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First mochila well underway!

First mochila well underway!

Now that I’ve brought the impending holidays to my own attention, suddenly the impetus to do and to make things is much greater. I didn’t honestly realize myself that the holidays were just around the corner. Ninety days is not a lot of time if you plan on making most of the gifts yourself.

With that in mind, I went looking for tapestry crochet and mochila tutorials last night after posting. The picture is the result of that search.

If you already crochet, this is not really all that difficult, especially if you also have any skill in Fair Isle knitting, which I do not. This is all single crochet in the round, which I’ve done before, but what’s new for me is doing it in more than one color at the same time. Once you start working another color, you do not cut off the first color. You carry it inside your stitches and switch back and forth according to the needs of the pattern, without cutting any of the yarns you’re working with. Whichever yarn isn’t in use is along for the ride in the stitches, waiting to be needed again, and thus, no knots. This is actually really cool, but at first I thought, “That amounts to a lot of wasted yarn”, because it’s carried for the duration of the project. If you weren’t using it, it would be a lot of wasted yarn, but once I got into the pattern, I realized how much color switching I’m doing as I go, and if I cut the yarn and tied it off at every color change, it would probably cost me more in waste than just carrying it in the first place.

Charting the pattern wasn’t that hard either. After I figured out the number of stitches per row, I figured out how many pattern repeats I could fit into that window, then charted it based upon one repeat within that criteria. For example, each row has 126 stitches. If you divide that by 7, you get a whole number: 18. So my pattern had to fit within 18 squares horizontally across the graph paper, and there would be 7 equally spaced repeats around the mochila. I made my own version of graph paper with a piece of looseleaf paper–my printer still does not recognize its own ink cartridges–and plotted out a simple arrow design, and started the bag.

There are mistakes. Oh, are there ever! I must have been really tired last night, because I forgot about stitch markers and just relied on my own memory–never a good idea! So somehow I completely overshot my projected 126 stitches. I first noticed it a few rounds into the body of the bag, and when I counted them up–again, still without stitch markers–I came up with something like 140 stitches.

Clearly, I was foggy brained, because rather than ripping it all out, I went with decreasing instead, counting backwards in my head. Still didn’t remember to get the stitch markers.

Naturally, once the arrow pattern began, I wondered why there were a lot more stitches between the last arrow and the first one, when all of the others were evenly spaced. I shrugged it off and kept going. It wasn’t until I picked up the work half an hour ago that I remembered to get the stitch markers and count off every twenty stitches to place one. Guess what? 131 stitches. And guess what else? I am not ripping it all out. Nor am I going to decrease. I am going to brazen it out. Aneira is never going to notice anyway, and I’ll do better on the next one.

The current plan is to make a mochila for each girl, plus some micro-macrame jewelry, some kumihimo jewelry, tat some bookmarks in each of their favorite colors, and at least try to get their Night Fury stuffed dragons finished. I have my doubts about getting those done in time. I haven’t even begun on Aneira’s.

The mochilas being the largest projects, those are getting done first. Because the kids are so small yet, I can knock out all the jewelry pieces within a week, and I’ve gotten good enough with the two Mary Konior tatted braid patterns that I have that the same goes for those. A couple of gift boxes to wrap each of the smaller gifts, pile them all into each bag, and my contribution to the gift-giving process is covered. That’s the plan, and I get to practice my skills in a number of fiber arts while I’m at it. If I have any time left, maybe I’ll add some scarves to the lot, or some fingerless mitts. Ninety days? Pffft…I’m a mom, I can do anything…I hope!! And the only things I’ll have to buy are jewelry findings, which are fairly inexpensive. This will be a mom-win. Thank the gods I have a huge stash of everything I need to do this!!

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Alice Down the Rabbit Hole

Same pattern, top in C-lon, bottom in satin cord.

Same pattern, top in C-lon, bottom in satin cord.

I wonder, if the rabbit hole had led to fiber arts, would Alice have been so quick to leave Hatter and Wonderland?

I did another macrame piece from another tutorial. This one called for nylon cord, of which I have plenty, so it was a bit larger than the last one, which turns out to be a good thing. The satin cord being much thicker than the C-lon, it’s easier to get a grip on it and see what I’m doing, and that’s great for practice!

I’ve decided that I’m going to have to invest $8 to buy a macrame board. It’s not an expensive purchase, and neither are the pins. A corkboard could work too, it just depends on which is the least expensive. After all, Yule will soon be here, with all its attendant pomp and pageantry, and I’ve got to cover gifts for two kids, one of whom has yet to discover that the bearded chubster in the red suit with eight flying reindeer doesn’t actually exist in that form. Per se. Meaning that toys for me occupy a spot very low on the totem pole for the next few months. We’re already starting to collect stuff for the kids and hide them in various parts of the house. Slow and steady wins that race.

But I’d also like to make them some things too, like bracelets, and finally complete their stuffed dragons, maybe make a few other small, uncomplicated amigurumi as well. It’s not as if there’s a dearth of ideas on Pinterest. And making things for the girls puts the project board a little higher up on the pole, because seriously, no matter what, making something for them is going to be a lot less expensive–in terms of materials–than buying some cheap prefab crap that won’t last six minutes, never mind six months. Case in point, the dollhouse their father built them a few years ago, using $60 worth of plywood and trim, is not only intact, but thriving. I’m pretty sure it’s three or four years old now. Their previous, prefab dollhouse was dead within a year. The mourning was heartwrenching…for about three seconds.

I’m learning quite a bit from this experimentation with micro macrame:

  1. This is an activity that can be hard on your hands. You actually have to put at least a little bit of torque into tightening the knots down, and after awhile your hands start to ache. It’s not as bad with the larger piece with the satin cord, but with the C-lon, yeah, you’re gonna feel it a bit.
  2. Take breaks. No matter how much you enjoy watching that pattern emerge, take. A. Break. Your hands need it. I can tat, weave, knit, crochet for hours and not feel a thing. I can’t spin forever, and I can’t do this for hours either. Take a break before your hands start to hurt.
  3. A project board is definitely going to work better for me than a clipboard. While tugging on knots, I have tugged the piece out of the clipboard any number of times. The sound of the clip snapping loudly as it hits the board will do lots for keeping you awake, but makes me jump every time.

I have one more thing to experiment with, and that’s tapestry crochet. I love the Wayuu mochila bags, and if I can find a tutorial on how to make them, that’s something else I can do for the girls for Yule. So I’m off to play on YouTube for a little while!

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Trying the Micro Macrame

Novice micro-macrame project

Novice micro-macrame project

I found a beginner’s micro-macrame project on YouTube this evening, so after the kids went to bed I gave it a shot. It’s fun, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, especially the part where I was able to use the S-lon bead cord to do it. That stuff has been sitting in my stash for several years doing nothing because it didn’t work for the purpose I bought it for. Now it has a purpose.

My project did not turn out like the instructor’s at all lol. But there was also a bit of improvisation on my part to make it work at all. Turns out that I had forgotten that my stained glass project board is plywood, not cork, so pinning anything to it is next to impossible. Okay, not next to, is impossible. Then I couldn’t find my head pins, only safety pins. Nor could I find my self-healing cutting mat. Improv was a necessity. So I grabbed the box my stethoscope came in and flipped it over to become my project board, and I bent a few safety pins to resemble–sort of–head pins, and went from there.

One of the most irritating things about S-lon is trying to straighten it in order to do anything with it. The instructor, Sherry Stokey, had an answer for that: run it through a curling iron. I have to admit I was a little skeptical, but gorram if it didn’t work perfectly! So I was off and running. The tutorial was very detailed, literally step-by-step, and about 45 minutes long, but once I’d done one, I had it memorized because it wasn’t hugely difficult, and I did a second one. It was no more perfect than the first one, but I did the steps correctly, at any rate.

So this is definitely a new rabbit hole…I have a whole lot of S-lon cord.

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No Home Runs Here

First attempt at ply-split braiding

First attempt at ply-split braiding

Well, I just gave the Celtic tatting two more tries, and gave the Japanese hook tatting two tries as well, and I am 0 for 2 on both. The Celtic tatting is incredibly frustrating. I’m not getting my joins to work right at all. In normal tatting, my joins through the picot allow the thread to slide back and forth through them, and my joins in Celtic tatting are not doing that. I’m not sure why. I have four shuttles actively involved in two separate Celtic snowflake patterns right now, neither of which is going well, so I have sent out a scream for help to both Craftree and Ravelry. It would be so nice if I wasn’t the only tatter I knew locally. Sigh.

As for the Japanese hook tatting, thus far I have found very little in the way of tutorials online. This is something I may have no choice but to buy a book or two for. I made two attempts at it with the little leaflet that came with the hooks and some #10 crochet thread. It’s initially like needle tatting, as far as getting your stitches on the hook. After that, you’re looping your working thread around the hook and pulling it all the way through the stitches you’ve made, leaving a small loop at the starting end. This did not go well at all, in either attempt. There is no give in crochet thread, and trying to pull the hook through the stitches just resulted in the hook getting snagged inside the stitches. And there’s no getting out of this easily or gracefully, because there are hooks at both ends. It actually took me longer to work the thread off the hook than it did to get it on the hook in the first place.

So the experiments were epic fails so far. I’m eyeballing the ply-split braiding and the micro-macrame and debating over whether or not I want to go for 0 for 4…I’m thinking not right now!


The first part of this post was written last night, so now I can add to it–this morning, after dropping the kids at school (Am I a terrible mother for thinking it feels so good to say that??), I made my first attempt at the ply-split braiding. I am 1 for 1 on that one!! It was lots of fun for me, and I had a hard time putting it down even to take the picture of it. The cords I used are the ones I bought from the supplier. I’m still not having any luck making my own cords. It may be that the Lacis cordmaker is not up to that kind of a job. For now I can keep buying cords from the supplier, but I can’t do that forever. Well, I could, in point of fact, but I like bright jewel tones, and there are only eleven color choices on the website. For now, it’ll do, though.

Next on the agenda is the micro-macrame. I don’t know if I’ll get to it today, as much as I’d like to try it. I’ve been watching tutorial videos to get a feel for the difficulty of it. Some of the finished projects look pretty complicated, but when you watch the tutorials, they’re not really all that bad, and nothing so far that I feel incapable of doing. So maybe I’ll get to it this evening!


It Happened Again

Mary Konior pattern Leaf Braid. I started too wide, and now have them where they should be!

Mary Konior pattern Leaf Braid. I started too wide, and now have them where they should be!

I was on Pinterest, and something new popped up on my feed. Not cool. I haven’t even tried the ply-split braiding or the Japanese hook-tatting yet, and here’s another thing coming along to pique my interest. This time it’s micro-macrame.

I wouldn’t have thought macrame. In fact, I’ve seen macrame pop up on my feed before, and I’ve laughed, because I tried it back in…well, never mind when.🙂 The point is, my thought was that macrame was outdated. Then macrame jewelry started showing up on my feed. And it was gorgeous. And it was colorful, which it really wasn’t when I was a kid. It was always the rough brown hemp, and everyone had nets for hanging plants or decorative owls. That’s the extent of what I remember macrame being used for. But now there’s all this coming up, which necessitated the starting of another board. So what was there to do but start looking into it?

Lo and behold, I already have most of what I need to play with this. The thread that I bought for kumihimo and discovered I hated for that purpose is suggested for use in micro-macrame. The design board I made for my stained glass class is perfect for working on it. I have a self-healing cutting mat. Scissors abound…there must be four or five of those in my studio alone. Really, the only thing I don’t have is head pins or T-pins, which are easy enough to find, and cheap enough to buy. And I do have all that thread in my stash to use up, after all…

Yup. Another rabbit hole.

Celtic tatting isn’t going all that well right now. It’s very confusing, in and of itself, and the first mistake I made was in the thread I was using. I had a sample of a tweedy, red-white-and-blue #10 Lizbeth thread that I’d gotten in the mail for free. The thread really doesn’t appeal to me, so I thought it was perfect for practice, and really, how hard could this possibly be, right? I mean, I use double stitches every time I tat. And after the number of times I did that bookmark, I’m really good at chains, so it can’t be that bad…

Yes, oh, yes it can! I was warned. I should have listened. Celtic tatting is weaving long chains together to make knotwork. I’m not making combinations of rings and chains, I’m only making chains. Very. Long. Chains.

I fought with that pattern until four am, at which point I ripped it all out in frustration. The mistake I made in the thread resulted in the fact that the very busy-ness of the coloration made it nearly impossible to differentiate between stitches, and then by line three of the instructions, the directions given were confusing to me. So I’m going to try again, this time with plain white thread.

The tatted braid projects are going very well, though. I’ve discovered that I really like doing the braids, and I’m trying to figure out how to turn them into something other than bookmarks. Not that there’s a thing wrong with bookmarks, but I’m fond of bracelets, necklaces, and barefoot sandals too!

I’m finding that tatting–other than Celtic, that is–is not so much about complexity. At its most basic, from what I can see as a novice, it’s mastering rings, chains, picots, and joins, and a design is maneuvering those same items into an aesthetically pleasing configuration. The complexity comes from how many of those things are used in the design, and keeping track of both them and where they go. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!!! I freely admit that I’m a novice, and may be missing aspects of things! And even if I’m right, it doesn’t make it less of an art form. Sometimes it is gorram hard to keep track of everything!!



Tatting hooks, lacquered shuttles, bone shuttles, and Celtic shuttles

Tatting hooks, lacquered shuttles, bone shuttles, and Celtic shuttles

I need an intervention, and I already know that I cannot count on all of you other fiber arts nuts out there to give me one! You will enable me, one and all, lol! My tatting shuttles bred again, like I mentioned in a previous post. Those shuttles and Japanese hook tatting tools arrived today, and after I oohed and ahhhed over these six items, I counted up my tatting shuttles. Forty-six!!! How did I lose so much control? Where did I go wrong? Did the rabbits rub off on the shuttles? What’s going on here???

I didn’t know, when I started this, how much I was going to enjoy tatting. In fact, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure that I would like it at all, but like all the other fiber arts I’ve picked up over the last five years, I underestimated myself. By no means am I great at it, but I’m having fun with it. With time, I’m hoping to get better at it.

Now that wrestling is over for the night–I had to watch with the kids, of course, and they never miss an opportunity to see Roman (Okay, neither do I)–I’m going to make an attempt at Celtic tatting. We’ll see how this goes. If you hear a frustrated scream in about a half hour or so, don’t worry. It’s probably me. It will almost certainly be me. I bought a book for beginners with this technique, and it looks a little daunting. So I’m going to try the first project in the book, since it at least appears to be the simplest.

Or at least I’ll try it if I can tolerate the hordes of gnats that have gotten into the house through the screens due to all the rain we’ve been having. Gah!!! How do you get rid of these little pests?! They’re everywhere, and I don’t want to close the windows because it’s too hot, but they’re driving me nuts! I feel like they’re crawling all over me, and I’ve got the heebie-jeebies. Everyone in the family is complaining about them, but what can you do? They’re small enough to slip through the screens. There were tons of them in the rabbit cages tonight, and I’m just hoping they were all gnats and not something else. There’s a cloud of them by my lamp right now, and there isn’t an ounce of bug spray in the house. Guess what I’m buying tomorrow?!

Definitely time to distract myself. I’m so grossed out. One of the best things about living in states with four actual seasons is the fact that you get several months of the year almost entirely bug-free. I wish that applied to spiders, too, but there’s no escaping those. Okay, I’m out of here before I give myself a worse case of creepy-crawlies!

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Corn and Chaff

I couldn't get a better photo, but isn't it a pretty pattern?

I couldn’t get a better photo, but isn’t it a pretty pattern?

I finally got the pattern for the Corn and Chaff design by Mary Konior!! Apparently Corn and Chaff is considered a braid and is worked from side to side, so the “RW” in the pattern, which means “reverse work” and generally means to flip it upside down, in this case means flip from left to right! Good thing someone informed me of that, because I would never have gotten it right otherwise!

I had a very hard time getting this pattern going. According to the pattern, there are four rings labeled A through D. A and C are exactly the same, and B and D are exactly the same also, so really, it’s only two rings, and you’re repeating the pattern until you reach the length you want. I had to rewrite the pattern to grasp it in my head, because when it said to attach a ring to ring A, it threw me off. Which ring A? Because as you’re repeating the pattern, every other ring is ring A. I know it seems stupid that I didn’t automatically assume it was the ring A that I had just completed, but I really couldn’t grasp the idea until I re-labeled the rings A through H and rewrote the pattern using those designations. In hindsight, now that I have the pattern working right, it’s not a difficult pattern at all and it’s very pretty, but because it was worked differently from everything I’ve tried up until now, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

This is a single-shuttle pattern. Now, everything I’ve done up until now has technically been a single-shuttle pattern, but has included a ball thread. Because I have so much trouble with working thread right off the ball, I’ve adopted working from two shuttles instead, with the second replacing the ball. This pattern really is single-shuttle!! There is no ball thread, only the one shuttle and whatever thread you’ve loaded it with. That’s another reason I had so much trouble; it was so not the way I had gotten used to working!!

I’ve also found a few Celtic tatting projects I’d like to try, which essentially means lots of chains made and woven into the work, so it’s actually Celtic knotwork. It looks beautiful, and it looks complicated as all get out, so I’m dying to try it, though I’m pretty sure I’m going to be frustrated sooner rather than later!

My gripfids for ply-split braiding came in yesterday too, along with some cord, and I can now see that when I make my own cord, it has to be a good bit tighter than I’ve been making it. I was also advised that when I do make my own cord, I need to put the aglets on each end while the cord is still under tension, and the end that is anchored should have all four cords on cup hooks in the same configuration as my cordmaker. The configuration can be more spread apart than the cordmaker, but not closer, so once I find a way to create an anchoring end, I’ll be giving that a try. As skeins go, the cord I bought is expensive, so it’ll be much more cost effective to make my own. I’m looking forward to trying it. It’s not rocket science, but there’s still more to doing it than I expected. When I say expensive, I’m speaking relativity. The skein is only $3.25, but it’s not very much cord when you look at the length. On the other hand, what I’ve been using, the perle cotton I already had in my stash from my cross-stitching days, is a little over $1 per skein, and you need four of them to make a cord. Of course, after you’ve unwound the skein in order to make the cord, lengthwise you get more out of it. It’s really a case of 6 on one hand, half a dozen on the other. In other words, I’d probably break even no matter which way I go on this. The biggest plus to making my own cord, though, is color selection. The online store I ordered the cord from has a selection of eleven colors. I’ve got to have more choice than that: enter the perle cotton!

So, since I’m up so early today (okay, I haven’t gone to bed yet. Or rather, I did, but couldn’t sleep), I’m going to work some more on Corn and Chaff until I finally get sleepy! If I’m lucky, it won’t be long!


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