New Pattern Available: Ruffle Rose Pillow

Good morning all! It’s Monday here, and a holiday, which means no mail and a lot of people have the day off. Not me, of course, because I have to write two patterns today to prep for shipping off projects before their end of month deadline. It’ll also mean I can clear off my white board because the center section has been FULL of projects. Again, good for bank account, bad for taking holidays off.

Today I wanted to share with you the latest design that’s been published. Now, it came out a couple of weeks ago, but I had promised the dress form post, so you’re getting it now. Plus, I wanted to share with you what happened with this design.

Let’s get the design stuff out of the way first.

The Ruffle Rose Pillow is from Coats and Clark and is a free pattern. Here’s the details:

Photo copyright Coats & Clark and used with permission

Pattern is available here on RedHeart.com: Ruffle Rose Pillow pattern

Ravelry link: Ravelry Page

This pillow uses four balls of Red Heart Soft Yarn, an H-8 and I-9 crochet hook, and a 16″ round pillow insert. Make sure you check your gauge. I used just about the entire four balls, so if you think you won’t make gauge, then buy an extra ball.

This pillow will look great in your home. Quick and relatively easy (it will get a bit fiddly near the end, and when you’re crocheting the pillow closed), I think it would look awesome in any number of colors. The back is not ruffled, and is attached to the front in the last round. No sewing! Although I suppose if you wanted to (or needed to be able to remove the pillow from time to time) you could sew it together and install a zipper or something.

Now, this lovely pillow seemed so easy when I got the assignment. And it was. The construction concept stayed the same throughout the design process.

However….

It always seems that what should be the easiest design to execute is always the one to bite me every step of the way. This was the design that I ripped back four or five times during construction (I don’t remember and it pains me to look back through Twitter to see). This was the design that I often times daydreamed about setting on fire. To be clear, not because of anything wrong with the design (I love the final product)…it was simply figuring out exactly what needed to be done. Once I finally got through the roadblocks in my own head, I was able to quickly finish the pillow.

The wonderful thing for you? You simply get to pick up the pattern and start crocheting. All the hard part has been done. As long as you follow the directions, the pillow will simply fly off your hook.

I share this with you because I’ve always been honest about the design process (see my designing series for hard truths and such). It’s not always sunshine and roses and unicorns. Sometimes there’s real blood, sweat, and tears that go into the designing process (I’ve had all three happen, thankfully never on the project itself). It’s important to me that crocheters understand what goes into the designs they use.

Sometimes we’re lucky and it’s a quick design to create (those are usually the hardest to write the patterns for…just so you know that sometimes it’s a struggle either way). Sometimes we’re not. Either way, the hard work we do turns into a wonderful project for you to create.

I do hope that you’ll give this one a try. If you do, let me know! If it’s on Ravelry, I’ll see it. I can’t wait to see it done in a few different colors. I think a bright color would look great on a neutral sofa or chair. Spring is on its way, so you should totally get this done for your spring redecorating.

Next week I’ll have the wonderful Karen Ratto-Whooley here and we’ll be chatting about her newest book: I Can’t Believe I’m Crocheting Socks. I’m almost done with my first sock from this book and I can tell you, her instructions are clear, detailed and wonderful. I’m hoping to finish at least one sock this week so I can show it to you next week. If you love crocheting socks, or were always interested in learning how, get this book when it comes out. You won’t be disappointed! Come visit me next week to meet Karen and read our little chat about it.

Adventures in duct tape

A couple of weeks ago, my sister posted on Facebook about making a custom dress form out of duct tape. Being the dutiful sister I am, I immediately offered to wrap her in duct tape. So the plan was hatched and she came over on Saturday night, a little nervous about just how happy I was to do this for/to her. Once I had her in duct tape, I told her I’d been asked to blog about the process and would, of course, have to include pictures. She made me promise to hide her face, so I did. Thanks to the wonderful free photo editing tools available at Picnik, I was able to blur her face like they do on the news. 🙂

Anyway, we used the instructions found here. She wanted the second version, which provides for a bit more, um, definition in the chest area. So, she changed into a t-shirt, we cut the sleeve off another and popped it over her head and into the neckline of the shirt, and I got to taping.

And yes, she brought bright purple duct tape. Now, there is not as much tape on the colored rolls of duct tape. We decided pretty much immediately that if she was to make another one, we’d use the plain old grey duct tape…and that we’d need a lot more.

Here’s the first picture to show the first steps. I did the whole “cross your heart” type of taping, including getting some great support around her ribs.

Here’s the back:

Now, an important lesson was learned here. Duct tape in this fashion works a lot like a corset. She was forced to stand up straight and we both discovered that she doesn’t have good posture (I immediately refused to make myself a dress form because I know my posture stinks). We had to take breaks so she could try to relax muscles that were being forced to be where they should.

We soldiered on, and I started filling in the blanks on the top part of the dress form. Mummifying your sister in duct tape is kinda fun. Making her laugh when she’s being corseted in duct tape, not so much for her. After a bit, she had to sit down. That was also an adventure because we weren’t sure how to let her sit without breaking what I’d already done. Thankfully because we hadn’t covered her abdomen, she could still sit a bit. Plus, since it took her so long to get up, I knew I could snap this picture:

After a break, we started on the rest of it. At this point, I had her spin and I stood still. That worked until she got dizzy and I realized that if she fell down, I was going to have to cut her out of it before I could get her up. Which of course, led to a giggling fit (mine) and pouting (her). But I got the rest of the torso taped up. At that point, she said it was getting a little difficult to breathe (oops, she said to make it tight) and she wanted to sit again. Well, she couldn’t sit on either of my chairs so she flung herself on my bed. Which led to another giggling fit by me. She was not amused. You can’t see it on her face, ’cause I blurred it, but she’s giving me a not so nice look right now:

After we got her back upright, we realized something. We were going to run out of duct tape. See, the instructions call for 3 layers to make it sturdy. We’d done one and were already into our second roll (she only brought two). After leaving her standing there, I went to inquire on the duct tape status in our house. Surprisingly (especially for anyone who knows my family) we did not have any duct tape in the house. We also didn’t have any masking tape. We did have painter’s tape (not sure why, we don’t tape off when we paint, but that’s a different story), but I worried that wouldn’t stick well. Finally I realized I had three big rolls of clear mailing tape. While not ideal, we figured it would work in a pinch.

So, it got really noisy as I used clear mailing tape to make two or three more layers. She became really really shiny at this point. But, it made the form a bit sturdier. I then covered it in the last of the duct tape (which wasn’t even enough to cover the whole thing). Here’s the last pictures of it on her (you can’t tell, but she’s totally not amused at the photo taking, but she couldn’t reach me, so it was all good):

Then came the best part. I got to grab a pair of scissors and cut her out of this thing. Granted, it was a lot harder than I thought it was. I had to try to get my fingers underneath to make sure I didn’t stab her. Layers of tape (both mailing and duct tape) are harder to cut through than you might think. She was getting tired of standing by this point, and I was getting a bit nervous I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was finally able to release her from her duct tape cage, and here’s the form sitting by itself on my chair:

Now, she still has work to do on it. She has to build it a frame, fill it (I think she’s using expanding foam with the help of her husband), and possibly cover it more. If nothing else, we now know what to do differently if we need to again. And I will now share those tips with you:

1. Use a closer fitting and longer t-shirt. When we taped her waist, the shirt bunched up and rose so we couldn’t go as low over her hips as we originally intended to.

2. MORE DUCT TAPE! Seriously. If we do it again, I’m suggesting at least three of the big rolls of the grey duct tape.

3. Get a stool for her to lean against when standing gets to be too much. Now, some of that could be just for us because she has RA, but honestly, letting the person getting wrapped sit is probably nice.

4. Use longer bladed scissors. My little short stubby scissors had a hard time.

5. Duct tape gets hot. Do not do this in the summer (especially down here). Have a fan on the person getting wrapped.

6. Make sure you have a lot of room to work. We had to keep moving to the one spot in my room that has floor space, but it would have been easier to be in a larger space, I think. I kept bumping into my dresser.

While I don’t see a need to make one of these for myself (I don’t do that many garments right now and if I do them for publication they have to be sample size, not my size), I may one day. I could see that if you’re a crocheter, knitter, or seamstress (like my sister is) and want a body double, this would be a good solution. So, grab a friend, grab some duct tape, and get ready for some fun!

And so this post contains something of crochet content, I’m currently finishing the third of four designs due at the end of the month. I’m waiting on yarn to arrive for the fourth one. I can’t wait to show you the designs I’ve been working on. Also, later this week (or next) I’ll be posting about a recently published design.

Oh, and stay tuned! March 2nd I’m going to have Karen Ratto-Whooley here for some Q&A about her new book: I Can’t Believe I’m Crocheting Socks!. This book is awesome (and y’all know how much of a sock addict I am) and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Comfy chairs make all the difference

Because I’m slammed with deadlines and can’t talk about anything I’m working on right now AND in honor of that made up holiday coming up, this is a post about my newest love.

My job involves a lot of sitting. A lot of sitting. So it’s important that I have a good chair. When I moved home, I had to put my studio and my bedroom all in the same room (a 225 sq ft room). As I showed in the past, in my studio side I have a big work table and a desk and a decent office chair. It’s got decent support, for sitting at the computer or the work table for short periods of time. Well, short as in a couple of hours or so.

Some of the projects I’ve done have required me to sit at the work table to do them. Either I need to spread it out and let the table hold the weight (huge afghans in the summer here in Florida) or I needed to do a lot of detail joining or what I call “fiddly” work. So at those times I’ve had to sit in the office chair to work.

The problem came in when I had nice easy mindless crochet to do or I was trying to crochet at night for myself. Sitting in my bed wasn’t comfortable, and the original sofa I had shoved in here just wasn’t comfortable. So I found myself sitting in the office chair, trying to relax, and only thinking about work.

Last week I finally decided to give it up. I put my sofa on Freecycle (and it was gone the next day) and found it a new home. My mother and I went that night to our local Rooms To Go and I sat in every chair they had. Every chair. Mom thought it was funny to watch me sit down, wiggle in, hold my hands in proper crochet position, and then pop back out dismissing it.

I felt like Goldilocks. For those who’ve never met me in public, I’m short. I’m 5’4″. I’m “long waisted” which means that what little height I have is in my torso (don’t even get me started on clothing…this is why growing up almost everything was made by my mom) and my legs are short. Most chairs I sat in I was unable to touch the ground. This is problematic because I won’t sit correctly if I can’t touch the ground. Most of the chairs were also too big for me. There was no way I could rest my elbows on the arms of the chair. Some chairs were too stiff, some too soft. I settled on one that came with an ottoman, but wasn’t pleased with how it looked or sat (but it was one of the few that actually fit me).

Until I finally sat in the last chair. Mom said she could tell by the look on my face that it was the one as soon as I sat down. It fit. It’s just wide enough for me to be comfortable but still reach the low arms. That’s another thing, the arms aren’t so high that they’re in the way, but high enough I can rest my arms on them. My feet actually touched the ground. And bonus, it’s a recliner. Comfy chair perfection. We bought it right then and scheduled to have it delivered in two days.

Now, when it arrived, I had to shuffle the room a bit. My big storage unit is now on the other side of the room, but it works there. My chair sits right in front of the work table, which helps because I can reach things on my work table if I need them.

The first day I sat in it I noticed my back started to hurt. I was worried at first and then I realized…for the first time in I can’t remember when I was sitting with proper support on my back. See, this chair has great lower back support. And my posture stinks from sitting in bad chairs for so long.

I love this chair so so much. Here’s a photo of my new love, tucked in the corner by the door to my room. Disregard all the stuff to the side of the chair. I’m still organizing a bit and one of those bags is the “watching TV and unwinding project”.

For those interested, it’s the Avelar Recliner in Peat at Rooms to Go

Next week this chair will feature in a blog post. The other night I helped my sister make a custom dress form using duct tape. I will blog about this process, but first I have to edit all the photos (I promised her I’d remove her face). And there’s a great pic of her sitting in the chair trying to breathe. We might have gotten it a bit tight. So, I’ll work on that over the weekend and you’ll see that post next week.

Until then, have a fabulous week and a great weekend. Show everyone you love that you love them…and do it every day…not just on the commercial holidays. 🙂

Top Ten Reasons you should go to the Knit & Crochet Show

I see a lot of questions and conversations about whether or not a person should try to go to these shows. Yes, they’re a bit pricey. However, my first one I went to I paid for by saving spare change (I paid for classes by picking up a design job a few months prior, but to at least get there I paid for it with change). So, here’s all my reasons for why you, a crocheter, should really try to go (I’m assuming you’re a crocheter if you’re reading this…if not you’re family and y’all can either read ’cause you love me or skip on by this one…lol).

#1: It really is a balanced show. Many many shows that say they cater to crocheters, actually put us as second billing. Granted, Offinger needs to remember how the alphabet goes and put the words in the correct order, but this show is really great for crocheters. It’s the National Conference for the Crochet Guild of America (and the Knitting Guild Association, so it’s nicely equaled out). There is so much for crocheters to do! Classes, events, and even just hanging out with other crocheters.

#2: It’s a whole bunch of “our people” together. That sounds weird, I know. But unless you’re in an area where there is a huge crochet chapter, you have never seen this kind of presence. People wearing crochet everywhere! People crocheting everywhere! People knowing that what you’re wearing is crochet! It’s inspiring and dizzying and thrilling all at once. Want to swatch with that new yarn you just got but don’t have a hook? You can ask the group of people at the table next to you, chances are good someone has the right sized hook and will gladly let you borrow it for a bit.

#3: The market! Okay, before going to my first conference, I’d only been to a couple of small yarn shops. And most of them weren’t really crochet friendly. So while there was a lot of yarn, there wasn’t a lot of tools that I could use. Not so in the market at conference. Now, granted, there still is a large percentage of knitting focused tools, but I’ve watched that get better over the past two years. And it’s still better than most of the other general yarn related events (I’m looking at you, Stitches). There is yarn EVERYWHERE! There are tools and hooks and bags and shirts and so much stuff you just won’t believe. Some vendors are learning that many of us like sparklies, too, and there are beads and buttons and other shiny things.

#4: Classes. Oh, the classes you can take. Now, I’ll throw in that I’m teaching four classes at the Summer show in Minneapolis. You know, if you wanted to come and learn some stuff from me. More on that when the full class list goes live (but you can see my descriptions in a previous post). I learned so much in the classes I took my first year. Yes, they seem a bit pricey, but honestly? $70 for three hours is awesome. Especially considering the amount of information that the teachers put into the classes. And you get to meet really cool people while you’re sitting in class.

#5: Events. Last year there was a dance party sponsored by Caron yarns. I really hope they do this again as it was so much fun to hang out, chat, and party with fellow crocheters. There’s also the fashion show and dinner which is great fun. There’s the wall of Design Competition entrants (I think this year it’ll be at the North Carolina show) which is inspiring and awesome to see.

#6: Networking. If you’re a professional or an aspiring professional, then you want to be there on Wednesday. That’s Professional Development Day and I always leave it inspired and with lots of great information to help my business. Sitting and chatting with other professionals at the presentation, lunch and then the breakout sessions is fabulous. There’s also the Designer Meet and Greet which is great if you’re wanting to meet with publishers and editors. It’s the main reason I’m going to try to go to both conferences (I’m scheduled to teach all day Saturday in MN, so I won’t be able to make the meet and greet and eat lunch. I’m going to hit the meet and greet in NC).

#7: The fun! Most of my best memories from the show are not in the classes or events. It’s sitting around with my new friends and laughing and talking. It’s the jokes that carry on past the event (if you follow me and other designers on Twitter, you’ll see these pop up from time to time).

#8: Meeting designers! I had a moment of total fan girl my first year at conference. I was standing there with Doris Chan and Drew Emborsky and could barely talk. Now, of course, I can do it without freaking out (too much). 🙂 But the thing I loved about conference was just how accessible the big name designers were. We don’t have a super secret room where we hang out. We’re right there on the floor with everyone else, chatting in the coffee line (which really, that’s where you can find most of us), sitting in the lounge crocheting or chatting, hanging out in the hallways. I have yet to see a designer at conference that isn’t happily chatting with anyone who comes up to them.

#9: Fellowship. Last year when I went to conference I was close to quitting. I was tired, I was overworked, and I wasn’t sure this is what I wanted to do anymore. Let’s be honest, being a designer is sometimes very lonely work. But getting to hang out with my fellow crocheters gave me that boost I needed. It gave me inspiration and confidence and support. Which is why I think it’s great for everyone, not just designers.

#10: Support the shows! This is something I strongly believe in. If you want crochet magazines to stay in publication, support them. If you want crochet shows to stay, support them. The more we show our presence, the more we show what we want, the more shows will accept and support crochet (still looking at you, Stitches). The overall numbers support us, but sometimes there needs to be action behind the numbers.

I do hope you’ll try to make a Knit and Crochet Show. At least once. I honestly believe it’s an experience every crocheter should have. This year there will be two. The summer show is July 28-30 in Minneapolis, MN. The fall show is September 23-25 in Greensboro, NC. You can find more information about the shows here at their website.

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