Friday, June 27, 2014

Free Pattern: Glow-in-the-Dark Star Jewelry


  When I was a kid, I was completely obsessed with anything that glows in the dark. Actually, I should admit that I'm still obsessed. And now my daughter is, too. After a trip to the craft store to introduce her to glow-in-the-dark plastic lacing (she calls it lanyard string), I started getting ideas. I bought an extra spool for myself to experiment with. My kid wants something special to wear for the Fourth of July, and I though these would be some cute accessories.


  The stars are made as separate one-round pieces, then joined to a crocheted chain, so you could easily make whatever you choose. Instead of jewelry, perhaps you would like to make a key chain, magnets, or a long garland to decorate indoors or out. Simply follow the directions provided, adjusting the number of chains, or attach single stars to something with glue or double-sided tape.


  Stars 1 and 2 use a picot stitch, while star 3 is made with only chains and slip stitches. All stars are just one round! Star 1 is 1 1/2" (3.8 cm) , star 2 is 1 1/4" (3 cm), and star 3 is 1" (2.5 cm) in diameter.




  If you've never crocheted with plastic lacing, it can seem difficult at first. The plastic doesn't slide smoothly on the hook, and the flat material tends to twist, causing it to come off the hook while completing a stitch. Before you begin, here are some tips to make your project easier:
  • To combat twisting, I spin the work in the opposite direction, right on the hook, every few stitches. Secure the loop on the hook with your finger and let go of the working yarn to do this.
  • When the plastic creates too much friction, I rub a tiny bit of mineral or vegetable oil on my hook, and even on my tension fingers, to help the material glide. *Pay close attention to the phrase "tiny bit", I mean a tiny bit, as in a drop, or you will have a greasy mess sliding out of your hands.  
  • Practice for a few minutes to learn how to work around these problems before you begin a project.
  • Pull gently if you need to unravel your work, because the plastic can stretch or break easily.
  • If your material is kinked after being unraveled, soak it in some warm water for a few seconds. Pinch it between a rag or paper towel to dry it while you wind it back on the spool, and it will be back to normal.
Skill level:






Materials:
Plastic lacing - Glow-in-the-dark, or any color you wish...But how could you not choose glow-in-the-dark?
Hook size E/4 - 3.50 MM, or size needed to obtain gauge
Smaller hook to weave in ends
Whatever you might need to create your accessories, such as jewelry findings, pin backs, key rings, etc.

Gauge:
4 rows of 5 single crochet = 1" (2.5 cm)

Notes:
If you would like to use any of the stars for a different project, and would like them to be bigger, you can use the same pattern with a larger hook. The smaller stars are quite stiff, and hold their shape well. The more you increase your hook size, the more pliable they will be.

Stitches:
Single crochet (sc)
Picot - 1 single crochet, ch 3, slip stitch in third (3rd) chain from hook (top of single crochet just made).

Directions:

Each star begins with a magic circle. All stitches are worked into circle. 

Star 1 (large):



Ch 4, sl st in 3rd ch from hook, 1 sc. (1 sc, ch 3, sl st in 3rd ch from hook [picot], 1 sc) 4 times. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. Pull stitches together by tightening magic circle, then secure end. Bind off, weave in ends.

Star 2 (medium):



Ch 4, sl st in 3rd ch from hook. Make 4 picot in circle, pull closed and secure end. Bind off, weave in ends. 

Star 3 (small):



(Ch 3, sl st) 5 times. Pull circle closed and secure end. Bind off, weave in ends.

To assemble jewelry shown:
Directions are for small, changes for large are in parenthesis ( ), and kids don't sit still for pictures.

For necklace:
Make (1) of star 1, (2) each of stars 2 and 3.
With plastic lacing: Ch 30 (45), join to point of star 2 with a sl st, ch 10, join to point of star 3 with a sl st, ch 10, join to point of star 1 with a sl st, ch 10, join star 3 with a sl st, ch 10, join star 2 with a sl st, ch 30 (45). Bind off, weave in ends, add clasps (join with a sl st to beg ch, bind off, weave in ends).



For earrings:
Make (2) of star 3.
Attach jump ring to the point of star, add chain. Attach chain to earring hook with another jump ring. This would also look awesome with multiple chains of stars at different lengths, but my model said that one is heavy enough.


For bracelet:
Make (2) of star 1, (1) of star 2.
With plastic lacing: Ch 1, join with a sl st to point of star 1. Ch 7, join to point of star 2 with a sl st, ch 7, joint to point of star 1. Ch 19 (24), join with a sl st to beg ch. Bind off, weave in ends.


For brooch:
Make (2) of Star 3, (1) of Star 2.
Using a bar pin, attach a jump ring to a point of each star 3. Add chain, attach to outer edges of pin with jump rings. Attach star 2 directly to center of pin.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Yarn Review: Caron Simply Soft


  I have to confess that Caron Simply Soft is one of my go-to yarns. It has pros and cons, but is always a "simple" choice for a project. There are two negative things I'd like to cover; one is a problem I've experienced myself, the other is a gripe I've heard from many crocheters.


    Let's review the bad stuff first, but remember to consider the good points too, before you make up your mind. Here's my problem: Caron, you cause me much frustration. Why, oh why, does a giant tangled mess always come out of the middle of each skein? This has happened with every kind of Caron yarn I've used so far. I've come to expect with every skein to have my other half standing across the room with multiple strands of yarn through his fingers, impatiently staring at the ceiling while I untangle many, many yards of yarn. I love all the Caron products I've ever used, but I dislike having to untangle it for every project.





  That's my only problem. Now I feel like I should address the complaint I've heard from others, even though it isn't an issue for me: Splitting. Have you ever worked with Simply Soft? Do you have a problem with your hook going into the middle of the strand? Because the ply is very loose, this can happen easily. The best tip I can provide is to adjust your tension, because the harder it is to insert your hook into the stitch, the more likely it is that the hook will split the strand. I keep weak tension on this yarn, and rarely have an issue. Maybe it takes a little practice, but should you have to do this? Have you ever experienced the same problem with another brand? Is it worth the time, or do you chose a different yarn? It's definitely something to consider.


  Now that we got the unpleasant points over with, what kind of yarn is this, and what are it's good details? It's worsted weight, 100 % acrylic, machine washable and dryable. Not only is it a no dye lot yarn, but it seems to be colorfast too. In fact, I accidentally threw a project in the wash once with bleach, and it came out fine! Available in over 50 colors, Simply Soft offers a vast variety of choices. At under $5 for a six-ounce skein, it's affordable, although not as cheap as other acrylics. In my opinion, the soft, satiny feel is well worth the extra money. For more information about Simply Soft, click here to visit the manufacturer;s website. 


  On a personal note, this yarn offers me a special bonus. I have trouble using products with animal fiber, because I have very sensitive skin. With many natural fiber yarns, the project will have some fuzziness, often called a "halo". This can be a beautiful effect. Instead of developing a halo, most acrylic yarns will "pill", looking old and worn out. Once washed, Simply Soft begins to get fuzzy, but it has more of the look of a natural fiber halo, instead of pilling and ruining your work. This allows me to create projects with an effect similar to animal fiber, even though it isn't exactly the same.





  In conclusion, it may be a favorite of mine, but you have to weigh the pros and cons to decide to work with this product. Simply Soft creates beautiful, colorfast, durable projects. It's great for apparel, afghans, baby items, and more. But it is also a bit of a pain to work with. Have you used Simply Soft and had the same problems? Would you chose this yarn for a project because of the results, or decide to use another brand to avoid the hassle?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Free Pattern: Deca-Stitch Lacy Cowl 2.0


  When I made the original Deca-stitch Lacy Cowl, I noted a few minor difficulties in the pattern. First, being made with thread, it took longer to make than I thought it would. Next, it was slightly difficult to work the extended stitches into the beginning chain with even tension. Lastly, every row seemed to take forever to complete, because the extended stitches require more time to form.


  I wanted to recreate the project to make the beginning chain easier, and speed up the process of creating the cowl. By changing to a worsted weight yarn and adding a few rows of double crochet, I completed the new cowl in a few spare hours over the weekend.


  The result is a bulkier, satiny version of the original pattern that makes a bold statement without overpowering. The large open spaces created by the Deca-stitch produce an airy fabric still suitable for a summer accessory.


  Size before joining is 34" (86 cm) wide, 5 3/4" (14.5 cm) tall. Finished size is 6" (15 cm) wide, 16" (40.5 cm) long, as worn.






Skill level:








Materials:

Hook size H/8 - 5.00MM

Needle or smaller hook to weave in ends


Caron Simply Soft acrylic yarn, less than half a skein

  I used color Limelight, in honor of my good friend Don, may he rest in peace. His favorite color was Grabber Green. They don't sell yarn in engine paint colors, so it was as close as I could find. Hope you like it, Pops.



Gauge:
In 4" x 4" (10 cm x 10 cm)
2 rows of 10 deca-stitch, or 8 rows of 10 double crochet





Notes:
Pattern is worked in rows and joined into an infinity cowl when adding the border.
Use yarn tail to weave closed gap left when joining.

Click the stitch description for a step-by-step tutorial if you need any help.


Stitches:
Chain (ch)
Single crochet (sc)
Double crochet (dc)
Deca-stitch - Yarn over eight (8) times, insert hook, pull up a loop. (Yarn over, pull through 2 loops) 9 times.

Directions:

To begin, ch 88.

Row 1:
1 dc in 4th ch from hook, 1 dc in each of remaining 83 chs. (85 dc)

Row 2:
Ch 10 (counts as 1 deca-stitch), turn. 1 deca-stitch in each of remaining 84 dc. (85 deca-stitch)

Row 3:
Ch 3 (counts as 1 dc), turn. 1 dc in each of remaining 84 deca-stitch. (85 dc)

Row 4:
Repeat Row 2.

Row 5:
Repeat Row 3

To make border and join:
Turn, sl st into space directly after st (post sp), ch 2 (counts as 1 sc, ch-1). (1 sc, ch 1) in next 83 post sps. Bring work around to join, flip 1 time. (1 sc, ch 1) in each of next 84 bottom post spaces. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. Bind off, leave enough tail to weave gap shut, weave in ends.