Help Fund-raise to Fight the Fires in British Columbia

I’ve got something close to home to talk about today. Summer is a difficult time for most of Canada. We are fortunate enough to have so many different types of climates in our country, but the summer takes a toll on the more barren and desert-like areas.

Right now there are hundreds of forest fires burning throughout British Columbia and parts of Alberta. So many thousands of families have been displaced and have even had their homes destroyed.

We need to band together in this time of need. We need to stand strong and help each other in every way we can.

For the entire month of August I will be donating 80% of the sales of my most popular crochet pattern to the Canadian Red Cross. I know this isn’t a very large amount, but together we might be able to make a small difference.

One thing that I love about Canada is our desire to support each other. Canadians are such a tightly-knit group of people. Nothing can stand in our way if we are all able to work together to get through tough times such as these.

RED CROSS FUNDRAISER

“The Great Canadian Beanie” made in Caron Cakes in the colourway “Cake Pop”
Share this picture with your friends who crochet and let them know about the fundraiser that I am organizing. I’m hoping I’ll be able to make a sizable donation! I love my yarn community and I hope that we can work together to help support the Canadian Red Cross (and learn some crochet tips and tricks together).

You can purchase the Great Canadian Beanie pattern for $5.00 CAD in my Etsy shop and Ravelry page.

Reach out to me through Facebook and Instagram so I can see your progress on your Great Canadian Beanies!

Happy crocheting! xo

Miss me? Here’s a quick little update on my life.

Hey everyone. It’s been a while (again).

I feel like I owe a bit of an explanation to my horrendous lack of online activity lately. There really shouldn’t be an excuse, but I needed a break.

The last post I made anywhere was on May 18th, which was just over 3 weeks ago. I didn’t really tell anyone I was taking a break from social media, my blog, and everything relating to Strings & Things. I just did it.

In those three weeks I struggled a lot with the transition I am experiencing right now. For the past five years I have been a student who works evenings and weekends and usually had every single morning to herself. My scheduled contract jobs were quickly coming to a close so I was feeling the pressure to do some real job hunting. As much as I love yarn and love Strings & Things, it wasn’t feasible for me to attempt to turn it into a full-time source of income. In order to live properly, I needed something a little more “9-5ish”.

During those three weeks, every spare moment I had I was on my computer searching for jobs, applying to jobs, and attending interviews. I was picking up extra shifts where I could in order to save up enough in case I was unable to find a job before my contract work ended. I was feeling extremely stressed out.

Usually I turn to yarn to help relieve my stress, but whenever I would sit down and attempt to relax, the anxiety of “I should be looking for a job” would creep back up and I’d drop whatever I was doing and keep looking. I wasn’t getting a whole lot accomplished in the world of yarn, which was furthering my looming feelings of stress and anxiety.

In those three weeks I also was quite sick, and still am rather sick. Now it’s nothing serious, I assure you. But normal healthy people don’t experience three types of colds/flus/infections within a two month period. I was having really frequent migraines and headaches that would last all day, forcing me to hide in the dark and nap, hoping they would fade away and I would be able to get some work done. That usually didn’t work out. They have died down a bit in frequency since, but they are still happening more than what is considered normal. I am working with my doctor to try to figure out why I have been so  unhealthy lately and it is turning out to be quite the mystery.

My feelings of stress, anxiety, and overall unhealthiness were debilitating. I was exhausted, confused, overwhelmed, but still trying to fight through every day. I found the time to finish one project during those three weeks, a personal project, that didn’t even turn out the way I had hoped. My relationship with yarn was starting to become more of a burden than an exciting and fun thing. I had to take a break.

18948912_10154867513714094_2019698242_o
For anyone who is interested, this was the one project I finished – a smaller-than-intended camping blanket.

I was blessed enough to find a full-time job that would work with me to accommodate my last few shifts teaching dance, but I am still working more than I ever have before. I simply do not have the time to make and make and make the way I did only a few months ago. I am trying to figure out what that means for Strings & Things in the future, but I am still unsure. All I know is that I am prepared to fight to keep this little project of mine alive, it just might require me to switch my focus a bit to allow for this new “adult” schedule I have.

I won’t dive to deep into my new ideas that I am trying to create, but I promise you my mind has been racing trying to think of new things I can do to keep Strings & Things going.

For the amazing yarn ladies out there and other business owners I have been working and collaborating with, don’t worry! I am still working diligently through our agreements and I am trying my hardest to make things work. I appreciate everyone’s patience with my lack of consistency and availability lately.

A PSA to all my fellow knitters and crocheters: I already know that I won’t be able to attend any Christmas markets this year, so I won’t be preparing a whole bunch of stock over the summer. That means the yarn I have been hoarding that was waiting to turn into winter stock is no longer something I need to keep. In the next few weeks I will be posting tons and tons of great quality, brand new, unused yarn here and in my Etsy shop for purchase. If you know of any other yarn ladies out there who are looking for some goodies that will be much cheaper than they should be, follow my blog so you can get the update when everything goes live!

Thanks again for all of your patience with me. Hopefully I will have some more exciting news soon!

The Long Awaited Final Square in the Marvel Graphghan Blanket

Hey everyone. It’s been a while. Just about 5 months to be exact.

I know I’ve lost a lot of you over the past few months, and for that I want to apologize. I have received every message, seen every comment asking for the next square, and I have been following along with your progress on the blanket over the past 5 months. I beyond excited to see how many of you took the time to follow along on this longer-than-anticipated journey. I am forever grateful for your support, persistence, and dedication to the project.

So why was I absent? Why did I neglect to follow up on my promises to have the last square posted before Christmas of 2016 so many of you could finish up gifts? Two words – mental health.

I won’t go into too many of the details here (I plan on writing a longer blog post next week explaining everything), but I wanted you to know that there was a reason. I didn’t ignore you guys. In fact, I was checking your progress regularly and admiring your work. I didn’t give up on the project. I had the final square planned and prepared for months, it was just a matter of making final edits and creating the post.

I was starting my final semester of my entire Bachelor’s Degree. It was a huge workload, the amount of coursework I had was insane, and I was still working my other jobs, trying to exercise, trying to see my few friends, see my boyfriend, and spend time with my family (on top of attempting to sleep normal amounts and cooking myself actual food). In all honesty, creating the final square to the Marvel Graphghan would have taken me about two hours tops. But I literally did not have two hours to spare. Ever.

My semester ended a few weeks ago. I was so excited to sit down and prepare this blog post and get to work on my own squares (I have only actually made two)! Part of me was so embarrassed by the fact that it had taken me so long to get myself organized that I neglected posting for even longer. I’ve been seriously debating what Strings & Things will turn into now that I am no longer in school, but again, I’ll save that topic for a different post.

In short, I know my negligence ruined some of your Christmas gifts. I know you have been (im)patiently waiting for this post. I know many of you have unfollowed me out of frustration and disappointment with my lack of presence. But I’m here now, and I am deeply sorry.

For those of you who want to finish up the last square, I chose Vision to be the final installment.

Vision Square

I went with a really classic silhouette for this character. Only the true die-hard fans will recognize the outline of this powerful character’s face. I used the movie costume for colour inspiration, choosing a golden yellow, an orange-y red, and a teal/robin’s egg blue for the background.

As always, it is helpful to use the grid layout below to help track your progress through the square. Print it out and use a pen to tick off each square as you work your way through the rows. I used R for red, B for blue/teal, and Y for yellow.Vision Grid

Please note: I just realized that in the image of the finished square the cheeks are not symmetrical! I have adjusted this in the colour-coded grid, so please follow along with the grid to ensure everything is even.

Again, I just want to extend my biggest thank you ever to those of you who are still following along and working on your Marvel blankets. I am hoping that I will finally be able to finish my own!

As a big SORRY for being so behind with this project, I am offering all of my knitting and crochet patterns in my Etsy shop for $0.50 CAD (I wanted to do free, but Etsy won’t let me). Enter the code [ SORRY ] in the checkout to get your pattern for 50 cents!

Take me to 50 cent patterns!

(Coupon code info: It is a $5.00 off any purchase coupon. There is no limit to how many times the code can be used, but if you would like to purchase multiple patterns, you need to make multiple transactions otherwise it will only take $5.00 off of the first pattern and the rest will remain full price).

And as always, don’t forget to use the hashtag #marvelgraphghan so I can look at your beautiful work and admire your talent from afar!

Marvel Square #8 – Scarlet Witch

Hello again, and happy December! Wow, we’ve made it almost to the end of 2016. I usually lose track of time this time of year. I’ve had a running “to-do” list since about the beginning of November with “Finish Marvel Squares” on there, and all of a sudden, woah it’s December.

Thankfully, I have them all prepared and ready to go! I am determined to have these prepared and posted for all of you wonderful crocheters BEFORE Christmas. So without further adieu, here is the 8th square: The Scarlet Witch.

scarlet-witch-square

I really like the way this one turned out! It kind of looks like an M, but it’s supposed to be a silhouette outline of what her helmet looks like. The colour scheme was a bit tricky to figure out. Most of her costumes from the comic books have quite a strange collection of shades of red, burgundy, and pink in them. I didn’t think pink would fit too nicely with the rest of the blanket squares, but maybe that’s just my own general aversion to pink. So I decided to stick with a dark burgundy and a nice red. Of course if you think pink is amazing, throw some pink in there!

The grid has the letter B for burgundy and R for red. Pretty obvious. Please feel free to switch colours around, just remember to change your own grid and legend so you don’t accidentally switch things around. Again, I always suggest printing out the grid so you can cross each box off as you complete it in the square. This helps me keep track of my progress, especially if I have to set the square down for a while.

scarlet-witch-grid

Good luck with this square! I am loving seeing everyone’s progress on this blanket and each individual square. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #marvelgraphghan if you post on Instagram or Facebook, and make sure you tag @strings.and.things so I can marvel at your beautiful work! Like that pun?

Hello, September

For me, the beginning of the year starts in September. As a student and a dance teacher, everything starts again this month. After having July and August off from working and homework, September can be a bit of a stressful adjustment.

Next week I will have my “last” first day of the year of university classes. I will be graduating in June of 2017. I’m feeling quite the push to get this part of my life finished! I took on more hours at work this year in my teaching contract. I’ve booked 4 markets so far. I just received my second huge wholesale order of the season. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and it’s only the first day of the month.

I’ve decided to do something a little different this year. I was inspired by Knot Bad’s mood scarf that he worked on a few months ago. Essentially how it works is you assign a certain number of moods to different colours. Each day you are feeling one of those emotions or moods you work a few rounds or rows of a scarf. After a few weeks (depending on how you organize your scarf) you should have a colourful masterpiece that is a visual representation of how you have been feeling recently.

knotbad

Vincent of Knot Bad modelling his own mood scarf. Go check out his website and the Gracie Project he is working on!

Being a maker can be stressful at times. Being a student is stressful most of the time. Maybe I just get stressed out easily, but even teaching and dancing can be stressful from time to time. So can you guess what my scarf is going to be themed around?

Stress.

I thought that starting this project on the first day of September would be the best time. I’ve got one more week off before things really start getting crazy, so hopefully I will see some good and hopefully not too much stress in my scarf.

14159270_10154031132514094_102448391_n

I’ve chosen 5 colours and 5 corresponding emotions/states of mind for each colour. I picked the number 5 totally randomly and it just happened to match up with the five most common states of stress I feel, so I think this was meant to be! My colours and moods are set up as follows:

  • White – Happy/Minimal Stress
  • Dark Gray – High Stress
  • Gray – Tired
  • Navy – Overwhelmed
  • Mauve – Content

I tried to assign colours based on what they made me feel. White is clean and innocent, so I tied it with having happy days. Navy reminds me of dark ocean waters, so I thought it would match well with being overwhelmed. You get the idea.

Why do I have more negative moods than positive ones? I did this because I am hoping that my scarf will be mostly white and mauve, my two lightest colours. If my scarf turns out very dark I will know that my month is not off to a good start. This will be a bit of a test for me, because I am predicting that I will have a very dark and very gray scarf, so hopefully I will be wrong.

I think this project will be a fantastic way for me to prove to myself that I need to relax and step back sometimes. Living a high stress lifestyle is not good for the mind, and certainly not the body. If my scarf has mostly dark gray in it, I will have proof right in front of me that I need to find ways to lighten my load.

I am planning on making a shell-stitch infinity scarf. Each day will get one round of colour. I will likely have to keep track for upwards of 2 weeks in order to make the scarf wide enough for my taste. If I find I don’t have time one day to crochet my round, I have a little notebook set up that I am going to be writing down each day’s mood and why I felt that way. When my scarf is complete I am planning on sharing my journal entries and of course pictures of my scarf! I love the colours and I think it will turn out beautifully no matter what.

Join me and create your own stress scarf! Pick out a colour palette and match the colours to some moods or emotions and see how it goes. Completing mindful activities and tasks such as this force you to be honest with yourself. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Hopefully this will be a friendly reminder for everyone that minimizing stress is important.

14182506_10154031132464094_859766111_n

I am off to a bad start! I did my first round today and I had to choose feeling tired. This time of year is rough for me. I am just leaving my allergy season, which already makes me feel a little sleepy anyways. I also have a vitamin D deficiency. When it’s cloudy and gray outside, I don’t get the amount of vitamin D I need naturally. These two little quirks of mine can really pack a punch. I was exhausted this morning. I got a solid 8 hours of sleep last night, but I woke up with a migraine. I couldn’t snap out of my sleepy state until probably 3:00pm in the afternoon. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

It’s not too late to start your own mood scarf! Think back to how you were feeling yesterday (or earlier today if you are a night owl like me and reading this right now) and crochet or knit your first day. I would recommend choosing your favourite scarf pattern that can easily have stripes worked into it. This should be a fun activity! I can’t wait to do my stripe tomorrow and see how I’m feeling!

As always, enjoy your yarn and make something pretty today!

 

Marvel Graphghan Square #6 – Hawkeye

Funny story. I’ve been doing some serious reorganizing of my work space the past month. I needed to find a way to separate work from rest, so I decided it was time I make myself more of a “working area” within my home. Upon deciding this, many of my projects had to be packed away temporarily. Guess what was last to be unpacked?

My Marvel squares.

So I ended up momentarily forgetting that this little project of mine existed. Thankfully I have anxious readers who have been wondering when the next square was going to be released and they reminded me that I need to get my little butt in gear!

Hawkeye is actually one of my favourite characters in the Marvel universe. I feel like he is a bit of an unsung hero, causing him to be brooding and mysterious.

I LOVE the way this square turned out! I was worried that it wouldn’t look the way I had envisioned, but after testing it I managed to prove myself wrong.

I’m going to be quick and to the point with this post. I know many of you have been waiting for this magical moment. Here are the grids for Square #6:

Hawkeye Pixel

Hawkeye Grid

As always, don’t forget to print off the grid made of letters and cross each square off as you go. It seems redundant, but I can promise you that it will save you a huge headache in the future. P stands for purple and W stands for white (yes I know it is written in black). Fairly simple!

For ease of designing the grid (and also the horrendous colour selection I had available to me through my cheap editing software), the grid is shown in a vibrant purple. I am planning on using more of a dark eggplant and white for the target. If you were wanting a bit of a darker look, you could even change the white of the target to black or dark gray!

You have a lot of free reign with this square. The colour changes are fairly simple, and we already have practice working out a circle shape from our Captain America Square. I can’t wait to see all of your creative ideas!

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #marvelgraphghan on Facebook or Instagram so I can stalk you all and creep your pictures.It really is a favourite past-time of mine.

Just joining us now? Where have you been?! If you are a little lost, here are some links to the previous squares we have done:

Square #1 – Iron Man

Square #2 – Captain America

Square #3 – Thor

Square #4 – The Hulk

Square #5 – Black Widow

Happy crocheting!

Perfect Puff Stitch Hexagons – Free Pattern!

HEXIE

I have a love-hate relationship with custom orders. They are a fantastic opportunity to try out new patterns and learn new techniques. They are a pain from a business standpoint as they usually take longer to complete due to the learning component of a new pattern. This makes my profit margin quite low if I properly account for my time spent on the project. I usually underestimate by quite a few hours. Oh the things we sacrifice for love.

I received a custom order for a baby blanket from a new customer. After discussing yarn, price, and what she was looking for, she ended up finding a free pattern online that she wanted to be replicated. I usually decline these types of requests as it takes away the creative side of my love for yarn. I like to adjust patterns, or see just a picture and figure out how I could make it truly “mine” rather than just reproducing someone else’s design. I ended up accepting the order as I am in my slow season and my fingers are itching to make.

The pattern was simple enough. It was a combination of an African Flower and hexagon-shaped granny square. Half way through the hexagon I could tell something was weird with the pattern and must have worked out extremely uniquely for whoever wrote it. It was wrinkly, misshapen, and holey in weird areas. Definitely not cute baby blanket worthy.

I was almost excited at this point. Since the first pattern didn’t work, that meant I got to make up my own hexagon design!

13621766_10153888410909094_1745842688_o-2

I used the original pattern as inspiration and added my own personal flair to make it truly adorable. The end result was a perfect hexagon with a clean, smooth edge, and a floral center. Girly, but not too girly. The sturdy edge proved to be excellent for easy joining. It was an amazing moment of discovery.

What better way to celebrate this discovery than to share it with the world?!

I have done my best to write out the instructions. This hexagon combines quite a few different techniques, so I would consider it to be an intermediate design. To make this hexagon you will need to know how to do the following:

  • Sl st – slip stitch
  • Ch – chain
  • Sc – single crochet
  • Dc – double crochet
  • Puff stitches
  • Bobble/Popcorn stitches

If you are new to puff stitches or bobble stitches, I have included the steps required for each stitch if you’re like me and prefer reading step-by-step instructions. I have also provided links to some of my favourite video tutorials for each stitch. The first hexagon you make may take a while to figure out, but they will go by faster and faster. It took me about half an hour to tinker with the original pattern and come up with this design. Now that I’ve made about 20 of them, I can finish one in roughly 7 minutes!

13621899_10153888410899094_1042161830_o-2

The Pattern

This hexagon is made by working in the same direction the entire time. There is only one turn which is done immediately after completing the magic loop for the beginning center of the hexagon. After each round completion you continue working in the same direction. Do not turn.

Supplies

  • Any worsted (4) weight yarn in any colours you’d like!
    • I used a combination of Loops & Threads yarn from Michaels for the chartreuse and eggplant colours, and Caron Simply Soft for the gray
      • I used three colours of yarn just to show the different rounds, but in the baby blanket order I am making right now I am only using two colours
  • Size H/8-5.00mm crochet hook
  • Yarn needle for weaving in ends and joining
  • Scissors

Here we go!

  • Start with a magic loop with 6 sc in the loop, join with a sl st, turn
  • ROUND ONE: We are going to be completed a series of puff stitches. Do not ch 1 to start. Complete one puff stitch in the first sc from the hook, ch 2, complete another puff stitch in the following sc, ch 2, repeat around for a total of 6 puff stitches and 6 sections of ch 2. Join to top of first puff stitch with a sl st

13639444_10153888411069094_1167266692_o-2

  • PUFF STITCH WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS
    • Yo and insert hook into sc
    • Yo again and draw up the loop
    • Yo and insert into same sc
    • Yo and draw up the loop
    • Repeat 4 times total (a total of 9 loops on the hook)
    • Yo and pull through all loops except for the last two
    • Yo and pull through last two loops
  • Change to second colour (or continue if you are using the same colour throughout)
  • ROUND 2: Sl st into the first ch 2 space
    • Complete all of the following in the same ch 2 space: Cluster 1, ch 3, Cluster 2
    • Ch 1 and move onto the next ch 2 space. Complete all of the following in the ch 2 space: Cluster 2, ch 3, Cluster 2
    • Repeat around until you have completed all six ch 2 spaces (total of 12 clusters and 6 ch 3 spaces), join to top of first cluster with sl st
    • NOTE: The clusters are very similar to making bobble or popcorn stitches, just with far fewer “posts” in the same stitch. This makes sort of an oval shape, but without the puffed out look of a bobble stitch

13639685_10153888411019094_627518223_o-2

  • CLUSTER ONE: Ch 2, yo, insert into ch 2 space, yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through two loops, yo, insert into ch 2 space, yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through two loops, yo, pull through all loops
  • CLUSTER TWO: Yo, insert into ch 2 space, yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through two loops, yo, insert into ch 2 space, yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through two loops, yo, insert into ch 2 space, yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through two loops, yo, pull through all loops
  • Change to third colour (or second colour, or don’t change at all)
  • ROUND 3: Sl st into ch3 space, ch 2, 3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc all in same ch 3 space, 3 dc in ch 1 space, repeat around (total of 54 dc and 6 sections of ch 2 spaces that create the corners of the hexagon)

13639721_10153888410974094_1772451160_o-2

And there you have it! Weave in all of your ends in whichever way is your favourite, or save your ends for joining your hexagons together to make a big beautiful blanket.

I am still working my way through my little baby blanket, so I haven’t quite figured out how many hexagons you need for all of the different blanket sizes. As soon as I finish, I will create a chart and either make a new post or add to this one so you have a helpful guide to refer to. So far I have only made about 35 of these hexagons and I am maybe 1/3 through my blanket, so I’ve got a bit more to do.

The best part about these hexies is that they scale so nicely! I tried making a few in very light weight yarn and also very bulky yarn and I had no issues.

13632790_10153888410854094_2111215747_o-2

I seriously love this pattern. I am constantly day dreaming about which beautiful colours will go together to make a blanket for every room in my house. I was also pleasantly suprised with the way my sample colours worked together. I just grabbed three really random contrasting colours in order to show the different rounds in the pattern, but they look so cool together that I am now debating buying more of these colours to make a full sized blanket. Chartreuse and eggplant are such beautiful colours!

Please let me know if you have any questions by commenting on this post or sending me an email at stringsandthings16@gmail.com. I am here to help!