Hooked on Needles

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Crocheted Candy Stripes Blanket ~ Finished!

This crocheted candy striped blanket was so quick and fun to make! It is now finished and ready to ship down to Texas for my niece's new little baby who will be arriving sometime later this year. I have always believed that every baby should have some kind of handmade cuddly thing like an afghan or blanket or other snuggly item, so each of my siblings and now my nieces and nephews receive something handmade from me when they have their first baby. I'd love to be able to make one for each baby, but the list would be never-ending, so only the first gets one, and they can learn that valuable lesson of sharing very early in their life!

So here it is...

The diagonal stitching of this afghan made it start fast and get big fast...instant gratification!

The long sections of bright, fun colors in this yarn made for some fabulous chunks of color intermingled with chunks of bright white.

The texture created by this stitch will be perfect for little fingers to discover.

Don't you just love that simple scalloped border?

I surely do!

The perfect border can really make the blanket, and it doesn't necessarily have to be something big and fancy. This border is a simple double crochet scallop worked directly onto the edge of the blanket without even a round of single crochet to start. I think it wraps up this blanket perfectly!

You can make your own Candy Stripes blanket too! I ordered my kit from one of my very favorite online retailers for all things yarn, Mary Maxim!

Happy Stitching!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Springtime Mug Rug Swap ~ Join the Fun!

I couldn't help it! It's been far too long since I joined in the fun of a mug rug swap, and when I saw this one, I just couldn't resist!

Springtime Flowers Mug Rug Swap

Just click on the swap banner above and read all about it. There is still time to sign up but you need to hurry. Who knows? Maybe we will be partners! I'd love to make you two pretty springtime mug rugs!

Want to see some of the mug rugs I've made for other swaps or just for fun? You can see them HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Happy Stitching!

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Crocheted Candy Stripes Blanket ~ Going Straight!

This Candy Stripes Blanket that I started crocheting not even a week ago has become my obsession! I live for the moment every evening when I can finally sit down in my cozy chair, cuddle up with a blanket and crochet the evening away! Have you ever had a project that takes you like that? The only problem I can see with this obsession is that it won't last very long at the rate I'm going! Take a look at the pictures and you'll see what I mean...

The width is already determined and you can see on the right side in the above picture that the blanket is no longer getting any wider but has straightened up.

Here you can see the new straight edge that will continue straight until the very last stitch of the blanket.

Now I'll just keep crocheting this pattern, increasing by one block on the long straight edge and not increasing on the short straight edge, until the long straight edge is as long as I want the blanket to be. And then I'll start decreasing until I have only one block left. Then the border and it will be done!

This will be a short-lived obsession, unless I decide to do this same pattern for the next baby blanket on my list! Hmmmm, now there's a thought!

Happy Stitching!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Knitted Entrelac Baby Blanket ~ Finished!

Entrelac knitting was not nearly as complicated as I expected it to be. Have you tried it? I had been intrigued by this technique for years, but was so intimidated by it that I never even gave it a chance. Then I saw this baby blanket kit from Mary Maxim, and it was on a good sale, so I decided this was my opportunity to dabble in this stitch and see what it was all about, besides also getting a little stash of some awesome yarn that I could use even if I didn't like doing entrelac! Click HERE to read more about this entrelac journey. Or continue reading to see how it ends!

The blanket is finally finished, border and all, and here it is...

The border for this blanket is just a little attached i-cord border that gives the edges of the blanket a nice finished look. You can barely notice it in this picture, but it's there!

Here's a close-up of the i-cord border.

Isn't it pretty? This view is from the front.

And this view is from the back side of the blanket. I-cord can be made as wide as you want, but this one is just a 4-stitch i-cord and it is attached to the blanket as you go by picking up one stitch from the edge of the blanket and knitting it together with the last stitch of the i-cord before sliding the stitches back to left needle and knitting the next four stitches.

The instructions included with the pattern were just a bit confusing, saying to pick up all the stitches along one side of the blanket before beginning the i-cord. I tried it and just couldn't get it to work, so I googled how to knit an attached i-cord and viewed several different videos, each showing a different way to knit an attached i-cord. With the information I had picked up from all the videos, I was able to work out my own way to do the border and it worked out just great!

I ended up using two double pointed needles and picking up about 10 stitches at a time from the blanket, knitting the i-cord attached to those 10 stitches, then picking up the next 10 and so on until I was back at the beginning. I found it much easier to manage with only a few stitches at a time.

This project was a great learning experience for me with two new techniques now mastered, entrelac and i-cord knitting. Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. You just might be surprised how fun it is, and have a new stitch or technique to add to your knitting/crocheting/crafting resume!

Happy Stitching!

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Crocheted Candy Stripes Blanket ~ Finally Started!

My entrelac knitting project is finally finished and my new project is a crocheted baby blanket for one of my nieces who is having her first baby this year! I'll share pictures of the knitted project another day, but today I'm so excited to show you this new crochet project! The yarn is just divine and the colors are so much fun, not to mention the very satisfying stitch pattern for this blanket. Keep reading and see what you think of this project...

This is a Mary Maxim kit called Candy Stripes that I purchased not too long ago, complete with printed pattern and all the yarn needed to make the blanket. I chose the Gumball colorway of their Lollipop yarn for my afghan because I thought the colors were just so much fun and perfect for a baby blanket! The yarn is a medium worsted weight and 100% acrylic so it will be easy to wash and dry, a very important feature for what will surely become baby's favorite blanket!

This pattern is so easy to do, made up of double crochets and chains. It starts off at one corner, adding a block at each end of each row until it is as wide as you want it, then you decrease each row back down to the opposite corner. I love patterns that start in a corner because they seem to get going so quickly. Sometimes you just need a little instant gratification!

In this close-up, you can see how each row of blocks alternates the direction of the double crochet stitches with the row next to it, giving the fabric somewhat of a basketweave look.

And in this close-up, you can see the wonderful texture the stitch pattern gives to the blanket. Combined with the fabulous contrast between the bright colors and the white, this will be a very stimulating visual and tactile experience of complete coziness for this lucky little baby!

Happy Stitching!

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Entrelac Baby Blanket is Off the Needles!

It's not quite finished just yet, but I was able to lay it flat and get some pictures before I started working on the border! Take a look and see how big and cozy it is...

Last night, I was able to finish the little fill-in triangles along the top edge of the blanket and take it off the needles. So I thought it would be a good time to get a few pictures and just ponder the glorious texture and color in this fun design. Now all that is left to do is the border. According to the pattern, it seems to be some kind of a rope-like border where you pick up stitches along the length of one edge, then you knit something like an i-cord all the way across the length. I have not started it yet, but have only just read through the instructions, so I won't really be sure of how to do it until I actually Do It! I'm looking forward to learning another new technique in working the border, after thoroughly enjoying learning the entrelac technique for the blanket.

Updates, of course, will be posted!

Happy Stitching!

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Giveaway Winners!

My pattern giveaway is now closed, and since only four people entered, I have decided to send each person the pattern of her choice as mentioned in her comment. So Robin and Meredith, please email me so that I can email your pattern to you! Thank you for entering and for your kind words! I do hope you all enjoy your patterns!

I've been busy embroidering my daughter's Irish step dancing dress for this season, and her first show is tomorrow evening. Not two hours ago, I put the final chain stitch in the pretzel design at the hem of the dress! That is cutting it way too close for my comfort! But it's done and she is very happy with it. I will post pictures soon.

The entrelac knitted baby blanket I've been working on is almost ready for the border...woo hoo, I'm so excited about this project, I can't even stand it! This my Evening Relaxation project, and I am just loving every single stitch of it! I will also post new pictures of this project when time permits.

Just wanted to let you all know that my hands are staying busy, if not with my website, at least with my needlework! I hope yours are too!

Happy Stitching!

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Instant Download Patterns ~ and a giveaway!

Giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered! The pattern of choice will be sent to each person who entered!

I just spent a few minutes updating my four original patterns that I sell on my Etsy shop to be instant downloads! So if you purchase one of them, you don't have to wait for me to receive payment notification and email the pdf file to you. As soon as you pay, you will get a link to the pattern and you can download it onto your computer and use it right away! Isn't that convenient?

I have a 4-fat-quarter cinch sack pattern which is the pattern I use for myself whenever I am in need of a new purse. It's so roomy and functional, and being a cinch sack, it makes for easy shopping or walking without worrying about what to do with a purse!

I also have a Christmas Tree Advent Calendar pattern which is a fun way to count down the days until Christmas. This pattern uses one of my favorite pre-cuts, charm packs! Or you could also use up your scrap fabrics and whip up a fun wall hanging for pre-Christmas anticipation.

And then I have two table runner patterns. One is for spring and one is for fall.

Click HERE to see them in my Etsy shop.

In honor of this convenient update to my shop, I am going to give away one of my patterns to one lucky reader. So take a look at them over in my shop and then come back here and leave a comment saying which of the four patterns you would like to receive. Be sure to also leave your contact information. If I can't contact you, you can't win! Since the prize for this giveaway is a pdf file, this giveaway is open to readers from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a working email address!

This giveaway will end and winner will be announced sometime in the next week or two, when I have time to do it! School and my real job and my home and children's schedules are all back in full swing here, so when I have time is about as precise as I can get for the ending time of the giveaway!

Happy Stitching!

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Knitting Away ~ Entrelac Progress

It's cold and snowy here in New England with more snow in the forecast for tomorrow. We are fully expecting another no-school day and the kids are all excited! It's been quite a winter here so far, but with a project like the one I have been working on to keep my hands busy, it so hard to get down about the weather. Just look at the gorgeous colors I have on my lap every evening...

Delicious, wouldn't you say?

So bright and cheerful too!

And just look at all that wonderful texture!

Every new rectangle is a surprise with the long color changes and varying thickness of the yarn.

No matter how you look at this project, it's just happy!

Even the back side is fun to look at!

I've never been much of a fan of knit or crochet patterns that have a definite front and back for afghans, but as wrong sides go, this one is kind of fun. I think once this baby blanket is finished and pinned out and blocked, a lot of the waviness will flatten out. But even if it doesn't, what baby doesn't love great texture to cuddle?

This entrelac knitting project is certainly brightening up the long, dark winter evenings for me. How about you? Are you working on any fun projects to get you through the winter?

Happy Stitching!

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Grace's First Irish Step Dancing Dress ~ Embroidering Again!

It has been quite a few years since I've done any Irish Step Dancing dress embroidery, but I'm back at it now! This time it is only for my own daughter's dress as I no longer have the time to hire out my services. A few years ago here at Hooked On Needles, I shared all the steps I take, from beginning to end, to embroider these Celtic designs onto velvet using a hoop to maintain the tension on the fabric, but without hooping the velvet itself. If you are interested in learning my method for embroidering on velvet, click HERE and read through the post. Links to each step, with video or picture tutorials, are included for you to follow.

So would you like to see my current project? Keep on reading...

I have laid out the tear-away stabilizer with design traced on it and centered it on the bodice of Grace's velvet dress. I had to un-pin the crocheted collar from her big sister Elizabeth's dress and lay it onto the neckline to make sure the embroidered design would not be placed too high on the bodice and get covered up by the collar. That Irish lace collar was also crocheted by me and I wrote briefly about it HERE and HERE. Grace will be using this collar for her dress now.

The three skeins of embroidery floss are the colors that will be used for the designs that Grace gets on her dress this year. The lighter green is for the bodice design. The soft yellow will be for the big design on the front of the skirt, and the darker green will be for the pretzel designs along the hem of the dress.

Here you can see that I have pinned the design onto the velvet. My secret for pinning onto the flat dress is to slide an acrylic cutting board inside the bodice of the dress so that I can pin the design onto the bodice without also pinning the back of the dress!

Next I basted the design onto the velvet, and then basted the velvet onto a piece of heavier tear-away stabilizer that I had already put into a spring hoop. This is shown in my step-by-step tutorial to which I referred at the top of this post, and which can be found HERE.

This is the completed design. I think the soft green embroidery floss used in this design is such a nice contrast to the emerald green velvet and really makes it stand out.

A closer look...

...and an even closer look!

This design may appear to be lopsided on the dress, but in fact it is the way it is meant to be. The design itself is just a tad lopsided and no amount of measuring, straightening, or adjusting can make it look different! Believe me, I've tried! I have probably embroidered this design onto a dozen dresses over the years, and have tried and tried to make it look straight, but with no success. After much frustration, I decided to do some measurements to see if maybe it was the design, and not the way I was stitching it, that gave it this lopsided appearance. Much to my relief, I discovered that it is indeed the design itself and that's just the way it is!

That is as far as I have gotten on this project, and will be putting it on hold until after the talent show at school next week. Grace wants to do a little step dancing for the show and wants to wear her new velvet dress. I know I won't be able to finish the next larger design in time for the show, so I will leave it as is for now and continue embroidering on it after the show. She is very excited to be able to wear it for the talent show.

For those of you interested in my educational adventure that I began in the fall of 2012, I have begun my fourth semester at my local college just this week. This semester I am taking three courses: Health and Wellness, Art 101, and Statistics. Besides the two class sessions for Health and Wellness, I also will be spending at least an hour in the fitness center at the college each week. I'm actually looking forward to the opportunity to move a little more! Also one night a week for two and a half hours, I will be learning how to paint in oil. I am very excited about that course, which is my humanities elective. And then there's statistics. What can I say about that? I need it if I want to get my BSN, so I'm taking it! Wish me luck!

Happy Stitching!

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Strange visitors and winter weather

Nothing even remotely needlework related to share with you today, but I just had to share a picture of what we found wondering our neighborhood this morning. Take a look at this...

This was taken at about 9:30 this morning and we were just starting to get a light dusting of snow. The weather forecast called for flurries today. There was no mention of emu visitors, but it was quite thrilling to see this big feathery creature walk right up to me. We were eye to eye and his feet were bigger than mine! His legs were much thinner and the knees bent the other way, but I am pretty sure my backside was smaller than his! Sorry no pictures for comparison!

By 2:00 this afternoon, this is what our flurries had turned into. Wet heavy snow is sticking to everything. It surely is beautiful looking out every window in the house though.

It is the perfect day to get the laundry moving along and then settle into my cozy chair with a little dress hemming project. My youngest will be dancing in her first velvet Irish step dancing dress this year, so I must get it hemmed and then start embroidering the designs on it soon. March will be here before we know it, and I start school again next week so I want to get a jump on it while I am still relaxed! I'll share pictures when there is something to see! If you'd like to see some of my earlier work on Irish step dancing dresses, or learn about my process for embroidering on velvet, click HERE and check out that post with lots of links to the different aspects of the process and to pictures of some of my finished work.

Happy Stitching!

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Caramel Corn Puffs ~ No Needlework Necessary!

Holiday treat recipes, or recipes of any kind for that matter, are not the usual fare here at Hooked On Needles. But sometimes something of the non-needlework sort comes along that is just too good not to share! This caramel corn puff recipe is just one of those things! Take a look at this deliciousness...

Have you ever seen anything so golden and scrumptious looking?

Sweet and crunchy, light and buttery, and very hard to resist!

Here's the recipe, so you can give it a try, maybe for your Super Bowl party or next family game night or other fun get together.

Caramel Corn Puffs

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 - 7 or 8 ounce bag corn puffs, plain or butter flavored (Think Cheetos Puffs or Pirate's Booty, only not cheese flavored. My local grocery store has a store brand. Yours probably does too.)

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Spray a large roasting pan with non-stick spray. Dump bag of corn puffs into pan. In a large saucepan, melt butter, brown sugar and Karo. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, then add 1 teaspoon baking soda and mix well. It will foam up and increase in volume. Quickly pour over corn puffs and mix well so all puffs are covered in caramel. Spread out caramel covered puffs evenly in the pan.

Bake at 225 degrees for one hour. Stir every 10 minutes. Spread out on waxed paper and separate the puffs from each other while they are still warm. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container...or just eat them all!

Coming up soon, I'll share with you my progress on the entrelac knitting project you've already seen HERE, and the beginning of my return to sewing with velvet and embroidering Celtic designs on Irish step dancing dresses!

Happy Stitching!

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Do you...uh...Entrelac? ~ Not-So-Scary Knitting

Have you ever seen a knitted, crocheted, quilted, sewn or otherwise handmade item that you thought was really awesome but looked much too complicated to attempt yourself? I surely have! Quilts used to intimidate me, especially the binding. Bag making scared me away for a long time before I realized how much creativity could be put into one fabulous bag. Crocheting never really intimidated me, probably because I started it when I was so young. And knitting...well, everything about knitting used to intimidate me. My mother-in-law used to threaten that One Day She Would Teach Me How To Knit! Oooooh, those were scary words! I've told my How I Learned To Knit story here before, so I won't repeat it now, but you can read about it by clicking HERE if you are interested. To sum it up though, it took a tragedy to make it happen!

Anyway, over the past many years, I have scoured books, shops, online retailers, blogs and Pinterest for all kinds of ideas for new things to try. One of the things that intrigued me the most was entrelac knitting. The word entrelac comes from a French word meaning to interlace, so that gives you a little clue as to how entrelac knitting might look. To me, it always looked so very complicated, and not being a real confident knitter for new techniques, I was always just a little too afraid of it to try. That is until I found this awesome baby blanket kit at Mary Maxim, one of my very favorite online retailers for yarny kind of stuff. It was just too amazing to pass up! I had to learn entrelac!

So now I've tried entrelac knitting and have a sample and an in-progress project to show you...

Here's my little sample that I worked out just to get the hang of the technique before breaking out the gorgeous yarn that came in the kit. Don't you think this would make an awesome scarf or wrap?

You can see the texture that the interlacing technique provides to the piece. It really does look like there are bands of knitting going over and under each other, but in fact it is just one single layer of knitting. Whoever invented this technique was so very clever!

And here is my project in progress using the same pattern as the sample above except that it is the proper width for a baby blanket so there are 10 sections of 10 stitches each for a cast-on edge of 100 stitches.

Aren't these colors just so luscious? And the texture of the entrelac is so very cozy and inviting!

I couldn't stretch out the circular needle to show the piece flat because I'm in the middle of the current row, but you can get a pretty good idea how this pattern is working out, with each pass adding a new layer of either right or left facing strips.

Here you can see some of the yarn ball and the gorgeous colors in this variegated yarn. It is Mary Maxim's Prism DK/sport weight yarn in Rainbow, and this pattern calls for 5 balls. I love working with the yarn and the blanket is turning out to be very soft and cuddly. This yarn is 100% acrylic, however it is a roving style yarn so hand washing in cold water and flat drying is necessary. Also because of the roving type of yarn that it is, there are sections of the yarn that are very tightly twisted and thin, and then other sections that are big and fat and fluffy with no twist at all. So if you don't like yarn with varying thickness, this might not be the yarn for you. I was a little worried about it before I started the project, but I'm finding it very pleasant to work with and it is creating a very lovely blanket.

So that is my latest knitting adventure using a new-to-me technique called entrelac. This is the project that called to me as I was finishing up my schoolwork for the semester, and now that I am working on it, I am glad I didn't start it until after my finals were over! It is very hard to put down! Between just wanting to finish this one little section, and wanting to keep knitting until the next color change happens, it's a real hard project to stop once I get going on it!

If you've ever thought about trying entrelac knitting but have been a bit intimidated by how complicated it looks, I highly recommend that you give it a try. It's made up of knit, purl, simple increase and decrease, and of course following a pattern. It can be done in any increment. This project is done in tens, but I've seen other entrelac projects online that have been done in fours or sixes or even larger numbers. Lots of possibilities with this fun technique!

Happy Stitching!

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