Novice Mittens Crochet Along – Ready to wear!

I finished the ruffled cuffs on my Novice Mittens earlier this week, and they are ready to wear! I can’t believe how quickly this pattern worked up, and the decorative cuffs were just as simple to crochet as the mittens themselves.

The 3 different layers of ruffles on the cuffs are created by crocheting behind previous rounds. Rounds 1 and 2 of the cuffs are pretty straightforward, and then round 3 is worked behind round 2 and into the skipped single crochets in round 1. Round 7 is also worked behind round 6 and into the skipped single crochets in round 5. This creates adorable tiers that really set this design apart and give the mittens a pretty and polished look.

I love instant gratification, so this fast and fun pattern hit the spot for me. The yarn is truly scrumptious and was a dream to work with. If you weren’t able to join me in the crochet along, you can still get your Novice Mittens crochet kit and stitch up these adorable mittens for yourself or someone special. They are a luxurious treat for your hands you can enjoy all winter long!

Novice -done
Cute mittens keeping my hands toasty!

2014 Year of Yarn block patterns

As we welcome 2015, we also welcome our new Year of Yarn. We are continuing to offer a FREE knit and crocheted block pattern every month, and these blocks can be pieced together to make a unique sampler blanket at the end of the year. January’s free knit and crocheted block patterns are already available, so you can get a jump start on this inspiring project. Each block features different techniques, making it a fast and fun crafting lesson you can take anywhere.

If you weren’t able to finish the 12 blocks from our 2014 Year of Yarn, you can now purchase them from the Crochet and Knit Shop! Available in both crochet and knit versions, these blocks were a big hit. They look amazing stitched into an afghan, but you are not limited to only blankets. Make two of the same block to create a fun pillow cover to freshen up your living room or bedroom, or adapt your favorite stitch pattern to make a scarf or cowl!

Grab the 2014 Year of Yarn block patterns (if you haven’t already), then join us in knitting or crocheting the brand new free blocks for 2015. If you’re finished with your 2014 Year of Yarn blanket, send photos to us at mail@loveofknitting.com or post them on our Facebook page. We’d love to see your completed blankets!

To swatch or not to swatch, that is the question

Knitters and crocheters alike are constantly advised to make a gauge swatch before beginning a new project. While this is extremely wise counsel, I must admit that I occasionally break the rules and skip my swatch. Actually, I have developed my own personal set of “rules” that help me decide whether or not to make a swatch. Before embarking on a new knitting or crochet journey, I ask myself a few quick questions that help me answer the bigger question: To swatch or not to swatch?

guessed on gauge
I don’t like to gamble this much.

1) Does size matter? When it comes to sweaters, I am a dedicated swatcher. Why spend all that time making a garment that isn’t going to fit? In the case of clothing, I firmly believe in taking time to save time. After all, stitching up a swatch takes no time at all compared to the hours put into making the actual sweater. However, if I’m making a toy, I’ll skip the swatch. My kiddo won’t care if her play food is 4″ wide or 5″, so I’m likely to just start with the actual knitting or crocheting. That brings me to my next question…

Merry Moose
Gauge is not essential for this project

2) Is the finished project smaller than a swatch would be, or is it a big project? Toys (like the adorable Merry Moose) are often quicker to create than a swatch! Even if I get started and realize the stitches are too loose and the stuffing might show through, I can rip it out without feeling defeated. However, I swatch for big items unless they pass my third and final test question.

Rippling_Ridges_Throw__200px
Worsted weight yarn in double crochet – one of my favorite combinations

3) Am I familiar with the stitch pattern and the yarn? If I’m making a blanket in one of my go-to yarns and all in double crochet (like the Rippling Ridges Throw), I feel confident enough to skip the swatch. However, if I want to see how a new stitch pattern or yarn works up, I’m happy to make one. I love knitting and crocheting, so I take swatching as an opportunity to test out my pattern and materials. It’s a quick, easy, non-committal excuse to CRAFT, and that’s never a bad thing.

Are you a swatching fanatic who makes one before every project, or are you adamantly anti-swatch (don’t worry, we won’t tell the crafting police :))? Perhaps you’ve also found a happy medium that works for you? We’d love to hear your views on this controversial subject, so tell us your thoughts in the comments below or on the Love of Knitting and Love of Crochet Facebook pages!

Novice Mittens Crochet Along – Just add ruffles

I’m excited to announce that I’m almost finished with my Novice Mittens! In fact, if I were going for plain mittens, I’d be finished already.

It only took me one crafting session to finish the thumb gusset and hand of my second mitten. Working in double crochet, this fun project goes fast!

After that, I joined a new strand yarn to the opening and (working clockwise!) crocheted the thumb. I wove in most of my ends at this point, but I didn’t worry about the tails from my starting chains because I plan on crocheting over them when I create the ruffled cuffs. I’m a fan of any technique that saves me some finishing work.

Novice - 2 finished mittens
All they need is the ruffle!

The cuffs will be quick and easy, so I’m looking forward to wearing my mittens very soon. Have you ordered your Novice Mittens kit yet? The yarn in the kits is irresistible, and I can’t stop touching it! These mittens are going to be a real treat.

How are your mittens coming along? We’d love to see pictures or hear updates, so leave a comment here or on Facebook to keep us posted on your progress!

Charity Spotlight – Binky Patrol

Binky Patrol is a fantastic charity for crafty afghan aficionados who want to make a difference in the life of a child. Whether you make sewn quilts, tie blankets, or knit or crocheted throws, you can donate your handiwork to this inspiring cause.

Binky Patrol

Binky Patrol has donated handmade blankets to the Children’s Lifesaving Foundation, children’s hospitals, preemies, and children of soldiers serving in the military. However, this amazing organization donates these thoughtful items to many other children who can use some warmth and comfort. Their main goal is to give binkies to children who are ill, abused, in shelters, or homeless – those who may feel they are invisible or forgotten. They want them to know through the gift of a handmade blanket that they are loved and that they matter. It is this far-reaching approach that makes Binky Patrol so unique.

Binky Patrol2If you would like to donate a handmade blanket, go to their website to find a chapter near you or mail your donation directly to them. Some chapters also accept donations of yarn. Whatever you choose to donate, this incredible charity is a wonderful way to let your skills and creativity bring joy to those who need it most.

Novice Mittens Crochet Along – One mitten down!

LOCW_NoviceMittens_200I didn’t get in as much crochet time as I hoped during this past week (do we ever?), but I was able to finish one of my Novice Mittens and begin the second one. Actually, my first mitten is not exactly finished because I decided to save the ruffles for the end and do the trim on both mittens at the same time. There wasn’t any rhyme or reason to this decision, but it felt right at the time.

Novice - hand and thumb done1
One mitten down!

On my first mitten, after working even in double crochet for a bit, I followed the quick instructions to shape the top of the hand. This section is only 3 rounds, so it went by in a heartbeat. Then, I joined my yarn to the thumb opening and worked a round of double crochet.

After working a couple rounds of my thumb, I noticed the thumb stitches didn’t quite look like the stitches on the hand. I realized that this was because the wrong side (WS) of my thumb stitches were facing the right side (RS) of my mitten. The difference was subtle but easily fixed, so I ripped back and started my thumb again. To be sure the right side (RS) of your thumb stitches will be showing, stitch clockwise around your thumb opening.

Novice - second mitten
My stitch marker shows me where to work the second thumb gusset.

My thumb section went quickly after that, and I moved on to my second mitten. I’m now ready to begin shaping the thumb gusset, and I can tell this second mitten is going to fly off my hook. The only difference between the two mittens is where you work the thumb gusset.

I’m looking forward to finishing mitten #2 this week! How are your Novice Mittens progressing? If you haven’t started yet, you still have time to get your Novice Mittens kit and join in on the fun. The slightly fuzzy Rimu DK yarn looks and feels warm and cozy and gives this project the perfect finish. I can’t wait to wear them!

Beating Afghan Fatigue – How to keep up your crafting stamina during large projects

I love making an afghan every now and again. While I usually knit or crochet accessories and other small projects, something about spending weeks or months with the same project appeals to me. I love getting to know the ins and outs of the stitch pattern so I don’t have to think (or worry about shaping) during my crafting sessions, and my hands know exactly what to do. Also, since I typically make afghans as gifts, I like picturing the recipient enjoying the blanket I made them on a chilly day. As a bonus, if I’m knitting or crocheting an afghan in the winter, I get to stay warm and cozy under it as I work.

yarn clock
Some knitting or crochet projects take extra time – and that’s why we love them.

As much as I relish a good afghan pattern, it can sometimes be difficult to muster up the level of commitment a handmade blanket can require. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few methods that help me keep my stamina up during these marathon crafting projects.

  • Remember, it’s not a race (even though I just used a racing metaphor). Whether you finish a month from now or a year from now, you win – and the amazing handmade blanket you created is your prize! If I don’t feel like working on my afghan for a while, I allow myself to set it aside. Then, I start to miss it, and I’m more energized than ever when I return to it.
  • Stop to weave in your ends occasionally. If you need a break from actually knitting or crocheting, weaving in your ends allows you to make progress on your project while doing something a little bit different. Plus, after doing this, you can truly admire your work-in-progress because you’ll get a glimpse of what the finished blanket will look like and save yourself some finishing work at the end. There is nothing more motivating than a taste of success!
  • Finally, take breaks… by working on smaller projects. Don’t feel guilty for getting momentarily distracted by a quick toy or cowl. My busy hands want to stitch, even though my mind may need a break from a repetitive blanket pattern. Stopping to whip up a hat or pair of mitts isn’t “cheating” on your afghan, and it can actually be a welcome intermission that will leave you feeling ready to dive into your blanket pattern once again.

Knitters, if all this talk about afghans has gotten you in the mood to make one, check out the Stash-Busting Throw, Blanket Buddy, and Scottish Glen Blanket! Crocheters, take a look at the Mondrian Throw, Yuletide Throw, and Frozen Falls Throw.

How do you make an afghan? Do you break up the process by working on other projects intermittently or give the blanket your full attention? We’d love to hear the methods that work for you, so leave us a comment here or on Facebook to let us know!