T-shirt yarn bicolor basket

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This was my first time crocheting a basket with t-shirt yarn, something I have wanted to do for a long time. Here are some insights I came out with:

Pros: I love working with t-shirt yarn! It’s fairly stretchy and slides through the fingers so nicely, with none of the scratchiness of some super bulky yarns or fibers like jute.

It also works up extremely quickly. This little basket here was whipped up in about two hours total. Which brings me to…

Cons: I got a rather smaller basket than I thought I would get. The diameter of the bottom is about the size of a dinner plate. I love little baskets and have a myriad uses for them, but I was kind of hoping for a larger one this time. When I finished, I realized that if I want a larger basket, I would have to spend more on materials than I was willing to.

Tips: This was my first time using the waistcoat stitch, and I think it’s just perfect for baskets. It works up very similarly to single crochet, except that instead of working into the top of the stitch, you insert the hook right into the middle of the little “v” in the previous row. This creates a sturdier texture that is really great for getting the basket to stand up on its own.

I also feel I’ve discovered my favorite yarn proportion for bottom vs. sides: 1\3 yarn for bottom, 2\3 for sides. That is, if you have 3 skeins, use one for the bottom and two for the sides.

I’d love to try making my own t-shirt yarn, but I’m not convinced it would be a good use of my time. If I give it a go, I’ll be sure to let you know!

Alpine stitch little cardigan

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So how am I countering this never-ending heatwave (and the tension in the south of the country)? Naturally, by making cozy and warm things that will come in handy when it’s finally cool and the rain comes and we all go looking for puddles.

I just finished another little cardigan for Hadassah. Once again, I started with a basic open raglan in double crochet and continued with the lovely textured Alpine stitch for the bottom part and sleeves – I used this free tutorial from Heart Hook Home, and by the way, I’m just so grateful to the lovely people who take the time to make video demonstrations of all those interesting stitches that really take crochet to the next level. When I started with crochet, there was no YouTube yet and all I had was my mom and grandma (which was great) and a stack of magazines that were older than I was. So today I’m like a kid in a candy store, with new tutorials, patterns, and ideas available at a click anytime, anywhere.

I do wish I could make the sleeves a bit longer, but I ran out of yarn and decided it would be too much of a hassle to order more. Still, it should be nice and warm.

I worked with worsted weight alpaca yarn blend similar to this one and a crochet hook number 4.

So what next? So many projects planned and some in the making! I will definitely share soon.

Throwback to summer

Every year, there’s this time when we get cooler weather and rains and go through clock change, and I pack away the summer clothes and bring out long-sleeved t-shirts and sweaters. Then after that, we get a spell of brutal, scorching,  dry heat that feels like something is constantly burning in my nostrils. This year is no exception.

So I’ve been staying mostly indoors, and when I’m out I don’t do much more than hang out with my chickens and treat my poor plants to frequent showers. On the left, you can spot a young papaya plant in a cage because the chickens tend to pluck its leaves away.

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Being inside means less heavy-duty cooking and more fun kitchen experiments. Below: a bowl of freshly peeled almonds (tip: to peel easily, pour boiling water over them and let them sit for five minutes). I wanted to make almond butter, but because the texture wasn’t smooth enough, they ended up in what I called Accidentally Almond cookies.

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Walking with the kids in the park nearby, on one of the cooler evenings.

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I can’t wait to have some refreshing rain (though I’m not much of a rain person) to wash away all the dust and grime and give us fresher air.

Textured toddler crochet pullover

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The following post is sponsored by LoveCrafts, the go-to place for all things yarn

I was reorganizing my closets about a week ago and, to my astonishment, discovered that Hadassah (19 months old) has hardly anything for cooler weather. It was really extremely surprising because generally, the little ones get so many hand-me-downs in great condition that I am forced to weed through them.

Anyway, I realized that I might not have many little sweaters, but I do have lots of yarn and endless fun patterns to try! So I decided to start with an easy thick baby cotton pullover incorporating this fun textured stitch I like to call the hourglass stitch (I have no idea what it’s commonly known as; I found the diagram in one of my vintage Russian magazines, a treasure trove not even Pinterest can compare with).

I started with a basic top-to-bottom open raglan, one of the most useful patterns I know. I knew I couldn’t make a tight pullover because Hadassah hates having her head squeezed through, so I opted for a few buttons at the back.

A shot of the buttons:

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Once I was done with the raglan part, I started working round and round from top to bottom down the body and sleeves. The hourglass diagram is as following:

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I know I’m repeating myself here, but being able to read a diagram is one of my most useful crochet skills ever. Dot = chain, the little t’s are sc, the long lines are dc, and the mushroom-like hooked things represent front post double crochet (I only had to do front post, not back post, because I was working in the round).

Now on to making more cozy cool weather goodies!

Helpmate vs. Enabler: Discerning the Difference

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“And the Lord said: it is not good for a man to be alone. I will create a helpmate for him.”

The actual Hebrew words for helpmate here are “ezer k’negdo”, meaning “a helper against him”, which creates a sort of cognitive dissonance: how can a helpmate be against one?!

There are many interesting tractates on this verse, but an explanation I find beautiful in its simplicity is as following:

Consider marriage as a seesaw. If two people sit on the same side with one always attached to and behind the other, the seesaw won’t move. It will only function if the other person steps over to the opposite side, creating a dynamic balance.

The image of the wife as a helpmate evokes a beautiful picture of a godly and hardworking man and a woman who stands behind him and supports all his endeavors. So far, it’s all sweet and simple. But the Torah doesn’t just exist to guide us in simple situations. It is universal and everlasting.

Consider the following scenario: a husband becomes addicted to video games. He is perpetually glued to the computer screen and refuses to turn away from it even at mealtimes. Instead, he demands that his wife should serve him sandwiches which he can eat while playing.

If a wife is supposed to always defer to her husband, she will serve him those sandwiches out of misguided respect and submission. Does this make her a good helpmate? Nope, it makes her an enabler of bad behavior.

A real helpmate will tell her husband, respectfully but in no uncertain terms, that he will get no assistance in his destructive habits from her. She will refuse to support his addiction and will insist on a normal functioning family.

The Jewish sages have written, “A good woman does her husband’s will”. Does this mean that a wife simply caters to her husband’s every whim? No, that would be doing them both a disservice. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with complying with a reasonable request (“could you make pea soup for lunch, please?”), but what if the husband says, “I don’t want you to visit your parents anymore, ever again”? In that case “doing the husband’s will” would mean encouraging good tendencies, turning his will towards positive things (like making him understand that he cannot cut his wife away from her family).

We are all imperfect flawed human beings walking the bendy road of improving and growing, in the hopes that when we finally meet our Creator, we will be able to testify with a clear conscience that our time in this world had not been in vain. Living in a marriage is one of the ultimate hardcore tests of this personal growth (but that doesn’t mean one should put up with abusive patterns for the sake of “personal growth”). Even if you love your spouse and have a healthy, loving marriage, it’s easier to live alone than together, to make one-sided decisions rather than work as a team.

No one can be charged with the impossible task of changing one’s spouse because real change can only come from within. However, it is not healthy, loving, godly or spiritual to bend to character tendencies that are clearly flawed. Being a good helpmate does not always mean going the route of minimizing conflict. It does not mean complying with laziness, rudeness, disrespect, irresponsibility, or passive aggressive behavior.

In my case, the most obvious way such misguided rigidity of principles manifested was the area of our family finances. I believed that my calling was to close my eyes and cling to my husband on his end of the seesaw, even as our family was freefalling into a bottomless pit of financial crisis. I believed I was supposed to act and think like my husband’s decisions about money were the Voice from Mount Sinai, rather than what they were: human reasoning that could, and often WAS, flawed. He might not have liked to admit it, but what he, and my children, really needed was not for me to keep “trusting” his reasoning even as I reached deep into the corners of the freezer for some leftover flour to make a loaf of bread with. My job back then, though it took me way too long to recognize, was to jump on the other side of the seesaw and call out, “Hey, this isn’t working! We have to figure out something different!”

It sounds less nice than “I trust you implicitly and you are the supreme hero of the universe and I’m backing you no matter what you do because that is my spiritual calling”. But sometimes having another’s back means giving them what they NEED, rather than what they want. And what our entire family needed was for me to be more proactive about earning money and handling finances.

This didn’t happen overnight or without some sharp growth pains (which included some serious ego-deflating, because if you have never been held accountable in your life and suddenly you are, it might not fly very nicely). But it is definitely happening and our lives are so much better for it.

Slouchy beret in double crochet

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So the crochet spree is still going on? You bet it is, with switching to winter time and the resulting long dark evenings. And what can be more fun and rewarding than making something you can whip up quickly to wear the next day?

I had long wanted one of those cute slouchy berets, and I had some deliciously soft velvet yarn sitting in my stash, calling out, “pick me up and do something with me” – so I did. By the way, it turned out a lot more economical than I thought it would. I only used one 100 gr skein of the navy blue yarn and a bit of grey for the flower. Which leaves me with plenty more yarn to make matching berets for my daughters! Hurray!

There are lots of fancy hat patterns out there, with cables and ridges and bobbles and swirls, but I soon realized it’s better to go for the simplest way when working with this yarn, which is as snuggly, warm and floppy as a newborn kitten.

The basic free-form instructions to make a beret go like this: start crocheting a circle and, increasing the number of stitches in each round, create something like a flat pancake the size of a dinner plate (give or take).

Crochet one round without increasing. Then begin decreasing at the same rate you were doing the increase on your last row. That is, if you were adding a stitch every ten stitches, start decreasing every ten stitches by skipping a stitch. Try on your beret from time to time. Once it fits on your head to your liking, make a few rounds without increasing or decreasing for the brim. I made the main body of my beret in double crochet and the brim in single crochet for a snugger, denser feeling fit.

You can add a flower like I did – there are lots of fancy ideas out there, but I just did something basic: make a slip knot and work double crochet stitches into it to make a snug circle. Then make the petals by working alternately 3 DC in one stitch, 1 SC in next, and so on.

Secure your flower by weaving the loose ends into the brim of the beret.

 

Snuggly puff crochet poncho

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Autumn, with cooler, shorter, rainy days has come even to our warm corner of the world, and what can be better to celebrate this change of seasons than a new warm cozy poncho (crocheted out of upcycled merino wool with an alpaca trim)? It feels like wearing a snuggly blanket and making it was pure delight.

I kind of winged it and don’t have an exact pattern precisely because it’s such a basic, easy garment. Essentially, if you know how to make a granny square, you can make a basic poncho. 

Start by creating a chain and joining the two ends together, making a circle. This will be the head opening so don’t make it too tight. Make a row of double crochet around the chain, adjusting your number of stitches so that it’s a multiple of 4.

Divide the number of stitches by 4 and, at the end of each quarter, create a corner as you would when making a granny square and crocheting from the center. Once you have your corners established, that’s it! You just keep adding, and the possibilities are endless. I used a freestyle combo of V-stitches and puff V-stitches for a bumpy textured look.

Once you have made your poncho as long as you like, return to the beginning and start working upwards from your foundation chain to make the cowl neck. I used this vintage pattern for mine:

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In the end, if you have some leftover yarn, you can choose to make a fringe like I did. There are several methods for making a fringe, and I chose the simplest one I could find. I love fringes for the cute boho look they give and for their ability to make a garment visually longer with very little effort and comparatively little yarn.

With some creativity and daring, you can make your own original cozy poncho. Happy crafting!