Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Laurel Leaf Scarf ~ Free Crochet Pattern & Tutorial

Way back in 2010, I was contacted by a small publishing company and asked to contribute a crochet pattern to an e-booklet, the proceeds of which would benefit the Los Angeles Mission. This was the result:

The Laurel Leaf Scarf

Now, two and a half years later, the e-booklet is no longer available and the publishing contract has expired - so I'm happy to offer the Laurel Leaf Scarf as February's free pattern.
(If you do make this scarf, would you consider also making a small donation to the charity of your choice, to honour the pattern's original intent? It's entirely up to you, of course.)
Enough business. Let's talk crochet!

The Laurel Leaf Scarf is lacy and quick, and very easy to make. It starts as a long central band (complete with handy spaces along its length just begging for a decorative edging), and finishes with a single round of linked chains and triple-crochet-cluster leaves, with picots for extra beauty.

We'll start with a simplified chart, then move on to the crochet shorthand pattern, and finish with a video tutorial and instructions in plain English.

Size: 60" x approx. 4" (may easily be made longer or shorter by changing the length of the core band)

Yarn Requirements:
About 200-225 yards of a Medium (#4) weight yarn
(Pattern will work with any weight yarn, but width will be different depending on yarn used)

Yarn(s) I Used:
Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe, color Grape
Yarn Bee Princess, color Ballgown

How Did the Yarns Behave?
Both my yarns were on the bulky side of medium, which made for a more substantive scarf. Bamboo Ewe is delightful to work with - silky-soft and drapey - but can flatten out dreadfully if wet-blocked. If using this yarn, spritz lightly to block. Yarn Bee Princess (chosen for a friend with possible wool allergies) is a craft-store yarn with a soft cushiony hand and a subtle shiny filament running through the twist. It stands up well to wet-blocking (as seen in this post).

Hook Size:
(Blogger hangs head in shame and reluctantly admits that she can't remember what hook sizes she used.)
Choose a hook size that is appropriate to your yarn.
Tip: Make a small swatch to determine best hook size(s). You may want to switch to a smaller hook for the border.

All crochet terminology is American.

Special stitches used:

Stretched 3-triple crochet cluster (st3tr-cl) - *Yo twice; insert hook in ch-4 sp, yo, draw up loop; yo, draw through 2 loops on hook (twice). Repeat from * twice more = 3 partial triple crochets (4 loops left on hook). Yo, draw through 2 loops, yo, draw through all 3 loops on hook.

Picot with hdc (always made on top of st3tr-cl): Ch 3. Attach to top of cluster with half-double crochet (RS facing, yo, insert hook from front to back under top 2 strands of  cluster; yo, draw up loop, yo, draw through all loops on hook).  This stitch may feel awkward at first, because you're twisting the hook down, back, and to the right to get under the strands, but you'll soon get used to it.

Laurel Leaf Scarf Charted Pattern

Please note: See pattern below for instructions on linked leaves.

Laurel Leaf Scarf Crochet Shorthand Pattern

Scarf Core:
Ch 7, join with sc in first ch. Ch 4, turn. Dc 2 in sc, sc in ch-7 sp. *Ch 4, turn. Dc 2 in sc, sc in previous ch-4 sp. Repeat from * until you reach desired length.

Alternate band for heavier yarns (optional): Replace ch-4s with ch-5s and use treble crochets instead of double crochets.

Leaf Edging:
First Leaf: Ch 5. Do not turn; you will be working down the side of the scarf. In next ch-4 sp, st3tr-cl,  picot w/hdc (see Special Stitches, above), ch 5, sc in same ch-4 sp. First leaf complete. RS now facing; all leaves will be made with RS facing.

Second and remaining (Linked) Leaves: **Ch 1, sc in next ch-4 sp. Remove hook from yarn loop, put tip of hook from front to back through previous ch-5 leaf sp, and insert hook back into loop. (Or you can slide yarn loop to the base of hook, put base of hook from back to front through the ch-5 leaf space, and slide yarn loop back up to top of hook.) Working with ch-5 in front of hook, ch 2, then bring hook with yarn loop under and just to the right of the ch-5; ch 1, catching ch-5 in stitch; ch 2 (5 chains total). St3tr-cl in same ch-4 sp, picot w/hdc, ch 5, sc in same ch-4 sp. Linked leaf made.**

Repeat from ** to ** until you reach the end of the scarf. Make 2 linked leaves in the beginning ch-7 sp (be sure to ch 1, sc between them), then continue up the other side of scarf, making 1 linked leaf in each ch-4 sp until you reach the other end. Make 2 linked leaves in ch-4 sp at end of scarf, ending with picot of second leaf.

Finishing: Attach the final leaf to the first leaf as follows: Cut yarn, leaving a 10-12” tail. Ch 2. Holding working yarn behind scarf, insert hook from front to back between next ch-5 and next cluster. Sl st around ch-5. End of yarn is now behind work. Pull yarn end through the ch-5 space to front of work. Ch 2; sc between final sc of band and first cluster of border. And you’re done!

Tie off, weave in ends, and block scarf (blocking will tame those curly leaves.) Enjoy.

Laurel Leaf Scarf Video Tutorial with Instructions in Plain English

Be sure to read "Special Stitches" above before starting pattern.

Scarf Core:

Chain 7, join with single crochet in first chain.
Chain 4, turn. Double crochet 2 in single crochet, single crochet in chain-7 space.
*Chain 4, turn. Double crochet 2 in single crochet at base of chain-4, single crochet in previous chain-4 space. Repeat from * until you reach desired length.

Alternate band for heavier yarns (optional): Replace chain-4s with chain-5s and use treble crochets instead of double crochets.

Leaf Edging:
First Leaf: Chain 5. Do not turn; you will be working down the side of the scarf.
In next chain-4 space, make a Stretched 3-treble cluster,
then a picot w/half double crochet (see Special Stitches, above),
chain 5,
single crochet in same chain-4 space.
First leaf made.

This is the right side of the scarf; all leaves will be made with the right side facing you.

Second and remaining (Linked) Leaves:
**Chain 1, single crochet in next chain-4 space.
Remove hook from working loop, put tip of hook from front to back through previous chain-5 leaf space, and insert hook back into loop. (Or you can slide yarn loop to the base of hook, put base of hook from back to front through the chain-5 leaf space, and slide yarn loop back up to top of hook. See video #2 if you find this hopelessly confusing.)
With chain-5 in front of hook, chain 2, then bring hook with yarn loop under and just to the right of the chain-5;
chain 1, catching chain-5 in stitch;
chain 2 (5 chains total).
Make a Stretched 3-treble cluster in same chain-4 space,
picot w/half double crochet,
chain 5,
single crochet in same chain-4 space.**
Linked leaf made.

Repeat from ** to ** until you reach the opposite end of the scarf.
Make 2 linked leaves in the beginning chain-7 space (don't forget to chain 1, single crochet between the 2 leaves), then continue up the other side of scarf, making 1 linked leaf in each chain-4 space until you reach the other end.
Make 2 linked leaves in chain-4 space at other end of scarf, ending with picot on the second (or final) leaf.

Attach the final leaf to the first leaf as follows:
Cut yarn, leaving a 10-12” tail.
Chain 2.
Holding working yarn behind scarf, insert hook from front to back between next chain-5 and next cluster.
Slip stitch around chain-5.
End of yarn is now behind work. Pull yarn end through the chain-5 space to front of work.
Chain 2;
single crochet between original single crochet and original cluster.
And you’re done! :)

Tie off, weave in ends, and block scarf  (blocking will tame those curly leaves.) Enjoy.

You may do whatever you like with the items you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or re-post the pattern.

Thanks for viewing, and happy crocheting!

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tracks in the Snow

Another up-and-down weather week, ending with a much-ballyhooed snowfall on Thursday and Friday - which was built up by media frenzy to sound like the coming of another Ice Age, but turned out to be an easily-shovelled 3-5 inches. (This is Wisconsin. It snows here every February. Why such an excess of alarm?)

Today is sunny and beautiful, and the thermometer reads a warm 35º when I take off for my walk.

The snow has a soft, chastened appearance, as though beat down by sun and warmth to the realization that its days are numbered.

This tree is already thinking of spring. Tiny leaf buds like picots line its twigs:

Tracks are everywhere today. Fresh kitty tracks on the snow-covered marsh...

...cat AND bunny tracks on the trail:

Mini snow golf, anyone?

Next I see the handprint of what appears to be an amateur photographer:

And a beauty of a pawprint (another cat I think), with what looks like a star in the center:

Next, some bird tracks which puzzle me. Too small to be turkey, so my next guess is pheasant - or maybe quail? Google says no to either of these when I get home and search. What other gallinaceous birds run wild in Wisconsin?  Another quick search yields grouse. Bingo!

The tracks are lovely and ribbon-like:

Day-old deer tracks lead the way through the trees...

...following a trail which ends at some very recognizable tracks. Wild snowmobiles have been this way lately - a pack of them by the looks of it:

Shadow shot!

Tired grasses drape over a fence:

Across the field, white birches stretch lacy arms upwards to catch the sun:

At their feet, more tracks. Cat on the left, and I have no idea what made the two types of prints on the right:

These tracks I recognize instantly...

...as those of the Adult Female Blogger.

Just next to my feet are some wild turkey tracks, but the lighting is wrong and I can't get a good shot. (You'll have to imagine them.)

Energy levels are running low, and the antibiotic I took with lunch is rampaging through my digestive track causing panic and distress in the local inhabitants. Just a few more photos and then I'd better head home.

Detail of a favourite river birch:

An irresistible (to me) goldenrod:

And bittersweet, still shining brightly even after months of winter:

On the way home, I hear sweet birdsong above my head, and look up to see where it's coming from. Three blackbirds fly out of a tree and land on a telephone wire:

Perhaps they can see spring from up there.


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Thursday, February 21, 2013

From Blah to Blithe

Here is the opening paragraph of this post, as originally written Thursday morning:
I hate taking antibiotics. It makes me feel vaguely guilty - as though, by getting sick, I've somehow let myself down. Asking my doctor for a prescription is like an admission of defeat.
The green-and-white flag of surrender.

The post went drearily on from there, to talk about how draggy I've been feeling, how far behind I am on blogging and crocheting and blog-reading, the guilt of not having posted since Sunday, etcetera, etcetera.

Good thing I didn't click that "Publish" button.

Here is the new opening paragraph, as written Thursday evening:
I can't say I enjoy taking antibiotics, but I'm so very grateful they're available. It's really quite amazing what those little tablets can do. Gone are the wearisome weeks of fatigue and lassitude; just two doses in and I feel like a new woman.
My heroes!

Isn't that a much better beginning for a post? :)


Being under the weather has made me think about how differently we all respond to minor illnesses.

For example: When I'm ill, I lose interest in pretty much everything. If I had my druthers, I'd curl up in bed and sleep, shutting out the world until I felt better again. In the intervals of sleep, I'd lie there and think of nothing, or read a comfortable book. And drink a lot of tea. Tea-drinking must be the human equivalent of licking wounds - or my equivalent anyway.

Of course I don't give way to these desires (unless I have something serious like influenza). Life must go on and woman's continual work be done. But certain things do fall by the wayside: blogging, blog-reading, crochet, crafts, conversation in the home. My creativity goes into a temporary coma, and I tend to withdraw into myself. I suppose you could call it suffering in silence. (Not a noble silence - just the silence of someone who has temporarily run out of things to say.)

Mr. M, on the other hand, acts as though he's dying whenever he gets so much as a cold. With many a loud groan does he attest to his misery, and - never mind. 'Nuff said. (I dare not be more explicit than this. Though he doesn't read the blog, you never know when he may decide to start.) I suspect his response to illness is similar to that of most men.

How do you respond to mild illness? Are you the stalwart type who soldiers through, cheery to the last, refusing to give in? (And how I admire you if you are.)

Or do you long to curl up and let the illness have its way until things get better again?

Do tell.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

An Icy Walk

Last Sunday, it rained all day. I can walk happily in falling snow, and even in sleet or freezing rain. But regular rain dropping on snowy ground makes for a miserably sloshy experience, so I stayed in and crocheted and watched the makings of a giant ice rink form in the driveway. (At this time of year, when the ground is frozen, rain simply pools and turns to ice once the temperatures drop at night.)

A few almost-spring-like days followed, with pale-blue skies and racing clouds and a hint of seasonal change. Then the temperature dropped back into February (it was zero when we got up this morning).

Today the sun is shining on our icy world. The snow is compacted and crunchy; the air is a bitter 20º. (How is it that 20º feels positively balmy some days, and other days very uncomfortable? Must be something to do with humidity levels.)

On the way to the railroad grade trail, the fenceline is paralleled by snowmobile tracks:

A few hundred yards down, a group of maples is covered with samaras that shiver and susurrate in the wintry wind.

(Susurration - such a lovely word, and so difficult to work into everyday conversation. But in a blog post one can say anything.) :)

To my right can be seen many shades of the season: icy pale blue of frozen water, rich champagne of dried grasses, bright rose of red-twig dogwood, softest brown of leafless trees, eternal dark green of pine (or spruce)...

...all framed by bare black branches. It's a gorgeous day.

Wires hug a post at the corner where two fences meet:

Pines in silhouette against a sinking sun:

At my feet are tiny dried flowers (knapweed, I think):

Oak leaves have sunk into the snow's crust. I carefully peel one out to reveal a leafy little snow angel:

Now here's a most unwelcome sight:

End of the line for Mrs. M, who would love to disregard the signs and keep right on, but whose conscience will not allow it. (Why doesn't she feel this law-abiding when it comes to speed limits?)

On my way home now, with the sun behind me. The north-eastern sky is palest pink at the horizon and turning these larches to priceless lace:

(At least I think they're larches.)

Tiny black specks dot the snow at my feet. I look up to see where they might have come from, and find these:

Overhanging the path is a tall bush, covered with clusters of what look like miniature pine cones. (Some kind of berry?)

The sun is getting very low indeed. Just one more shot of a sloping fence on a snowy field with a beauteous tree outlined against the drowsy sky...

...then home, where soup ingredients sit shivering in fridge and freezer, simply longing for a pot and a hot stove.

Wishing you all a lovely week filled with sunshine and warmth.

~ ~ ~

P.S. Following Anne's example over at andamento, I have widened my blog a bit so as to have room for larger photos. Does it fit your computer screen, or do you have to scroll sideways to see the sidebar? Your feedback will be appreciated. :)

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine

I met Mr. M in a roller rink, of all places. He was an employee there, and I a frequent customer. One evening, as I was skating around, he ran into me - though if you ask him what happened, he'll tell you I ran into him. Either way, I fell for him - literally. It didn't take long for him to ask me out, and the rest, as they say, is history. Four years later we were tying the knot and rolling happily away together (in a car this time) towards the unknown future.

By the grace of God, that knot is still tied, and we've lived out our marriage vows to the fullest. Better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health: we've had them all. For a long time now it's been more sickness and less health (and even less money), but still we manage to enjoy life together. Thirty-two years since I met him, almost twenty-eight since I married him, and Mr. M is still my favourite person and my best friend. If I could choose to spend a day with anyone on earth, I'd choose him.

Two quotes come to mind when I think of our life as it is today. The first is by Maria von Trapp: "We're not poor - we just don't have any money." The second is by L.M. Montgomery: "...It don't never matter how poor you are as long as you've got something to love."

Happy Valentine's Day, Mr. M. I love you.

~ ~ ~

And Happy Valentine's Day to all of you!

Who is your favourite person? (It need not be a spouse or lover.) How did you meet?

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Decadent Hot Chocolate for the (Moderately) Lactose-Intolerant

I was never a milk-drinker as a child, but I always loved hot cocoa. So when the Micawber household gave up cow's milk some years ago (to spare the lactose-intolerant Micawber tummies), I thought we'd have to give up rich hot cocoa too. Rice milk, and the coconut milk beverage we now prefer, are good on cereal and adequate for cooking. But they fall short of cow's milk in terms of flavour and mouth-feel, yielding a disappointingly thin-tasting cocoa.

Then last winter a chocolate brainwave struck. Mr. M and I may be lactose-intolerant, but we can consume any amount of heavy whipping cream without noticeable ill effects (lucky us!). Why not use cream in our non-bovine cocoa to give it some body and richness? And ... double brain wave ... how about using chocolate chips instead of the usual cocoa powder-and-sugar base?*

Thus a simple recipe was born. Rich, chocolatey, and not too sweet, it's hot cocoa for grownups. (Though you may certainly add marshmallows if you wish). I have no idea how many calories or fat grams it contains - and frankly I don't care. This is drinkable dessert in a cup. :)

Decadent Hot Chocolate for the Moderately Lactose-Intolerant

For each 10-oz mug, you will need:

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream**
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 oz. milk substitute of your choice (or cow's milk for those who can tolerate it)

Bring cream to a boil in small pan. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips, whisking until completely smooth.

Whisk in milk or milk-like fluid :). Return to stove and heat until steaming, stirring frequently.

Pour into a beautiful cup, and drink in the chocolatey richness.

Have a sip!

Minty variation: use a peppermint stick or candy cane in the mug for stirring.

~ ~ ~

*I can thank my sister for the chocolate-chip idea.
**Try to find cream without stabilizers or preservatives - Dean's is a good clean U.S. brand.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Out the Kitchen Window #2

Beyond the curtain it falls
arrow-straight to the
frozen ground

Hands plunged into soapy water,
I watch the snow
and feel warm

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reinforcing Jeans

Who can find a pair of jeans that fit? For they are more precious than sapphires. Therefore guard your jeans and keep them in good repair.... 

One night, Mr. M pointed to my hip and said, "What happened to your pants?" (I can't imagine why he was looking at my hips but he seems to make rather a habit of it.)

Turns out my jeans were ripped. A favourite pair, weary with long years of service, they had given way at a weak spot right next to the back pocket. I could have thrown them into the scrap pile, but was unwilling to give them up, because they - prepare to be astonished - actually fit. (At waist and hips!)

Desperate times call for desperate measures; time to get out the sewing machine and brush up on my Jean-Patching Philosophy:
  1. Do not trim loose threads, but leave them in place to preserve as much as possible the original weave of the fabric.
  2. Use soft old denim to patch soft old denim. (There's a Biblical precedent for this.) I never throw away jeans, but keep them in my fabric stash to use as patches and potholder backings.
  3. For an inconspicuous repair, place the patch on the wrong side of the fabric.
  4. Don't try to eliminate the hole completely; instead, provide a solid backing slightly larger than the hole, and make sure the jeans, and any loose threads, are securely attached to it. The backing will then carry the strain of wear.
And now for some exciting photos:

The embarrassing tear.

Scrap denim to the rescue!
Cut on the bias as an experiment
(to avoid having to zigzag the edges),
it worked out very well.
If you cut your patch on the
straight grain, be sure to finish
the edges, or they will fray.

The two stitches I use for patching:
1. 3-step zigzag
2. Normal zigzag

Slide the patch under the hole,
and pin if necessary.
Use 3-step zigzag to outline the hole,
then switch to regular zigzag.
Make a few passes up and down to

secure the patch and any loose threads.
(Or you can make several passes
using just the 3-step zigzag.)

Trim excess patch fabric, leaving
at least 1/4" margin all around.

Note: This is not a "pretty" patch job, but a very functional one. I didn't worry too much about the thread showing, because I usually wear these jeans with a long shirt that covers up the patched area. For a nearly invisible patch, use grey or even black thread.

As long as I had my machine out, I decided to tackle my jeans' badly frayed inner thighs, choosing bias tape for a thinner, more comfortable patch.

Holey thighs, Batman!

Cut a strip of bias tape long enough
to cover the frayed areas.
First stitch it to the jeans' seamline...

...then zigzag the edge of the bias tape
to the seam allowance.

Now for some 3-step zigzagging along the outer edge
of the frayed area, then regular zigzagging
to hold everything together.

Look, ma! No more loose threads!

Extreme close-up, showing how the black thread
practically melts into the denim.

A bit of follow-up: these photos are dated October 4, 2012, making this patch job 4 months old. The jeans are still going strong (in fact I'm wearing them as I type this).

Use it up, wear it out, make it do - and patch when necessary. This will postpone the misery of shopping for new jeans. :)

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