Saturday, February 26, 2011

Crochet Today! The Ultimate Blankets Handbook

I have been crocheting for umpteen years - and designing for just about that long, too. And I still am thrilled when I see a pattern of mine in a publication.  I tend to remember how easy, or difficult, it was to come up with the design and then to crochet it and write the pattern. I remember how many ends I had to weave in, and any finishing steps I had to take (sewing on a handle to a purse, putting a lining in a crocheted sleeping bag, and then sewing in the zipper, etc.) It's as if I were taking a walk down memory lane when I see my patterns published. Last week I saw the new issue of Crochet Today! The Ultimate Blankets Handbook at the book store, and had to look inside to see if they republished any of my patterns. And I saw that they did! Four patterns - afghans - that I really like. Here are pictures of them:

Big Love Blanket

Green Dream Throw

Homework Blanket

And Single-Skein Blankie

When I first started designing for publications, I never thought that I would enjoy designing afghans as much as I do! I like to see what I can do with different stitch patterns. Or figure out how many ends I have to weave in. When I design an afghan I find that I often push myself to do something or design something that I've never done before. I like to work with motifs, figuring out different ways to join them, and I like to work with solid pieces. I like few ends to weave in, but I like the bragging rights when I have hundreds of ends to weave in. I like to make the motifs when I'm riding the recumbent bike, or riding in the car. I like designing afghans in the winter - they keep me warm while I'm crocheting them. I like designing afghans in the summer - I think of how cuddly they'll be in the winter. I guess I just like designing afghans.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How to Crochet Anywhere - Part One: the Recumbent Bike

I am a crochet designer, teacher, tech editor, editor, independent publisher of my own patterns, past president of the Crochet Guild of America, and author of 3 crochet books (one is out of print, 2 will be published soon). Sometimes I wish there were 48 hours in one day, just so I can get everything done that needs to be done. But, there isn't, so I have to multi-task a lot of the time. One way I have learned to multi-task is to crochet anywhere and everywhere I can. And "anywhere" includes on an exercise bike at the club I go to. It's a recumbent bike - it has a back rest, and the pedals are in front of, not under, the seat. On a recumbent bike, there are usually hand grips or handles at the sides of the seat, and also handles in front, by the controls. I exercise most every day, riding the bike or taking or teaching a Body Pump class. When I ride, I listen to a pod cast on my iPod, or listen to NPR, or even watch a tv program on one of the tvs in front of the bikes. And I crochet. I thought you might like to see what I take with me to make crocheting on the bike easy to do. The most important thing to have is a tote or a bag to hang on the side handles. This bag will hold your yarn, your hooks, scissors, and directions if you need any. Also, you can add your water bottle (just to carry from the locker room to the bike) and your iPod and ear buds. And maybe some reading glasses, if you need any. I have tried many bags - some I crocheted myself, and some I purchased - but the best one that I've tried so far is my Nantucket Bag. It's a short version that I got at the Chain Link conference in 2010. I also have the full size one, and I know that would work, too. I LOVE my Nantucket Bags! Check out the bags here: The Nantucket Bag
A funny story about Nantucket Bags - my husband and I were at a Boat Show in Philly, a few years ago. We saw the Nantucket Bag booth - the company had just started up, and I think this was their first retail show. We stopped at the booth, and my husband said - what a great bag for boating - well, I'm sure he really said sailing. I looked at the bags, and said - what a great bag for crocheting! And so we both bought one. And I have been a devoted fan ever since!
Here's a picture of the one I'm currently using for my bike crocheting.

Now, the other thing to think about is what kind of projects are you going to work on when you're on the bike. I'm talking from personal experience now. They have to be small - a large afghan, or even the beginning of a large afghan - is going to be too cumbersome to work on. And it might get caught in the pedals. Projects that are made with lots of little pieces may be too "busy", too detailed, to work on. Projects with lots of color changes might be too "busy", too detailed, also. All those different colored skeins can get tangled in the tote, and if you have to use a scissors to end off too often, you might be cutting more than you're crocheting. I also have found out that if I have to concentrate on a pattern, it's better if I don't work on it on the bike, while listening to a pod cast, and talking to the curious person on the next bike who's never seen anyone crochet on a bike! Mindless patterns are best!

So what can you crochet while sitting on the bike? Lots of stuff. I swatch a lot when I'm on the bike. I play with yarns. I make small bowls, dishcloths, and hats. I try out different stitch patterns. I make up my own stitches and stitch patterns. I have fun - and I try not to sweat too much on what I'm making. (That's one reason that I don't work on any project that has to be sent somewhere for publication.) Here's a picture of some of the projects/swatches I crocheted just this past week.

Have you tried crocheting while you're riding a recumbent bike? I'd love to hear from you if you have. And if you have any other hints, please share them.

I will write another post about crocheting in the car during an evening ride, and crocheting in a movie theater. If you have any questions about crocheting in any other "strange" places, please let me know. I'll try to give you some hints about how to do it.