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.

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.

Crochet simple ribbed hat in Malabrigo Rios: yarn review

Why would I make a winter hat when it’s April and the next cold day is months away around here? Simple: I finally got my hands on a beautiful hank of Malabrigo Rios, and I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Malabrigo refers to Rios, a worsted weight 100% superwash merino, as their “workhorse yarn”. Once I started my project, it was easy to see why. This is a smooth, even yarn that rolls easily into a ball, doesn’t tangle, has a marvelous stitch definition, and slides through your fingers nicely as you work with it. If you make a mistake and need to rip out a few rows, you can do that easily. And, of course, being a Malabrigo and superwash yarn to boot, it comes in a beautiful range of variegated and solid colors.

Now let’s talk a bit about the drawbacks – or, I should rather say, the specs that make a specific type of yarn more suited to one project than another.

I wanted to make a hat for my son. What I had in mind was an interesting cabled pattern with tons of texture. However, about midway through my project, I realized that, a) my chosen colorway, Playa, looked a tad too busy with cables, and b) the cables seemed a little flat. I wish I had taken pictures, but since I hadn’t, you’ll just have to take my word for it. I did not achieve the satisfying bouncy, squishy cables I got in my other hat projects.

It turned out I wasn’t alone. Another crafter who had made beautiful hats in Malabrigo Rios complained of the cables not holding up too well. Her project was knitted and mine was crochet, but it still prompted me to seek more feedback.

This was my first time working with superwash merino. After reading up a bit, I realized that superwash merino yarns have their strengths and weaknesses. In a nutshell: the superwash treatment removes some of the scales on the fiber surface. This results in a sleek, smooth yarn that offers more drape than body.

I switched gears and decided to rework my hat into the simplest pattern I could find. It’s literally nothing but a crochet rectangle, all worked in single crochet in the back loop and then seamed and cinched at the top. It came out very simple and neat, and the all-ribbing structure gives it a nice stretch.

So would I recommend Malabrigo Rios? Working with it was a treat. However, if I purchase more Rios (or Malabrigo Arroyo, its sport weight version), I will probably earmark it for a project where drape matters more than bounce, such as a cardigan or a shawl.

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!

Super simple headbands

This season, I’m challenging myself to use up the yarn I have in my stash rather than keep drooling over delightful new yarn I’d love to order. So far, I’m pretty proud of myself. I’m fitting my stash into a compact storage space, I’m making useful things, and I’m being creative.

I’ve discovered headbands as a terrific way to use up half a skein of yarn (or less) when you don’t have enough for a hat. Headbands are cool accessories, work up quickly, and can function as earwarmers. They make great gifts or items for a craft booth when you need to make something quick.

My girls love their headbands and keep asking for more, although personally I’m ready to move on to more interesting stuff. These are literally simple rectangles, done in SC in the back loop, and sewed using the Simple Twist Headband method (look it up on YouTube).

Mini Cable crochet winter beanie

Latest creation

If you don’t know what to crochet, a beanie is always a good idea. Hats are practical, work up quickly, are very forgiving of mistakes, and allow much room for creativity.

This hat is very similar to my Winter Sun crochet beanie – worked from the brim up – but done in the mini cable stitch with spaces of one back post double crochet. I used some old anonymous yarn from eBay, similar to this one – single ply in DK weight and 3 mm crochet hook.

I loved making it and the little recipient enjoys wearing it!

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