Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Trick for Improving I-Cord Tension

Here's a little teaser for my upcoming I-cord series....

I-cord made with knitting needles or a crochet hook often looks like this:

Tidy front, laddered back

The standard treatment for laddered I-cord is to tug firmly at both ends to even up the stitches. Let's see how that works:

After tugging: stitches are even, but tension is poor

Is there a way to make firmer I-cord without using a special gadget? Yes. You can try working more tightly. You can switch to smaller needles or hook.

Or you can use this simple trick:

Starting at the bottom, hook up the ladder-like strands,
one at a time, into an extra column of stitches.


Firmer I-cord

Mind the Gap: Using this trick creates a hole at the starting end of the I-cord. Stay tuned for a full tutorial that will show you how to bridge the gap.
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Monday, March 5, 2018

At Last

My cycling season ends in November, when dreary days and cooling temps make me glad to hang up the bike for the winter. December is too busy and cold even to think of riding.

It's usually January when the cycling urge begins to stir, with sudden memories of past rides flickering at the edges of thought. The longing grows with the lengthening days of February, and, when the calendar turns to March, becomes acute.

Once the roads are clear of snow and ice, the wait begins in earnest for a modestly warm day, preferably sunny and windless, and free of prior engagements.

Sunday afternoon meets nearly all the requirements: low 40s, bright and clear, morning church over and done. There's a biting east wind gusting to 23 miles per hour, but what is that to a road-starved cyclist hungering for the first mileage of the year? So Tallulah and I head out joyfully for a glimpse of 2018 from the saddle.


Almost the first thing we see is our own familiar shadow:

A shot of Miss T, who forgot her cycling helmet and is sporting a stylish winter hat:

We see pale fields resting under a late-winter sun...

...and find to our sorrow that a favourite barn has disappeared, leaving only a stone foundation behind:

Iris the bike renews acquaintance with a local bridge while I take pictures of the stream:

The wind loses its bite once we turn away from it and head back towards town.

We take one last photo - a well-loved scene of barns and trees and deep, deep blue sky:

A mile or two more, and we're home.

The first ride of the year is not only exciting, but symbolic. It meands that winter's back is broken; warmth and life are returning to the land; a year of unexplored roads awaits.


March in Wisconsin is notoriously changeable. Yesterday the sun shone, but tonight we have blizzard-like conditions. The next ride may be weeks away - but for now, this one is enough.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Report

I've been working on my Live-Loop cable book for what feels like forever, though really it's been less than a year. I wish I could say the end is in sight, but I'm not sure I've even reached the end of the beginning. There's a slowly growing pile of pretty projects completed, but many more to go. And after the designing, swatching, and crocheting of samples, come charting, pattern writing and revision, chapter writing, photography, layout.... (Whoever said "Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint" was a very wise person.)

The process may be slow, but it's been fun so far, and I've learned all sorts of unexpected things along the way.

Like how to make circular cables:

And use I-cord as both foundation and edging for crochet:

And new (to me) non-slanting stitch combinations for working in the round:

And how single crochet in its various forms makes a beautiful background for Live-Loop cables:

A few of these discoveries are reserved for the book, but many of the others will be featured here on the blog in the months to come.

Stay tuned for an I-cord series in March!


Have you ever participated in the making of a book? Any words of wisdom to share?

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Monday, February 26, 2018

A Rather Short Walk

Winter's resurgence was short-lived. Thanks to temperature swings, ice storms, rain, and plenty of wind, the snows of early February have been slowly disintegrating into sodden, icy heaps. The earth is still too cold to absorb all the runoff, so fields are sporting large, unofficial skating rinks where water has pooled and frozen.

Sunday was so beguilingly sunny and mild (37 F! break out the shorts!) that Mr. M and I took a drive to a small park on the Fox River, where we hoped to walk a section of the Ice Age Trail.

We were surprised to see so much open water:

Mr. M crossing a branch of the river:

And there's the ice we expected to see:

We crossed the empty park and slithered down an icy slope to find the trail living up to its name:

Ice Age indeed....

Mr. M turned back at this point, but I went a little farther in hopes that the trail might clear.

By the side of the path was a fallen tree, covered in green moss and tiny shooting stems of rust-color:

The path turned left, crossing a wine-dark stream bordered with pale dry grass and reddening dogwood...

...then led into a frozen marsh, where icy puddles predominated. Time to turn back.

One last glimpse of the still-partly-frozen river:

Then into the warm car and home.

On the drive back, we saw some sandhill crane in a field. The wild geese are coming back too, and little birds have singing like anything the last few mornings.

Signs of an early spring? We'll see.


How's your weather?

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Filigree Hearts ~ a Free Crochet Pattern with a Fun New Technique

Just in time for Valentine's Day, here are two quick little projects trimmed with a technique I call Filigree Crochet. A simple twist of the hook and creative yarn placement is all it takes to make loop-the-loop picots and filigree hearts with smooth curves and forward-facing chains:

Basic Clockwise Filigree Loop

Filigree picots can loop either clockwise or counterclockwise, but today's patterns use only the clockwise loop. If you'd like to practice, here's how it works (photos below):

Photo 1: Chain 9 (2 for the base and 7 for the loop).
Photo 2: With top strands of chain facing forward, and working yarn held behind, rotate the tip of your hook clockwise, while twisting your wrist as though you were turning a key. The chain will twist with the hook to form a loop.
Photo 3: Keeping working yarn behind the chain, insert hook through the back loop and the back bump of the second chain.
Photo 4. Slip stitch by yarning over and drawing through all loops on the hook. Chain 2 more, and stop to admire your Filigree picot.

To join the Filigree Loop to a single crochet, insert the hook downwards through the front loop of the stitch and the left vertical "leg" (see photo below).

To join to a double crochet, insert hook downwards through the front loop and the next angled horizontal loop just below the front loop.

Joining to single crochet (left) and double crochet (right)

To anchor a smaller, already-completed Filigree picot inside a larger picot (as I did with the pale pink Filigree Hearts Square), find the center stitch of the smaller picot. When you're ready to join the larger loop, first insert the hook through the back loop of that center chain stitch, then through the stitch you're joining to. (I hope that makes sense; it's easier done than written.)

Smaller picot anchored inside a larger picot

A few tips for working Filigree Picots:
  • Chain firmly and evenly (not tightly)
  • Use gentle tension when making the joining slip stitch
  • If the picot curls up or gets distorted, adjust it with your fingers so the smooth part of the chain faces forward
  • WET-BLOCK the finished project to set the picots' shape


Finished Size: Approximately 4 3/4" wide
Yarn Requirements: Less than 50 yards cotton DK yarn for each (any yarn weight will work)
Yarns I Used: Planet Penny Cotton Colours
How Did the Yarns Behave? Very well, as always. This is a very smooth mercerised cotton yarn similar to Paton's Grace.
Hook Size: US D 3.25mm (use any hook that works with your yarn)
Notions: Yarn needle

All crochet terminology is American.

Filigree Hearts Round (chart follows pattern):

Notes: Remember to keep yarn behind loop when making a Filigree picot. An invisible join is used to end project; click here for tutorial.

Start with a magic ring. (Note: the initial loop brought up from the ring does not count as a chain.)
Rnd 1 (RS): Ch 2, dc 11 in ring, join w/ss to first dc (ss passes over initial ch-sts and counts as stitch here and throughout). Do not turn.
Rnd 2: Ch 4, dc in same dc, [ch 2, dc in next st] eleven times around, join w/hdc in starting ch- sp (hdc counts as ch-2). 12 chain spaces.
Rnd 3: Sc in hdc sp, ch 1, dc in same sp, dc 3 in each of next eleven ch-sp around, dc in starting sp, join w/ss to first dc.
Rnd 4: Sc in same dc, sc in next dc, [ch 4, skip 1 dc, sc in next 2 dc] eleven times, ch 1, join w/dc to first sc (ch + dc count as ch-4).
Rnd 5: Sc in ch-sp, *ch 10, twist hook clockwise, keeping top strands of ch facing forward and working yarn behind, ss in back loop and back bump of 3rd ch from sc (Filigree picot made),
ch 3, sc in next ch-sp;
ch 12, mark st w/thumb, ch 6 for loop,
twist hook clockwise as before, ss in back loop and back bump of marked ch (first half of heart complete),
ch 8, twist hook clockwise, ss in back loop and back bump of 3rd ch from sc (Filigree heart complete),
ch 3, sc in next ch-sp.
Repeat from * five more times around, omitting final sc and replacing final ch-3 w/ [ch 2, invisible join to starting sc].

Weave in ends and wet-block to shape, adjusting loops and hearts as needed.


Filigree Hearts Square (chart follows pattern)

Notes: Remember to keep yarn behind loop when joining a picot. When skipping a stitch after a corner, be careful not to miss the first st, which can sometimes be hidden by the corner stitches. An invisible join is used to end project; click here for tutorial.

Start with a magic ring. (Please note: the initial loop brought up from the ring does not count as a chain.)
Rnd 1 (RS): Ch 3, [dc 3 in ring, ch 1] three times, dc 2 in ring, ss in ch-sp  (ss passes over initial ch-sts and counts as stitch here and throughout). Do not turn.
Rnd 2: Ch 5, dc in same ch-sp, *ch 1, sk 1, dc in next st, ch 1, sk 1, (dc, ch 3, dc) in next ch-1 sp.
Rep from * twice, ch 1, sk 1, dc in next st, ch 1, ss in starting ch-sp.
Rnd 3: Ch 2, dc in same corner sp, ch 3, 2 dc in same corner sp, *dc 2 in each of next two ch-1 sp, [dc 2, ch 3, dc 2] in next corner sp.
Rep from * twice, dc 2 in each of next two ch-1 sp, join w/ss to initial dc.
Rnd 4: *[Sc, ch 5, sc] in next corner sp, [ch 4, sk 2, sc in next st] twice, ch 4.
Rep from * three times around, omitting final ch-4. Join to starting sc w/ [ch 1, dc] (counts as ch-4).
Rnd 5: Sc in same ch-sp,
*ch 6, twist hook clockwise, keeping top strands of ch facing forward and working yarn behind; inserting hook downwards through front loop and left vertical leg of sc, ss (Filigree picot made);
ch 4, dc in next ch-sp,
ch 10, mark st w/thumb, ch 7 more for loop,
twist hook clockwise as before, ss in back loop and back bump of marked ch (first half of heart complete),
ch 8, twist hook clockwise, insert hook through back loop of 4th loop ch, then through front loop and topmost front diagonal loop of dc, ss (Filigree heart complete),
ch 4, sc in next ch-sp.
Rep from * seven more times around, replacing final ch-4 w/ [ch 3, invisible join to WS of starting sc].

Weave in ends and wet-block to shape, adjusting loops and hearts as needed.

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The Filigree Hearts edging can be used for other projects too. Try varying the sizes of the hearts and loops by changing the number of chain stitches used. (Tip: when making hearts, always use one less chain on the second half.)

Filigree Crochet has amazing potential - it's like doodling with yarn. Here are just a few more samples:

Starflake from Love of Crochet Winter 2017, worked
in one continuous round of filigree crochet

Yarn doodles

Stay tuned for more Filigree Crochet patterns! (I hope to work some in between designing cable patterns for The Book.)


You may do whatever you like with the items you make from this pattern, but you may not sell the pattern or reproduce the text without permission. (Links to this post are welcome.) If you make these for sale, please credit the designer.

If you have any questions about this pattern, or find any mistakes (it happens all the time), don't be shy: ask or tell in the comment box below, or contact me in Ravelry (where I'm MrsMicawber).

Thanks for viewing, and happy crocheting!


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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter's Back! (for the moment)

January was an interesting month. Mr. M and I came down with something that looked like flu and felt like flu, but didn't test positive for flu. For a couple of weeks we lived on cough drops and water and oranges and chicken broth. (It's true what they say about chicken broth - it really does make you feel better. Especially when you pour it over fresh minced garlic, then sprinkle with a little cayenne.)

The January weather had a severe case of multi-seasonal disorder. One day would be chilly, with a dusting of snow; the next the temp would bounce up to 40 and everything would melt off. Then another dusting followed by another temperature jump. Snow, melt, repeat. Thinking spring was upon us, the trees budded out, only to have their dawning hopes crushed by the mercury's recurring plunge.

The melty-refreezy action resulted in more than one episode of treacherous ice under new snow. Ice that could make a person slip and fall, and maybe sprain a wrist if they landed on it wrong. I name no names.

February seems more inclined to behave itself. Last weekend the temperatures dropped in a determined manner, and a steady snow fell from Friday through Sunday. Winter has staged a comeback.


Late on Sunday afternoon, Tallulah and I walked out to see what we could see.

Snow cupped in a tiny nest above our heads:

Queen Anne's Lace holding spiky little hands to the sky:

Chocolate-coloured blossoms bearing tiny seeds:

A Favourite Tree, its dark branches outlined with white:

Turtle, meet samara:

(Tallulah's looking a bit grubby, and no wonder. She's put in a lot of miles riding point on my bike. Perhaps a gentle bath is in order.)

The snow is (finally!) deep enough to swallow every step:

Lacy dried blossoms dot the edge of a field:

Knapweed. I think

A lone flower in a sea of snow:

Enticing view of a wintry path:

Tallulah looks into the small abyss of a decaying post ("I like to live on the edge," she remarks):

An eastern horizon turning to rose:

Clumps of snow seeming to float in a brushy twilit wood:

The sun has sunk below the horizon. It's time to follow our footsteps home.

The Favourite Tree now stands guard over a shadowed field:

Then home, to yarn and hook and a warm refuge from the wind.


Speaking of yarn and hook, here's a glimpse of a free pattern I hope to post this weekend:

How's your February going?

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I Love My Job

Look what I made at work today:

It's a shawl pin made from copper wire, coiled and hammered and wire-wrapped with beads. Here's what it looks like in use:

Soon I'll be teaching a class on it.

Working in a bead store is the best job ever. (After crochet design, that is.)



Credit for this idea goes to Ingrid the Crafty, who graciously allowed me to photograph her beautiful coiled pins at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival last September, and encouraged me to try making some of my own. (Click here to find links to more of her amazing work.)

Inspiration pins by Ingrid the Crafty

What's the best job you ever had?

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