Crochet Tutorial: The Puff Stitch

Like its name implies, the puff stitch is puffy and can add tons of texture to any crochet project. I personally love it, but it’s a bit tricky to master and goes a little beyond basic crochet skills. It works best with yarn that is relatively thick and fluffy (not thin cotton/bamboo) and doesn’t have a tendency to separate into strands.

The basic principle of the puff stitch is casting on a loop of yarn as you would for a double stitch, but rather than binding it off at the top, you cast another stitch, and then another, as shown in the diagram here:

Step 1:

3-hdc-puff-st-1

Step 2:

3-hdc-puff-st-2

You can see a video of me crocheting the puff stitch here:

I’m working with lovely natural merino wool such as this one. It has a delightful texture and is a joy to work with.

A pattern sample incorporating the puff stitch:

DSC_1142.JPG

Note: the puff stitch, like other textured crochet stitches, does take up substantially more yarn, so if you aren’t sure how much you need for a project, it’s better to stash up!

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.

Cloud in a jar science experiment

DSC_1134

I’m always on the lookout for interesting, educational stuff I can do with my kids, preferably something that doesn’t involve a lot of mess. This cloud in a jar experiment is easy peasy and pretty cool!

You will need:

A jar

A balloon

Very hot water

A match

A flashlight

Cut off the narrow part of the balloon and make sure it can fit over the mouth of the jar.

Pour about 1/2 an inch of hot water into the jar. Light the match and, tilting the jar, capture some of the smoke. Discard the match and quickly cover the jar by stretching the balloon over the top.

Put pressure on the balloon with your fingers (make sure to secure it in place so it doesn’t slip off). Release. Do it several times to watch the cloud form and condense!

For a more impressive display, dim the lights and shine through the jar with a flashlight to see the swirling mist inside.

Explanation: putting pressure on the balloon increases pressure inside the jar, which in turn increases heat. Releasing the pressure makes the vapor from the hot water cool down and condense on the smoke particles – that’s how real clouds form, by condensing over particles floating in the air.

When you are done playing, take the balloon off and watch your cloud gently float upward out of the jar.

Softie Crochet Doll: how-to

DSC_1124

A couple of weeks ago, I found a bag of yarn scraps someone had thrown away. You know I couldn’t just pass! Implementing my own advice on using scraps of yarn, I washed the whole stash and set about making this little doll.

I didn’t follow precise instructions, though there are many patterns you can draw upon. This is an intermediate level project that does require some thorough familiarity with the basics and intuitive knowledge on when to add or reduce stitches.

Most of the work on this project was done with single stitch. I used crochet hook number 3 and acrylic yarn similar to this one.

Step 1: Head and body

DSC_1110

Head: start working a round shape as you would when making a hat, but reduce stitches towards the bottom to make a curved ball-like shape. Leave off a narrow brim – later you’ll slip stitch around it to attach it to the body.

Body: start from the bottom – make a ring and work your way up, gradually reducing stitches. Reduce rather more dramatically towards the top, creating a curvature and leaving off a narrow opening.

Cross stitch, embroider or otherwise make eyes and mouth on head and slip stitch it to the body.

Fill with stuffing and close body off at the bottom.

Step 2: Arms and legs – make rather narrow ring and crochet round and round, making a sort of hollow tube of desired length. Slip stitch arms to the sides of the body and legs to the bottom. Fill with stuffing and stitch up.

Hair: Make a large, rather floppy pompom, attach to head by slip stitching and trim off as desired.

Clothes: This dollie is dressed in a basic little frock I whipped up, and has a miniature version of Bev’s Very Easy Booties on her feet.

End result: soft, lightweight cuddly doll my kids love to snuggle. They were delighted with the process, too! It was very rewarding, as it worked up so quickly and the little ones were so gratified.

5 Strategies For Surviving Extreme Poverty

Related image

Extreme poverty looks different in Western countries, but it does exist. If someone is Googling articles like this one, it means they have electricity and internet connection, and probably aren’t starving outright. Nevertheless, they may not know where they are going to live next month, how to pay for the weekly trip to the supermarket, or where to get shoes for their kids to replace those that are falling apart.

Our family has been through financial highs and lows, with extremely long periods of no regular income, but thankfully we have been able to cope by thinking out of the box and implementing some extreme measures. Hopefully, these will help other people who are struggling right now.

Housing – for many people, this is the biggest monthly expense. If you are renting, you may want to consider moving to a cheaper area and down-scaling. If you own your house, you might create a stream of passive income by renting out a room or a unit for Air B&B. Selling and purchasing a smaller house in a less expensive area is also an option. However, if at all possible, do not sell your house just to fund living expenses. I guarantee your money will get frittered away and you’ll be much worse off when all is said and done. We made this mistake once, and I still deeply regret it. Looking back, I’d rather have had us tighten our belts further for a few months.

If you are lucky enough to have supportive family, sometimes your best choice would be to move in with them. I would only recommend this as a last resort, however, because I believe in remaining independent unless there is absolutely no other choice; and, if you do move in with family, I’d constantly work towards having my own place again and, of course, make sure you are pulling your weight as much as you can by helping with chores, bills, groceries, etc.

Utilities – There are many creative ways to save on electricity, water and other bills. Make sure you make your home as energy efficient as you possibly can. This can mean drawing blinds in the summer or painting the roof white to deflect sunlight, or adding extra insulation in both summer and winter to keep cold or heat out. Check your doors and window frames; if you can feel a draft of air, it means your insulation has room for improvement.

Many people labor under the assumption that they are entitled to be toasty warm in winter while wearing nothing but a T-shirt inside, and comfortably cool in the summer up to the point of wearing a light jacket indoors. I invite you to challenge these assumptions. Wear layers in the winter, and cool off in the summer by hanging wet curtains over open windows. Save money by taking shorter showers and bathing two (or several) kids together.

Transportation – What with gas, insurance, repair and maintenance, cars are huge money guzzlers. If you live in an area with good public transportation, consider doing without a car entirely. At the very least, consolidate your errands and, for recreation, explore your area rather than drive far. Rediscover walking and bicycling as alternative healthy local transportation means.

Food – Do not feel tempted to cut your grocery bill by opting for cheap, high-calorie foods full of sugar, white flour and refined vegetable oils. Rather, learn to make the cheapest nutritious foods you can get, and reduce some more by clipping coupons and shopping wisely. You can often find real treasures in your supermarket discount bin – foodstuffs that go for an extremely low price because their expiration date is near or because their packaging is slightly damaged. Bread and baked goods are often sold extremely cheaply at the end of the day, and vegetables and fruits at the end of the week. Swapping with neighbors and foraging help out a lot, too.

Necessities¬†– Thrift stores often carry gently used clothes, shoes, toys, books , household items, and so on, at the fraction of the regular price. Also keep a lookout for great finds people in your area are giving away. Don’t look down upon dumpster diving, either – we have salvaged some real treasures from the curb, from books and games to clothes and furniture.

Whatever you do, do not apply for direct government assistance, the kind that would get social services across your threshold. I don’t know about where you live, but here it comes with the price of being constantly monitored and probed for “parenting capability”. Children have been taken from perfectly adequate parents whose only crime was being poor. Because of budgeting allotment, this corrupt system would rather pay a monthly allowance to foster families than give the struggling parents financial aid.

Keep looking for ways out! Don’t let the present suck you in like a permanent sluggish murky bog with no prospects. This has been my mistake for a long time, just looking at nothing beyond daily survival – no matter how good you get at saving, pinching pennies and doing without, sometimes you just have to stop and think of ways to make a radical change and take a different turn. Always look forward with hope for change, and see your present strait as something that will pass.

Basic Crochet Tutorial: Granny Square

The granny square is a classic crochet element that figures in all sorts of projects, from blankets and ponchos to bags and scarves. You can use up scraps of yarn by making many granny squares and stitching them together, or you can make one giant square into a blanket or rug.

There are many variations to the granny square, and in the following demonstration I’m showing the classic one. Whatever spin you put on it, the square shape is achieved by adding from the corners.

DSC_1103

Step 1: make a short chain and connect the last stitch to the first, creating a circle.

DSC_1104

Step 2: chain 2, double stitch 2 (will look like 3 double stitches), ch3, dc3, until you have 4 clusters of 3 stitches and 4 “empty” sections. These are your corners.

DSC_1105

Step 3: In each 3 chain space, create a corner by making 3 dc, 2 chain, 3 dc again.

DSC_1106

Step 4: I’m creating a classic checkered pattern by looping my stitches through the chain 3 of the previous round, but it really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you keep adding to the corners: dc 3, ch 2, dc 3.

I made this demonstration with crochet hook number 3 and acrylic yarn. In case you are wondering why I switched yarn colors in the end, I started with some leftover yarn length and ran out of it before I could finish the last row. Yes, I’m quickly using up those yarn scraps and am allowing myself to browse clearance sales to re-stock my stash.

Can you feel the spring?

The end of February is probably the time when everything around here is the freshest and greenest. After a week of rain, I went out to see my little garden completely covered with unruly weeds – but all my plants looking healthy and invigorated all the same.

DSC_1097

The tomatoes are actually starting to grow tiny fruit! I’ve tied the vines to the fence to keep them from sprawling over the ground.

DSC_1098My little papaya is really beginning to shoot up

The mint and hyssop are looking nice and fresh. So do our potted celery and beet greens.

I hope that even those of you who are still snowed in will get to feel the breath of spring soon. As for the folks at the southern hemisphere, who are gearing up for autumn, I’m wishing you a cozy, snug winter with many cups of tea, good books, and crafts.

Crochet Tutorial: The Basics

Basic (1)

Following my crochet posts, I got a request to make a tutorial showing the basics. This is the beauty of crochet, actually – once you have mastered the 3-4 basic stitches, you can make almost anything by combining them.

So, without further ado, here is my demonstration of the most fundamental crochet stitches: basics for beginners. 

The chain stitch is the simplest of all – it’s basically just pulling loop through loop using a hook – but it’s important because every crochet project starts with a chain.

Single stitch: after a chain, this is the first stitch you should learn. It creates a tight fabric and is very commonly used in various projects.

Double stitch is perhaps the stitch I use most often. It creates a looser, stretchier weave and makes for faster work than the single stitch.

Triple stitch: I don’t use the triple stitch that often, but it’s a cool stitch that creates tall, nifty-looking columns. It’s great for height contrasts, ripple effects, and lace.

When you begin practicing the crochet stitches, choose a comfortable-sized hook and yarn that is plain-textured and doesn’t fall apart (in the demonstration above, you can see that the yarn I used has a bit of a tendency to separate into filaments). Something like this yarn would be a good choice.