Happy Holidays from Tinking Turtle

Happy Holidays from Tinking Turtle

Happy Holidays from Tinking Turtle

As I’m sure everyone is feeling, the next couple of weeks are going to be busy and hopping!  The Turtle Household is hosting two parties back to back (Saturday night’s has nearly 12 houseguests!), then I’m traveling for a graduation.  Then there’s family coming to visit, a trip to the doctor’s (before the new year!), and then traveling for the final festivities.  Another jaunt home, then away again for the New Year.

So in light of that, I wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday and new year!

Happy Holiday snowflake

Crochet Christmas Tree Snowflake

Mr. Turtle and I finished decorating the tree last night.  Pictured here is one of my favorite ornaments, a simple crocheted snowflake, starched to within an inch of it’s life, that I’ve been putting on the tree since I was a child.  I love how it looks against the tree!

I actually don’t know who made it, or how long it’s been in the family, although I do suspect it was from my mother’s side of the family.  We have a few other older ornaments that were always stored with it – so perhaps from about the same time period?  It’s a question I’ll have to ask my mother!

Do you have a favorite ornament?  If so, what is it?

A Perfect Sweater Repair

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’ve been hopping, trying to wrap up finishing projects before Christmas is truly upon us.  I’ve nearly pushed through the projects that are due in the next two weeks (and then the rest aren’t due until the New Year!).  I had one repair in particular that I wanted to share – a sweater repair in the Irish Knit Style.  The owner, AM, discovered me through the Washington Post article, and got in contact with me shortly thereafter.  She had a hole right in the front of the sweater, and could I please repair it?

As always, I told her I’d do the best I was able, but I was concerned – the yarn she had, a cream flecked with bits of brown, looked to be tricky to match.

This week I sat down to start on her repair, and when I pulled her sweater out of my bag, I couldn’t help wincing – this yarn was going to be really tricky to match.  I have a number of different creams on hand, but all of them were too light, and with too much “yellow” undertone.  AM’s sweater was a cream with an almost grey undertone.  And again, it had flecks of brown it it – tricky to match.  I checked the sweater – there wasn’t a good place to “harvest” yarn without going to a lot of effort, and I knew AM wanted to keep the costs down.  So matching the yarn from somewhere else would be a better option.

The hole itself was a lucky one: a row higher and it would be in the middle of a cable – a repair that’s much more finicky and tedious to do.  Two rows down there was the same problem.  This hole happened in exactly the right place – the few rows between two cables.

Well, it’d been a while since I’d been to one of the local yarn stores.  I figured it was time for a visit.

The Knitting B is a local yarn store about 25 minutes from where I live.  It’s the longest drive to a LYS I’ve had since I left my parents’ house.  So I don’t get there as often as I feel I should, and it’s too bad.  It’s a great store with lots of natural light, a solid selection of yarns, and a good parking area (always a plus!). Elizabeth, the owner, had an LYS in Charlottesville, VA for 25 years.  She’s a savvy businesswoman who knows here stuff.

When I got to the Knitting B one of the employees began helping me out trying to get a match.  Everything we pulled was not right.  Many of my go-to’s weren’t working.  And then, I remembered a trick I’d used before to get a good match.  Color changing yarns often will have sections that shift between colors, which means you get a lot of “bang” for your buck – and in this case, a couple of yards of yarn that match a hard to match yarn.  In this case, Noro Silk Garden came to the rescue.

The repair was pretty standard after that.

Because the yarn was awfully fuzzy, and hard to see what I was doing, I did a step I sometimes skip.  I ran guidelines: a different color of crochet thread for each row.  Because it’s the holidays, I decided to go with red and green.  I then unpicked the old yarn, pulling it out of the way.

Sweater repair with guidelines.

Sweater repair with guidelines.

I began tracing the yarn with the Noro Silk Garden.  My only complaint about Noro is that it’s really easy to pull apart, being a single-ply.  It was also a fraction less lofty than the original yarn, but the color matching was so perfect I didn’t care, as the repair was only 4 stitches across.  I ran the first row of yarn, adjusting the stitches to make sure they matched the gauge of the stitches around them.  Then I pulled out the green guideline.  It’s one of the reasons I love crochet cotton: it pulls out REALLY easily, and is nearly unbreakable without scissors.

Sweater repair half done, only red guidelines remain.

Sweater repair half done, only red guidelines remain.

I then ran the second set of yarn, and pulled out the red yarn.

Sweater repair, needing ends woven in.

Sweater repair, needing ends woven in.

See how nice the color match is?  Just let me be geeky for a moment – the under-color is SO close, and the flecks of brown is SOOO close too.  You’d really have to be looking to notice this.

Then got down to the tedious part: weaving in the old ends and the new ends, tweaking things as I go.

Sweater Repair, finished.

Sweater Repair, finished.

Can you spot the repair?  Yes?  Well then, I ask you.

How about now?

Sweater Repair, big view

Sweater Repair, big view

As always, if you’re looking to have a knit piece repaired, get in touch with me on my Finishing Page.  Got questions?  I’d love to hear from you.  Comment, or drop me a note!

A Collection of Life Notes

Today’s a bit of a mishmash of life-notes and thoughts, being that I’m still working through the laundry from Thanksgiving and have all my deadlines looming right at the same time, mid-month.

Not much personal knitting/crocheting has been happening in the Turtle household lately, which makes me a very boring person indeed.

I’ve been working in a sweater made in a size small.  Working a size small sample always makes me nervous: even though I know my math is correct, and the piece is measuring out correct, when I look at the knitted piece I have a hard time believing it would actually fit a real live adult person.  I keep going over to my size small dress form and holding it up, reassuring myself it really is the right size, and then working myself up into a tizzy again a few hours later.

For some reason it doesn’t happen when I work a size medium.

Anyone else ever have this problem?

Being away from home means the cats have been very needy the last two days.  I suppose this is a good thing, as I’m doing 3-5 hours of knitting each day to meet a mid-month deadline.  They can sit on my lap and I can work, work, work.

Watson and Peake helping with the knitting

Watson and Peake helping with the knitting – if you look close you can see my current project!

Still, it’s grey and rainy out, and due to be the same weather until Thursday, which seems like such a long way away.  That meant yesterday my knitting time became my nap time for entirely too long.  It also means my needy white cat, Watson, has been in my face saying “pet me! pet me!” … with his claws.

Still, it’s good to be home for a little stretch, even if it’s just shy of two weeks before we’re off again.


Crochet lace about to be repaired

Crochet lace about to be repaired

I’m tearing through the last of the finishing that’s due before Christmas, and hoping to get it off a little before the holiday.  I’ve had a number of rather challenging projects: a fisherman’s sweater that had seen better days, and a crochet bedspread made a difficult repair simply because it was so LARGE.  If you’ve been waiting on your finishing to arrive before Christmas, it should be going off sometime around the 18th.

Meanwhile I haven’t started on Christmas cards, nearly any shopping, or cleaning the house.  I’ve been vibrating a little with holiday tension. If I wasn’t knitting for work, I’d be knitting for stress relief.

Still, I get to listen to as much of the holiday music as I can stand, which is a huge plus.

duplicate stitch on knitting

Foxes being embroidered

When off shopping with my mother and sister over the holiday, I noticed no fewer than five different shirts on adults and children (in different stores) featuring foxes.  One of my current designs has a fox on it.

I’m so excited for it to be out in the world.  Foxes are soooo in right now.  And it’s great – I think they’re adorable!


Talking with Marian Schembari

This morning I spent some time talking to Marian Schembari, a Davidson College classmate of mine.  Marian’s been a person I’ve enjoyed following since we graduated: from her facebook ad that got her a job in publishing, to her dynamic transition from a Couchsurfer user to employee, and finally to the freelance career she has today – she’s always doing something smart and interesting.  Oftentimes I’ve drawn parallels between the tracks of our careers – as we’ve both struggled to figure out what to do when the career we thought we wanted to do didn’t quite work.  While I realized that I wasn’t suited to academia and an office job, Marian realized that publishing wasn’t quite a good fit for her.  In the years since 2005 (when we were across the other in our freshman dorms), I’ve went from being a little in awe of Marian (she had a great roommate and a great sense of style and an amazing writing voice) to being respectful of her as a businesswoman – one who has managed to make several right-turns in her career and still remain passionate and articulate and true-to-herself.

So I was curious as I sat down to chat with Marian over Skype this morning.  She had put out a call on Facebook, wanting to talk to women who ran small businesses, and I figured it would be a fun way to say hello and reconnect.  It’s funny – despite never being good friends in college (probably due to me often just feeling/being awkward), we managed to chat for just under an hour about so many different things we had in common.

One of my goals each month this year was to call up and talk to someone I thought was neat or cool and just chat.  I’ve mentioned this before (especially on twitter).  The goal was a simple one: the job I have now, on an everyday basis, is a largely solitary one, and I wanted to reach out to people who I thought were neat and just connect.  Also, because I tend to have a fear of calling up people I don’t know, this was a way to work on that problem!  Think of it as establishing my own water-cooler.  I kept the rules loose – the chat could be in person or on the phone, and it didn’t have to really be for any reason other than I thought the person was nifty.  This mission has led to me establishing connections I didn’t think was possible, and even some young friendships.

Talking with Marian brought home why I started this project.  We were able to chat about how our Alma Mater has both been a boon (in friendships) and a frustration (our work-ethic is perhaps permanently warped).  Marian gave me some great ideas about how to talk and present myself online, and I told her a bit about my business and the fiber arts industry.  At one moment Marian shared her love of adult coloring books, and I reached just out of the frame to hold up my mug of colored pencils.  Laughing, Marian reached out of the video frame on her end, to show me a bunch of colored pencils – also in a coffee mug.

It also brought home several things I shouldn’t forget: that I need to remember to keep doing the things I love, in between the things that keeps a business running.

When was the last time you reached out to an old acquaintance?  How did it go?

This Fall: Teaching at Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival

Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival

This will be my second year at this lovely and fun location, located in Central Virginia!  If you’ve never been to this fiber festival, it’s small and personable and has some great vendors, as well as classes.  I’ll be offering:Duct Tape Dress Form

Finishing Knitted Garments
Ooops! Repairing Your Knits
Make a Duct Tape Dress Form
Beginning Knit Repair
Crocheting with Beads

Click through to see more about the classes, as well as signup at the website.  Or just check out my new calendar – it’s a lot more spiffy, and it makes it easier to see classes!

New Classes Posted to the Calendar!

As I’m getting my schedule firmed up for the fall, I’m starting to slot dates in for my new classes!  I thought I’d highlight my classes at Fibre Space, this Fall.

Fibre Space

I love teaching at Fibre Space (which is located in Old Town Alexandria, VA), and I’ve got a few really great classes I’ll be teaching this fall.  Highlights include: Stained Glass Rug

Darn Those Knits
Stranded Crochet Cowl
Finishing Essentials
Intarsia Wrap
Ooops! Fixing Mistakes
Padded Crochet Rug

Fun Times at the Farm

Fun Times at the Farm

Fun Times at the Farm

On Friday I wrapped up the last of my camps with Montgomery College, hastily packed up my belongings, said goodbye to my lovely hosts, and swung around the beltway in DC to pick up Sweetness and Light.

For those of you who have begun following me in the last year, the monikers Sweetness and Light have little meaning, as I haven’t written about them recently.  Sweetness and Light are the name of two girls that I was a nanny to for four years – from mid 2010 until mid 2014, when Mr. Turtle and I moved to Richmond.  I began working for the family when I moved to DC – underemployed and still with the shine of college.  Sweetness was three, Light, just over 10 months.

Now, Sweetness is a precocious eight and Light is going to be six at the end of this month.  In the time in between, their parents have become more than friends, their family has increased by one (a 20 month old boy, now), and my employment has deepened into a friendship.  About once every four months, Sweetness and Light come for a sleepover, and since I was “in town” anyway, it made sense to “borrow” the girls, and bring them home for a few days.

Light rocking a ball-cap.

So what might have been a relaxing weekend unpacking and decompressing from camp became a joyful visit (perhaps relaxing might not be the word I’d use, but invigorating might fit).

Well, perhaps it was relaxing for Sweetness.

This was a particularly special trip, as we got to take Sweetness and Light to the farm.  Sweetness got to drive the riding lawnmower, we took rides in the antique jeep (without seatbelts!), and went to the James River to “ride the rapids,” fish and swim.

On Monday we returned to Ashland, and I dug out the camp materials for one last reprise, and we did needle felting to make pillows in honor of Mr. Turtle’s birthday, in a week.

Now the girls are gone, and it’s time to get back to the grindstone.  There’s updates to the website, design subs to create, patterns in a backlog that need to be written and edited, and camp stuff to unpack and find homes for.

Come next week, I’ll be trying to get back into the grove of blog-posts that are more informative that update-ish.  I’ve also got a bunch of patterns that have come out in the last four weeks, so I’ll spend some time highlighting those!

3 Essential Rules to Work on Granny Square Crochet Blankets

Tomorrow morning I’ll be winging off our a week long vacation with my family in Alaska, and then I’ll return to quickly packing up for three weeks of summer camps in Rockville, MD.  So I’ve been trying to wrap up a few long-term finishing projects.

Sometime soon I’m going to write a post on how to properly finish off a granny-square blanket so it doesn’t fall apart in 30 years. (Or really, any blanket for that matter.)  Still, it seems like all I’ve been doing lately is repairing granny squares.

It’s meditative work at the best of times, and dead boring at the worst.  I normally like to put on a book-tape or podcast and crank out the repairs.  This time around I took a few photos to share, and decided to add my 3 rules of working on granny square blankets.

Granny Square blanket with split seams

The first blanket, featured above, had two major places it was broken: the last row of the square didn’t have its ends woven in, and I needed to rework the last row and reattach.

Rule #1: Properly weaving in ends is essential in a blanket that you want to last.  Crocheting over them doesn’t cut it.

Repairing hole in Granny Square Blanket

Repairing hole in Granny Square Blanket

As a corollary to Rule #1, the closer an end is to the center, the more stress it takes.  REALLY weave in the ends at the center of a blanket.

Which brings me to my next rule.

Rule #2: include care instructions when you give a blanket to someone.  Don’t expect them to know how to care for the blanket and the fibers!

Let me show you some examples:

Center of granny square lost of love

Center of granny square lost of love

Slowly adding back the center of the Granny Square

Slowly adding back the center of the Granny Square

Granny square center replaced!

Granny square center replaced!

All the black that's  not a

All the black that’s not a “frame” for the granny square is replaced & repaired.

The blanket above is one that’s been well loved, but also subjected to light and heat damage.  The fibers are very very delicate, and I’m working to repair the largest holes so this can be gently loved again. Still, proper care of textiles can extend their life a hundredfold.

Finally, my last rule.

Rule #3: REALLY, REALLY weave in your ends.  Seriously.  Nearly 80% of the granny square repairs I do is in places where they ends have come unraveled, instead of the fibers degrading.  Weave in the ends.  Use a sharp needle.  Skim them in.

Are there things you can think of to extend the life of your afghans?  What are they?

Padded Crochet Tutorial

Padded Crochet Tutorial

In honor of Rag-ety Rug coming out this week from Crochet World, and my recent post about it coming out, I thought it was appropriate to finally post this tutorial, which I’ve been saving for quite a while.

What you’ll need:

  • A crochet hook
  • Some scrap yarn
  • Rags, upholstery cord, or something else nice and thick but flexible to crochet over.  Bulky yarn would work too.

A bit about padded crochet: this technique originally was used to crochet around thicker yarn to create different motifs.  It gives you a lot of flexibility because you don’t have to crochet into the previous row, you can also just crochet around your material.  You see this technique often used in  Irish Crochet.

To begin, work a foundation chain, and work single crochets into the chain.  This can be any width, as we’re working a practice swatch.  After you’ve finished those two rows, you begin by adding in your cord/rag/yarn.  You’ll be crocheting around it much like you do when you’re burying an end into your crochet work, except this will be much larger.

Adding in your cord/rag/yarn

Adding in your cord/rag/yarn

Begin by holding your cord/rag/yarn above the last row you worked.

Joining Yarn around padded crochet

Joining Yarn around padded crochet

In this case, I’m also joining the yarn for this row.  Insert your hook into the last stitch of the previous row, and draw up your yarn.

Attaching yarn, Padded Crochet, Step 2

Chain one, securing yarn around the cord/rag/yarn.  I like to hold my tail together with my working yarn for this first stitch, or no other reason than it makes me feel better, and makes me feel like things are more secure.  I’ve got no proof, though.

Begin working Single Crochets around cord/rag/yarn

Begin working Single Crochets around cord/rag/yarn

Now, begin working your crochet stitches into the stitch of the previous row, working the yarn around the cord/rag/yarn.  In this case, I’m working a variant of the v-stitch.

Some tips:

  • Make sure you’re letting your stitches lie flat.  If you make them tight, they’ll bunch up your cord/rag/yarn.
  • Every once and a while check to make sure that your piece is laying flat.  Because the cord/rag/yarn that you’re working over has a tendency to shift around, it can make things pucker, draw tighter or looser.  I like to measure ever few rows.
  • When you have to add more cord, there’s a few ways you can do it.  In my case, I sewed on my rags together, because it was a bit more tidy.  You can also just hold the end of one rag and the beginning of another together.
  • Make sure if you’re using rags they’re the same width, so your rug doesn’t have a lumpy look, or have irregular rows (unless that’s the effect you’re going for)!
Measure, measure, measure!

Measure, measure, measure!

Have you every worked padded crochet?  How’d it turn out?  What was the project?

New Pattern: Rag-ety Rug, a Padded Crochet Project

Rag-ety Rug by Jennifer Raymond

Rag-ety Rug, a Padded Crochet Project

I’m proud to announce that Rag-ety Rug, my pattern with Crochet World Magazine’s August 2015 issue, is officially out.  (Yes, I know it’s only June.  I’m not quite sure how Annie’s works their release schedule, but even though it’s June, you should be able to start finding the magazine on shelves in the next few weeks).

Rag-ety Rug uses one of my new favorite crochet techniques, padded crochet.  Like Stained Glass Rug and Matryoshka Baskets, Rag-ety Rug uses padded crochet.  Normally padded crochet is worked with smaller items (like in Irish Crochet Lacework), but I like to use padded crochet to make more modern, exploded lace pieces.

Rag-ety Rug was mostly worked on during a vacation to Atlantic Beach with Mr. Turtle’s Parent’s.  It seemed rather fitting: this rug, worked with denim scraps, fits in perfectly with beach decor.  The varied blues of the different denim scraps seemed to echo the blues of the ocean.

walking on Atlantic Beach in January

Walking on Atlantic Beach in January

There is a meditative quality to this rug, as each row the “v-stitch” nests into the following row.  I loved watching the rug gradually grow.  The cotton in the rug is from Lily’s Sugar ‘n Cream line, in a color called Stone Wash.  It was a perfect pairing for the denim.

Padded Crochet Rug from Annie's Crochet World

Rag-ety Rug, done in Padded Crochet, detail shot.

In my original pitch I imagined this rug in rainbow colors, for a children’s room or for someone who loves color.  I think it’d be fun to play around with textures too: perhaps with prints or strips or plaid?  The possibilities are endless!

What colors would you work this rug in?