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