Pastel Mania

Pastel Swabs_zoesaysIt being Spring means my love for pastels can blossom for a month or two before it has to shrivel away again for ten months.

Most people associate pastels only with babies. I get that. Should I ever have children, I will have an incredibly difficult time narrowing down colors for the baby’s room. (Official warning to the husband here.)

But I have always been drawn to soft colors. Perhaps it’s because I was born in the Spring; perhaps 80s marketing left an indelible impression on me to the point where my passion for pastels is embedded onto my DNA.

Whatever the case may be, it is Pastel Season and it makes me happy. All the candies are pretty, wrapping paper and tissue explode from displays in my favorite colors, and the world is a gloriously soft rainbow.

To that end, I had a crochet order to fulfill this past weekend and when I was finished, I decided that nothing would complete me more than making some amigurumi Easter eggs.

I only began with three but it’s a pretty safe bet I will make a few more of these during the week. While I am not a religious person, I do love the symbolism that Easter brings: renewal, growth, birth, and of course pretty stuff.

These crochet eggs are so incredibly easy to make and take hardly any time (or yarn) at all. Mine were made with an F hook (3.75mm) and some scraps of DK yarn. I want to keep challenging myself with the different patterns and color changes and add a flower blossom or two to the next ones.

Since the order I was fulfilling happened to be some amigurumi duckies, what could make for a cuter photo session than baby ducks and eggs?

Happy Spring! Happy Easter! Happy Pastels Everywhere!

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Showcase of Recent Projects

I promised about a month ago to begin doing more show ‘n tell posts on projects I am working on or have completed.

Here I am to fulfill that promise….slightly out of breath and a little worn, truth be told.

Between working full-time and wedding planning, working on my side interests is all about making time for them. However, since I also have a shop where people can request handmade gifts, the customer comes first if an order comes in.

Before I was graced with two back-to-back orders totaling ten amigurumi, I had just finished up the following:

Baby Pastel Crochet Washcloths

Cotton crochet baby washcloths, currently in the shop

Folded Pastel Baby Blanket 2

25″ baby blanket, currently available in the shop

I was SO proud when I finished that blanket because it was the first one I had ever done in the corner-to-corner design that is quite popular right now. I added a border and voilà! 

And prior to that, I had just finished this little miracle:

Shell Baby Sundress - Front

That, my friends, is a newborn baby sundress. It’s pretty much the “I die” of baby outfits.

I had just started on a second baby blanket (no photos yet!) when I got two orders within a week for ten amigurumi animals. I just shipped them out on Saturday morning. Here they are in all their adorable glory:

Amigurumi Order

I’m still doing my photography, of course, and have put up a few pieces for sale in the shop, like this one:  

Though we’re under five months until the wedding (eep!), I have heard from a multitude of friends and family that they are expecting a child around the same time, so I have all these ideas for care boxes of baby things I want to make and send to people, but there simply are not enough hours in the day to carry out all of my pho-chet dreams. I’ll simply have to go into overdrive when all of my party planning days are behind me!

This concludes the first installment of Pho-chet Showcase with yours truly. If you are a fellow crafter and/or are curious about anything you see here, please leave some love in the comments!

Evolution of a Crochet Cupcake

In case anyone was wondering, cupcakes have still not lost their hypnotic appeal, and are as popular as ever. Even arts and crafts have become dedicated to whipping out these tasty-looking treats.

When I began (furiously) crocheting again, I came across several too cute patterns for cupcakes and had to replicate them immediately. However, crocheting amigurumi is a practice of patience and making things over and over again. In time, once you’ve mastered a few thousand stitches in different variations across different yarns, hook sizes, and stitches, you begin to understand which patterns will suit your crochet style in particular. The beauty of crochet is there appears to be endless ways to be creative with it.

One of the most crucial lessons I learned about myself with making something new, even if I’m really excited about it and am comfortable with all the types of stitches a pattern entails, is that I will typically need to do a practice run first.

Sometimes you get patterns that turn out to be easy peasy and your first attempt comes out perfectly–such is the case with the chocolate Easter bunny I just made.

But perfecting the crochet cupcake turned out to be something I had to make at least five times over before I executed it to my standards.

Here is how my first cupcake looked. It’s okay to giggle. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

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It looks like a cinnamon muffin wearing a pink sombrero.

In this instance, I was quite glad I used leftover beige yarn to practice with, instead of going for the good stuff.

My next attempts looked like this. The frosting is slowly getting better but the cupcakes are leaning to one side and still kinda look like muffins.

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After a few of these, I grew frustrated and tried a different cupcake pattern altogether, just to see if I was a crappy crocheter or what. I made this little guy and added some frosting berries on top:

Cupcake diptych-zoesays

Reassured, I tackled the cupcakes again and whatever “it” was finally clicked into place. I added some heavier filler to get it to stand up straight, didn’t overstuff it so it wouldn’t look like a muffin, and got the frosting to look good, as well. Lastly, I tried my hand at sewing on some beads for “sprinkles.” Voilà!

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After finally mastering this deceptively difficult pattern, my goal is to offer some of these for sale in the shop, so stay tuned! The best part about cupcakes is that you can mix and match all different “flavors” and colors, too, so I’m excited to see what I’ll end up with when I get a half dozen or so complete.

Just for emphasis, here’s a side-by-side shot of all the cupcakes from start to finish. It’s not easy to keep trying at something but when you finally succeed, it’s totally worth it.

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New Goals, New Projects, and a Big Old Tangent

Why hello! Happy 2014!

I hope you all had lovely holiday seasons. I sure did. Believe it or not, I have done a lot of contemplating about writing in the last two months, though it hasn’t (yet) translated to more posts.

Here’s a quick recap on what 2013 ended up being for me:

  • A less hectic and draining year than 2012.
  • A year with no major health setbacks: YAY!
  • Made major advancements in wedding planning. (2014 is The Year of the Wedding!)
  • New or strengthened friendships–awesome!
  • Learned the value of setting goals or resolutions for oneself. I did not set any for 2013 so by the end of the year, I didn’t feel as accomplished as I might have had I written some things down. Ergo, I came up with eleven goals/resolutions for 2014.
  • Took up a new hobby: re-learning crochet and making amigurumi. Yeah, I had never heard that word before, either, but apparently the only way to refer to small, crocheted/knitted animals is through this word. Thank you, Japanese language!

Regarding the last item there: while I really loved taking up crochet again, as I haven’t touched it since I was a kid, I became intensely aware that skills which appear to be simple are the exact opposite of that. Trying crochet again began with an impulse buy whilst Christmas shopping at Barnes & Noble. I picked up a kit called Teeny Tiny Animal Crochet. I’m putting a photo here, courtesy of Barnes & Noble, so you can see why I might have been drawn in:

Animal Crochet

The adorable animals, the words “teeny tiny,” and the cursive font all sucked me in.

Pretty cute, no? After exclaiming in my head how adorable these little creatures were, I immediately thought, “How hard can this be? I can make these.” It was probably more like, “I HAVE to make these!” But whatever.

Problem was, I assumed that the book clearly stating that it’s “even for beginners” actually meant that it would give some verrrrrry step-by-step instructions for those taking up the hook for the first time or starting over again, as I was. I was laughably wrong. The book does attempt to teach you how to read a pattern, which is a learning process in and of itself, and through its photos, tries to get you to understand slip knots and rings and all that.

The kit also gives you two small balls of different yarn (not even a whole skein) and a few more supplies to make “two projects,” that of the bunny and the koala bear. I was immediately drawn to the bunny. I have an affinity for bunnies and couldn’t wait to try and replicate the project on the cover of the book. The koala bear was just “eh” to me; in fact, I really thought I’d be able to make two different bunnies with the yarn.

If that notion were a crochet balloon, it didn’t merely pop–it was shot down.

Box ' Bunny Parts

Box o’ Bunny Parts

In addition to the photos in the book being largely unhelpful (not that photos can’t be helpful but this book shows the wrong part of the step to illustrate something, and what good does that do?), the patterns are inconsistent in terms of how thorough they are. The book is a compilation of patterns from crocheters around the country. Perhaps there was only so much editing that was allowed. Moreover, the yarn hook that was provided had an eye way too small to thread the yarn that comes in the kit. So that was some fun time spent trying to get that to work.

One of the patterns completely omits telling you to stuff the body parts, even though you need to. It also goes into ZERO detail on how to sew animal parts together, which is a pretty crucial part to making a successful stuffed animal together. It simply gives instructions like, “Sew the head onto the body.” Okay, HOW? What EXACTLY is the best way to do that? My dude can attest that there were a couple of times I simply sat and screamed at the book or my yarn in frustration, much to his consternation.

In the end, I did not manage to complete a project with the given supplies. I was able to make three-quarters of one bunny and half of another. The balls of yarn ended up just being practice for me. The irregular bunnies are now my dog’s playthings. I stayed up late on weeknights as I tried to master this craft in a short amount of time, but until you crochet a few thousand stitches and really grasp some crucial concepts, it’s just not going to gel quickly. So for anyone reading this who wants to take up crochet, just remember to be patient. Don’t be like me and through sheer hubris, assume you’ll master this within a few hours. Or even a few days.

There is a bright silver lining to this particular craft, and that is YouTube. YouTube gave me the much needed visuals in order to learn all the crucial basics, while other crochet bloggers out there wrote extensively on subjects like hook type and size, gauge (the G-word, in the crochet world; “Check your gauge!”), sewing (at last!), and everything in between.

I managed to teach myself some crochet basics and what I needed to know for amigurumi through watching dozens of video tutorials from experienced crochet gurus out there on the world wide web. I also researched decent free patterns but also purchased a few from Etsy. I went to several craft stores before and after Christmas to stock up–and I really stocked up–and now have a small yarn store plus essential amigurumi supplies sitting in my living room, which has become my temporary craft room.

Things that are pretty crucial, especially for a beginner, in crochet: large-eye yarn needles, a needle threader, stitch markers, and a row counter. I know the last one there may seem silly, but I just got one in the mail and it is a life saver when you are just monotonously working on a project. Crochet is all about counting and knowing your multiple tables. There is no way around it. The number of stitches in a round or a row or a particular type of stitch are crucial to the success of your projects. Once I accepted that, I armed myself with the aforementioned tools to help me. (Essentially, when I’m crocheting, I feel like I’m conducting my own Lumosity brain-training. Maybe crocheting will help me stave off dementia as I age. That’d be pretty neat.)

Basically, between December 23 and now, I have had some very nice successes and also some really terrible project outcomes. I grant that I may have picked this up more quickly than some might, but I attribute that to my grandmother, God bless her, who taught me and some of my cousins at a young age the art of crochet. Back then, though, we were making potholders and little things like that. So my little crochet muscle memory lay dormant for a couple decades.

At the bottom of this post are some photos of a few successfully made projects. And perhaps a photo or two of my Irregulars, as I’m calling them; those being projects that I either completed or had to abandon midway through due to irreparable screwed-up-ness.

After posting several photos on my personal Facebook page, a handful of people told me I should open an Etsy shop. I sat on that idea for a couple of weeks and then thought, why not? One of my resolutions was to simply be more in the present moment, and what better way to carpe diem than to just to try something for the fun of it? I only have a few listings up but I will continue to add to it.

There are other crochet kits like this out there, including a Wizard of Oz themed set, which seem absolutely amazing on the surface, except that the reviews on Amazon from experienced crocheters say the patterns aren’t fantastic. So, word to the wise, folks. Teach yourself crochet/making amigurumi prior to buying any kind of kit. Once you have mastered reading a pattern and executing stitches, go back and try a few projects that at first seemed intimidating. The book in the kit I bought does have some cute animal patterns, so some good did come out of it, even if it did take me three tries to successfully make a bunny. (See below.)

Despite some initial setbacks, they did not deter me from having an all-consuming passion for crochet. In fact, I have to pace myself at it and force myself to take breaks and do other things so I can have a normal life, in addition to giving my hands and arm muscles a break. If you crochet enough, it will cause some serious joint pain and nearsightedness. Good times.

I’d love to hear if any of you took up a new hobby so far in 2014 or are already experienced in the Ways of Yarn. More to come from my end, I can promise you that!

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