Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Impatient, But Happy Hooker

Question: Why should I Learn to Crochet?
Answer: So you can make bad ass, little demented projects you and your friends will squeal over!

New, Fun, Crochet finds!

This is TOTALLY NOT your grandma's crochet! check out these crocheted little gems:

Gotta love!

OK,  before I begin this post here's a fun game: Take a shot every time you see the word "crochet" in this post; I guarantee you'll be wasted at the end :D.
P.S: Take advantage of all the click-able links on this post, they will direct you to more fun tutorials, sites and videos!

Crocheting isn't as hard as I thought it was going to be! After watching the You Tube videos in my first crochet tutorial blog post, I started crocheting and before I knew it I made a scarf! I was so proud of myself...until I received my book The Happy Hooker in the mail :/ Apparently, there are several versions of a "Single Crochet" stitch. The tutorial I found had me crocheting under one of the loops on the V on the chain stitch instead of both, the Author, Debbie Stoller, called this "Lazy Crochet":( since it leaves "unsightly holes" in your pattern. Unsightly?! I thought it made a pretty pattern; that is until I saw what her single crochet stitches looked like. The other way some people do the single crochet stitch is through the "butt" of the chain stitch; like the lady in this YouTube video, she obviously likes it in the butt...So after reading the first three chapters of The Happy Hooker and learning about the different types of yarn, different types and sizes of crochet hooks, and the Single Stitch Crochet, I began to make rows and rows of  Single Crochet until I could almost do it with my eyes closed. I made a 6x6"square and compared it to my Lazy Scarf and I have to side with her on this one; doing Single Crochet the proper way makes all the difference! So for this lesson, I will go over all the important info leading up to learning the single crochet.

The Lazy Stitch                                         Single Crochet Stitch                                 Half Double Crochet Stitch

Choosing yarn.

I had no idea there were so many different types of yarn. I assumed they were all the same, but different colored. Basically, there are four types: Plant based (cotton, hemp), Animal based (angora, wool, cashmere), Plastic (Acrylic, Rayon), and Blends. The plastic kind is the cheapest, but you definitely get what you pay for in most cases. As I found out with my Lazy Scarf, it can make a pretty scratchy and yucky feeling texture against your skin. So if grandma has ever made you a scratchy blanket, you can assume she was being a cheapskate or perhaps secretly punishing you for not visiting as much as you should. Either way, now you are on to her! So, to keep from going insane when turning the corner of your local craft store and freaking out over the wall of rainbow yarn rolls that kind of bleeds into a single organism, just grab a roll of yarn, check the label, and find out what type it is, or just pick one that feels good against your skin. I recommend learning with Acrylic, since it's the cheapest, but once you get the basics you may want to step it up to blends or even 100% cotton.

There are also different thicknesses to take into consideration, so just remember the thicker your yarn, the thicker your crochet hook must be. The thinnest yarn available is called Fingering weight yarn. It's 4 ply (4 strands of thread,twisted into a single strand) and is best for making lightweight sweaters or baby stuff. Going up the ladder is Sport Weight yarn, which is double the thickness of Fingering, Worsted Weight which is twice as thick as the Sport Weight, Chunky weight (Yes, even yarn must be politically correct now-a-days) twice the size of Worsted, and Extra-Bulky Weight which is really hefty.

Choose your weapon. 
The crochet hook/needle determines how tight your stitches are, the bigger the needle, the looser your stitches. I started out  with a medium size, or 4 mm size G6 in "crochet speak." This was a little difficult for a beginner because the tighter your stitches, the harder it is to wedge your uncoordinated needle-yielding hand into the correct stitch. So just keep going up in size if you keep making jelly beans and can't figure out why. Jelly bean shapes occur because you are keeping too much tension in your yarn while me...I made a lot of jelly beans! My favorite hook to use, when using size Fingering (4 ply) weight yarn is the 6 mm, size J10. That one seems to be the perfect size for my little hobbit fingers. The evil Lucy Fur also approves of this hook...

Get situated.
The beauty of crocheting is that you can fit it in to any tight schedule, I always multitask and crochet while watching Dexter as I wind down for the night. It can be a little difficult to keep consistent tension when trying to crochet directly from the roll of yarn, so make a ball out of it. To make a ball, place the end of the yarn in the palm of your hand and begin winding the yarn in a figure-eight pattern around your thumb and pinky. Once you do this about 20  times, pull the two loops off your fingers and fold them on top of each other. Begin winding the rest of your yarn around and around until all the yarn is on the ball. This is much better than having to wind it off of the lop-sided roll the entire time. So, now that you have your yarn ball and your favorite crochet hook, find a cozy spot on the couch  or computer and start doing your single crochet whether you prefer the "Lazy Crochet," the double V crochet, or the "like it in the butt" crochet. To each his(or her!) own.

Happy Hooking!
Update: Here is another helpful blog that will help you master crochet "Art Of Crochet by Teresa"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bow To The Cupcake Queen!

That's right, the girl who said baking is for chemists/math people and vowed to never be good at it, has mastered cupcakery...with the help of some amazing food blogs I have found recently. I was the host of my Sister-in-law's baby shower and instead of baking a boring cake decided it would be a good idea to bake a crap-ton of cupcakes, thinking it should be a piece of cake (pardon the pun). Well...I can tell you, even though they all turned out great, it was a LOT of work! I recommend making one batch of the same type per day, instead of several batches of four types in one day like I did. That is, unless you are a sadomasochist and like to torture yourself.

I made Red Velvet Cupcakes from a recipe I got from the Bitchin' Kitchen blog, Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes, and Chocolate Cheesecake Filled Cupcakes from Sugar Plum Blog, and Rainbow cupcakes that I found in a Blogger forum. With the right tools, I was able make some awesome cupcakes that people raved over. I bought this frosting tool that kind of looks like a caulking gun and has a bunch of different tips that goes with it, this thing is essential for all your frosting needs. So, with the help of my new toy, I was able to not only make good tasting cupcakes, but pretty ones too! This tool is way easier to work with than a frosting bag, and is a must-have for any of you fellow non-girly girls. I'm honestly impressed with myself. This girl who was raised by her father, who played with bugs in the dirt since she was a toddler, and refused to wear dresses until 8th grade, made girly looking, great tasting baked goods!

 If you want to make some bad ass cupcakes, check out the links below. Don't be intimidated to do things from scratch, these little buggers are worth it. The rainbow cupcakes are way easy, all you do is make your favorite white cake batter, divide it up into small bowls, add food coloring to each of the bowls, depending what colors you want, then spoon each color into your cupcake tins and bake. After they cool, add whatever frosting you choose. So to be honest, making cupcakes from scratch was a lot of work, but If I can do it, so can you!! Plus, it feels really good to know you can create something delicious and pretty and still be a tomboy at the same time. Just take my advice and only do one type at a time...unless you want achy feet, a sore back, and tired nerves :).

*Update- Bow to the Cuppy cake boy! Warning: This is so cute, your head might explode!*

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Chocolate Cheesecake Filled Cupcakes With Chocolate Frosting

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lucy Fur's Jelly Bean

It's good to see my abysmal attempt at crocheting is not in vain. I may not have to buy her another cat toy for a while...

             Lucy has made my crochet FAIL  her b*tch

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tangled In Yarn

Bring on the booze for this next challenge! I decided I was to become a crochet master as soon as Christmas was over. So the other day I trekked to a craft store and bought some pretty purple yarn and a three-pack of brightly colored crochet needles of various sizes. I wasn't sure which size I needed, so I figured one of each wouldn't hurt. Since I am impatient by nature, instead of trying to find a person close by that I could learn from I took to one of my favorite sites, YouTube to begin my lessons. Holy hell...definitely harder than I thought. There are so many different stitches to learn! I thought there was one simple crochet stitch for everything, silly me. Plus the size of the needle makes a huge difference too. The tighter your stitch, the smaller your needle must be.

Over xmas break I found a relative to help me out. She was able to show me a basic stitch and told me to get a smaller needle. Apparently, the smaller the needle, the easier it is to stick through your stitches. Feeling pretty confident, I started out with a scarves width and began my stitches... the more stitches I made, the more my "scarf" started looking like a jelly bean...which leads me to lesson two: keeping consistent tension without pulling too tight on your yarn...that is unless you want to make flat, jelly-bean shapes.

Also, if you plan on getting your crochet on, make sure you give your kitty something to keep her entertained, otherwise she will get all up in your business and add some erratic tension on your yarn thus slowing up the process a bit. As of now, a beer break is looking pretty good. I am not the crafty type, in fact, I tend to suck at most things girly, so this is proving to be quite the challenge. Oh, this tangled web I weave...or attempt to weave anyway. This may be the death of me, I'll be sure to keep you posted. If there was a hell I imagine it would involve baking while following a recipe, and crocheting. Maybe it will get better once I figure out what the hell I am doing. :)

My goal: I really want to make something cool and unique once I learn to crochet, so after I figure out how to crochet in a straight line, I want to design and make a girly beer coozy with crochet flowers to hold my favorite Sam Adams or Dogfish Head beer. Then I want to design and make a simple crochet  purse to replace my cloth Aerosmith bag I have patched up  and nursed through the past two years. Unlike most women, I have one purse that I drag with me everywhere, and one annoying one that I take out only when I wear heels. Aerosmith goes with just about everything ;).

So, feel free to go grab some yarn and a thin needle and learn along with me. Here are the links to the YouTube videos I have been watching. Since it's going to take a while to complete this mission, I will be blogging about other stuff that comes my way until I learn any more crochet tips worth blogging about. :D

YouTube Links!
The little song in the intro and outro is comical
Lesson 1: Chain stitch (this is your starting point)
Lesson 2: The Single Crochet Stitch