Making Strides and Breast Cancer 2014

Just over a week ago, I walked in the Making Strides Lehigh Valley 5K, something I’ve now done for the past 4 years.  This year, in addition to walking, I joined my daughter-in-law on the survivor committee.  The survivor committee provides communication with and support for the survivors, as well as planning and creating a special place for them on the day of the walk.

Survivor Committee

Members of the Survivor Committee – Kerra, me, Meg, Susan and Linda

Survivor Tent

Survivor Tent

In our tent on the day of the event, the survivors who stopped by signed a banner that will be saved for display at future walks.  14Making Strides 10They were treated to a specially made t-shirt and a sash.  And, MadameStitch contributed 100 crocheted flower pins – they were a big hit!  So easy to make, I crocheted the flowers, then attached a length of ribbon to the back with a hot glue gun.  To finish it, I attached a self-adhesive pin to the back.Survivor flower pins

Flower pins beautifully displayed in the survivor tent.

Flower pins beautifully displayed in the survivor tent.

Survivor flower pin 2About 1449 participants took part.  Downtown Bethlehem is a beautiful and historic place to walk.  This year was even more gorgeous on a bright, crisp October Saturday.  Sure beats the blizzard we had one year and the hurricane the next!14Making Strides 514Making Strides 1314Making Strides 1514Making Strides 14The family joined in, including my daughter, my son and grandsons, and his mother-in-law.  The 4-year-old happily walked over 2 miles!14Making Strides 914Making Strides 12MadameStitch was proud to provide the flower pin gifts for the breast cancer survivors who came out to walk, including the woman who stopped by the tent who had surgery just 2 weeks before the walk.  Wow, what an inspiration!!!

Travel Tales

Well, I’m back from my trip visiting family.  While it’s good to be home, I have wonderful memories from this very brief visit!  It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that I loved the time I could spend with my daughter (who met me there), my sister and her family, and my mom.  We had such fun cooking dinner together each night for 10 people, seeing the old home town, and shopping at a fabulous outdoor outlet mall (where I spent too much money).

On our last day, my daughter and I scooped up my mom and headed to Kansas to visit a yarn shop I found online.  It was a rainy, windy day, perfect for spending time with yarn.  Our visit took us to The Studio in Overland Park.The Studio 1 This store has been in existence since the late 1960’s and has enjoyed several locations around the Kansas City area.  The store has just recently moved to Overland Park because the new location offers them the space they need for expanded knitting and needlepoint supplies, along with areas for classes and workshops.  I honestly think the ability to create a culture of learning and sharing determines the ultimate success and longevity of a store these days.  After all, one can buy anything online so there has to be some other draw to get people to come to a physical location.

As soon as we walked in we were greeted by the sight of women sitting around a table or in comfy chairs, happily crafting and chatting with one another.  As we perused the yarns, Cindy showed me some of the beautiful choices, including Knit One Crochet Too Sebago which naturally I had to purchase for myself :-)  My daughter also bought some yarn that will eventually become a scarf.  The shop carries an extensive array of needlepoint supplies as well which sort of made me want to take up the craft.The Studio 6 The Studio 5 The Studio 4 The Studio 3 The Studio 2

I always enjoy seeing how other stores are laid out and what yarns they’ve chosen to carry, what they’ve decided is important for their customers and the area they serve.  However, I’m still madly in love with and faithful to The Knitter’s Edge.  I haven’t seen anything that rivals it, and I’m so glad it’s near me.  In fact, I’ll be there on Saturday for a class with my daughter’s knitting group.  Darn!

Happy crafting!

On the Road Again….

Decisions, decisions!  I’m about to head west to visit family for the weekend and I must decide what projects to take with me.  I have learned the hard way that I will never leave home again without some sort of craft to occupy the smallest nooks and crannies of free time.  I cannot stand having idle time and idle hands.  Can you relate?!

Thank you, airlines, for not taking away my constitutional right to carry hooks and needles on the plane.  I’ll have to leave those nail clippers at home because they’re deadly weapons but my crafting tools are just fine :-)  God forbid that I should have to take the chance of packing these goodies in my checked bag and that bag not making it to its destination.  I can do without a change of clothes but the crafty stuff is a necessity.

Here’s where things get a little dicey.  I always have multiple projects running because, quite honestly, I think I have ADD when it comes to knitting and crocheting.  That doesn’t mean I can’t finish a project (although there are plenty of UFO’s in my stash), just that I get bored working on the same thing all of the time.  Besides, a girl should never be confined to one choice.

So, here’s my dilemma.  I’m only going to be away for 3 1/2 days.  Not much time, right?  Au contraire, mon ami!  Much can be accomplished while sitting in the airport, or when the iPad is stowed during takeoff and landing, or while just sitting around visiting with the family.  So this is important, people!

Let’s see…the 100+ flowers I need to crochet for the Making Strides Breast Cancer 5K…Survivor flowers

…the Birthday Cake Cowl with fabulous yarn for moi…What the Flock

…the Chunky Tulip Stitch Infinity Scarf that will find it’s way to Etsy…Tulip Stitch scarf

…or, the Bear Hugs Knit Scarf made with Homespun?Bear Hugs Scarf

Well, because the flowers have to be done in a couple of weeks and I only have about 40 made so far, that’s a no-brainer – it’s going.  As for the second choice (there has to be a second choice because of the aforementioned ADD) I’ll get back to you on that and show you my progress when I return.

Until then…..

Forgotten Treasures

As many of you know, my grandmother was the person who taught me to crochet.  She’s also the reason I’m so obsessed with granny squares.  As I was sorting through some things earlier this summer, I came upon a suitcase my mother gave me when my grandmother died.  It was filled with crochet goodness that I had completely forgotten I had.  Take a look:DSC_2764

 

This delicate crochet thread table cloth is absolutely stunning.  I can’t imagine how long this took to complete!

 

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The pineapple pattern is combined with clusters of tall stitches and constructed in large squares.

 

 

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My grandmother’s engagement picture has found a treasured place in the dining room along with this gorgeous table topper!

 

 

 

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Next I found an afghan, crocheted in acrylic worsted weight yarn.  The single crochet stitches are worked into the back loop only for more visual interest.

 

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The x’s are formed by working double crochet stitches in the row below.

The colors are still so vibrant after all these years.

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I also found this little granny square gem…

 

 

The rest of the items in the suitcase were doilies, either all crocheted in white cotton thread, or fabric circles edged in crochet.  No doubt these pieces will find a place in my home as I continue to redecorate.

I have no idea whether or not my grandmother actually made these pieces herself.  I wish I could remember that little bit of history.  But, regardless, I will have these beautiful mementos of one of the most treasured people in my life.

 

Granny’s Little Baby Blanket

Granny's little baby 2Baby blankets are such a wonderfully thoughtful and welcome gift for an expectant mother.  I simply love making them!  When I found out last year that a family member was pregnant with triplets, I immediately got busy figuring out what kind of blanket I wanted to make because I knew it would take me some time to make 3 blankets.  It didn’t take long to choose my beloved granny square as the basis for “Granny’s Little Baby Blanket”.

Granny's little baby 1Each blanket is 7 rows of 7 squares (49 in all) and each square has 5 rounds.  The final dimensions of the blanket are 33″ by 33″.  I chose Plymouth Yarn’s Dreambaby DK because it has such a soft feel, is incredibly durable, and offers a wide range of color possibilities.  I knew the triplets were going to be boys so I chose 3 color combinations in blue.Color combo 1 correct

 

Royal/Lemon/Blue with flecks

 

 

 

Color combo 2

 

Denim/Mint/Lime

 

 

Color combo 3

 

Teal/Eggcream/Blue-Orange

 

 

 

Border close up

 

The edging is 4 rows of single crochet.

 

 

 

For 4 months, granny squares became my constant companion.  Meetings, car trips, watching TV…you name it, I was crocheting.  All summer long, the piles of granny squares grew and grew.  And, at the end of the summer and into the fall, assembly and edging was completed.

Piles of granny squares

I finally passed the blankets on to the triplets.IMG_1835  Look how cute and cuddly they are!

 

If you’d like to make one of these precious blankets, visit Craftsy, Ravelry, or Etsy.  The pattern is available on all 3 sites as a downloadable pdf.

 

All Tied Up! is Published

My latest pattern – “All Tied Up” Crochet Top Kitchen Towel – has been published!  You can find the pattern as a pdf download at Craftsy and Ravelry.Pattern pic 1This pattern has a wonderful back story.  When I was a young bride, my grandmother would pull out a box of goodies every time I came to visit her.  You see, she lived in Missouri and I had moved to Texas.  The box was filled with items she had collected for me since my last visit.  At the time, I have to admit I didn’t truly appreciate how special that box really was.  Of course, many years later, as a grandmother myself, I get it!

One of the items in that box was a kitchen towel with a crocheted top.  The colors and designs of the towels were my grandmother’s style and she wanted to pass them on to me.  I don’t know whether or not my grandmother actually made them herself but there always seemed to be a plentiful supply.  And, they were gifted to me with the utmost love!

What makes this even more special is that my grandmother was the one who introduced me to crochet when I was teenager.  I was instantly hooked (haha) on the art, so much so that I would take my projects to school.  Anyway, I have taken one of the my grandmother’s towels and used it as a model to create a pattern from it.

What makes this pattern unique is the tie at the top instead of the typical button tab.  Pattern pic 3The crochet topped towel can easily be attached to any knob or handle in the kitchen, making it a more versatile choice than other options.  Making up this towel is a wonderful way to use up scrap yarn in your stash – it only takes about 50 yds of worsted weight.  The towel whips up in no time, making it the perfect handmade gift for any occasion!

I’ll be selling ready made versions of this on Etsy soon, so watch for the announcement.  In the meantime, pick up those hooks, find a beautiful towel, and get crocheting!!!

Pattern pic 2Pattern pic 4

A Special Gift

At the end of every semester I put on my accompanist hat and play piano for my dear friend’s elementary school choral concert.  Her program consists of 3rd and 4th grade choruses, recorder, and Orff ensembles.  This year’s spring concert was a play about a talented quiltmaker who gives her quilts only to those who truly need them.  The music provided by the ensembles was interspersed within the play and was performed beautifully.May 20 2014

My friend and I share many passions, among them our careers in music, our love of wine, and our passion for knitting and crochet.  Every September we travel with our husbands to the Finger Lake region to spend a weekend wine-tasting, eating great food, and playing a favorite rummy game called “Hand and Foot”.  She and I carve out a day each summer to enjoy lunch at the New Leaf Restaurant in Fort Tryon Park, visit a yarn shop somewhere in the NYC area, and visit Zachy’s in Scarsdale for a wine run.  I’m sure, if we had the time, we would figure out more ways to do the things we love!

I expect nothing in return for playing for these concerts.  Usually, though, I receive a bottle of wine or a gift certificate to The Knitter’s Edge, more than sufficient thanks.  However, this time my friend gave me a thank you gift that made my jaw drop.  Everything was included in a red metal tub, great for turning into a planter at some later date, wrapped in clear cellophane, and tied with a red “Mrs. Field’s” ribbon.  The individual items were layered in the tub in a way that meant I could only reveal one gift at a time.  Included in the tub was a thank you note,

a t-shirt from the production, Quiltmaker t-shirt

 

 

 

 

 

Wine

 

 

a bottle of red wine (chosen especially for me by my friend’s husband),

 

 

 

and a gift certificate to The Knitter’s Edge.

The absolute best part, though, was a skein of Katia’s Bombay mercerized cotton yarn, and a pattern called “Birthday Cake Cowl“, downloadable from Ravelry.Kattia cowl 2

The colors couldn’t be more perfect, a testament to how well my friend knows me!  Even with all the projects I currently have on my needles and hooks, I couldn’t resist starting it last night.  It’s knitting up so quickly, I’ll have it done soon, and will be able to take it along on summer business trips.

What a fabulously unexpected gift!  Thanks, Marie!!!

The Granny Square

I’m just going to come out and say it – I LOVE GRANNY SQUARES!  I can’t really say exactly why, except that this was how my grandma taught me to crochet.  I still have the first project I can remember making.  Here are a few pics:

Granny scarf 1 Granny scarf 2 Granny scarf 4When I was in high school, my grandma taught me to crochet and opened up a whole new world of obsessive addiction.  I loved it so much I would take it to class because I was one of those students who always had her work done before the rest of the class.  I just couldn’t stand to waste a moment.

This particular scarf is made in a cheap acrylic yarn, something that came into popularity in the 70’s.  It’s a little stiff and not as comfy as today’s fabulous natural fiber yarns and modern acrylics.  I would never choose a yarn like this now.  But, let’s consider that this was made over 35 years ago and it still looks great.

The granny square has become my go-to project.  For me, it’s so satisfying to make.  It’s like a whole series of mini projects.  I find the repetitive nature of the granny square and of crochet itself cathartic and healing.  It makes the absolute perfect traveling project.  And, let’s talk about the infinite number of color combinations that make every granny square project look different. There’s a trade-off, though – sewing all those squares together.  You don’t really think about that when you’re making the squares.  When presented with stacks of squares, however, the join-as-you-go method looks pretty darn great!

I’ve made many granny square items since that first scarf.  My most recent is a trio of baby blankets for the newborn triplets of extended family.  That pattern will be arriving on the scene soon.  Here’s a teaser:Granny's little baby 1Granny's little baby 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your favorite granny square story?

NYC Playdate!

Most people go into New York City to see a show or visit a museum.  I do, too, but not this time!  Recently, on a frigid day, my daughter and I spent some time in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn to experience tasty food and beautiful yarn with a side of do-it-yourself terrariums.  I have her to thank for most of the places we visited – she’s become quite the adventurer.  We had a wonderfully fun day!

The big highlight of the trip for both of us was our visit to the Lion Brand Studio.  If you’re ever in New York you need to make this a priority.  Lion Brand is one of our favorite yarn companies!  We’ve been a fan of Homespun for a number of years and Heartland, one of their newer yarns, is definitely a close second.  It’s especially fun to visit one of their only brick and mortar stores, and to have the chance to experience firsthand all of the yarns we normally order online.

Outside the Lion Brand Studio in Manhattan

Outside the Lion Brand Studio in Manhattan

Inside Lionbrand Studio

Inside…

Homespun Thick & Quick - AnnaHomespun continues to be our go-to choice for warm, cuddly scarves.  Now, with the advent of the Thick & Quick version, a scarf knits up in no time.  My daughter finished hers within a week of our visit.  I just finished mine but I have to weave in the ends before I can wear it.

 

 Here’s the color I picked…
Homespun Thick & Quick

 

 

 

 

 

The scarf it’s replacinOld Homespun scarfg is one I made when my daughter was still in high school.  The red, black and white colorway – Easton’s school colors – was discontinued but I was able to snag a skein before it disappeared.  I wore it to every football game and I still pick it up and wear it before any other scarf.  It’s been through the wash a number of times and comes out snuggly soft every time.

The rest of the day was equally fun.  Enjoy some pics from the other great things we did.

Shrimp and Potato Champ from Wilfie and Nell's

Shrimp and Potato Champ from Wilfie and Nell’s

Fried Reese's Peanut Butter Cups at the Chip Shop in Brooklyn

Fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups at the Chip Shop in Brooklyn

Twig Terrarium Shop in Brooklyn

Twig Terrarium Shop in Brooklyn

 

A beautiful sunset over the East River

A beautiful sunset over the East River

 Don’t you wish you’d been along?!

Accessorizing

Because of Christmas spending in December, I felt overwhelmed with the flow of cash out of my wallet.  As most of us do, I made a commitment to myself not to spend money on unnecessary items for the month of January.  (What constitutes “unnecessary”, really?!)  Well, that didn’t last long.  I received the latest catalog from my favorite clothing store and it was all over.

Most of the time, I choose clothing items according to what I might need to round out my wardrobe or to match items I already own.  But, this time, I saw the items in the catalog in a new light.  What accessory could I make to go with each of my favorite choices?!

Who wouldn’t want this outfit for a sunny spring day?  Surely I can make that skinny scarf and not have to buy it, right?

And this cute outfit…the black and white t-shirt would be stunning with my black jeans and a new scarf or triangular shawl that adds a pop of color to the neutral colors of the outfit!

Wow…I just created new projects for my already busy and full queue.  This is why my yarn stash overflows.  Unfortunately, that’s never stopped me from visiting the local yarn shop before ☺

I learned a long time ago that accessories make or break an outfit and can add just the right amount of interest to turn an otherwise plain outfit into one that pops.  When I was newly married in my early 20’s, I had no idea how to put together a terrific outfit.  A woman in my church choir looked fabulous all the time – even her name was fabulous!  She was a stunning woman and could have worn a burlap bag and pulled it off!  But, what she did with accessories was amazing.  A shawl here, a piece of jewelry there – she was brilliant in her choices.  I don’t always fully accessorize but, when I do, I feel like a million bucks.  Plus, when I change accessories for an outfit, I can make it look like a completely different outfit, stretching my wardrobe choices.

What’s my next step?  You guessed it – I have to go to the Knitter’s Edge and get yarn to start accessorizing.  Perhaps I should wait until the clothes arrive to be sure they fit and look good.  Nah, I should just go to the Knitter’s Edge!