? Easy! Party Pat hat? Six and a half hours of labor, but Yes I Can!! So I'm venturing into another medium. And this is the lesson that Julia Cameron is instilling: action breeds creativity. Running a marathon makes it easier to write a mystery novel. Writing a mystery novel helps you in your marathon training. Yes You Can!! Crocheting makes me want to pick up a pencil and draw. (Don't worry -- I'm not going to start another blog called "I Sketch in Cafes" or anything like that!!)

The confidence I have derived from designing and creating crocheted items has empowered me to take up that pencil and draw. I know I just need the training to do it -- I've been attempting to draw my whole life. I KNOW I can't throw a football, and you don't see my trying that!!

I'm challenging myself to do one unexpected thing every day in April. Sunday my unexpected thing was to ride my bike 11 miles. Yesterday it was to buy a rhythm egg to carry around in case I need to make a little music in my travels. Today it was coloring in coloring books with Monty.

I'm making my creative life my priority, and it's causing me to discover my bliss. I don't think I've ever been happier in my whole life. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to sing zydeco songs while I ride my pink bike to art class! As always, my angels, peace, love, and yarn -- oh, and graphite!! XOXOXO

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bistro Knits

My friend Lynn Lundgren invited me to join her Tuesday night from 7:00-9:00 at Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro, at 3905 N. Lincoln Avenue, for their monthly knit night, Bistro Knits. It's a lovely group of gals, and they didn't shun me for crocheting -- on the contrary, they embraced me as one of their own, and two of the knitters even got up and stood behind me to watch me crochet because they want to learn. While I was there, I finished the turquoise shawl I was making for myself, and Sue, the benevolent hostess of Bistro Knits, announced that I'd finished my project and asked me to hold it up for the assembly to admire, at which time the lovely ladies clicked their knitting needles together repeatedly -- knitters' applause!! Do you love it?? I asked what I was to do if a knitter finished a project, being that I just have the one hook, and one of the girls generously suggested that I click my crochet hook on my scissors. Lovely!

Sue had four tables reserved on the left side of the pub area of the Bistro. Those tables quickly filled up. There were about a dozen ladies who attended the festivities Tuesday. There were pitchers of water and cups on the tables so the assembled could stay hydrated. Of course, if I'm crocheting in a bar, I must have a cocktail. And when in Dublin, do as the Dubliners, right? So I had a pint of Guinness. They have a nice menu, and I ordered the Fish and Chips, which are served with ramekins of malt vinegar, tartar sauce, and a delicious curry ketchup.

Everyone was very welcoming and friendly, and I'm definitely going to mark my calendar for May's Bistro Knits. I have to miss April's because I'm taking a figure drawing class -- I'm one of those creative types, don'tcha know!! But if you're available on the last Tuesday of the month, I suggest that you head on over to Mrs. Murphy's for Bistro Knits. You'll leave with a bunch of new friends!

As always, my angels, peace, love and yarn. I'll be back on Tuesday!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Prayer Shawl Ministry

A couple of years ago, I was at Hobby Lobby in Batavia and I learned of this movement called the Prayer Shawl Ministry. It's pretty awesome, really. It's very cathartic for the crafter and very comforting to the recipient. The shawls themselves represent comfort -- it's like the recipient is being hugged by the giver. The idea is that the stitcher prays for the recipient before beginning the shawl, then prays upon completion of the shawl, thus praying blessings INTO the shawl. Those blessings will be passed on to the recipient of the shawl. I made one for my Aunt Linda when my Uncle Ed passed away. There's really no need to get all organized about it. You don't need to join a club or sign anything. You can just do it yourself for people you know.

Prayer shawls don't only have to be used in cases of bereavement, though that's a really good time to receive one, believe me!! They can also be given to someone who's having health issues or someone who's just stressed out. They're also nice to give on happy occasions -- they can be used for birthdays, baby or wedding gifts, baptisms, confirmations, graduations, a remembrance of home for a kid going to college, seeing a long-lost friend -- any reason you might give someone a hug is a great reason to give that person a prayer shawl. The important thing is the prayers, blessings, and positive energy for the recipient that you stitch into that shawl.

For more information about the Prayer Shawl Ministry, you can click here.

Following is the pattern I used for the prayer shawl I gave to my aunt. It's easy, and the final product is really lovely.

3 Balls Homespun
Size K Crochet Hook
Finishing Needle

Ch 3.
Row 1: Work 2 hdc in 3rd ch from hook.
Row 2: Ch 3 (counts as hdc and ch 1, here and throughout), turn, 2 hdc in 1st hdc, hdc in next hdc, ch 1, hdc in top of t-ch – 5 hdc and 2 ch-1 sps.
Row 3: Ch 3, turn, hdc in 1st ch-1 sp, 2 hdc in next hdc, hdc in each of next 2 hdc, ch 1, hdc in last ch-1 sp – 7 hdc and 2 ch-1 sps.
Row 4: Ch 3, turn, hdc in 1st ch-1 sp, 2 hdc in next hdc, hdc in each hdc across to last ch-1 sp, ch-1, hdc in last ch-1 sp – 9 hdc and 2 ch-1 sps.
Repeat Row 4, increasing 2 hdc every row as established, until piece measures 35 in. (89 cm) from beginning.
Fasten off.

Weave in ends.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Summer Crochet Ideas

Lots of people think that crocheting is just a cold weather activity. This couldn't be further from the truth! If you think I'm making this up, Google "crochet bikini" (special message to my mom: please don't Google "crochet bikini". Some of the pictures might upset you!!).

You can crochet all sorts of stuff with sport weight or cotton yarn in the summer. You can make lightweight lacy tops, handbags, shopping bags, hats, shawls -- I just finished a GORGEOUS one in a beautiful shade of turquoise with an iridescent thread. And don't forget Amigurumi, the adorable Japanese crocheted stuffed toys. You can do a Google Image Search for that, Mom!

Did you know you can crochet jewelry? You can! I have several patterns for bracelets and necklaces, and just saw some cute crocheted earrings!

I also like to crochet dish cloths with Lilies and Cream yarn. They're easy, portable, and quick, and they will scrub egg and cheese off of your dishes without scratching. They're also durable -- my mom's got some from the late '70s, I believe.

So don't give up your crocheting just because the snow isn't flying. There's always something adorable you can make! Peace, love and yarn, everyone!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm Ba-ack!!

I can't believe I haven't blogged since the end of January!! But between the opera season, the band, and many, many crochet projects, I simply haven't had the time! Now opera season is winding down, so I make my triumphant return to the blogosphere.

During my radio silence, my non-sexual co life partner Matt Dans threw a very successful cupcake auction benefit for DQMO at our favorite spot, The Glenwood, and I was asked to crochet cupcake hats to auction off. As most of you know, when people ask me if I can crochet something out of the ordinary, my usual response is, "Of course I can!" So I did a little research and came up with my own design. I did a vanilla one with pink frosting

and a chocolate one with sprinkle frosting.

They were very popular, and the adorable guy who won the chocolate one (I never did catch his name) kept enthusiastically presenting me to his friends as the girl who made his hat. Adorable!!

The Thursday night Stitch 'n' Bitch is still going on. I've gotten some new members, which is nice! I put up new fliers that are getting some attention -- probably because I used this picture.

I'm going to keep going all summer because there's awesome stuff you can crochet during the summer, which I'll go into in more detail in Thursday's post. And yes, I am going back to two posts a week on my blog. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be the days that I post.

Glory Chain is playing at the Glenwood next Monday, March 26, at 7:00 as part of Lifeline Theatre's Music and Stories series. Come check us out!

That's all the news for now -- I gotta go vote!! As always, dolls, Peace, Love and Yarn.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion!!

Last night I was at home, recovering from a particularly arduous meeting, when I received a text message alerting me that my friend John DiGilio had BURPed me. What in the world is a BURP, I asked myself as I popped a Godiva truffle in my mouth. It turns out that BURP is John's blog, "Bloggin' Up Rogers Park", and I am his most recent addition to Neighbors in the News!! What a nice surprise! John is a knitter who frequents the Evil Squirrel Knit Nights. I met him in December at the Craft War, and we ran into each other the next day and talked about ideas for future crafting events in Rogers Park. He's got some great ideas to make crafting accessible to our neigborhood. John's kind of awesome, and you should follow his blog. Not just because I'm in it. But I am. right here -- see?? (Yes, it's the same link as the one above -- I get a little childlike when I see my name in print!!) Thank you, John! It's nice to be recognized for doing cool stuff!

John also mentioned my band, the awesome Glory Chain, and our gig on Saturday, February 4, at 5:00 pm, at the Evil Squirrel Comic Book Shop. I'm really excited about this gig! We've got a lot of cool new material we've been working on, and we're helping Shawn King keep his doors open -- he's doing fabulous neighborhood outreach stuff and giving kids a safe place to hang out, which is invaluable in Rogers Park, and the economy has really cut into his profits, so we need to help him pay his rent! We'll be passing a hat at Saturday's gig, and we hope you'll all throw in some nice coin for Shawn and Evil Squirrel.

Also a reminder that next Saturday, February 11, 10:00 am -2:00 pm, Mary Wells, Molly Costello and I are hosting the Rogers Park Craft Show at 1505 W. Morse Avenue. There will be really cool stuff there, and you should bring wads of cash to buy it!!

That's all the news for now, dolls! I'll be back with another post on Thursday. Until then, as always, Peace, Love and Yarn!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ruth's Hat, Mozart and Yarn

My dear friend Ruth Hoekwater, the owner of the Common Cup Cafe in Rogers Park, asked me if I could replicate a crocheted hat that she's had for a while that she LOVES and she wants more of in different colors. I had never successfully replicated a pattern from the actual garment, but if I can design and build a hat that looks like Party Pat from Cartoon Network (see below), I can do just about anything, now can't I??
So I took a look at the hat and decided that this was a dragon I could slay. It's a variation on my basic skullcap pattern, but the last five rows are shell-stitched. Cute!! I got some black yarn and started stitchin'. However, knowing that Ruth wanted the hat to be tight-fitting, and knowing that my hats tend to stretch, I used a G-sized hook. It came out child-sized. Oops! So I did it again with an H-sized hook. Closer, but not quite big enough to cover the head that holds Ruth's brilliant brain. So I began a third one with an I-sized hook.

Fast-forward to yesterday, the final Student Matinee of Mozart's "Magic Flute" at the Lyric. I had brought my black yarn and my I-sized hook to work on Ruth's hat in the Super Children's dressing room. One of the young ladies asked me if I'd make her a hat as a memento of the show. I said I didn't have any yarn that wasn't spoken for. She said she had yarn, so I agreed to make her a hat. I made the Ruth Hat pattern and it turned out quite nicely. The young lady really loved it, and she was overjoyed when she heard that it was the first of its kind from my hook. And then disaster struck. While I was away from the dressing room setting up a quick change, another young lady accidentally knocked my coffee over into my yarn bag. The yarn that got baptized with coffee? The black yarn for Ruth's hat!! After I threw a bit of a tantrum (far away from the sensitive ears of the girls I dress, of course) and the young lady apologized profusely -- it truly had been an accident and she felt awful -- I realized that the coffee wouldn't show on the black yarn, and that since Ruth was going to wear it at the Cafe, it would end up smelling like coffee anyway!! Crisis averted!! Or at least ameliorated!

A quick plug for my band, Glory Chain. We are playing next Saturday, 4 February, at 5:00 pm at the Evil Squirrel Comic Book Shop, 6928 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago.

Next, a quick plug for our Rogers Park Craft Show the following Saturday, 11 February, from 10:00-2:00 at the Many Peoples Church space, 1505 W. Morse Ave., Chicago.

And that's all the news for now, dolls! Until next time, as always, Peace, Love and Yarn!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rogers Park Craft Show, or I Crochet in Hair Salons

Brothers and sisters, I apologize for my 9-day internet silence! I had trouble getting on Blogger last Thursday, last Sunday I was hanging with my mom and my caramel sister Mia all day, and I've been crazy busy with opera, band practice, and craft show preparations the rest of the week.

As mentioned in my last post, my friends Mary and Molly and I are planning a craft show to be held at Many Peoples Church, 1505 W. Morse Avenue, in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. We'll be hawking our wares on Saturday, 11 February, from 10:00 am til 2:00 pm. There will be toys and cards and jewelry and pillows and scarves and all sorts of handmade delights!! I think there's room available for vendors, so if you or anyone you know is interested in selling awesome crafts, please get in touch with me.

So craft show preparations are underway. In addition to helping with tasks such as finding vendors, communicating with others who use the space, and organizing logistics, I have to make sure I have some items to sell! So I've been working on baby hats and dishcloths to add to the inventory I already have. I just bought a new pattern book yesterday, so hopefully I can add some new projects to my bag of tricks. There's a shopping bag pattern that I'm absolutely in love with, as well as some adorable baby bibs and pacifier fobs. Delicious!

I got my hair colored and cut by the inimitable Patrick Fuller last Tuesday. I'm always delighted with his work, but this time he truly outdid himself! The color is rich and has tons of depth and the style is sophisticated and urban. When he showed me the finished product, I declared that I looked like Ms. Karen Walker! While my color was processing, he directed me to sit in the chair with the best lighting so I could crochet with ease as the color did its job. He did this so I'd mention him in my blog. It worked. Patrick Fuller, Master Stylist, Robert Jeffrey Salon, 3434 N. Halsted. Chicago, IL. 60657. 773.525.8800. If I could make it glitter, I would. He's awesome!!

In other news, my dear friend Paul had a brain aneurysm this past Sunday morning. He's in a coma, but beginning to show some improvement. Monday they will begin tests to see how much damage he's sustained. Please keep him in your prayers. And, as always, my friends, peace, love and yarn!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Trouble with Tribbles -- I mean, Yarn

From Wikipedia: Tribbles are fictional asexual animals in the Star Trek universe who first appeared in the episode titled "The Trouble With Tribbles". They are depicted as small, soft, and gentle, and producing a soothing purring sound. These traits are said to endear them to most sentient races which encounter them, with the notable exception of Klingons, who consider tribbles to be "mortal enemies" of the Klingon Empire, as stated in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations".

While appearing in only four episodes and briefly in three of the Star Trek movies, they are one of the most popular and well-known species featured in the Star Trek universe, fairly well known even to casual followers of the series. In 2006, two tribble props from "Trials and Tribble-ations" were auctioned for US $800 to $1,200.[1]

The expression "multiplying like tribbles" has also become commonplace in the context of science fiction or technology.[2]

My name is Dawn-Marie and I am a yarn addict. No, seriously -- yarn has taken over my life! I have bins and bags and drawers and cabinets bursting with yarn! The reasons for this Tribble-like yarn overabundance are basically threefold:

One: I am quickly enamored with the colors and textures of yarn and I MUST HAVE IT IN MY POSSESSION!! I may not know exactly what I'm going to do with the sparkly pink fun fur, but you bet it's going home with me to await its moment in the sun!

Two: People see me crocheting something and say to me, "That's really cute! Can you make me one in green?" So I dutifully march off to the yarn store and buy green yarn. And very few yarn projects take EXACTLY one skein or EXACTLY two skeins, and it's always recommended that you buy a skein more than you think you need because of dye lots and whatnot, so there is ALWAYS yarn left over.

Three: I always have at least three -- if not eight -- projects going at once. This has a lot to do with my fickle nature (see Reason 1), but there are also elements of practicality. A baby hat will fit in my dresser's apron to occupy my time while I'm waiting to do a quick change. A baby blanket will not. And I can't see to crochet with black or navy yarn in dimly-lit places like bars.

Yesterday I began the arduous task of sorting and containing my yarn. It's going to take me quite some time, my darlings! My goal is to have separate bins for baby yarn, sport weight, worsted weight, chunky yarn and thick yarn, plus a bin for projects under construction -- all of which need to live in plastic zip lock bags so the yarn doesn't get all heartbrokenly tangled. It's a big undertaking because, Tribble-like, the yarn has migrated into areas clearly not designated for the storage of yarn. Two skeins of thick orange yarn currently reside in my sock drawer! If I don't get a handle on the yarn containment soon, there will be yarn in my freezer!!

The good news is that I have a craft show for which to prepare. My friends Mary Wells and Molly Costello and I are putting together a craft show in Rogers Park in February, the details of which shall be forthcoming. So I'm planning on making lots of baby stuff, flower pins, dishcloths, hot pads, and lighter weight caps and scarves. I also got a book of patterns for adorable amugurumi "Crobots" as a Christmas present from my darling Canadians, Rob Feller and Tim Power. (From Wikipedia: Amigurumi [編みぐるみ?, lit. crocheted or knitted stuffed toy] is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures. The word is derived from a combination of the Japanese words ami, meaning crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, meaning stuffed doll.[1] Amigurumi are typically animals, but can include artistic renderings or inanimate objects endowed with anthropomorphic features,[2] as is typical in Japanese culture.) They'll sell like hotcakes. One more thing to learn, eh?

But enough idle chitchat! I've got yarn to wrangle and long-forgotten living areas to rediscover! I'll post again on Sunday. As always, my friends, Peace, Love and Yarn!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Ladies Who Lunch

Dr. Emily Roben, proudly displaying her first flower pin

Just yesterday I went to the beautiful home of my dear friends, Matt and Emily Roben, to have lunch and crochet with Emily. She is a first-year resident at Children's Memorial Hospital, so she doesn't get a lot of free time. When the good doctor told me she had a weekend free and wanted to spend some of it with me, I jumped at the chance! Matt and I became friends when I was dressing him for "The Scottish Opera" at the Lyric. You know which one I mean -- don't make me say it!! Matt and the other gentlemen I dressed for that show were very sweet and
supportive during my Michael's illness and after his passing. Through Matt, I met Emily, and I have good friendships with them, together and separately.

So anyway, Emily invited me over for lunch and crocheting, and Matt offered to cook for and wait on us. He's really a lovely man, as I suggested above! So while Emily and I were sipping tea and stitching away in the living room, Matt and his friend Josh were slaving over a hot panini press in the kitchen! The menfolk prepared paninis with turkey, pastrami, salami, provolone cheese and horseradish mustard, accompanied by a green salad with honey-mustard dressing, bread and butter pickles, and habanero pickles. Everything was delicious!! Then we girls went back to our crochet projects and the boys went to clean up the kitchen.

Emily asked me to teach her how to make my signature flower pin, which I was more than happy to do. She worried when her stitches came out tighter and curlier than mine, but as you can see in the photo above, she had nothing to worry about -- it turned out beautifully!!

The flower pin came to be because several years ago my good friend Ruth Hoekwater wanted a crocheted hat with a flower on it. So I found a hat pattern and found a flower pattern (both from Chicks with Sticks Guide to Crochet by Nancy Queen and Mary Ellen O'Connell) and put them together. My Michael thought it would be great if I made the flowers and sewed pin backings on the back. He was right -- they've always been my most popular item!! I look heavenward and smile at him every time I sell one!!

One time I was getting ready to work at the opera and I needed the pattern to take with me but I didn't want to carry the whole book. I asked my Michael to do me a huge favor; to copy the pattern. I said, "Please don't try to think about it, don't try to figure it out; just write this down for me from here to here." Michael, being a brilliant and analytical man, said that copying down this three-row pattern was one of the most difficult things he'd ever had to do!!

So here's the pattern for the flower:

Using a Size-G hook and baby-weight, sport-weight or worsted yarn

Ch 42
Row 1: 1 dc in 4th ch from hook, *ch 1, 1 dc in next ch*. Repeat * to * across -- 40 dc.
Row 2: Ch 1 and turn. In the first ch-1 sp work (1 sc, 1 ch, 5 dc, 1 ch, 1 sc), *1 sc in next ch-1 sp; in next ch-1 sp work (1 sc, 1 ch, 5 dc, 1 ch, 1 sc)*. Repeat from * to * across (20 petals made). Fasten off, leaving 18" tail.
Finishing: Thread tail through finishing needle to sew flower. Begin at tail end and sew 2 petals together at base to form center of flower. Spiral the remaining coil of petals around bud to form a flower, sewing together layer by layer at the base. Using remainder of yarn, sew pin backing to back of flower. Fasten off and weave in end.

I'll be back on Thursday. As always, Peace, Love and Yarn, my friends!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Basket Weave Scarf

The Lovely Rich Diamond in Andrew's Scarf

This is a favorite pattern of mine. I found it in the wonderful book Chicks with Sticks Guide to Crochet by Nancy McQueen and Mary Ellen O'Connell. I've made these scarves for my gorgeous friends Matt Dans and Andrew Augustin. I saw a guy on the El who had a hat in this basket weave pattern, and I think once I get all of my holiday orders filled -- thank you to people like Tom Brassell who celebrate Christmas in January so I had a little extra time to work on stuff -- I'm going to experiment with this stitch in a hat.

You need 330 yards of the chunky weight yarn of your choice, a K-sized hook, and a finishing needle. You also need to know how to front post double crochet (FPdc) and back post double crochet (BPdc). Let me tell you how to do that. Please forgive the poor quality of my instructional photos. First you make a base chain and a row of garden variety double crochet. In row two, you're going to get all creative with the FPdc and the BPdc! It goes a little something like this: Yarn over, insert the hook front to back on the RIGHT side of the post.Then you yarn over, pull up a loop, yarn over and draw the hook through two loops, yarn over and draw through the last two loops.
Easy and awesome, right?? I know!

Now for the BPdc! Insert the hook front to back on the WRONG side of the post.Yarn over, pull up a loop, yarn over, pull through two loops, yarn over and pull through the last two!Look at you! You're a crocheting GENIUS!!

Okay, now here's the pattern:

Ch 22
Row 1: Work 1 dc in fourth ch from hook and in each ch across, ch 2 (this counts as first st in next row, now and throughout), turn -- dc 20.
Row 2: Sk 1st dc, *work 1 FPdc around each of next 3 dc, work 1 BPdc around each of next 3 dc*. Repeat * to * across. 1hdc in top of beg ch. Ch 2, turn.
Row 3: Sk 1st hdc, *work 1 FPdc around each of next 3 dc, work 1 BPdc around each of next 3 dc*. Repeat * to * across. 1 hdc in top of beg ch. Ch2, turn.
Row 4: Sk 1st hdc, *work 1 BPdc around each of next 3 dc, work 1 FPdc around each of next 3 dc*. Repeat * to * across. 1 hdc in top of beg ch. Ch2, turn.
Row 5: Repeat Row 4.
Row 6: Repeat Row 3.

Repeat Rows 3-6 until panel measures 56" from beg. Fasten off and weave in ends.

ch: Chain
dc: Double Crochet
sk: Skip
beg: Beginning
hdc: Half Double Crochet

Message me with any questions. I'll have another blog post for you on Sunday. As always, my friends, peace, love and yarn!