Pumpkin Treat Bag Crochet Along Begins October 1st

Fall is officially here, and you know what that means – it’s time to get ready for Halloween! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because it gives us an outlet for our creativity and craftiness. Creating costumes and spooky accessories is such a fun way to welcome the crisp, cool days of fall.

26_LOC_FA13_HTB_5_200pxOne item every trick-or-treater needs on Halloween is a cool bag to hold all the yummy candy they collect. The Trick and Treat Bags from our Fall 2013 Issue of Love of Crochet are the perfect complements to any costume, and they are a blast to make! We’re making the Pumpkin Treat Bag for our next Crochet Along starting on October 1st, and we hope you’ll be crocheting along with us.

Pumpkin kitWe can’t wait to dig into this quick project. Snag the Pumpkin, Frankenstein, or Mummy Treat Bag from our Crochet and Knit Shop so you’ll be ready to crochet along with us on October 1st! The kits contain the Treat Bag patterns and all the yarn you will need to make the bag of your choice. Which Trick and Treat Bag will you make?

Interview with John Ferrante of Otter Peaks Alpacas, LLC

National Alpaca Farm Days are this weekend, September 28th and 29th! We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with John Ferrante of Otter Peaks Alpacas in Thaxton, Virginia, and he gave us some insight about life on an alpaca farm and the fabulous fiber and products made from their fleece. Here’s a glimpse into our conversation as John opens our eyes to everything that goes into making the soft alpaca yarn we all love.

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Jamie: How did you first start raising alpacas?

John: We started raising alpacas in the central New York area after seeing a herd while boating. They seemed interesting, so we docked our boat and started talking to the owners. We fell in love with the alpacas immediately and went home to research them. After a short time, we contacted another nearby farm and began talking about purchasing animals. We were offered an opportunity to work on the farm and learn how to raise and care for our alpacas, and we purchased a pregnant female. After a few years, we purchased land and moved our herd to our current location, Otter Peaks Alpacas, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We now have 23 alpacas and several on the way.

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Jamie: What kind of care do they require?

John: Caring for alpacas includes protection (fencing and shelter), clean water, nutritional food, cooling fans during summers, and socializing them so they can be easily handled. Special care is needed if you, as we do, show your alpacas in competitions and want to produce high quality fiber. We work with our animals every day, especially the cria (baby alpacas) as they are developing.

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Jamie: How do the alpacas react to being shorn? Are they happy to get a haircut?

John: We shear our alpacas once per year in mid-April. Shearing only takes a few minutes per animal and they quickly get used to it. I believe they are happy to have us remove their heavy fiber coat when the temperatures are climbing in southern Virginia. Alpacas are quite sensitive to heat and are much more content after shearing.

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Jamie: Do you know anyone who knits or crochets and has made a project with yarn from your alpacas’ fleece?

John: My wife Cindy knits and crochets farm-made products with fiber from our own alpacas. She also makes felted animals, bottle cozies, and other felt products. Cindy operates an alpaca farm store where she sells raw fiber, rovings, and fiber in all stages of processing, including yarn. We often have folks who knit or crochet come to the store for yarn. Cindy custom dyes the alpaca yarn for customers who are looking for a special color.

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Wouldn’t it be divine to knit or crochet your next project with alpaca yarn purchased directly from a farm? Yarn crafts help us to embrace a natural, hand-made lifestyle, and seeing first-hand where your fiber comes from takes that sentiment to the next level. Snag some gorgeous yarn during National Alpaca Farm Days this weekend while the kids get to know these adorable animals.

Why Do Knitting and Crochet Continue to Hook So Many Fans? Betty Hechtman Shares 4 Unexpected Benefits

Author and crafter, Betty Hechtman, wrote a fascinating article about the benefits of knitting and crocheting. We’re excited to share it with you here and eager to delve into her latest mystery novel, Yarn to Go. Below, Betty discusses the revival of a handmade culture and 4 specific benefits of crafting.

Book CoverThe idea of “DIY” is definitely in vogue, bringing an upswing in popularity of knitting and crocheting, and there’s no sign interest will wane anytime soon, says lifelong craftswoman Betty Hechtman.

Pinterest and Etsy are two of the hottest websites online today, and they’re brimming with hand-knitted items, from socks and scarves to purses and pretty much anything that can be made from yarn,” says Hechtman, author of Yarn to Go, (www.BettyHechtman.com), the first in a new cozy mystery series published in July by Berkley Prime Crime Books.

“The hand-knitted caps and sweaters that might have embarrassed us as kids are now a hip expression of artistry,” she says. “Young adults appreciate originality and craftsmanship, and they’re an innovative bunch. They’re doing amazing things with yarn!”

Surprisingly, she notes, crocheting is even more popular than knitting. It’s No. 3 on the top 10 U.S. crafts list compiled by the Craft and Hobby Association, with 17.4 million devotees. Knitting comes in at No. 9 with 13 million needle fans.

“What’s interesting is people say they’re drawn to yarn crafts because of the creativity,” Hechtman says, citing a Craft Yarn Council survey of more than 5,000 knitters. “But once they get into it, they say they realize it also helps with stress.”

That’s just one of the unexpected benefits of time spent knitting and crocheting. Hechtman cites four more:

• Knitting (and crochet) actually produce beneficial physical changes! Spend enough time with your needles or a hook and yarn, and you can strengthen your immune system, lower your blood pressure, and change your brain chemistry to reduce stress hormones and increase the natural “happy” neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine. These findings were reported last year at an “academic study day” in England on the therapeutic benefits of knitting.

• It won’t leave you feeling groggy in the morning. Having trouble sleeping? Instead of reaching for a pill, pick up a yarn project an hour or so before bedtime. The calming repetition of knitting or crocheting slows restless, racing thoughts and helps us transition from busy day to quiet, restful night.

• Keep your hands out of trouble. Are you trying to quit smoking and don’t know what to do with yourself? How about biting your nails? Have you become obsessed with checking your social media? Crocheting or knitting keeps hands busy – and out of trouble – while you’re traveling, waiting at the doctor’s office or sitting at your kid’s soccer game. And, unlike smoking, nail-biting and wasting time on Facebook, the result of knitting and crocheting is a positive one.

• Make new friends. An internet survey of 3,500 knitters found 90 percent made new friends through the craft. One of the beautiful aspects of yarn work is that you can do it alone or in a group. In fact, the opportunities to socialize seem to be driving the strong interest from young adults, who meet at bars, Starbucks and office lunchrooms for a good stitch session, according to the yarn council. People who are alone much of the time are more prone to depression and other mental health issues, getting together for a knit with friends is good for you!

About Betty Hechtman

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Betty Hechtman is the author of Yarn to Go, the first book in the Berkley Prime Crime Yarn Retreat mystery series, as well as the author of the best-selling Berkley Prime Crime Crochet mystery series. The eighth book, For Better or Worsted, comes out in November. She has also written newspaper and magazine pieces, short stories and screenplays as well as a children’s culinary mystery. She has a bachelor of fine arts degree and has been active in handicrafts since she was a small child. Hechtman divides her time between Los Angeles and Chicago.

We agree that knitting and crocheting provide tons of benefits besides simply leaving us with beautiful handmade items. How has crafting positively influenced your life?

International Crochet Day

September 12th is International Crochet Day! We never need an excuse to crochet, but it’s nice to take a day to celebrate the craft that brings all of us so much joy. You can celebrate in hundreds of different ways, but here are a few of our favorite ways to make today all about crochet.

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1. Give someone a lovely crocheted gift. We suggest the handy Vintage Hot Pad from our Fall Issue. You could also wrap a cute trinket in a cool crocheted gift bag. Both are free patterns that stitch up quickly, so you can make one for everyone you love.

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2. Learn a new skill. We love learning interesting new stitches and techniques, so why not celebrate by taking a class or tackling an intriguing pattern you’ve been thinking about? If you love the Hobo Bag from our Fall Issue (and how could you not?), the Daily Craft TV has put together a helpful video class that will walk you through the steps of creating this cool vintage-style purse. Our Fall Issue also offers a beginner’s guide to Tunisian crochet to help you master this popular and easy-to-learn technique.

Treat bags3. Buy some fabulous new yarn! Go ahead and splurge – it’s International Crochet Day! If you can’t make it to the yarn shop today, click over to our Yarn Guide to drool over some awesome fiber finds. If you’re planning on crocheting along with us as we make the Pumpkin Treat Bag in October, today is the perfect day to purchase your kit.

Mother bear4. Crochet something for charity. The Mother Bear Project and Project Linus are two wonderful organizations we love working with.

ocean waves] 5. Crochet with a group of friends. If none of your friends crochet, teach them now. The Ocean Waves Scarf is the perfect pattern to get a new crocheter hooked for life.

We’d love to hear how you’re celebrating International Crochet Day. Even if you’re simply spending a bit of time checking out new patterns or yarns, take a moment to appreciate crochet as a fun and useful craft that has an amazing power to bring people together.

Yarn Along the Rockies

Any yarn lover in Colorado should check out Yarn Along the Rockies,  September 21-29. Also known as the Yarn Crawl, this fun event brings knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers, and yarn crafters of all kinds together for the chance to visit some awesome shops and win crafty prizes.

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23 yarn shops across the state are participating, and each one will have a drawing for a prize basket filled with yarn-related goodies you’ll want to get your hands on. If you visit all of the participating shops and get your passport stamped at each one, you become eligible to win one of the 3 grand prizes, full of tons of yarn and notions! You can also show your passport at participating restaurants near the shops to get a discount on food or drinks. Trekking around Colorado and ogling all that yarn is bound to work up your appetite!

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We’ll be visiting the yarn shops near us, so follow us on Twitter to track our trip along the Rockies!

National Alpaca Farm Days – Sept. 28-29

If you’re looking for a fun outdoor activity for the whole family, National Alpaca Farm Days are the perfect opportunity to enjoy the fall weather and meet some of these adorable animals. We all love alpaca yarn, so we’re excited to learn more about the cuties that provide it.

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Farms are participating all across America, so find one near you and mark your calendar for September 28th and 29th. Some farms are only participating one of the two days, so check their schedule before planning your visit. You won’t want to miss this interesting and fun opportunity!

Our friends at Sew News get to know the Ladies Fancywork Society

Last week, the Sew News team visited the Denver Art Museum to join in the celebration of their latest textile art installation, a stunning yarn bomb by the Ladies Fancywork Society.

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Take a look at the Sew News blog for more information about this interesting group of guerrilla artists and pictures of their amazing handiwork.