Whimsical mandala crochet top

Latest creation

If you are an improvising crocheter like me, you may easily figure out how to construct this simple crochet top, based on two circles in the front and back and attached with triangular panels on the sides. I had something a little different in mind when I started making it, but overall I’m pleased with the result – perfect to wear over a tight-fitting black or white tee.

This is the second top I’ve made with Camilla Cotton Magic by Ice Yarns, and it won’t be the last. I just love this yarn – 100% mercerized cotton with the tiniest bit of shine. It doesn’t tend to split, glides so nicely on the hook but still gives a good grip, and comes in a range of gorgeous variegated colorways. I used the colorway Blue Shades.

A close-up of the central motif

This is fingering weight yarn, my favorite – delicate enough for a lacy top but not too thin to work with comfortably.

Now on to the next project!

Summertime crochet mess

Wanna know what it looks like when you have so many crochet projects you want to follow up with, but your bright and lovely summer just gets too busy?

Pillow cover in the Alpine stitch
Scrap yarn headbands waiting for ends to be tucked in
Parts of a top in an original design I devoutly hope is going to work.

OK, so I might have gotten a little sidetracked. But I promise not to start anything new until I finish these!

P.S.: I’m using Camilla Cotton Magic for the top and Chenille Baby Light for the pillow cover, both by Ice Yarns.

Should she ask her husband’s permission to buy a new dress?

Photo by Marcus Silva on Pexels.com

A question that appeared in one of the Shabbat leaflets I read: “My sister is getting married. I want a new dress for the weddin, but my husband says we can’t afford it. He manages all our finances so I kind of don’t know if it’s true. What should I do?”

The answer (in many more words) was approximately, “Try to explain to him how important this is to you, but if he still says no, submit to his opinion.”

Oh boy. So much to unpack here. I see at least two big problems with the situation above.

I don’t know the financial situation of this family and I don’t know what type of dress she wants to buy. If it’s a super expensive designer dress, then maybe “can’t afford it” is a thing. But if she just wants something new to wear, she can find cute dresses at about $50.

And if she has to ask permission to spend $50, then, Houston, we have a problem.

Whether she works and earns money or not, if she and her husband are on a footing of a daddy and his teenage girl who’s begging for some spending money, it’s not a real marriage partnership. When two adults are married and manage a household together, neither of them should beg and plead to buy a dress or a pair of shoes.

Does this husband, I wonder, consult his wife when he buys a new toolbox or a gadget for his car? Somehow my guess is that he doesn’t. So that’s the first problem.

The second, and perhaps more serious one, is that she has no idea what goes on with their finances. She doesn’t know how much money they have or how much is too much to spend.

Maybe she entered this arrangement willingly because she doesn’t like to handle money, finds bills and taxes tedious, etc. Entirely understandable. But this, again, puts her in a childlike position, depending on Daddy’s discretion.

The other possibility is even more sinister. This woman may have been manipulated and gaslit to such a degree that she no longer trusts her judgment regarding whether their budget can support a new dress.

Either way, I think the advice she got was stupid and dangerous. It confirms her situation of dependence, and it ignores the very real possibility of something bad going on.

If I could speak to this woman, here’s what I would say: it’s totally normal to have role division. It’s normal for one spouse to do the lion’s share of bills and bank account statements. But since you are an adult, you should still have at least some idea of your finances and how much money you have in the bank. Otherwise, you are making yourself extremely vulnerable in an event that, say, the husband gets sick and can no longer handle the finances.

Second, if you can’t spend $50 at your discretion, raise a giant alarm, because something here isn’t right.

Crochet Bolero and Elegant Metallic Cotton Yarn Review

It’s summer! Time for lemonade, popsicles, and crochet with warm-weather yarns like cotton and silk.

My latest creation, this spider stitch crochet bolero, was made following the charts here, but with a simple shell border. The beauty in crochet charts is that, if you read them, you can totally transcend all language barriers for so many gorgeous patterns.

This was my first time making a clothing item that isn’t worked top-down. This pattern calls for making the individual pieces (back, front, sleeves) and sewing them together. It was intimidating for me at first, but I was so pleased with the fit that now I want to make another one! It’s perfect for wearing over summer tops and dresses, and the pattern works up super quick.

back

I used Elegant Metallic Cotton by Ice Yarns, in light blue. My daughter chose this yarn for its pretty metallic sheen, but let me tell you, many times throughout the project, I was ready to throw down my hook in frustration. This yarn has a unique texture, almost braided-looking, and the individual threads kept snagging and pulling. It also has practically zero stretch and works up pretty stiff.

If I had to do it again, I’d recommend this yarn for projects like bags and totes, and use another type of cotton yarn for this pattern, like Camilla Cotton Magic.

Coping with freelance writing ebb and flow

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Every freelance writer knows that workflows can (and will) shift. One day, you have a steady trickle of work. Then you’re buried in an avalanche of projects that looks like it will keep you busy until next year. And a month later, you sit around wondering where your next gig is coming from.

I’ve been a content writer and editor for several years now, and I’ve mostly been very, very lucky to find extremely steady, reliable, and reasonable clients. Still, like everyone else, I get my highs and lows. Sometimes I put my foot down and say my work-at-home-mom schedule is as full as I’d like it to be, and sometimes I apply to new job listings.

When you’re sending applications and work/money isn’t coming in as fast as you’d like it to, and the electricity bill is due this week and your kids have outgrown all their shoes, it’s easy to panic. So here are my top five tips for those slow days/weeks.

#1. Don’t panic. Remember the time when you started from scratch? It was probably more difficult than whatever you’re facing now. If now you have a portfolio of work and some experience under your belt, you’re ahead already. Jobs are out there. You just need to land the right ones.

#2. Budget. It’s tempting to splurge when you’ve made a bundle on a big project, but if you have an unstable income, the smart move is to lay aside as much money as you can every month. You can also implement two types of monthly budgets: one for lean months, and one for periods when you can allow yourself some more financial leeway.

#3. Do useful stuff. Brush up on your resume. Make or update a spreadsheet of your earnings over the past months. Set your office in order or even give your house the nice deep clean it has been desperately needing. Vacuum your car. Take care of all the little things you never have time for.

#4. Expand your knowledge. Niche writers are in high demand. If you take the time to dive deep into a specific topic (whether it’s cryptocurrency or herbal remedies), you may gain an edge over your competitors. There are free courses you can take to learn more about interesting stuff you’ve always wanted to explore.

#5. Do your thing. Enjoy some peace and quiet while you can. Go on a hike or a picnic with your kids. Dig into personal projects, like getting your garden in shape or repainting your kitchen cabinets. During my latest slower period, I was able to finish editing and (finally!) publish my new historical fiction novel, Queen of Ophir.

Finally, it may be time to sit down for a re-evaluation. If waiting for work and juggling clients is too stressful, maybe you should look into a position that is less flexible but more secure. But that’s probably a topic for another post.

Peachicks and incubator woes

Newly hatched peachicks

What can be worse than finally getting hold of some long-awaited and valuable eggs, only to have your incubator go bonkers on you in the middle of the hatch?

Yup. The trusted old incubator finally fluked, at the worst possible moment. Of course we did a test run, as always. But sometime about a week before due hatching date, I was horrified to discover that the thermostat went crazy and the eggs overheated. Then the temperature dropped. Then shot up again. We managed to stabilize it in the end, but still, only three eggs hatched out of the seven I was anxiously watching. I counted myself lucky, considering everything.

The problems didn’t end there. One of the peas had the worst case of curled toes I have ever seen. Luckily, fixing the toes in proper position with a bit of cellotape helped. I wish I had taken photos – I was so relieved to see that chick standing and walking!

I’ll post more updates on the progress of these little guys soon, hopefully.

Crochet Nightfall Shawl and Malabrigo Silkpaca Yarn Review

Nightfall Shawl in Malabrigo Silkpaca

You would think that now, barely a week and a half before Passover, wouldn’t be a likely time for me to complete a crochet project. But the truth is, I’ve had this shawl at about 90% done for a while and decided to make an effort and complete it so I could wear it during the holiday.

And, of course, so I could get to talk about the absolutely delicious yarn I used for this project – Malabrigo Silkpaca.

Draped over the sofa

This was my first time working with Malabrigo. I’ve been ogling their yarns for a long time but balked at the price. However, eventually I decided that I can and should use nice yarn for two reasons.

One, I’m not a high-volume crocheter. Definitely not the type of crafter who completes a huge afghan in a couple of weeks. Working on this shawl took me around two months. Since it required two hanks of Silkpaca, that’s one hank a month – something even a budget crocheter like me can deal with. Also, if I invest so much time in a project, it makes sense to use the best yarn I can afford.

Two, I love thin yarns, so I get more bang for my buck, weight/price vs yardage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not immune to the allure of a chunky squishy worsted. But I live in a warm climate and therefore naturally gravitate towards lightweight, lacy, thin garments. Crochet creates a denser fabric than knitting, so a laceweight yarn like Silkpaca was just perfect for my project.

When I shared my plans for this project in my crochet group, someone doubted that two 50 gr hanks, a total of 100 gr, would be enough. As you can see, this is a nice-sized shawl – not a scarf or a little shawlette. That’s the advantage of working with lace and fingering weight yarns. You get a super nice yardage that really goes a long way.

What can I say about this treat of a yarn? It’s everything it promises to be. Nice to the touch, springy, slightly shiny, with a very very light fuzz. It’s 70% baby alpaca, which means it’s deliciously soft and 30% silk, which lends its strength and sheen to the yarn. Perfect for shawls, lacy scarves, and other diaphanous projects. And, of course, it comes in the gorgeous Malabrigo color palette.

I used Hollyhock, which is a solid color, but you don’t get really solid effects with Malabrigo, since it’s a kettle-dyed yarn. You get subtle variations, which are impossible to see in the photos. Personally, I think they add to the interest of the project.

Drawbacks? I can think of two. One, Silkpaca is a two-ply yarn, and it tends to split a bit. And two, because of the slight fuzz, this yarn is a pain to frog, so just pay extra attention when you work with it.

Pattern closeup

Finally, choosing the perfect pattern for this lovely yarn took me nearly as long as making the shawl. I wanted something lacy but not too busy, clean and crisp openwork that would showcase the beauty of the yarn. Then I came across the Nightfall Shawl pattern by Sylwia. It was made just for what I had – two hanks of Malabrigo Silkpaca. Bingo!

Sylwia offers a free version of the pattern, but being a girl who learned to crochet with vintage Soviet magazines, I had to have a chart, so I purchased the PDF pattern. Well worth the investment. I altered the border slightly and am extremely happy with the result.

I believe the future definitely holds more projects in Malabrigo Silkpaca for me. Also, once you try their yarns, you’re a fan. I purchased a few hanks of their other offerings to try them out, and once I do, I’ll review them here.

Happy hooking!

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