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.

Building a financial safety net

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When I was younger, I argued that maintaining a full-time career while what you would really like is to stay home with your children – not out of immediate necessity, but out of concern for possible future happenings such as illness, death, or divorce – is akin to living your life out in a bunker instead of being out in the fresh air and smelling the flowers.

In the meantime, I was doing something that was more like walking the tightrope without a safety net underneath. I had moved to a remote, inaccessible area without reliable transportation means, counting on my husband to always provide for our family and effectively making sure that, in the foreseeable future, I would not be able to contribute to the family income. Having no car and no driver’s license, I depended on my husband entirely for every errand and every little grocery store purchase (there being no facilities within walking distance at all).

I didn’t realize it back then, but I was setting myself up for some pretty unpleasant consequences should something go wrong.

Those who have been following my blog know what happened next: over the course of a few years, unemployment, underemployment and unwise financial choices had brought us to a full-blown crisis, while I couldn’t do much more than wring my hands and try to cope with anxiety and panic attacks. I did do some remote work, but even that was extremely difficult with patchy network access.

While I’m still a big proponent of making decisions out of love, not fear, and while I don’t regret for a second being a stay at home mom to my children (which in fact I still am), I would give my younger self one piece of sound advice:

Make sure you have a safety net. Don’t travel down a road that gives you no possibility to do a U-turn in case the you-know-what hits the fan. This doesn’t mean you are a wimp or lack faith. It’s simply common sense.

If I were to break it down into practical points, I would tell her:

1. Keep on building up your credentials even if you think you won’t be needing those. You never know.

2. Think twice (maybe more like ten times) before you move to an area where you would have extremely limited mobility and no services. Even if it’s your quintessential rural dream with rolling hills, olive groves, and herds of goats. If you purchase a house, take into consideration how easy or difficult it might be to sell it later on.

3. While role division in marriage makes perfect sense for many occasions, two heads are better than one. For a long time I used to think I’m displaying loyalty and trust towards my husband by leaving everything concerning the family finances entirely in his hands. In fact, I was doing none of us any favors. My husband was fallible, as was I. Neither of us was perfect in any regard, but it’s always so much worse when you feel pressure to do what is “right” rather than what works practically.

4. Build up your savings. That’s a tricky one with zero income, I know! But in case you come into some money, like after selling a house, stash some away right away and don’t allow it all to be frittered on stuff like food and rent (ask me how I know).

I guess it all boils down to this: don’t put yourself in a situation where you are disproportionately, entirely dependent on another person for all your basic needs. Even if that person is your spouse. Do not place yourself in a situation where you would be unable to help yourself if need be.

I have a friend whose husband, a really nice, hardworking man suffered an accident on the job and has lost his livelihood. Insurance doesn’t come up to scratch. He is undergoing a long and grueling process of physical rehabilitation. However, my friend is keeping afloat because she lives near supportive family and there’s every necessity readily available in the vicinity. The you-know-what has certainly hit the fan for them, but they had not placed themselves in a situation where they wouldn’t have the tools to cope.

I shudder to think what would have happened to me in a similar situation a couple of years ago. I would be left stranded in the boonies with a bunch of tots, unable to help my husband or my children or myself. I count myself lucky to have been able to move to a better, safer place.

Being safe doesn’t mean being a wimp. On the contrary, the wimpy choice is sticking one’s head in the sand and refusing to consider tomorrow.

Cozy cabled crochet beanie

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The cozy winter hat for Israel is done, and I love how it turned out! This was my first attempt at two nifty crochet techniques, namely the stretchy slip stitch ribbing and the cabling (which also involved mastering the front and back post double crochet). It was incredibly fun to learn and I love the texture I got! I followed a wonderful, very clear tutorial from All About Ami almost exactly, except that I found a matching pompom in my stash rather than making my own.

I used lovely, irresistibly soft single-ply merino yarn and a crochet hook number 3.5. Working with single-ply yarn was another novelty for me, and it certainly does come with its own challenges. The yarn doesn’t hold up its structure as firmly as three-ply, and doesn’t take kindly to ripping out (which almost inevitably happens in a row or two when learning a new technique). But the softness and beautiful sheen were just lovely.

I hope Israel wears this hat with as much pleasure as I had making it.

PS: Did you mean to ask when I had the time to do this in the middle of the High Holidays prep? I kind of wonder myself! It was a fantastic way to relax and feel I’ve accomplished something at odd moments here and there, that’s for sure. I wish all my Jewish readers Shana Tova and a wonderful year ahead.