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I am 43. I am married to the love of my life. Together we have two beautiful young adults who bring me joy everyday. Secretly, I'm counting the years till grandbabies start coming; they just need to find their forever loves first.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Making a Case for Learning to Read a Written Pattern

As a designer, and pattern writer, I have noticed a trend in the last few years toward video tutorials to learn new patterns, designs, stitches, etc. I have been asked many times if I have video tutorials for my patterns, and I am sad to say that I struggle in the technological side of things. It may actually be easier than I am thinking it is, but the thought of it overwhelms me so I haven't made any progress in that department. Maybe it will happen in the future. I hope so. (Anyone willing to teach me? *wink, wink*) 

With so many requests for videos I have actually begun to be concerned that they are becoming a crutch for crocheters and knitters. Now, before you shoot me down, hear me out! I am a user of YouTube videos! I admit it! For example, even though I can usually figure out just about anything I have the hardest time working the Bavarian stitch from written instructions. 


                                                            Bavarian Stitch Afghan 

                                                  
                                                  Lush Garden Bavarian Stitch Afghan

It's like the words become gobblety-gook on the paper and I just can't make heads or tails of it. However, when I pop on over to YouTube and watch Crochet Geek's Bavarian stitch instructions, it all becomes clear and I can move forward with whatever project I'm wanting to start. I don't work the Bavarian stitch very often, so every time I get a hankering to do it- I have to look it up! [I even had to look it up to start my Lush Garden Bavarian Stitch Afghan (pictured above). I include a link to Crochet Geek's video in those instructions as well (no sense in trying reinvent the wheel).] Another video that I recently watched was how to make a one-row button hole in knitting. I will never say that YouTube videos are wrong, or that they shouldn't be used. I'm just here to make a case for learning how to read a pattern. 

When I learned how to crochet my Grandmother sat me down with a hook and some yarn and gave me basic instructions. I made a newborn hat, and I learned how to make what is today called a "Magic Square" potholder. That was 35 years ago. There was no YouTube. I lived over 4 hours away from my Grandma, so I got very few lessons from her in person. I used my Mom's old wool from her knitting days and made really horrendous Barbie clothes. I remember seeing them years later and I didn't even recognize them as clothes. They were just blobs of yarn. At the time, though, they were the most brilliant, fashionable things my Barbie's had ever owned! I made the yarn work for me! LOL 

When I was about 15-ish, I put my crochet hook away. I had a hard time making myself finish anything. I think it's just the age. I see the same thing happen with a lot of the young people I teach. They all start out wanting to make an afghan. I love the desire, I just know the drive isn't there and they probably won't finish it. I didn't pick a crochet hook back up until I was about 26. My daughter was 3 and we were at a craft fair. I saw these crocheted scrunchies and decided "Hey! I know how to do that!" I went to the grocery store (small town, USA), bought a skein of baby yarn and a D hook and took it home. I sat down with the scrunchy I bought and taught myself how to make it. From that moment on I was totally hooked on crocheting. I'm not proud to admit that there were days my kids lived on cheerios and yogurt...but, they did. I was a woman obsessed. 



An example of 90's crochet pattern books.
 Not exciting, unless you count the creepy clown pattern.
That's how I got my start, but....I was never taught to read a pattern. When I got back into crochet there were not a lot of pattern options, but there were some really cute designs I wanted to make for my kids. Still...I couldn't read a pattern. I couldn't stand what I was coming up with on my own, and I was SO LIMITED by only knowing how to do a single crochet and a double crochet. I don't think I was even working chains and slip stitches correctly at the time. My husband's Grandmother walked me through learning how to make a granny square again, but, even then I was limited. So, I called my Grandma. She talked me through a half double crochet on the phone. Then, later, she talked me through what the different symbols meant in patterns. Mostly I learned by looking at the symbol charts and the sample stitch pictures. Boy, oh boy, did I frog a lot. I would rip out projects so many times my yarn would completely lose its elasticity. And we are talking about the yarn quality of the 90's.....not amazing. 
                                                 
                                        
So, what is the big deal about reading a pattern? Think about it like this: what if the Internet stopped working tomorrow? What if you no longer had access to all those videos to walk you step by step through every pattern? What if, and this is far-fetched, the Zombie Apocalypse happened and you were left to be the mitten, hat, and scarf maker for your Zombie Apocalypse survival gang, and all you had were the patterns you had printed off the computer way back when? Will you be able to make the needed items? 




I know my questions may seem silly, so let's look at it logically. Written patterns are a treasure. They are something that can be handed down from one generation of crafters to the next. I have many that my Grandmother has passed down to me. Our society has become so technology driven that many of the "arts" of old are beginning to pass away; like reading a crochet or knitting pattern. I find it ridiculous that even manuals aren't included with products anymore. You have to go online and download it. What happens if you don't have access to the Internet? I had a friend that recently lost thousands of saved patterns because her iPad crashed. How do you even remember what you had saved so you can go back and get it again? It seems strange, but I know people who do not have Internet and do not have an email address. That's a completely foreign concept to many of us, but they are still alive and functioning. Probably better than a lot of us that are completely consumed by our technology tether. You would be doing yourself a favor to expand your brain capacity (I'm not saying you aren't already smart), challenge yourself, and learn how to read patterns. The Craft Yarn Council put out an interesting article on the health benefits of knitting. Knitting and crochet, alike, challenge the brain. They make you focus, do math, and use your creativity (I hate math, but I love crochet math). In my humble opinion, it's not JUST about making something. It's about WORKING the pattern. Looking at a piece of paper and figuring out what is being said....like a puzzle. I love puzzles. Besides, you can call yourself bilingual. Crochet really is it's own language. Haha! It's not just a bunch of symbols and abbreviations. It's your ticket to turning a ball of string into something genius!



If you use YouTube exclusively, do you ever feel badly that a pattern you really want to make doesn't have a video? I don't want you to feel badly. I want you to be able to pick up any pattern you see and make it. I know that sometimes it's about being a visual learner. Picture tutorials have become almost common place in many written patterns anymore. I know that the patterns that I have written in the last year or two have pictures included to help you make the pattern. We don't always have people surrounding us to show us all the stitches, so I understand the need to use YouTube as a tool to teach you something new. I use it to learn new knit stitches when I just can't figure out what the instructions are saying. The one thing I want to encourage all of us about is not to allow ourselves to become indifferent, or passive, about our craft. Let's not become so reliant upon technology that we actually cripple our creativity. Liberate yourself! Become independent! Learn to read written patterns, it can only make you better! Use YouTube as the stepping stone it is, not as a vice or crutch. ;)





Here are a few resources from the Craft Yarn Council to get you started down your pattern reading journey: 

Here is a very well written blog post on How to Read a Written Pattern from Stephie's Corner: crochet 101

Happy Crocheting!
Biz 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's up..it's up...it's up!!!

Medallion Sampler Blanket from Lion Brand

OH MY GOD!! I feel like I have been waiting forever to be able to share this pattern with you! I designed this earlier this year, and decided to approach Lion Brand about it. They snapped it up right away, so I couldn't say a word. But, it is FINALLY up on their website....just in time for Fall crafting!!

It is a sampler baby size afghan featuring basket weave, fans, bp and fpdc, a cable owl motif, as well as a myriad of other sampler stitches. I'm so proud of this blanket. It makes me so happy to be able to share it with you. It makes me even happier that this little blanket will have the vehicle to go further than any of my other free designs. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Another New (ish) Pattern!- Chubby Cardinal

I really don't know how I managed to find another pattern of mine that has been out for awhile, but somehow I completely missed putting on here. Honestly, I'm aghast....

This pattern is called Chubby Cardinal. I designed this, like I did Chubby Gator, for a friend who likes to give baby gifts of the new Mommy and Daddy's favorite college/sport teams. It's such a fun idea, and has allowed me the ability to really explore my "chubby" side. :)


Sorry for the lack of pictures. This pattern is over a year old already, and I apparently deleted everything. :-/ I had to go on Facebook to find pictures of more than just the front view. 


NEW PATTERN- CHUBBY GATOR!!


Welcome the newest member of the "Chubby" gang! This is Chubby Gator. 

You can use him for baby gifts, sports enthusiasts, or nature lovers! 

He's about 9 or so inches tall, and is wonderfully chubby and squeezable. 

Compared to a lot of my other animal designs, he really has very few "parts" to deal with. I would say that he would be a nice challenge for the beginner, but a very simple stuffy for an advanced crocheter. 

As always, you are welcome to contact me with questions concerning the pattern. 








Thursday, August 28, 2014

Picture Perfect

I want you all to meet my good friend, April Musser, who owns Shiree Photography here in Pensacola, FL. Here is her website and Here is her Facebook page. She is amazing. She did my daughter's Senior pictures in 2013, and since then has had a wee one of her own. 

One of Stefani's Senior pictures. (My personal favorite)

Let me first say that I cannot get over the perfection that is April's baby, Claire. She is such a beautiful baby, and the perfect model. April and I have decided to collaborate on some photos with Claire modeling some pieces I have made. Enjoy. :) They make me smile. 

I have also included links to all of the patterns highlighted in the pictures.  
(Just click on the pictures to enlarge them)



crochet pattern


crochet pattern


crochet pattern


knit pattern




Monday, August 25, 2014

Lush Garden Bavarian Stitch Afghan Instructions!!

Hey all!

I finally got some instructions written out for you to be able to create your own Lush Garden Bavarian Stitch Afghan.

I did not include written instructions for the individual squares because they are based off one simple pattern. Since the pattern itself is very confusing to read, I opted to include the link to the YouTube video that I used to familiarize myself with the Bavarian Stitch pattern. 


This is the afghan completed (final size is 72" x 52"- the squares themselves are 12"x12"). All of the instructions are included for what I did to get my afghan to look like this, other than the Bavarian Stitch instructions.  I feel like I need to let you know that this is NOT a beginner project. If you are not a strong crocheter, you will become discouraged by this pattern. For your sanity, please just be aware of that, because I won't be able to guide you through learning this pattern step-by-step. 


If you have any questions about the pattern, you may contact me, however I won't be able to help you if you are a beginner that has chosen to attempt this project. 

Following are  few of the individual squares and the color combinations I went with. I wanted each square to remind me of something in or around a garden. 














Monday, July 14, 2014

Battling Inner Demons- Free patterns and Paid patterns

Hello all (long post),

It's been a very long time since I sat down to the computer with the intent on sharing more than a new pattern with you. 

I recently read something somewhere about free patterns vs for sale patterns, and I want to talk about that. I think I might have brought this up once or twice in the past, but it's been so long now that I can't remember the previous conversation. I honestly can't remember the article I read, or where it was, but apparently it bothered me on an unconscious level because here I am preparing to pour my heart out on the matter. 

The feeling that I walked away with from reading the article was that, somehow, by giving my patterns away I am devaluing them, and other designers. I'm pretty sure that isn't what was in the article. And I'm also pretty sure my opinion was swayed heavily by my hormonal situation. Just the same, I want to address why I give my patterns away.

There are those of you who know me. Some on a personal level, most just because you've followed my blog for years. However, many, MANY of you don't know me at all. My "giving" started way before I knew how to design. My daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) when she was 9 years old. She went through 2 years and 2 months of chemotherapy. The outpouring of support and love for us was a very overwhelming thing. I wanted to sow back to the people that had blessed us, and impacted us, and saved my daughter's life. I made boxes of toys, and blankets, and baby hats, etc for the hospital that Stefani was treated through. We dealt with the Child Life Specialists at the hospital on a quite frequent basis. They were so gracious and so happy with the boxes I brought. I really felt like I was making a difference in someone's life. Designing came much later.

I started designing toys just for fun. I think my very first written design came because I joined in a swap on Crochetville where I would send toys to someone's kids, and she would send toys to mine. I made her little girl a doll with red hair to match and a backpack to put the doll in. The little girl was easy. However, the little boy was into space and astronaut type stuff. This was about 10 years ago, and even though crochet patterns were on the rise, there just wasn't anything near the amount of patterns available now. Little boy patterns were especially hard to find. I came up with my Rocketship with Astronauts and Aliens toy bag pattern for her little boy. I, then, made a set for my nephew for Christmas along with designing the Fantasy Castle with Characters set for my niece. Toy patterns just started flowing out of me. Pokemon characters, and American Girl patterns, and more toy bags, and learning toys. I honestly didn't want any money for them, I just wanted people to have access to some fun toy patterns. 

As time went along, and my designing got better, I considered selling my patterns. I originally tried selling my AG patterns on Ebay. I ended up hating it. I can't stand Ebay, but Etsy was still a fledgling website and I really didn't know anything about it. I eventually ended up giving away my AG patterns too. I began to deal with some inner demons of a sort after that. People in my life thought I should be selling my patterns, I was worried that if I charged for them no one would want them...or use them. To be quite honest, I wanted people to use my patterns more than I wanted money for them. I spent a lot of time praying about what to do. I tried submitting some designs to a magazine or two. Never heard a word back from anyone. To me, that was the crochet world telling me I wasn't good enough, and my patterns weren't good enough. But, I had people that loved my free patterns. 

Over the years, I have continued to give away my patterns. Not because I felt like I had to anymore, (many of my patterns were gaining notoriety, and being shared by several free pattern search engines.) but because I wanted to. All that time I spent in prayer led me to the conclusion that this is a ministry for me. It not only brings me great joy, but I feel like I am feeding into people's lives...even if it's only in the smallest way. I had someone at a church that I started attending give me the "what for" because she thought I should be selling my patterns. She told me that those are ideas given to me by God to profit me, and that I wasn't being a good steward with what he had placed in me. She makes and sells jewelry, and told me that she would never teach anyone how to make jewelry because that would be taking business away from herself. I don't understand this kind of thinking. I honestly don't. God NEVER gave me my talent for me to hoard. I have received email after email from one person or the next telling me how grateful they are that I gave my patterns away. Grandma's on fixed budgets, mom's with a house full of kids and limited funds, etc that tell me if it weren't for free patterns like mine, they would have had a hard time making cute toys for their kids and grandkids for Christmas and Birthdays. I don't necessarily need the kudos, but I appreciate and treasure every single letter I get like that. It means so much that I was able to help them in their time of need. I have been through many dry years in my life where I needed and didn't have, and it was because of the generosity of someone else that I was able to get through or succeed. That's all I want to be. A funnel for the blessings that God bestows upon me. God has blessed me with this gift. All praise goes to him for it. Without him and the patterns he drops in my heart, I wouldn't be the kind of designer I am. I'm no Elizabeth Zimmerman (yet)...but, I am getting better with every design and every pattern. 

I have under 10 patterns that I have available for sale. These patterns were put up with a price because I asked God what he thought, and I felt peace about charging for them. If I don't feel peace about charging for a pattern, I give it away for free. That's just how it works. I believe he wants me to use my hands to create, and to give, and to sow, and eventually...to reap. It's all about him in the end, anyway. :) He has graced me with favor to have a pattern purchased by a major yarn company recently. I'm just waiting until they put it out so I can share it with you. But, I would have given it away if he told me to.

But...back to the article that put this bug up my booty. I think that if people want to sell their patterns they absolutely should, but I don't feel like a 'paid' pattern is somehow superior to a free one. I don't feel like a free pattern should come with a stigma of "lesser quality". I do my very best to make sure that each pattern would be worth purchasing. After all, shouldn't we be putting our very best foot forward? I have run across quite a few free patterns that were really hard to understand, so I can sympathize with someone raising an issue about  "just because it's free doesn't mean you don't have to do a good job". I just don't want someone labeling a free pattern designer as "not as good". 

It takes me back to when knitting was becoming this hot phenomenon about 10-12 years ago. All of a sudden all the Urbanites were buying knitting needles and hand painted yarns, and making scarves and socks. I happened to open a yarn store in the midst of it all. I had quite a few people come through my doors downplaying crochet, and turning their noses up at my simplistic yarn selection. I was servicing a small community in the middle of nowhere filled with little old ladies that wanted cheap acrylic yarn...not handspun alpaca for $25.00 a hank! The tourists were. the. worst. I even had one woman argue with me that the sweater that I had displayed in my window could not be crochet, because "you can't crochet like that." I simply said, "Well, it is crochet, because I made it and I don't know how to knit." This overall attitude permeated the internet too. That's why places like Crochetville were created. So there was somewhere for people who crocheted to gather and talk about their craft without fear of being treated like the red-headed step child of the crafting world...even though we were on all the other crafting forums. Even Ravelry was really bad for a while. Then groups like Crochet Liberation Front started up and took a stand. 

Don't get me wrong, I love knitting now. I became a dual fiber crafter when I owned my yarn store because I needed to be able to talk to my knitting customers knowledgeably. But, in this comparison between knitters vs crocheters, and paid patterns vs free patterns....that same "snooty" behavior is beginning to permeate the air of pattern designing. 

I guess what I'm trying to say to the crafting world is this: Please don't put out the vibe that just because a pattern is free- it's of a lesser quality. Those of us that give our patterns away do it intentionally. It's not a mistake. For myself, it is no longer an insecurity issue either. I want to add that I don't feel like I'm taking anything away from the rest of the designers out there because I choose to give my patterns away. I work very hard at not replicating patterns for free that I know are out there for sale somewhere. If something like that happens...I have no idea, and it's never intentional. When something pops in my head, I will usually do a search on Ravelry and Google to see if anything like that is already done, and if it is...then I don't bother sharing my version, because that's over kill. No sense in just continuing to repeat what everyone else has done. If it's not unique..then why share it? It's just white noise at that point. 

I am even going to be so bold as to say this...if you run across a free pattern....don't steal the idea and write up your own version and sell it. That's tacky. It's as tacky as stealing the idea from a paid pattern and giving it away for free. 

I know several designers now. Many of them are friends with me on Facebook. Many of them sell their patterns. In no way am I pointing a finger at any of them. They are full of integrity, and really cute ideas. I like to promote their patterns on my page. I like promoting their sales, etc on my page. I am all about a free market...I am also all about a 'good deal'. lol. 

If I injured you, I'm sorry. This long rant is in no way a "Down with paid patterns" rant. Instead, it is an "All patterns should be taken on their own merits" rant! Let me know if you have something to say on this subject. 




Thursday, June 12, 2014

NEW FREE PATTERN! Jack Skellington Beanie

Stefani and Jack Skellington at ParaCon Pensacola 2013
My daughter's favorite movie, since about the age of 9 or 10 (maybe earlier?),  is The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton. I never could understand that. It's a strange little movie. Come to find out...a LOT of people love that movie! I actually created this hat last year at special request by my cousin, Micah. (I have yet to get a picture of him wearing it. *hint*hint*) I didn't write the pattern down because I didn't figure I would be making many of them, and...I just didn't want to. 

I have had so many people like the picture on Instagram that when one of them asked me for a pattern, I figured it was time to write it out. The pictures are a combination of the one I made for Micah (modeled by my son, Teo) and the one I made so I could write the pattern. The one I made Micah is longer than the sample hat, and both instructions are included in the pattern itself. The pattern is written for an adult head 21"-23", but there are instructions for sizing the hat to any head included at the end of the pattern. 

Without any further ado...if you are lover of Jack...go here to get the Free PDF download