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260,000 Miles?!

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That’s right. Our 2000 Ford F 350 diesel has distinguished itself by towing our RV and carrying us safely for many miles.  It has been across the country numerous times and from Pennsylvania to Florida twice a year since 2000.  It’s time to say good-bye and let a contractor use it as a work truck.

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We no longer need our hard-working truck because we recently purchased a motorhome!  After many difficult campsite back-ins, Paul had finally had enough and decided to ditch the truck/trailer combination in favor of a shorter vehicle that didn’t bend in the middle!  Now that we are not using the RV as living quarters and are simply taking it on vacations, we no longer needed all that extra storage space and the headaches of hitching, unhitching, and leveling.

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The back-up camera alone was worth the switch!  Our slightly used 26 foot Winnebago Vista is small and easy to maneuver. The galley is so tiny that I don’t even have to make an excuse for not cooking.  Many other features are far superior to the 5th wheel trailer that we traded in.

 Biltmore Estate

Of course we immediately had to take a trip!  The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC is a beautiful place to visit.  Unfortunately, it was a cold and windy day when we arrived.  After touring the house, which greatly reminded me of Downton Abby, we decided to skip the long walk through the gardens in favor of a quick drive-through.

The surrounding Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive are also beautiful places to visit.  However, this time of year, there were only a few trees in bloom and most branches were still bare.  We stopped at the Folk Art Center to admire the quilts, wood-carvings, glassware and all the other gorgeous crafts that are made in the  Allegheny Mountains.  No photography was allowed unfortunately but this place was a feast for the eyes!

Folk Art Center1

So after all the excitement of getting accustomed to our new motorhome and roaming around the South for a week, did I manage to work on any crochet projects?  You betcha!  I finished the pieces for Melinda’s Textured Cardigan and had enough yarn left over to make another vest ala the Palm Beach Shrug.  Stay tuned for more information on both of these projects in the next post.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2014 in Projects

 

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A New Project and My New Book

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Okay, so my plans to make the Emma Cardigan had to be scrapped.  There is nothing wrong with the pattern but my yarn was quite a bit thicker than the yarn the designer used. I was not able to get gauge so I decided to save this project for another yarn.  I found that I was already re-writing large portions of the pattern to accommodate my gauge and I just didn’t want to go that route again.

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Enter Melinda’s Textured Short Sleeved Cardigan from the book Crochet With Style by Melissa Leapman.  I’ve had this book for years and I’ve made almost every project in it.  Melissa Leapman designs the kinds of sweaters that I like to wear, classic and attractive without being fussy.  This cardigan uses one of my favorite stitch patterns, the double crochet cross stitch.  So I swatched and got started.

Crochet With Style

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But I am really looking forward to making something challenging out of my new book, Blueprint Crochet Sweaters by Robyn Chachula.

Blueprint Crochet Sweaters

Blueprint Crochet Sweaters

Robyn Chachula , the author of Blueprint Crochet Sweaters was a structural engineer in her previous life.  A structural engineer uses simple structural elements to build complex systems.  Sound like crochet?  It stands to reason then, that she would organize her book into sections describing the various modes of crochet sweater construction:

Classic Construction

Top Down and  The-Round Construction

Granny Motif Construction

Unique Construction

Under each one of these topics, she offers various patterns that exemplify the different techniques. In addition to the various methods of construction, In the Introduction, Robyn discusses fixes for some common crochet  problems.  For instance, she actually has a way to re-make a buttonhole that has been worked into the wrong row.  Some of her other hints are also very creative and ingenious.

From Cables to Collars, from Saddle Sleeves to Raglan Sleeves, from Granny Squares to Sophisticated Motifs, Blueprint Crochet Sweaters  takes you through each pattern step by step.  Within each section, you will find extensive color charts and additional side panels containing discussion of the technique and how to best accomplish the special challenges inherent in that particular pattern.  I find that these little panels are extremely informative and make for interesting reading even if you are not working the pattern. In addition, all patterns feature close-up photos of the various components.

My big bug-a-boo has always been top-down construction. Since I crochet tightly, even when my stitch gauge is accurate, I find that my row gauge is always much less than the pattern requires.  Since a top-down sweater grows wider as it grows longer, simply working extra rows is not always the answer, in other words, my width increases much more quickly than my length for any given row.

I think that The Smoky Cropped Top might be worth a try.  This pattern by Drew Emborsky can be customized to make it a bit longer.  I like the fact that it is worked in sock yarn and for some reason I find myself drawn to the ruffles on the sleeves and at the waist!  Perhaps I’ll finally be able to beat my top-down phobia.

Smoky Cropped Top

There are many other patterns and techniques in this book that I will want to try.  I would love to make the Stormy Lace Tunic for somebody who loves lace.  The Veronica Pullover that is pictured on the cover is right up my alley because I am a big fan of Dolman  Sleeves.  And the Cranberry Cardigan has “Carol Wolf” written all over it!

Stormy Lace TunicCranberry Cardigan

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Book Review, crochet, Projects

 

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Plum Perfect Is….Plum Perfect!

Plum Perfect1

My little spring jacket with the shawl collar is finally finished.  It seems that it took a long time to complete because I was using a small hook and thin yarn.  In addition, I had modified the pattern so much that I had to keep referring back to my notes as I worked.  The pattern, Strictly Elemental, had many problems but in the end, I managed to overcome them all.  I love the three-quarter length sleeves and the shawl collar.  I know that this sweater will come in handy when summer air-conditioning gets too cool.

Plum Perfect 3Plum Perfect 6

As you can see, I modified the sleeves to be squared-off and set-in.  This design always gives me a little extra room in the bust area so it is my favorite way to fashion sleeves.

Plum Perfect 7

Instead of the single button and the placket, I simply worked a row of three loops and added three cute little buttons.

Plum Perfect 8Plum Perfect 2

The color of this sweater is beautiful!  At first I thought that it might be too bright but I think it is just right for spring.  I used Bernat Cotton-ish by Vickie Howell and a G hook.  This yarn is a dream to work with.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in crochet, Projects

 

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What About This Sleeve?

Lion Brand Yarn sends out some very attractive catalogs.  The projects that they display on their pages are eye-catching and colorful.  Usually I find myself mulling over the knit patterns and trying to think of ways to translate them to crochet.  A few months back I spotted such a pattern and it stopped me in my tracks.  Now here was an interesting sleeve design!

Knotted sleeve

Ever since I saw this, I have wanted to make a crochet version of this sleeve.  By simply looking at it, it appears as if the sleeve is worked as one unit and then divided at the bottom and somehow interlaced.  Or conversely, it is worked bottom up and starts out as two long pieces which eventually merge at the top.

Wrong on both counts!  It turns out that ( Yippee! ) this is a free pattern and if you look on-line here you will see that the pattern gives a diagram and an explanation of how the sleeve is made.  What a stroke of luck!  I am going to trace the pattern onto some paper towels to see if I can assemble the parts as in the pictured directions.  The sleeve cap looks a bit wonky so perhaps I can change this part to make it easier to insert into the armhole.

I know that any project using this sleeve design will have to feature lace-weight yarn, otherwise the whole thing will be much too bulky.  I’ve been doing some swatching with some scrap lace-weight this morning and hope to come up with some kind of design for the corresponding sweater.  This may take a while!

Plum Perfect

My new project is a re-working of the Strictly Elemental Pattern that I had made up last month.  At that time, I had experienced severe skewing of the fabric and ended up with a vest that featured one armhole over the bust and the other in the middle of my back!  The reason for the skewing was that the openwork row was repeatedly worked in the same direction.  So I modified the pattern a little by working the openwork rows back and forth instead.  I also counted the turning chain as a stitch to keep the count even on each edge where the fronts meet.  Deciding that I wanted short sleeves, I made a new sleeve pattern and finally had everything finished and on the blocking wires.

Plum Perfect 1

But once I got it all assmbled, I was chagrined to discover that my short sleeves hung to the elbows and were too wide at the hem.   I zig-zagged around the bottom of each sleeve with the sewing machine and cut them off, then turned them up in a slip-stitched hem.  I have done this in the past with decent results but this time I really didn’t like the ragged hem and the bulk that resulted from turning it up.  Also, on second thought, I liked the longer sleeves better.

Sleeve1Sleeve2

So I ripped out the sleeves and made up a new and improved pattern for long sleeves instead.  I am working on finishing these up now and then I will have to re-insert them into the armholes.

Emma Cardigan

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I love working post stitches.  The texture that results from these stitches is just fabulous and they can be used in many different ways.  Post stitches can outline an area, they can be used to make cables, arrows and lattice, and they can be used for ribbing around cuffs and necklines.  I had some Knit Picks Comfy on hand in a beautiful color called Marlin.

Trolling around Ravelry, I found the next project for me!  The Emma cardigan by Anastasia Popova features twisted post stitches in the waist ribbing and a very flattering fit.  I swatched for the ribbing gauge and decided to work this section with a D hook instead of the E that is called for in the pattern.  Admittedly, my yarn is slightly thick for the D hook but I prefer the tighter stitches that result.

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The gauge is completely off again.  I believe that the yarn the designer used must be significantly thinner than mine.  However, not to worry, I’ll figure it out!  Once you calculate your stitches per inch count and your rows per inch count you can make any pattern to your measurements.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2014 in crochet, Projects

 

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Memoirs–The Aftermath

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I have just returned from picking up the ten copies of my memoirs that I had printed at Staples.  The ride home in the car had me reflecting on the process that I had just completed.  I had begun the memoirs in 2010.  After much note-taking and revision I decided to put the final copy aside for a while.  At that time I was hoping to gain some additional perspective.  I was also interested to see whether I would still agree with what I had written a few months hence. In the ensuing months, every time I was moved to open the memoir file and to continue writing, I found a strange wall of resistance.  The months became years and the resistance remained.

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Finally, a few weeks ago I decided to ignore the resistance and to open the file that I had written three years ago.  Perhaps I was resisting having to face the difficult task of nailing down events that over time became more and more tricky to recall correctly.  Perhaps I was simply trying to avoid the inevitable display of my youthful folly.  I opened the file and forced myself to continue what I had started.

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In the writing, events seemed to crystallize in my memory.  As sentences turned into paragraphs, the experiences I  had so long ago became a movie in my mind’s eye.  I busied myself with spelling, checking references, and locating photos.  I very haphazardly chose the events that tumbled towards me and did not consciously include or exclude any particular occurrence. When I judged that I had written enough, I stopped.  I could have written twice as much.  Every day I remembered additional material that would have been interesting to my family and would have fleshed out the story of my childhood even more.  But I left it and began the laborious process of proofreading.

And this is where the true value of writing a memoir  became apparent to me.  Suddenly I was able to see my entire childhood laid out before me in one large tableau.  No longer was I obsessed with trying to understand the meaning of this or that event in my life.  I now had the whole story and each event in that story was placed into the context of that period in time. All at once things began to make sense.  I began to see that the bogeymen that had  frightened me for years no longer had the power to affect me at all.  I also realized that most of the set-backs that I had suffered had come about as a result of my own foolish actions.

These are not small realizations. I would encourage anyone who has the inclination to write about their history to sit down and get on with it.  This effort need not be for the benefit of an audience.  Simply being truthful with oneself in the privacy of the moment can be life-changing.  So to all of you who try this—good luck.  And may you find peace and resolution in the doing.

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Posted by on March 9, 2014 in Projects, This 'N That

 

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My Memoirs Are Finally Finished!

Memoir Cover3

It has been a long  road to completion.  My memoirs titled Becoming American, Memoirs of an Immigrant Childhood have been proofread, edited and formatted.  Photos have been embedded and the cover has been designed. Sweet Guy and I finally took the thumb drive to the printer.  We had a bit of rude awakening when we requested 10 copies in color and were told it would cost $994.  A bit of backpedaling and we made some concessions: no more color and we decided to print the covers ourselves.  We will end up with enough copies for each child and grandchild and both my sisters.

This project began in 2010.  By that time, I had encouraged each of my parents to dictate or write down their memories of growing up in Germany and then becoming adolescents during World War II.  We had printed enough copies of each memoir to share with the whole family. My intention was to establish a family archives that would contain some treasured items that were symbolic of the family history and the memoirs of the women going forward in time.  To my regret, I did not  have a history of my grandparents or great-grandparents lives.

Parents Memoirs

While the historical record of a particular generation in time can be very interesting to historians, the day-to-day life of a woman in a family can be even more so for the children that come after her.  Her unique perspective and her struggle to fit into her society tell a story to which no history book can do justice.  We are all greatly effected by the women who raised us and those who danced on the periphery of our lives.

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My own story is about a little girl who boarded an ocean liner and journeyed to a country across the sea.  Her trials and triumphs speak about the culture and the times of the 1950′s through the early 1970′s. When writing an autobiography it is very difficult to decide what to include and what to omit.  My account runs on for 187 pages but I could easily have made it twice that long.  I hope that I have succeeded in presenting a concise and balanced narrative of my experiences during that period.  I hope that my grandchildren will think so too.

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Arriving in New York Harbor July 1956

 
14 Comments

Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Projects

 

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Owl Mama!

Owl Mama1

Those of you who missed my last post may not know that I started this delightful little owl Thursday.  My daughter Lana has developed an affection for these creatures so I began to troll Ravelry looking for the perfect pattern.  I loved this one by Cherry Berry Crochet because it has the crocodile stitch “feathers”.

When you are making Amigurumi you must use a very small hook and a tight stitch so that the stuffing does not peek out.  Since the scrap yarns I was using varied in weight from fingering to worsted, the smallest hook I could manage was  D Hook, not the C hook that the pattern required.  Of course this made my Baby Owl into a Mama Owl! She stands a good 12 inches tall!

I have to be honest, the dexterity it takes to manipulate a small hook to make tiny little components for the feet and the features almost had me over a barrel.  My hands are simply not as limber as they were years ago and I cheated a little on the ears. I simply could not will my muscles to crochet 6 tiny stitches in a circle to make a long tube!

I also notice that the head did not come out as high as it should have.  As usual, my row gauge was way off and I didn’t notice the problem until the head was completed.  Since I had used a jar as the body, I had wanted the top to fill the head but the head was not big enough.  In fact, I had to end up pulling the body up over the jar so that the drawstring at the top would not show beneath the head.

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All photos used with permission by Cherry Berry Crochet
 

Cherry Berry’s pattern allows you to use the jar for storage but unfortunately I had to dispense with that option on my Owl Mama.  So even with the flat head and the empty belly, I think Owl Mama came out very cute.  I hope that Lana likes her!

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2014 in crochet, Projects

 

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