Monday, August 31, 2015

Flowers for the Winner

One giveaway, 39 entries (via comment and email), and many kind messages. Thank you again. And thank goodness for Random Number Generators - much quicker and easier than tearing up lots of little slips of paper, writing a name on each, and looking for an impartial hand to pull one out of a bowl.

(Insert drumroll.) And the Flowery Giveaway winner is.... Number 11, CJ from Above the River! If you've never read CJ's blog, hop over and check it out. She takes beautiful photos and writes thoughtful posts about her allotment, life, family, makes, and more.
Congratulations to CJ, and again, a great big THANK YOU to all of you!


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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Binding Off Knitted Projects with a Crochet Hook, Part 2: Suspended Bind Off

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This series was developed for crocheters who knit,
and for knitters who have never bound off with a hook.
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Welcome back to our series on using a crochet hook to bind off knitted projects. In Part 1, we discussed some basic terminology (crochet yarn over vs. crochet yarn under), recommended hook types and sizes, and introduced the Basic Crochet Bind Off.

This week we're going to expand our skills and tackle something slightly more advanced: the Suspended Bind Off.

All yarn overs / yarn unders are made crochetwise.


Suspended Bind Off

The Suspended Bind Off is really just a Basic bind off with a "delay" built in: after binding off a stitch, you keep it on the needle while you bind off the next. Doing this keeps your tension more even, and builds in a bit of controlled stretch.

Here are some of the features of the Suspended Bind Off:
  • Looks like a Basic bind off
  • Slightly stretchier than a Basic bind off
  • Has an even, more relaxed tension
  • Good choice for stitchers who want a basic bind off but struggle with tight tension
Why it Works: Holding (or suspending) the previous bound-off stitch on the needle preserves the loop size, so it can't be accidentally tugged or tightened while the next stitch is bound off. Because you have to reach around the suspended stitch to form the next stitch, the loop you draw up for the next stitch will be a little longer, producing a slightly larger stitch (which in its turn will sit safely on the needle while you make the next stitch).

Working the Suspended Bind Off with a hook is very similar to working it with two needles. Because both hook and needle are in constant use, either stitching loops or holding them in suspension, there is no way I can see to minimise the steps involved.

The Suspended Bind Off is not difficult, though it can seem a bit awkward at first (especially to a beginner-intermediate knitter like me). But once you get a rhythm going, you'll find it's like a dance between hook and needle, loop and loop.

Suspended Bind Off Video Tutorial

Shows how to knit and purl the Suspended Bind Off with a crochet hook.



Photo Tutorial

Suspended Bind Off for knit stitches:


Suspended Bind Off for purl stitches:

(If transitioning from knit to purl, move the yarn to the front of the work.)


Note on the Purled version: It seems to be less stretchy than the Knit version, though this may be due to my own inconsistencies of tension. I couldn't find any tutorials online that demonstrated a Purled Suspended Bind Off, so I worked out a technique for myself. If you have any information on purling this bind off, I'd love to see it! :)

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Next week, in Part 3, we'll tackle Jeny's Super Stretchy Bind Off, or JSSBO. (I know I promised it for this week, but I changed my mind and decided to focus on one bind off at at time.)

Until then, happy knitting and crocheting and binding off!

If you have any questions about this technique, please feel free to ask using the comment box below.

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P.S. If you haven't yet entered the Flowery Giveaway, click on the button below to read all about it. Giveaway is open until midnight (US CDT) Sunday August 30, 2015.


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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rides and Walks and Flowers and Barns....

Once again, the weeks have gotten away from me. Work and family commitments (and more work) have made blogging time scarce, even as the photos continue to pile up. So here are three weeks' worth of rides and walks, with scattered thoughts on the weather and the passing of time.

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Short Tuesday Ride

The gloriously dry heat has turned a bit sticky, but the sun still shines from a summer-blue sky.

A spot of bright fuschia-pink catches my eye - the first ironweed of the year:

Common Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)

Just across the road waves a field of feathery goldenrod:


I used to associate goldenrod with autumn, and would get a bit depressed at its appearance in late July. Somehow, this year, it has ceased to bother me. I think I've finally realised that though the summer flies by so quickly, winter will pass quickly too. The seasons and years are beginning to march in double time, disappearing over the horizon almost before they've arrived. A sign, I suppose, of encroaching age....

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Cloudy Friday Ride

The air is thick and threatens rain. I pass clumps of wild cucumber, climbing and sprawling over the edge of a field:


A mile from home I stop to snap this blushing bit of creeper:


Then the clouds open. In a minute I'm soaked, but happy that we're getting some sorely-needed rain.

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A Walk to the Post Office

The back road to the village PO runs through what some might call waste land. (I call it charmingly undeveloped, and hope it will stay that way for a good long while.)

On one side of the road is a vine-adorned fence that serves to keep a small factory within bounds:


Growing on the curb is a kind of plant I've never been able to identify (until now):


It's Four-o'clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea). I've seen this species on bike rides in other summers, and have been mystified by what I took to be green flowers. The blossoms are actually pink, but only come out in the late afternoon. Sometime I hope to see them in bloom.

Also on this road grow Fleabane, like clouds of tiny daisies:


Spotted Knapweed, invasive but delicately lovely:


Don't the buds look like little aliens? :)


Goldenrod with a colour-coordinated insect:

Pennsylvania Leatherwing Beetle

A clump of tiny Whorled Milkweed:


Also spotted on this walk: Flowering Spurge, Hoary Alyssum, Sweet White Clover, White Snakeroot, and Sumac. I do like taking the back way to the Post Office....

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A Long Tuesday Ride

The day is gorgeous, hot and sunny and blue-skied. I decide to photograph mainly barns and buildings, a subject somewhat neglected in this wildflower-minded summer.

An old barn with a cupola, shrouded in trees:


A feed mill, looking like a circus of the prairie:


A green barn, blending in with its surroundings:


Bright red-and-white barns, and a silo topped with a bird:


On the other side of the barns, cows turn to look as I take their photo:


Then it's up, up, up a hill so steep I can photograph the shadows cast by my spokes (a sign of how slowly I'm climbing):


On the way down the other side, two border collies come rushing out at me, circling and wanting desperately to herd me to the side of the road. I do not take their photo, being too busy trying to avoid a dog-bike collision.

The road takes me past a windmill farm...


...beneath which sits a perfectly glorious red barn, adorned with a painting of flowers:



Then around a corner and down a steep, curving grade into the valley. The descent would be perfect were it not for cars coming unexpectedly around corners and straying into my lane....


Then up again to the high prairie, past fields of corn, under clouds like a trail of wandering footprints across the sky:


Miles later, a favourite white barn with pigeon-decked silo:


And a clump of Sweet Joe-Pye Weed too beautiful to pass up:


A long, relaxed ride on a beautiful summer's day.

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Sticky Saturday Ride (with Mr. M)

Some true mid-August weather - hot and horridly sticky. Mr. M and I take off in the morning before the heat becomes too intense. The air is moist and the sun glares, making photos look overexposed and a bit misty.


Close encounter on a country corner:


Mr. M eventually turns for home, but I stay on the road to put in a few extra miles. On a steep, curving climb, I reach a welcome patch of shade and stop for a photo of the deep-green field below:


Red clover blooms at the side of the road:


A few miles on, corn and power lines march down the valley:


Back on the outskirts of town, purple loosestrife glows in the morning sun:


A satisfying morning ride.

That brief spell of extreme heat and humidity didn't last; now, in the last week of August, temps have turned unseasonably cool. I do hope we get more summery weather before the first frosts strike in September....

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The Great 2015 Wildflower Count is coming on apace - 124 varieties spotted so far. Every time I think I've seen all the flowers there are to see, I spot something new. What a wonderful world.

What's wonderful in your life right now?

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Binding Off Knitted Projects with a Crochet Hook, Part 1: Introduction and Basic Bind Off

I’m a crocheter first and a knitter second. Moving yarn with a hook is second nature to me; manipulating it between two needles is not. So when it comes to binding off, a process which involves slipping loops off needles and through each other, I naturally turn to my hooks – because slipping loops through other loops is what a crochet hook does best.


Many knitters and crocheters are aware of the standard crochet bind off (see tutorials below), but did you know that almost any knitted bind off can be worked with a hook? And that using a hook can reduce the number of steps involved?

In this series we'll take a look at several popular bind offs and “translate” them for use with a crochet hook. If you’re a knitter who’s never bound off with a hook, or (like me) a crocheter who knits and would like to expand your bind off repertoire, give these methods a try. You’ll be surprised at how straightforward they can be, and you'll gain the skills needed to adapt any knitted bind off for use with a crochet hook.

Note: The purpose of this series is not to rate or compare bind offs, but to encourage stitchers to try something new. This series does not address sewn bind offs.

Some Important Preliminaries

1. Yarning Over and Yarning Under

Yarn over, yarn under - does it really matter which way the loop goes? YES! The way the loop is twisted directly affects the appearance and performance of the completed stitch. Yarning over (or under) in the wrong direction at the wrong time can produce a tight, twisted stitch - which can turn a stretchy bind off into a strangled bind off.

All yarn overs/yarn unders used in this series will be made crochetwise.

So what's the difference between a crochet yarn over and a crochet yarn under? How do they compare to a knitting yarn over?
  • To yarn over in crochet, start with the hook in front and the yarn in back. Move the tip of the hook under the yarn, then up and behind it. The yarn should wrap over the hook from back to front.
  • To yarn under in crochet, move the tip of the hook over the yarn, then down behind it, then up towards you. The yarn should wrap over the hook from front to back.
A knitting yarn over is the same as a crochet yarn under. Is your head spinning yet? :)



2. Type of Hook

An inline hook is a good choice for binding off.

What is an inline hook? A hook with a straight throat and a non-bulging head. Your knitting needles don't have bulges at their tips, and neither should the crochet hook you use to bind off your knitted projects. You want a hook that can slip easily and smoothly into the loops on your knitting needle.


3. Hook Size

Use a hook the same size as, or smaller than, the knitting needles you used.

If your hook is too large, your bind off may be sloppy. If you're worried that a small hook might create a tight bind off, practice relaxing your tension. Experiment to find the best hook size for your project.

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Basic Crochet Bind Off Video Tutorial

This video shows you how to knit and purl a basic crochet bind off, and how to safely frog your bind off in case of mistakes.



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Basic 
Crochet Bind Off Photo Tutorial

To bind off knit stitches:

1. Insert hook knitwise into first stitch, and knit the stitch (yarn under, pull a loop of yarn through knit stitch from back to front; keeping loop on hook, slip knit stitch off needle):


2. Repeat with the next stitch. You should now have 2 loops on your hook.
Draw the second loop through the first loop. You should now have 1 loop on your hook:


Repeat step 1 with the next stitch (now you'll have 2 loops on your hook again), then draw the second loop through the first loop (back to 1 loop now). Repeat across knit stitches until all are bound off.
  • To minimise these steps: insert hook knitwise, slip stitch off needle, yarn UNDER and draw through both loops on hook (see video for demonstration). Be careful to maintain relaxed tension.

To bind off a purl stitch:

Assuming you already have a loop on your hook....

1. With working yarn in front of work, insert hook purlwise into stitch.
2. Wrap yarn from front of hook to back of hook (yes, this is a yarn under, but instead of scooping the yarn with your hook you'll probably wrap it with your finger or "throw" it in some way).
3. Push the hook up and backwards through the stitch, taking the yarn with it.
4. Slide the loop off the needle.
Draw second loop through first loop (sorry, no photo for this step).

  • To minimise these steps: insert hook purlwise, slip stitch off needle, yarn UNDER and draw through both loops on hook (see video for demonstration). Be careful to maintain relaxed tension. (Note: Yarning under with the yarn in front is a bit awkward - you may need to grasp the yarn with the fingers of your left hand in order to wrap it properly before drawing it through the loops.)
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Next week, in Part 2, we'll take hook in hand and tackle something a little more advanced: the Suspended Bind Off and Jeny's Super Stretchy Bind Off (JSSBO). So swatch up a bit of knitting, and don't forget to practice those crochet yarn overs and yarn unders.

Until then, happy knitting and crocheting!

P.S. Don't forget, the Flowery Giveaway is open until Sunday 8/30/15. Click on the button below to enter.


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Monday, August 17, 2015

A Flowery Giveaway

Thank you.

Thank you for visiting, for reading, for commenting, for emailing. Thank you for letting me into your lives, and for being a part of mine.

You're the quiet friendly presence in the background of my thoughts; the encouragement to write something when I'd rather bury my head in a book. You're the constant unseen companion on every walk and ride; when I pull the camera out of my pocket to snap a barn or a flower, I think of you. You're the cheering section for my design efforts, the sounding-board for my crochet geekery, the inspiration to keep making and connecting.

When I look at a map, I see more than states or countries. I see places where friends live, and wish I could visit them all.

Thank you.

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A little pile of gifts has been growing on my desk. When I sat down to write this post, I realised that they all had something of the planty-flowery about them. (Quite unintentional, but not surprising, given the trend of my thoughts this summer.)

There's a lovely yarn called Magnolia, which I bought for its softness and its fresh leafy colour. A big raspberry-red button. Two adorably casual flowered plates (by "casual" I mean "plastic"). And a pale-green tea towel embossed with vegetables.


All these delights could be yours! To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below.

  • If you're a "No-Reply Blogger", or if your online profile does not include an email address, make sure there's a way for me to reach you.
  • If you can't leave a comment because you don't have an online profile, send me an e-mail (see my profile for the address) with "Flowery Giveaway" in the subject line.

This giveaway is international, and will close at midnight (US Central Daylight Time) on Sunday August 30th. The winner will be announced on Monday, August 31st.

Good luck, and again, thank you!


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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Oodles Scarf ~ Crochetscene 2015

Last November, when Interweave Crochet sent out a submissions call for Crochetscene 2015, one of the storylines started with these words: "We know you sit in front of Doctor Who feverishly crocheting Daleks. Send us your out-of-this-world designs that embrace your inner nerd."

Who could resist a call like that? Not this crocheter! Almost immediately the idea for the Oodles scarf was born:

Background photo copyright Sue Perez. Inset photo copyright Interweave Crochet/Harper Point Photography; used with permission.

Inspired by a favorite alien species, Oodles can be worn all kinds of ways: as a casual cowl, a ceremonial sash, a cozy scarf, or a multi-wrapped neck warmer for those chilly interstellar nights. Thread the tendrils through the crochet “wormhole” for maximum effect, or let the wavy ends blow free in the solar winds. (This lovely bit of deathless prose excerpted from my submission blurb.)

Crochetscene is a special issue aimed at newbie crocheters, but with projects suitable for all skill levels - so designing for it is always an enjoyable challenge. My goal was to create a fun project using only the simplest stitches, and I think Oodles fits the bill.

Photos copyright Sue Perez

Just three stitches - chain, single crochet, and double crochet - are combined in back-loop only and front-loop only rows for delicate texture and maximum impact. At one end, the scarf narrows before bursting into a flurry of Ood-like tendrils; at the other end is a "wormhole" through which the tendrils may be threaded to take the scarf from flat to infinity.

Threading the tendrils through the "wormhole"....
Photo copyright Interweave Crochet/Harper Point Photography.
Used with permission.

What else can you find in Crochetscene 2015? Let's ask Marcy Smith, the editor: "Here’s a quick overview of the features in this issue, designed to empower newbie crocheters and engage advanced crocheters: Get Your Geek On features innovative designs that embrace our inner nerds. Fresh Takes has wonderfully stylish projects to wear anywhere. Siren Song is our oooh-la-la section, with lacy delights that maybe you can’t wear just anywhere. For when there’s a nip in the air, we have a range of accessories in Another Layer. Our DIY Bag feature has instructions for mesh bags in several sizes. And just for fun, we have a non-crochet Yarn Play section."

Click here to see all the fun projects in Crochetscene 2015.

Copyright Interweave Crochet/Harper Point Photography. Used with permission.

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What are you crocheting (or knitting or weaving or beading) these days?

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Week of Rides

Saturday Morning (on which Mr. M and I participate in a small MS benefit ride)

It's a treat for me to be riding with Mr. M today. Once a serious cyclist, he's spent years battling the after-effects of a brain tumor and, later, a pulmonary embolism, which together have made riding very difficult. The effects have not gone away, but he has worked hard to get back on the bike and slowly build up his mileage.


And we're off! This ride attracts all sorts and ages of riders: fast, slow, young, old, middle-aged, hobby, serious. (Mr. M and I belong to the slow, middle-aged, and hobby categories.)


The day is warm and the weather changeable; at times the air is very thick and humid, making some of my photos rather blurry. (But a blurry photo is a chance to play with photo-editing effects - which will, I hope, explain some of the pictures seen below.)

Our course takes us through lovely rolling farm country - what Astri might call "bucolic". ;)


Double shadow shot!!


An intermittent wind provides refreshment (and clearer photo ops):


The course is well-marked, and there are several rest stops for the hungry or thirsty:


Mr. M shows me a cool way to stand up our bikes - and for the rest of the morning the song "Lean On Me" plays in my head. :)


Here is one of the littlest riders, very thoroughly kitted out:


Getting ready to take off for the next leg, I hold Mr. M's bike while he makes a pit stop. I look down to see our handlebars nestled together, and the sight is somehow symbolic:


The changeable day clouds up, then clears again as we ride between green-and-gold fields. Red barns and tractors, and colourful cycling jerseys, make splashes of colour:




At the second rest stop, Mr. M chats with another survivor: a cyclist, who looks to be in his 70s, and has lived through a stroke and a heart attack. He told us he gets up at 4:30 every morning to ride.


The third leg of the ride takes us into Amish country:




On the last leg we pass a gal in a recumbent who's pedalling with her hands - possibly because her legs no longer work due to MS? Her companion's jersey reads "Attitude is Everything".


This is why we are riding.

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It seems somehow appropriate that on this day, for the first time in over 21 years, Mr. M rode 33 miles. It may not sound like much to a seasoned cyclist, but for Mr. M it was a huge breakthrough. I am so proud of him for persisting all these years: for keeping up his stretching and static exercises when he couldn't ride or even walk more than a block, for taking short walks whenever he was able; for getting back on the bike even when he could only go a mile or two; and for overcoming his fears, his permanent double vision, impaired hearing, chronic fatigue, and irreparable lack of balance, to keep trying to do the cycling he loves. He may never be able to recover quickly from physical exertion (he spent the rest of the weekend sleeping and eating and sleeping again), but now he has the hope of becoming a little stronger than he's been in decades.

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Tuesday Morning

It's a gloriously hot and sticky day - the kind of day when I look back the cramped, grey, chilly rides of early spring, and feel grateful for summer and the chance to get honestly sweaty.

Blue Vervain are growing near a marsh - the bushes are taller than I am, tipped with small green-and-violet spikes of bloom:


A few feet away grows a plant I don't recognize, with white clusters of bud just beginning to open. Research reveals it to be Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), a plant used in traditional Native American medicine to treat fevers:


Miles on, I pass a stretch of gorgeous double-blossomed pink Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis):


Waves of wildflowers break against a wall of corn...


...which in its turn breaks against a wall of trees.


Swallows make picturesque dotted lines on the telephone wires, but whenever I take out my camera they panic and scatter:


A pleasant summer ride.

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Friday Morning

The humidity of the early week has cleared; today is a day of boisterous wind and deep-blue skies.

The first walnuts are falling, a sure sign of what's to come:


I pass patches of a plant I don't recognize at all. The wildflower databases are no help, though a stray reference makes me wonder if it could be some kind of hemp. Can anyone ID this plant for me?

Check out the Very Large Beetle hiding in the leaves just above these words!

A favourite barn:


Curves (and Queen Anne's Lace) ahead!


Today's ride is an out-and-back, with the turnaround point at a local lake. Iris rests against the barrier while Tallulah and I climb down to the gravelly shore and revel in the wind-whipped waves.




The air is fresh and invigorating; hot in the sun and cool in the shade. Miss T poses for a few photos, but the lighting does not, alas, favor her delicate complexion. (It doesn't help that the camera wants to focus on the wrong subject. The trials of turtle photography.)


We spy some new-to-us blossoms growing nearby:


Even to Mrs. M's uneducated eye, it seems obvious they belong to the Aster family. And so they do: research at home identifies them as Parasol Aster, or Flat-Top Aster (A. umbellatum).

A wonderful (though short) ride on a gloriously beautiful day. Here endeth the riding report for July.

Current wildflower count: 116

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A happy August to you! What are your plans for the last weeks of summer? (Or winter, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere?)

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