now with more kittens

Tail end, my crochet cat toy for kittens of all ages, has now been tech edited and sports both new layout and photos.

Tail End & Shadow

Throughout the years from the initial creation in 2011 when Shadow stole a half finished mouse off my lap to today, the toys have continued to be tested and loved by him, Buddy, and all my foster kittens.

Buddy playing with a Tail End crochet cat toy

A percentage of all pattern sales will be donated to Westchester Humane Society at New Rochelle each year. The other portion of the pattern sales will help support my fostering efforts.

Tail End

Quick to make, this crochet cat toy will keep your cat moving and entertained for hours. Made with less than 10 yards of worsted weight yarn, these mouse tails are finished faster than microwave popcorn and healthier for the feline in your life. The shape provides hours of fun for a paw to swat and is easy to carry around the house. The braided tail provides added amusement and saves you the time of weaving in additional ends.

Skills & Supplies:

Skills required: Magic adjustable ring, working in the round, 3 strand braid
Finished Size: approximately 2in (5cm) wide x 1.75in (4.5cm) long + braided tail of 2in (5cm)
Yarn: 10 yards of worsted weight (CYC Medium #4) is recommended.
Hook: US size F/5 (3.75mm) crochet hook
Notions: tapestry needle, removable stitch marker
Gauge: While not essential for this pattern, a tighter than normal gauge will help the toy maintain its shape.
Technical Editor: Lindsey Stephens of Poetry in Yarn.

Learn more & Purchase:

This pattern costs $1.99 and is available as an instant PDF download from Ravelry, Craftsy, and Etsy.

If you don’t crochet and would like cat toys for the feline(s) in your life, I have some available on Etsy. If there are none in stock, please let me know that you’d like a set and we can discuss a custom order.

I hope to add kits soon.

New Kittens!

Earlier today I picked up four new foster kittens. They’re going to stay with me for a few weeks while they grow and gain the strength to succeed in their forever homes.

2016-09-20-fosterkittens

3 new book reviews: crochet, quilting, & spinning

Three new books are now available from Storey Publishing. They cover crochet, quilting, and spinning. Without further ado, let’s jump in.

This is a very long post. Please click to jump straight to the quilt or spinning books.

Crochet Taxidermy

Crochet Taxidermy : 30 Quirky Animal Projects, from Mouse to Moose
by Taylor Hart

Storey Publishing
paperback, $14.95
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

This adorable book provides ideas for doing something a bit different with all those amigurumi you can’t stop crocheting other than stuffing and tossing them to the nearest kiddo or kitten. Mount them!

I know. It’s seems obvious right? I’ve framed things, but mounting wasn’t something that I’d thought of (and I now wish I had).

This title is formatted a little differently than many recent crochet and knitting titles – all the designs are displayed and featured at the start of the book and after the features you find the instructions.

Feel free to ooh and ahh your way through the woodland creatures such as sly fox (who started Hart on this journey) and lil stinker. Giggle about the nursery rhymes you could inscribe to farm friends how now, brown cow and the baaad sheep. Pretend you went on a safari with ellie elephant and renegade rhino. The sea creatures include a colossal squid and jiggly jellyfish. Overall there are 30 designs full of whimsy. The basics cover how to crochet the figures in general and include Hart’s tried and true tricks. Following all of this general information are the specific instructions which include all the standard parts of a well written pattern. Not sure how to affix your critter to the plaque? Don’t fret. There are clear instructions and you don’t need power tools (though if you know how to use them, that opens up many more design possibilities!)

This is a fun book that will likely make you smile. I see is as a great source of ideas for quick and easy unique gifts. Once you’ve crocheted your way through these amigurumi, what whimsy might you decide to mount? A few fun ideas popped into my brain while I was reading this book.

The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook

The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook : 91 Modern Art–Inspired Designs and Exercises

by Thomas Knauer
Storey Publishing
paperback, $18.95
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I admit I fell for the title first and when I read the book blurb, I knew I needed to request it. Yes coloring books are all the craze but that wasn’t why this title caught my eye, the two words Design and Workbook were. My art education ended in jr. high. Yes, I took an architecture history course in college, but other than spending time strolling through the Met and MoMA, that’s about as formal as my art education gets. It’s a challenge now working with artists and those special people who just “get” color. I am challenged greatly if asked to mix more than two to three, could this title be what I’ve looked for?

Yes. And it’s so much more.

Knauer has condensed modern art history, color theory, and quilting into 144 pages of an amazing book. It is helpful for those who have aspirations to quilt (such as I do) , those who want to understand the relationship of color and space, and for those who love to color!

After a clear introduction to Knauer and his philosophy to modern art and color, we jump into sections that cover seven aesthetics of modern art. They are organized beautifully and make the book really work.

Each section begins with an overview of the aesthetic. We then see a sample quilt followed by an example in modern art. Following this foundation, there are both design exercises and coloring exercises to cause the reader to test and stretch ideas.

It is the design exercises that set this workbook apart from all the coloring books proliferating on store shelves and provides useful education for all artists. For example, in the section Balance, the reader is asked to add a shape that balances the composition and then another to again throw it into imbalance. Repeating until the desired effect is reached. Wow, it’s not easy. It’s made me stop and think about how I use shape and color value and layout. For more on these experiments please read Quilt Design Coloring Workbook: Why Include Design Experiments???

The appendices includes a summary of modern art movements with selected artists and selected further readings.

I highly recommend this book!


Yarnitecture

Yarnitecture : A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want

by Jillian Moreno
Storey Publishing
Hardcover, $29.95
Also available as an ebook.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Like me you probably have whole shelves devoted to, and have read many books about, spinning, yarn, and wool from the likes of Alden Amos, Carol Ekarius, Judith MacKenzie McCuin , Clara Parkes, and Deborah Robson among many others (I just took a quick sampling of my bookshelf, I can’t list everyone), but you haven’t quite figured out how to take all that knowledge and improve the yarn you spin. Yarnitecture is your answer.

Moreno builds on her extensive experience as a knitter and spinner and has figured out a way to break down all the parts of making a yarn in a way that makes sense and will aid the reader in producing the yarn they want to spin. This isn’t a book for those who have never picked up a spindle or sat at a wheel. It’s perfect for me as I already keep a notebook (very useful for my yarn vision) and want to move out of what I’ll call my spinning rut. Several years ago my goal was to figure out how to spin a consistent yarn of a certain size. I can. I now almost always prepare, draft, and spin my fiber the same way braid after braid.

Organized in seven sections, grouped and named inspired by phases encountered when building a house (such as foundation, frame, and paint), Moreno has written a remarkable book. I took copious notes each time I’ve read my eARC copy. I am incorporating the lessons and tips I’ve picked up into my spinning and I see a positive result in my spinning.

While many experienced spinners will likely think they should skip straight to the chapter of what’s currently causing them trouble, I urge at least one complete cover to cover read. Yes, I know my notebook about my spinning isn’t unique, but I like Moreno’s way to keep quick notes with her samples and spun yarns. It’s also nice to read suggestions on what to record, and why.

The photos of fiber preparations and clarifying woolen vs worsted and top vs roving should be required reading for all spinners and those who write product descriptions. I’m sure I’ve read it a zillion times before. I think it’s finally beginning to stick.

All of the other sections from drafting, plying, color, to finishing and actual knitting are delightful and full of tips. When two (or more) techniques are compared, I enjoyed the clear photographs to help further explain what was going on and why. The included designs are both a range of styles and fibers and a great starting point for taking the lessons in the book and turning them into something that can be knitted and not just another pretty skein of handspun that sits in a basket to be admired. I liked that notes were included from the spinner of the yarn of things they found difficult or helpful.

I recommend this to every spinning knitter. I’m eager for a time machine so I can give it to my past self and prevent many hours of spinning frustration.

2016-08-17-bookreviews

I received eARCs of these titles from NetGalley in exchange for reviews. The FTC wants you to know.

a quick crochet tip

I love coil-less safety pins for marking my crochet stitches but sometimes I don’t have one at hand. This happened to me the other day while I was waiting to pick my husband up at the train. I was crocheting a crochet cat toy for my foster kittens and wanted a way to mark the start of round so I didn’t need to count. While I believe there was one somewhere in the car (I have emergency yarn & needles/hooks stashed away) it was easier to just loop some of the yarn tail into my work to quickly mark the spot.

Crocheting a cat toy.

Crocheting a cat toy.

I’ve found this method works better with a variegated or striped yarn so there is contrast to where I add the marker and it’s apparent in the fabric.

There are several different kinds of markers available and several years ago Lindsey of Poetry in Yarn wrote a nice description ones commonly found. Round ring markers don’t work well in crochet unless you are trying to purposely add rings to your fabric!

There are many different ways stitch markers can be useful in your crochet, from marking where you’ve started (or ended) to counting rounds or rows. Stacey of FreshStitches wrote about how to use a stitch marker for amigurumi and offers clear illustration how to use them.

Looking for more crochet tips? This is a great article from Vogue Knitting (Crochet 2014).

a chat with Tanja Osswald

Late last month I sat down for a virtual chat with Tanja Osswald, a crochet designer with a unique twist on the technique. Without further ado, let’s jump right in:

Comet by Tanja Osswald

Comet by Tanja Osswald

little acorn:
Many of your crochet designs do not look like average crochet, what inspired you to explore these techniques?
Tanja:
One of the reasons I enjoy crochet so much is that it is so versatile. If I need something stiff, standing up on its own without support, there are crochet stitches I can use. If I need something with lots of drape, there are crochet stitches for that, too. And for everything in-between.

For example, making a garment out of single crochets restricts you to certain options. If you add in linked stitches (which are related to Tunisian crochet) or slip stitch crochet, you have a lot more options concerning drape and shaping.

Besides, it is fun to explore new things just because I have not done them before. Right now, I’m working on developing textures with slip stitches, making spikes, popcorns, and scales.

little acorn:
I love that you look for the right stitch for your design instead of forcing something to do what it might not be best for!
How should a crocheter new to your designs begin?
Tanja:
My patterns are often unusual, so it helps if you are open to learn something new. Reading the techniques section with hook in hand and working through the directions instead of just reading them, is helpful, as well.
Petra by Tanja Osswald

Petra by Tanja Osswald


little acorn:
Yes! It’s one thing to read but to work through what you’re reading before you jump in, often makes the difference between success and complete befuddlement and frustration.
When not making, you can be found…
Tanja:
On Ravelry and in my German language Häkelclub (a crochet forum), when I’m online. Offline, I like to spend time with friends, read and do Yoga.
Guido Roswitha
little acorn:
What drives your creativity?
Tanja:
Curiosity is a strong factor in creating. “How can I make this work?” is what starts a lot of my designs. I have a background in mathematics, so I often see designing from a topological point of view. That is, I knew that horizontal cables had to be possible before I invented them, as well as invisible slip stitch seams.

Another aspect is that I like structures and patterns. Thus, a floor mosaic can inspire me to a shawl pattern. Doodling is a great source for patternings, too.

I also like writing up patterns, putting my sketchy notes into a form that other people can follow. Sometimes, this requires coming up with new ways of description – like symbols for slip stitch lace. My first hand-drawn symbols were made up on the spot and looked a lot more unique than the symbols I use now. They usually encoded a sequence of several stitches. When I wrote my first slip stitch lace pattern (Frechen), I decided it was easier for others to use symbols that are close to what is around – so my symbols became more knit-style.

Berlin Braids by Tanja Osswald

Berlin Braids by Tanja Osswald


Surfing the Clouds by Tanja Osswald

Surfing the Clouds by Tanja Osswald

little acorn:
Ok, I ask everyone, kitten or puppy snuggles?
Tanja:
Both. But if I have to choose, it is kittens. My favorite snuggle memory is when I visited a friend with small kittens. When I sat down for breakfast, they crawled onto my lap and dozed off. I think I’ve never spent so much time at a breakfast table.
little acorn:
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me!


Tanja can be found at www.osswald-design.com.
Her Ravelry group is A Hookful of Splendor.

Fly Fly Mittens by Tanja Osswald

Fly Fly Mittens
by Tanja Osswald

current projects, april edition

I seem to have caught spring startitis: I want to start and work on all the projects right now. Some projects are zooming along, others have fits and starts as I work through design challenges. I seem also to have neglected to take many photos lately. Today was rainy, dark, and grey so I didn’t get as many photos as I wanted to help illustrate this post.

I’m thrilled that I’m still spinning regularly, Spinzilla will be here before I know it.

Anzula baby camel & Akerworks mini spindle

Anzula baby camel & Akerworks mini spindle

Turkish spindle & Happy Fuzzy Yarn Michigan Wools

Turkish spindle & Happy Fuzzy Yarn Local Michigan Wools

Akerworks bobbins & Hello Yarn Cheviot

Akerworks bobbins & Hello Yarn Cheviot



I have a few designs I’m working on. The Happy Fuzzy Yarn Merino Mono has been swatched and I need to do some maths and knit the mitts up!

Happy Fuzzy Yarn Merino Mono

Happy Fuzzy Yarn Merino Mono

Happy Fuzzy Yarn Merino Mono Swatch

Happy Fuzzy Yarn Merino Mono Swatch



There is a new hat design in Anzula Haiku that is waiting for me to make some final design decisions on so I can finish it.

Anzula Haiku

Anzula Haiku



And there will be some exciting new projects thanks to the generosity of friends.

The Meath pullover is hibernating because I am crocheting an accessory to wear to a family wedding in June. It is Amy O’Neill Houck‘s Alpine Frost Scarf. I’m working it up in some 8/2 cotlin, and I think it will be beautiful. You can follow my progress on my Ravelry project page.

Alpine Frost Scarf in 8/2 Cotlin

Alpine Frost Scarf in 8/2 Cotlin

Do you have spring startitis?

March’s Current Projects

With Ayrton now available, what projects am I working on?

First up is a sample knit in very delightful Anzula luster, in colourway Lottie. It’s an easy lace pattern, once you work a few repeats it’s easy to read so it’s good knitting while listening to audiobooks.
WIPs-March2016-SampleKnit

Next is a sample crochet of Lindsey Stephens/Poetry in Yarn’s new Simply Classic Mitts in yummy Stitch Sprouts Yellowstone.
WIPs-March2016-SimplyClassicMitts

Once I finish those projects, there are a few Happy Fuzzy Yarn designs begging for my attention. I’m pretty sure that these two cakes of Merino Mono will become a pair of two-colour fingerless mitts.
WIPs-March2016-HappyFuzzyYarnMitts

There are a few other designs, but they don’t have photos yet.

I’m still spinning each week, at least on Tuesdays. I’ve been trying to spindle while I wait for hot water to boil or as rewards between tasks. I’m in love with my Akerworks mini spindle and the Anzula baby camel.
WIPs-March2016-AkerworksSpindle

There are also two personal projects I’ve been working on when I catch a spare moment or two.

First is Jill Wolcott‘s great design, the Meath Pullover & Mitts. What’s brilliant is that you swatch by knitting the mitts! I love the practical swatch! I’m knitting this in Happy Fuzzy Yarn DK Merino (colourway Chrysocolla) and you can follow my progress at Ravelry.
WIPs-March2016-MeathPullover

I’m also taking moments here and there to finally upgrade my project bag doodles. I plan to turn each bag into stickers to paste in my various notebooks so I can more easily track my projects. I wrote about the project last week over at Penguin Girl.
WIPs-March2016-WatercolourProjectBags

What projects are you working on?