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!

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!

The sea glass journey

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Following my latest post, I would like to elaborate a little on the sea glass analogy – how the process of roughing it we all go through in life will, ideally, smooth our prickly edges, sand down any uncomfortable bumps, and turn a tossed-off shard of glass into something new and beautiful.

This doesn’t happen, however, without the waves hurling and swirling the piece of glass, throwing it against the sand and rocks at the bottom of the sea.

Again and again. You can bet it isn’t always comfortable. You can bet it hurts.

When we just start out in life, we tend to be very optimistic, very driven, a bit naive, and extremely opinionated (a typical example is teens looking down on their parents and thinking they are so much cleverer and understand things so much better). This also, naturally, makes us a little unforgiving.

That’s why I love old people. They’ve seen it all. They have a much more balanced view on life. They have the wisdom that only comes with experience.

In my case, the opinionated thing manifested most strongly in the family model I yearned for: wife at home, homeschooling the dozen children and baking bread. Husband working diligently to provide for the family. Everyone enjoying the mutual fruit of these labors in harmony, peace, love, and respect.

You know what, I still happen to think it’s a really, really good model and it’s absolutely wonderful when it works. I envy people for whom it did. But though I did always nominally acknowledge it might NOT work, I was a little in denial of how often it actually doesn’t.

That’s why, when we were hit with a period of unemployment, then another, and another, then lost our house and a humongous sum of money – all due to decisions in which I had little to no say – I got myself sick with worry and stress.

My thought process at that time went like this: “It shouldn’t be this way! My husband should be more diligent about providing for the family! He should be more careful with money! The people who owe him money should step up and repay the debt! It isn’t fair!”

Let me tell you something, it can drive you crazy, thinking and talking about things others should and MUST be doing differently, while you can do little to nothing to influence them. It makes you feel small, helpless, and anxious, not to mention resentful and bitter.

To make matters worse, for a long, long time I was held back from even attempting to improve the situation by my own misguided beliefs: that by offering constructive advice, let alone actively attempting to earn money for the family, I would be humiliating my husband and expressing my distrust in his leadership. I refused to acknowledge that my husband was just a man, with fallible thinking just like mine, and that ALL of us sometimes need a tug in the opposite direction to balance us out.

That’s the true meaning of the “ezer k’negdo”, by the way: it’s usually translated into English as “helpmate”, but it’s so much more than that. It’s “k’negdo”, meaning, on the opposite side. The wife who is a perfect submissive helpmate that enables her husband’s failings is not much of a helpmate at all. The REAL helpmate gets on the other side of the seesaw to throw her weight there and get things moving. She offers balance!

So as I wore myself down with anxiety, I wasn’t really a piece of sea glass yet. I was just a prickly shard stranded on a rock somewhere, crying about how life wasn’t going the way it was supposed to. At some point, however, I realized I have two choices: I could either retain my nature as the sharp glass shard by being stuck on that rock and getting nowhere, or…

… I could roll with the waves and let the water and sand smooth me out.

I could rant and rave about how my husband should try harder to find a job, or I could look at employment options myself.

I could grumble about the way my husband managed the family finances (pouring money into risky ventures, lending to untrustworthy people who never repaid the debt, etc), or I could become more proactive about managing my own bank account (I always had my own, but for many years it just sat inactively).

I could keep being inflexible, stubborn and unforgiving, or I could learn some kindness, maturity and humility and realize that sometimes, things just don’t work quite the way we want them to.

I made the choice. I jumped into the waves and let them start shaping me into a lovely, smooth piece of sea glass.

Today, I live in a safe, comfortable place where my children and I have all necessary facilities within walking distance. I still garden, bake and raise chickens, but I also work and pay the bills. I have accepted the fact that I can’t expect anyone, not even my husband, to take care of me, because I choose to be a mature adult woman rather than a woman-child held hostage by her own beliefs.

I have also realized I actually like the piece of sea glass, smoothed and rounded at the edges by the waves and coarse sand it had had to endure, much better than the original glass shard, which was pretty and flashy but would cut anyone who came too close. Oh, and it was much more brittle than it realized, too.

Is my journey done? I sincerely hope not! Life is a dynamic thing. I can only try my best to move upward.

Light cotton crochet cardi

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In a final crafting spree before the Feast of Tabernacles, I finished this light cotton cardigan in the picot fan stitch. I worked from the top down, following this tutorial, and then added a harmonizing border around the edge and sleeves.

I used a beautiful, soft, drapey bamboo and cotton blend and crochet hook number 2.

I look forward to wearing this during the balmy Sukkot evenings.