Tuesday, March 31, 2015

As Seen in Interweave Crochet Spring 2015

This post contains affiliate links*.

Here's a new little pattern of mine, just published in Interweave Crochet Spring 2015:

Rampant Arch Headband by Sue Perez
Image copyright Interweave/Harper Point Photography

The Rampant Arch Headband starts with a small section of super-stretchy back loop slip stitch, then morphs into the climbing arches which give the pattern its name. (A "rampant arch" is an arch of which one support is higher than the other.) Unstretched, the arches look like little half-hearts. Stretched, they take on an elegant, filigree-like appearance. Either way, Rampant Arch is a quick, fun spring project. Choose a sproingy yarn that gives good stitch definition, like the Plymouth Merino Superwash used here.

Rampant Arch Headband by Sue Perez
Image copyright Interweave/Harper Point Photography

Interweave Crochet Spring 2015 is chock-full of amazing patterns, from Suzann Thompson's jaw-droppingly lovely Dogwood cover scarf, to Doris Chan's ultra-feminine Sapphire Sweater, Jenny King's striking Open Cubes Vest, and more.

From left to right: Dogwood Scarf by Suzann Thompson; Sapphire Sweater by Doris Chan; Open Cubes Vest by Jenny King
Images copyright Interweave/Harper Point Photography

For some super-helpful tips on masculine-appropriate crochet, be sure to read Peter Franzi's excellent back page article "Chain Male: Designing for Guys".

Click here to get your digital or paper copy of Interweave Crochet Spring 2015.

Not a crocheter? Check out Interweave's other fabulous magazines and products. Here's a little something you can use on anything in the Interweave store:

(Note: According to the affiliate link website, this coupon is good from March 30 to April 2, 2015. But if you click on the link it takes you to a page that says "April Fool's Day / Today Only". I'm not sure which is correct, but if there's something you've been wanting from the Interweave Store, I recommend getting over there sooner rather than later.)

Happy almost April!


*What is an affiliate link? In this case, a special link that tells Interweave I sent you. Clicking on one of the links above will take you to Interweave's website; if you happen to buy something while you're there, Interweave will send me a few pennies by way of thanks. Because I might possibly make some money out of this, federal law requires that I tell you about it up front.

This is the first dip of the Micawber toe into these commercial waters, and I'm a bit nervous about it. Adding a coupon to my blog post feels a bit like putting up a billboard in my living room before inviting company over. I hope it doesn't make you uncomfortable; it probably won't happen very often. (About as often as I publish a pattern, in fact.)

But since the coupon is there, I hope you can take advantage of it! :)

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Riding the Weather Rollercoaster

Dear me, nearly the end of March, and I haven't posted any walk or ride photos for weeks.

(Ride? Did she say ride? She DID!) :D

The weather has been up and down. And up. And down again. We've soared into the 50s and 60s (oh what a glorious week that was), dropped back into the 30s, flirted briefly with the 40s, and tonight are headed into the teens. We've had sun and rain and ice and snow - pretty typical for March in Wisconsin.

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A few Sundays ago, as we were heading into the thaw, I took a walk on a new-to-me trail. The snow was melting rapidly, and the soon-to-be-spring sky was full of scudding clouds behind the bare tree branches:

As always, the dried flowers caught my eye:

A fallen tree trimmed with mushrooms:

Pine needles like brushstrokes on the snow:

A turtle at the end of the trail, saying goodbye to winter:

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A week later I and Tallulah are out again - this time on two wheels:

"Hooray!" sings Tallulah, nose to the wind. "We're on the road again!"

Other creatures are singing too. We pass a tree full of blackbirds calling "Spring! This way!"

While we're taking blackbird photos, someone pulls up behind us. It's Mr. M on Basil the Motorbike, also taking a First Ride of the Year. You can see Mr. M in the upper left corner of the photo, with yours truly in the center:

We exchange a few friendly words, then go our separate ways.

Up the road, the sheep are out. They seem to be enjoying the weather as much as I am:

Shadow shot:

Up hill and down, and around a corner to where this soft-eyed creature watches me through a screen of mullein:

It's great to be on the road again, passing favourite spots like this one:

A good start to the cycling year.

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Our next ride is two days later. Clouds are massing, and a sharp wind blows, so photos are kept to a minimum.

The marshes are radiant with red-twig dogwood that glows against the grey sky:

Tallulah poses in the crook of a branch:

The dogwood's tiny leaf-buds remind us that this mostly-brown world will soon be green again.

On our last mile, the sun comes out - a happy ending to a cloudy ride.

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Tallulah and I took three rides in all before the mercury plunged downwards. But we know that in a week or two we'll be out on the road again. Winter's back is broken, and there's a whole year of riding to look forward to.

Continuing with the weather metaphor, this post is being written in the eye of a crochet storm. The yarn I was waiting for a few weeks back began to show up the day after my blog post on that theme. Two out of four projects are now out the door, two patterns written and emailed off, and I'm still waiting for yarn to complete the other two. Perhaps writing about it tonight will cause it to show up tomorrow....

How are you?

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Always Teatime ~ a Free Pattern in Celebration of National Crochet Month

Did you know that March is National Crochet Month? (It's also National Craft Month.)

Of course every month is Crochet Month here at Micawber Towers, but I couldn't let the occasion pass without making a little something special to celebrate and share:

Always Teatime Mat

Always Teatime is a versatile, join-as-you-go 2-round block which is great for using up stash. Worked in a combination of sport and dk yarns, my blocks are just under 1½" square, but you can use any combination of yarns that are close to each other in weight.

Simple joins give the Always Teatime blocks a lovely intertwined effect:

The blocks are so pretty on their own, I decided not to add a border to my square mat. Instead I kept it simple with a small tassel of fringe at each corner:

Note to crochet geeks: If you follow my pattern adventures, you'll know that I am Very Fussy about round joins, starts, and ends, striving ever to render them more subtly and undetectably. In pursuance of this noble quest, I've stumbled on yet another way to start a new round with a new yarn colour. It's secure, knotless, and - when combined with the invisible join - creates an almost perfect duplicate of a single crochet:

Can you tell where the round starts and ends?

If you're not a crochet geek, feel free use any other joining techniques you prefer. :)

Always Teatime Block Pattern With Phototutorial

Use any yarn you like, with the appropriate size hook.

Note: Click on the words "knotless chain" or "invisible join" to be taken to a tutorial for each technique.

Round 1:
With Color A, Knotless chain 4, OR make a magic ring and chain 3.
Dc 11 in ring.
Cut yarn and join to first dc with invisible join (12 sts total).

Round 2: Join Color B as follows:
Insert hook from front to back of any stitch, and pull up a loop (yarn tail should be on the right, and working yarn on the left). With yarn tail, cast on a backwards loop.
Pull on working yarn to tighten both loops,
move yarn tail behind working yarn and to the right,
then yarn over and pull working yarn through both loops on hook.

This stitch counts as a single crochet (and later on it will look like one).

Next: *chain 5, skip 2 stitches, sc in next stitch, chain 3, sc in same stitch.
Repeat from * two more times, working around the circle (you should have 3 ch-5 bumps and 3 ch-3 bumps).
Chain 5 more, skip the final 2 stitches, and sc in next stitch (you should now be back where you started).
Chain 3, cut yarn, and join with invisible join to the first chain AFTER the starting stitch:

After making the invisible join, turn the block over and take the yarn tail down and through the back loops of the starting stitch:

Et voilà! Ze stitch, she is now indistinguishable from any other single crochet:

Invisible Start, Invisible Join!

And your first block is finished. Now all you have to do is make a few more, joining as you go, and before you know it you'll have a pretty project on your hands. Nothing could be simpler.

Read on....

Joining the Always Teatime Blocks

Blocks may be joined on any chain-5 section. To join:
Chain 2,
drop working loop from hook, insert hook from RS to WS through ch-5 space of opposite block, pick up working loop (being careful to re-insert hook in the proper direction),
then gently pull the working loop up through the opposite block's ch-5:

Now, yarn UNDER and chain 1 (catching opposite ch-5),
chain 2 normally,
skip 2 stitches of circle, and sc in next stitch. Join complete!

If you're wondering why we yarn UNDER for that joining chain stitch: it makes a smoother, flatter join, and minimises the block twist that would otherwise occur with this type of join.

Assembling your Always Teatime Blocks

The easiest way is to work one row at a time, always working in one direction (from right to left or left to right). This way, you'll never have to make more than 2 joins on any block.

To Make a Mat like Mine:

Make 5 rows of 5 blocks in the colours of your choice. For a rectangular mat, make the rows longer. My mat is square because I ran out of turquoise yarn. :)

Weave in all yarn ends, and block project. To enhance the picot effect of the ch-3 bumps, use the blunt end of a crochet hook to pull each one open (this works best while project is damp).

Trim with a fringed tassel at each corner, or add a border of your choice.

Other Things to make from the Always Teatime blocks:
  • A scarf
  • A table runner
  • A colourful cowl
  • A simple tunic
  • Use blocks as a border for another project
All those ch-3 and ch-5 loops offer plenty of scope for joining and embellishment - have fun with them!

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 are always welcome.

Thanks for viewing, and happy National Crochet Month! (Happy National Craft Month too.)

What are you making this month?

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Waiting for Yarn

Designing patterns for magazines involves a lot of waiting.

Waiting for ideas to strike. Waiting for quiet time to work on those ideas. Waiting for submission calls that let you know it's time to submit the ideas to Magazine A, B, or C. (Sometimes the submission calls spark the ideas.)

Sending off your swatches and proposals, then sitting back and waiting for a response. This can take weeks or months, during which time you become convinced that a) your swatch was rubbish, and b) your idea hasn't a snowball's chance in you-know-where of being accepted.

To distract yourself, you keep crocheting.

Then, if you're lucky, comes the excitement of seeing an editor's name in your inbox. (This usually means good news.) The excitement builds as you read the message: "Dear Sue, we'd like to include your design for the Whatchamacallit Cowl in our Stupendous 2015 issue." This is followed by project dimensions and payment details, along with a due date (usually several weeks away - no problem! you think). The email closes with a polite request for your agreement to these terms, and a promise of yarn shipment contingent upon same.

A small wave of yarny euphoria washes over your soul. Your work has paid off! Somebody likes it! You tell your husband (in a voice that tries to sound casual, but fails) that you've sold a pattern, and he congratulates you. You turn back to your keyboard, click the "reply" button, and accept the editor's kind offer (reminding yourself, as you type, that though your designerly soul is bubbling over with delight, too many exclamation points would look unprofessional).

This euphoria lasts about a day or two, then the waiting begins anew. Now you're waiting for the yarn. You wonder what kind they'll choose - will it be similar to your swatch yarn? Will you have to re-work parts of your pattern to accommodate differences in weight, fiber content, or texture? (Almost a guaranteed "yes" to the last question.)

There's usually a gap of a week or two between project acceptance and yarn shipment. After the first week, you start keeping one eye on the calendar and one eye on the mailbox, expecting every day to see a bulky package from a yarn company. When the mailbox turns up empty, you listen hopefully for the hiss of brakes and the beep-beep that signals the arrival of a big brown van outside your door.

Towards the end of the second yarnless week, you begin to wonder whether you should email the editor (but you hesitate to bother her because you know she's busy). Every day you re-calculate how much time is left until the project is due. Every day the faint apprehension grows, mixing with the lingering remnants of excitement.

Today, I am waiting for yarn. :)

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

End-of-Winter Cookies

Though it's not any warmer here, there is a hint of change in the air. Sunshine has been shrinking the snow cover, temps are forecast to hit 40+ degrees in a few days, and Mr. M is overhauling Iris (my vintage road bike) in readiness for a new cycling season. He's been putting in so many hours on this labour of love, the least I could do was bake him some cookies.

At the tail end of winter, we still have bags of oranges on the counter and bags of cranberries in the freezer (not to mention the bags of chocolate chips that populate the cupboard year-round). I like to combine all three flavours in a hearty oatmeal cookie that bakes up moist and deliciously studded with bright bits of tart cranberry and rich semi-sweet chocolate. Plenty of oats and whole wheat flour lend an illusion of healthfulness, but don't kid yourself: real butter and honest sugar make this a cookie that is a cookie.

Cranberry-Orange-Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies - makes 5 dozen

Set oven to 350º. In bowl, cream:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar (or you can use all brown sugar, as I did)
3/4 cup (6 oz) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat until fluffy. Add:
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pie and pastry flour if you have it)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Mix until combined, then stir in:
2½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
Zest of 1/2 navel orange or 1 clementine
1 cup cranberries, chopped (berries may be fresh or frozen; if frozen, thaw briefly before chopping)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Dough may seem a bit dry, but don't worry - the cranberries will release moisture during baking. Drop by generous teaspoonsful, 2" apart, onto cookie sheets covered with parchment or non-stick baking mat.
Bake 12 minutes, then remove from oven (cookies will look uncooked in the center). Let cookies stand 5 minutes in pan, then remove with spatula and cool completely. Store in an airtight container; cookies may also be frozen.

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What's your favourite cookie recipe? (Feel free to write it out or include a link in your comment....)


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