Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Packing Frenzy: Yarn In Yarn Out

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
One year ago today my mother died. It is a sad day, but maybe by tomorrow we will be over that one-year hump. I talked to Dad and he, of course, is sad today, but he made decisions : he took Jack, his doggie, on a long car ride and he accepted an invitation to go to my brother's house for dinner tonight. Good work, Dad. Tomorrow is another day!

Three days and counting until we board the plane to Mexico on Jan. 2. The luggage has been setting out for weeks and I have slowly packed every essential I think I can't live without for three months! I worked really hard last right through the 23rd and this week I am finding very little on my schedule. always, I continue to crochet. I have dipped into the yarn that I had packed and finished two really quickie neckwarmers. The mostly chains neckwarmer in the Winter issue of KnitSimple was a one-night project and I found the Debbie Bliss Donegal Tweed Chunky very scratchy on my neck. So, I took it to my LYS yesterday for Chris to use as a shop model.

I won't be needing too many neckwarmers in Mexico! She explained that she has heard that it gets very soft when washed, so she is going to do that with my neck warmer. It is wool and angora.

I moved on, then, to Besesme, a free pattern from Berroco. I used Classic Elite Sprout in a very Mexican color-tangerine. It is 100% cotton and I iwll love wearing it out on the town on those cool evenings in Ajijic. It also is very simple and mostly chains, but a two-night project.

Pulling those yarns out of the mix nade way for some more yarn: tiny snippets of many little swatch skeins all in Mex-centric colors. A dent has been created where my laptop will fit. That's a good thing!

I plan to be in touch with my usual contacts stateside and I also plan to rev up the activity on my "Crochet in Ajijic" group on Ravelry. Hmmmm, three days yet to go over the list of things to take and to crochet to my heart's content...the "mix" could be really different than I imagined by the time we board. Oh, and I must have a project to work on in flight!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Book Review: Contemplative Crochet by Cindy Crandall Frazier

Contemplative Crochet: A Hands-On Guide for Interlocking Faith and Craft by Cindy Crandall-Frazier
Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2008. Soft cover, 187 pages; $16.99

December 22, 2010
Contemplative Crochet is a good read. I’m a “soft-sell” for any theme that puts the spotlight on crochet as an important influence on those who are seeking positivity while here on earth. My intense passion for crochet is intertwined into my daily life and I have written about how it is connected to my outlook on the world. Cindy’s book, however, amazed me and I was moved in many ways. It called to me as I read it cover-to-cover in two days!
Cindy Crandall-Frazier is a talented writer who has done a fantastic job of combining her passion for crochet and her passion for striving to live a faith based life. Passionate and seasoned crocheters will be amazed and proud at the same time by the vast number of examples that elevate their beloved craft to new heights. Newcomers to the craft will be educated and convinced that they have chosen a valuable way to spend their time.
She has divided the book into ten thoughtful chapters that guide the reader through each topic. Cindy’s consistent and logical manner makes reading this book a joy and a resource for realizing the potential that the rhythm of the crochet hook has for broadening our spiritual dimension.
Each chapter is chock-full of well-researched historic and philosophical references that illuminate Cindy’s premise. Anecdotes from her life and faith as a Quaker are thought-provoking and in no way “preachy.” A crochet project in each chapter incorporates its message or invites contemplation through the stitches. I hesitate to even mention the black and white photos because in the scheme of things they are minor, but want you to know that I noiticed-they could be much sharper. Finally, a set of questions at the end of each chapter encourages “deeper thinking and listening for the Spirit.”
As founding “mother” of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) looking over a flock of highly capable crocheters, I am always thrilled when I see contributions from the talented members. Cindy has definitely tapped into the resources of CGOA and the experiences of many familiar members as she highlights Noreen Crone Findlay, Karen Klemp (Past President), Melody MacDuffee and Carol Ventura to name a few.
Contemplative Crochet is a gift from Cindy to us all. I highly recommend that you own a copy and buy this superb gift for a stitching friend! My only regret is that I didn’t read this book sooner!

Monday, December 20, 2010

My World is About to Change!

December 20, 2010: I am feeling under control, but should I? In 12 days, we will be boarding a plane with two suitcases each, plus a carry-on with all the worldly possessions that will sustain us for three months while we are wintering in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico!! That's not to say that we won't be able to buy something critical that we've forgotten. Of course, we will. We can even most likely purchase any medications we might need, without a prescription. But we're not going to forget those. It is the yarn and patterns and stitch guid that I am worried about!

The shopping is done, the presents are under the tree; the menu is set and I have started some preparations for the meal. We have a tradition of doing hordeurves and desserts on Christmas day. I am soooo looking forward to having our children and precious granddaughter here.
Chloe turned one on November 24, 2010.
We will eat, laugh, play games, laugh and then have to say good bye for three months. I will MISS them terribly, but this is part of our dream that must be played out. I have a feeling that the three months will fly by, and then we will step back into our world that is Rolling Meadows, IL and resume where we left off!

Once the kids leave, we will move into "super-charged" mode and take down the tree and all the decorations (I put up less this year!) and make one final check of everything in the house and then zip it all in the suitcases so we're ready to go.
One of my suitcases is designated as the one to carry the yarn! I can buy yarn in Ajijic! Dear friend Sheila has quite a stash, and she is willing to sell. It's just not the same; I need a sense of feeling prepared. I have plans. I have things that need to be completed because they have been accepted by a magazine to be published. There is a deadline to meet!

As we get closer and things begin to take shape, this is seeming less like a vacation and more like a "transfer" to another part of the world to continue our work! Alan will be working half-time and I have work to do too. HOWEVER, it's another world that we will be living and working in. We will be immersed in the Mexican culture and it is a much slower pace. It will be warm, well warm-ER. Nights have been getting down to 35 degrees; that's better than 20, but not much. We don't have central heating there either-just a space hearter. No worries. It WILL get warmer with each week that passes and we are counting on the sunny days to reach 75 degrees! Everything we do will take longer and we will have no car. We will walk everywhere. Ah, enforced exercise. That's a good thing!

Stay tuned.......I will be reporting weekly as usual on how our adjustment to semi-retirement is playing out.

Good news on the home front......One of the a artists from my upcoming book on crochet as art, Carol Hummel, is coming to the area to do an installation at the Morton Arboretun in Lisle, IL. Oh, this is so very exciting. She first gained crochet fame when she covered trees in front of City Hall in Cleveland Heights, OH with CROCHET! back in 2005.
Carol Hummell working on a tree in Cleveland Heights, OH.
Crocheters in the area will have the opportunity to participate by coming to the workshops in Jan. Feb. and Mar. and learning to make "lichen." I am so sorry that I won't be here for those, but I look forward to seeing the installation when it is up in the Spring.

Our CGOA chapter has decided to get involved in any way we can as the installation date nears (April 3, 2011). We are volunteering our services and the folks at the arboretum seemed very grateful for our offer.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Late Blooming Crocheter

December 13, 2010: I have interviewed many a crocheter for publication in various magazines and newsletters. A common "thread" runs through those conversations: they've learned to crochet at a young age from their grandmothers. Moms don't seem to be the best teachers; but put a generation between and the warm touch of Grandma's hand creates lasting memories and crochet skills.

I'm different (well, you know that already!); I didn't learn until I was twenty two. That's not to say that I was deficient in handwork skills. No, I was experienced in embroidery and cross stitch. I was surrounded by needleworkers. My mother and grandmother were seamstresses who created wonderful stay-at-home businesses for themselves in an age when the "independent woman" was unique. My grandmother also did very delicate tatting.

In my sixth decade now, I am, of course, constantly being reminded that it is important to keep the mind active to avoid the perils of old age, dementia, etc. So, I never hesitate to accept a challenge, in my crochet or otherwise. It feels good to me. Unlike some who seem stymied by a difficult task, I seem to thrive when being challenged.

An article I clipped recently from AARP magazine, sheds some encouraging light on the subject: "Studies of brain plasticity are proving that our creative horizons need not narrow with age. 'We never lose the potential to learn new things as we grow older,' says Gay Hanna, head of the National Center for Creative Aging. 'In fact, we can master new skills and be creative all our lives.'"

"Nor are we genetically hardwired with artistic gifts--or lack of them. Environmental factors and willpower are just as important. 'Genes impact ourlives,' says David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, 'but our lives also impact our genes--the brain changes shape according to the experinces it has.''"

"The implications of this are profound, he believes: 'Most of us don't understand that our true inner potential is quite extraordinary. The main reason people stagnate is that they limit themselves through their mind-set or habits. Or they simple set their sights too low.'"

Watch the creativity of the featured artists in action at

As I am packing my TWO suitcases for our three-month stay in Ajijic Mexico, I keep slipping over the edge of reason to panic. My plan is to FINALLY concentrate on including hispanic, latin-inspired themes in my designs. What better way to be inspired that to be living it every day? I have ventured into this area of design before, but want to distinguish my work with the color and excitement from the world I love. So, I've gathered trinkets that I collected years ago while living in Mexico City to take along and threads/yarns with the appropriate colors. The precious trinkets have waited way too long to be used and viewed. It is time. I just keep going over the list and hoping I am not forgeting anything.

I've gathered some bright and sparkly beads which I will offer in a class on my favorite technique, bead-crochet, in February. I have started brewing some excitement on Crocheters in Ajijic and I hear I already have 3 people interested before I even arrive! I will start them off with a simple bracelet
and hope to inspire them tips and tricks that will expose them to the potential of bead crochet.

So what if I have fogotten something that I really thought I would need? I know I will learn new "tricks" from my students; I always do! They will turn me on to new resources for sparkly beads and threads and places to go for inspiration. I already have a tentative date to meet a Ravelry friend in Guadalajara to explore yarn stores.

Semi-reitrement? It is supposed to be a relaxing and slower pace. Well, I don't know about that, but I do know that the anticipation of how we will spend our days, busy or lazy, is exciting more that scary for me!

Monday, December 6, 2010

1,000 Santas

What could be better than sighting 1,000 Santas decked out in full red garb running past me in the street as I arrive at the yarn store to teach a Saturday morning class?

A beautiful snow had fallen during the night and the police blocked the street so the Santas could take off running just as the store was opening. I didn't even mind having to walk two blocks from where I had to park. The sight was awe-inspiring; especially knowing from my friend, Linda, that the Rotary Club organizes this annual run to fund their national and international programs.

My class, a Crochet-Along (CAL) to make Doris Chan's Tokyo Vest in Tahki Cotton Classic Lite, has been going on for 3 months. My four students work pretty independently on the project and check in once a month with questions they may have and to get any help that is needed. Thank you, Doris! It has been a great learning experience for all of us! I truly wish Gail had not left quite so early because our picture would have been more colorful: the beige and gey you see her plus Gail's red version. Any color chosen in this fine yarn would be wonderful, but then I LOVE color!

Even though my younger daughter Bethany knows how to crochet and has made hat, scarf, baby hat and an afghan, she casually asked me to make her just one more thing before Christmas! "Or for New Years if Christmas is too soon." Well, it is a ying and a yang situation here: I am super-delighted that she loves the Crochet Crop Cardigan by Monica Brown well enough that she wants another one!
I made hers in color black Classic Elite Premiere for the Classic Elite KAL/CAL in the Fall at Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarn Store and it took me weeks and weeks, but turned out beautifully, was not hard to make and the best part, Bethany loves it. Now she wants one in grey!

I think the best idea is to suggest that she make it for herself. She can do it and it would be a great experience for her to learn to read patterns on this relatively simple top down top. I think I'll look into that!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Type-A Crochet

For type-A personalities who like to stay organized, keep on track and get things done, isn't crochet a strange bedfellow? Now, now, don't panic; I'm not going to give up crocheting. I have just been mindful this week that here it is Wed. and my vow to post on Mondays went by the wayside. I have been skittering around in a mad rush all week, post Thanksgiving, crocheting in the car; crocheting between wrapping presents that have to be amiled, thinking about packing for Mexico, teaching crochet; crocheting to finish gifts.

I JUST NEVER GET DONE AND NEVER SEEM TO STOP BEING IN A RUSH! Isn't crochet supposed to be relaxing? I am still having fun, though, and loving my crochet still. The ideas keep coming to my head; and anyone who crochets knows that it is SO much fun to start a project! It must be the weekly hanging out in the yarn shop that is so stimulating. I know for a fact that it's where I get a lot of ideas.

Ideas come from everywhere, actually. That's a problem. Too many ideas; too little time. Not complaining. I just keep putting one hook in front of the other and I rejoice each time a project is finished. I get a thrill when I can add a photo to my online photobook on is it about us type-As and the crochet? How do we tolerate the slow pace of our beloved craft? It must be the rhythmic movements that lull us into a sense of relaxation, yet all the while allows our type-A minds to keep revolving around ideas, solutions, and what to do next!

I mentioned the rocks last week....they are done and they have names. They are photographed; wrapped and in the box ready to go.
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, front:


I Love Rocky Road, Front:


Well, the time has come; the clock is ticking. I have miles to go before I meet former work friends for dinner. I'll run to the mall for a gift card from a specialty store for a family we are supporting for Christmas at the gym. I will run down the road from there to get a specialty beer that tastes like tequila (???) for my son-in-law! I've been holding on to an article about this beer for months; didn't lose it! What did he do to deserve me? All very efficient and this Type-A Crocheter is proud of all she is getting done. Tick, tick ticking...and if I have time to spare, my crochet will be in the car with me!