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Yarn dyeing and Easter bunny making

Easter bunny FO edit1

Hi there!

Did you all have a good Easter last week? I hope so! I must confess I love American Easter. Why ‘American’ you say? well, the typical American Easter has little to do with the more religiously oriented Spanish traditions. In Spain you’ll find no bunnies, no Easter egg hunts or Easter baskets filled with goodies. Sounds a bit boring, doesn’t it?

Since I am a bit too old to go on an egg hunt myself, I wanted to make something for my friend’s toddler. I also wanted it to be a sugar free long lasting gift, so I decided to crochet some eggs and a bunny. They are both FREE PATTERNS: Bunny pattern and Egg pattern

easter bunny and eggs

To make it even more Easter-y, I dyed the yarn myself using food coloring. Now that Easter is over you probably have some food coloring laying around yourself. I encourage you to dye some yarn with your little ones using this tutorial. This process is fun and safe. Non-toxic, environmentally friendly and cheap! Here is my resulting yarn:

dyed yarn

How to dye yarn with food coloring

Supplies needed:

– Gel (or liquid) food coloring. I used the gel in 4 colors, red, green, blue and yellow

– White vinegar

– Undyed wool yarn. I used Patons superwash DK. 2 skeins worth. You can easily find it at JoAnn’s or Michaels. (Non protein fibers like cotton or acrylic will not dye with this method)

– A pot or pan to ‘cook’ the yarn and a container to soak it.

– Ball winder or some other method to turn your ball yarn into a cake. *

*Note: you can dye your yarn in whatever shape or form you like. Most tutorials you’ll find out there use a skein that is made into a circle using a niddy noddy. I chose to dye my yarn this way because I wanted a variation in color between the inside and outside of the caked yarn. You may choose to keep the yarn in a ball or to make it into a circle.

Instructions:

dyeing

 

1. If you chose to cake your skein, do that first. I used one of my skeins full, to be used for the bunny and the other I split into 5 mini-cakes to be used for the crochet eggs.

2. Soak the yarn in a water + vinegar. You will need  1/4 cup of vinegar for every 4 cups of water. The vinegar is absolutely required. Why? I will save you the exact chemistry but vinegar is an acidic compound. In order for the chemical groups in wool to react with the chemical groups in the dye, the pH of the yarn has to be low. That is, you need slightly acidic yarn. In order to achieve this you’ll want to soak the yarn for at least 30 min.

3. While you wait, mix your dyes. Keep in mind there is a limit as to how much dye will be dissolved in water. I made my dyes in saturating conditions. This means I add as much dye as the water can dissolve. This gives very intense colors. I mixed my dye and water in small bottles I have, but you can do it in any container you’d like.

dyeing1

4. Add the dye! For my speckled yarn, I added teaspoons of dye mixture in a more or less evenly distributed manner. Starting with the darker colors and finishing with the light ones. You may choose to do this in a different order. For the single color yarn, I placed my mini cakes in small mason jars and poured the dye on top. When I was satisfied with the color I poured the dye off and filled the jars with clean water.

dyeing2

5. ‘Cook’ your yarn. In order for the dye to remain chemically attached/linked to the yarn, it is necessary to increase the temperature of both. We do this by placing the yarn directly in a pot with water (that’s what I did with the speckled yarn) or by placing it in jars that are then placed inside the water (top left corner picture). I reacted my yarn for 1 hr at 170F / 90C. Right below boiling. You want the ‘cooking’ process to be gentle so the yarn doesn’t felt.

6. Once the yarn is dyed, rinse it with cold water. I chose to also soak it in water with a tiny bit of Eucalan/hair conditioner. I really do mean a tiny bit. This will fix any slight felting that may have occurred during the dyeing process.

7. Let the yarn dry! I let my small cakes dry wrapped in a towel (bottom left picture) and the large cake spread over the towel. You’ll want to aim for an overnight dry.

8. Make your bunny and eggs or whatever other colorful creation you’d like.

hand dyed easter egg

 

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

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Learn to crochet: Essential tools and yarn

Learn to crochet

A few of my friends have recently requested that I teach them how to crochet. Although I’m not sure I’m as good at teaching this as I think I am at teaching science (matter of practice), I hope that this ‘Learn to Crochet’ series is helpful not only to them, but anyone else interested in the art.

The first lesson is about the essential tools required and the yarns available to crochet. Please feel free to ask any questions via comment or e-mail. I will be happy to help any of you learn to crochet!

Let’s start with the essential tools required

tools for crochet W LETTERING

 

You obviously will need crochet hooks. We’ll discuss your options in a moment. Scissors to cut your yarn are also necessary. I have always used just plain scissors, or a nail cutter. No, I’m not kidding, they actually are fantastic at cutting yarn and you can bring them with you on a plane!. Just make sure you have a separate set for that purpose. As for fancy metal scissors available at some places, I don’t care for them. Why? a lot of people will tell you that yarn snips or embroidery scissors are better. But they were not designed to cut yarn. All you need is a sharp pair of scissors, anything else is optional. Tapestry needles come in bigger (gold color) and smaller (silver color) sizes. They both have a blunt end, so they are different from sewing needles. They are used to finish a project, by ‘hiding’ a tail of yarn within the crocheted piece. I mostly use the smaller needles, with the exception of bulky or super bulky yarns, which are really hard to thread through a thin needle. Last but not least are the stitch markers. You can find stitch markers in all shapes and materials, but the ones pictured are by far my favorite because they stay secured to the stitch, while other types of markers can fall off your work. Markers are used to… well, mark a part of your work. They serve as a reference so you don’t lose track of where the beginning of your round or row is, to separate a piece of work in parts etc.

You can buy these markers here: Clover Lock Ring Markers*

Now let’s talk about hooks

types of hooks by material w lettering

 

First of all, it’s important to note that there are many materials available to crocheters when it comes to choosing a hook. The most common are plastic blends, bamboo, fully metallic or metallic with a handle. My favorite hooks are the ones pictured last. They are the clover amour hooks. They were my self-gifted wedding gift and I have fallen in love with these hooks because they are incredibly comfortable. The handle is soft and they are tapered hooks. We’ll discuss what that means next. Let me add that the clover hooks are made in Japan and that simply gives me confidence in the quality. The Japanese are adept crocheters and they invented the art of amigurumi. If you want your own set of Clover amour hooks, you can get yours here. (And no, Clover didn’t pay me to say any of this)

Clover 3672 Amour Crochet Hook Set, 10 sizes*

types of hook shapes W LETTERING

 

An image is worth a thousand words and there isn’t much I can tell you about inline and tapered hooks. Inline hooks have a ‘sharper’ shape and the hook is cut in an angle with two straight lines. Tapered hooks however, have a rounded shape which reminds me of fishing hooks. I prefer tapered hooks because I find them to move more smoothly through the yarn, especially with yarns that tend to split (the fibers start separating). I suggest you try both and decide which one works best for you.

Hey, what about crochet hook sizes? Sizes are standardized and only certain dimensions are available. Hook size is given both by a letter and the millimeter diameter of the hook. Both designations are interchangeable and they go as follows.

Finally, we need to talk about yarn. The variety of yarns currently available is almost overwhelming. The major classification of yarn is done with regards to its weight. This may sound a bit weird, but it really just means the classification is based on how thick or thin the yarn is, which determines what the appropriate hook for it is. However, it is important to keep in mind that weight categories represent a range of yarns, not a single value. I’ll explain this further in a second, but the main weight groups are pictured below.

yarns by weight

The exact classification of yarn according to the yarn council of america can be found here. But I’d like to simplify things a bit for you. First of all, two yarns within the same weight category are not necessarily the same. I think the picture makes that a lot easier to understand. You can see several types of worsted weight yarn pictured and they are clearly not exactly the same thickness. Moreover, they are not spun exactly the same way and they aren’t all made of the same fibers. So how do you pick the right one? Something to keep in mind is the number of wraps per inch (wpi), which is exactly what it sounds like, how many wraps can you fit in one inch. This number will give you an idea of the relative thickness of two yarns that fall within the same weight category but are not exactly the same. The most important thing is that you choose a yarn that appeals to you and that is adequate for the project and season it will be used for.

Yarn Composition

The weight of yarn you require will be determined by a project. But besides the thickness, it is important to consider yarn fiber. There are plenty of fibers available all over the internet and at craft stores. The price of the yarn is directly related to the fiber composition and also to the way in which it has been spun and dyed. Cheaper yarns are usually acrylic or blends of acrylic and wool. Typical prices range from 3-10 $ for about 200 yards.

Some yarns I use often, within that price range are: Caron Simply soft (made in the USA), Vanna’s choice from Lion Brand and Vickie Howell’s Sheepish. The first two are 100% acrylic and the last one is a mix of acrylic and wool. I do not recommend cheap wool yarns. These are usually spun using long fibers which end up poking out of the yarn and make it itchy. Most wool sensitive people are not allergic, they just don’t tolerate the poking.

So if you want to use wool, and you’ll want to, it’s best to choose merino wool that has been finely spun and is not itchy or scratchy. My favorite is Malabrigo yarn, which is available online and at small(er) yarn stores and is reasonably priced at about 14$ for 200 yards.

Cotton yarns are a must for any items that will be exposed to high heat and heavy wearing, such as potholders and cozies. I have recently discovered bamboo  yarns and I am absolutely in love with the lightness and softness of them. But, these are only suitable for lighter garments such as summer shawls. Another favorite is t-shirt yarn, which is made out of the remnants of knit stretchy fabrics. It’s great to create big crochet pieces for the home, like rugs and baskets. The thickness and type of fiber makes the items really sturdy. When it comes to amigurumi, and we will explore it in a future post, I always resort to acrylic because it makes the process much easier on your hands and is resistant to wear.

So… where can you buy yarn? My main stores for cheaper yarn are JoAnn’s or Michaels. (No, I don’t and I won’t shop at HL). However, the type of yarn you will find there is very limited. Mostly affordable yarns made by Caron, Lion Brand and Bernat. The colors are relatively limited and the availability will vary store by store. I recently discovered Knit Picks. They are an online yarn supplier with a large amount of available fibers and colors. Sure, it’s a bit more expensive because of the shipping (the price is actually comparable), but it’s worth it. Another place to keep in mind is Ice yarns. Their yarns are sold by lots of 2-8 skeins. The amount of skeins per lot and the price depends on what yarn you’re buying, of course. I absolutely love their tube t-shirt yarn, which is thinner than most t-shirt yarns (pictured second from the top). Their shipping is a flat price of 10$ and if you have a relatively large project in mind, or you are ok with buying large quantities, I highly recommend it. They are based in Turkey but shipping is typically 2 days! If you are looking for nicer yarns, which are almost exclusively wool, you can find plenty of online stores that distribute some pricier yet affordable yarns, like Malabrigo. While I wouldn’t start crocheting with a very nice yarn, they are worth buying for special projects, especially clothing or accessories that go close to your skin.

Well, that’s it for now! I hope I’ve helped a bit and not confused you very much. Stay tuned for our next ‘Learn to Crochet’ in which I’ll show you how to make single crochets. And please, feel free to ask any questions you might have!

*(This is an affiliate link. It will cost you the same as shopping for it on your own, but I get a wee bit of something which helps me keep this blog full of free tutorials)

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Whale-y Lovey blanket

whale lovey

Let start by saying: My labmate Chris is gonna be an uncle again! Congratulations to the Deutsch family!

Of course, any baby born around me, will undoubtedly receive crocheted gifts. Chris and his brother always wear beanies in the winter. In fact, they wear extremely similar beanies. So he requested I make one for the newborn. But, I felt like I should send him home with something more than just a beanie, so I decided to make this lovey blanket.

The blanket is about 12 inches square and the lovely whale up top is about 5 inches long. The pattern for the blanket was easy to choose, as granny squares are quite textured, something babies seem to enjoy. As for the toy, I spent a great deal of time deciding what animal I wanted it to be, until I found this lovely whale.

DSC_1222

WARNINGS! Since this toy is to be given to a kid under 3 years old, it’s best to avoid any parts that could be removed, such as plastic (safety) eyes. I sewed the eyes using black embroidery floss. I also decided to skip the mouth, as I was not convinced on the looks of it. I recommend you stitch the fins tightly, because it is likely that any small child will repeatedly try to pull them off.  Finally, a soft yarn is a must for any baby. I personally always avoid wool, since many of us are allergic to it (myself included).

And now the pattern!

 

WHALE-Y LOVEY BLANKET

Crochet hook size 5 mm for the blanket. 4 mm for the whale.

Yarn: About half a skein of Red Heart soft in navy and gray. A small amount of berry blue Caron Simply Soft for the whale.

The pattern for the whale can be found HERE. 

For the blanket:

Many others have explained quite well how to crochet a granny square. Here’s a list of links that you can use as a reference along with a granny chart.

http://www.purlbee.com/crochet-tutorials/granny-squares.html

http://crafts.tutsplus.com/tutorials/crochet-fundamentals-how-to-make-a-basic-granny-square–craft-11074

Source: http://notyouraveragecrochet.com/tutorials/how-tos/basic-shapes/granny-squares/

The color sequence is the following:

Row 1-3: blue

Row 4-6: gray

Row 7-11: blue

Row 12: gray

Row 13-14: blue

Row 15: hdc around with blue to finish off

Weave in all ends and stitch the whale to the center or the corner of the blanket. I chose to sew it in the middle.

 

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Mr. Johnny Fox (free pattern)

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There is a huge trend going on with Foxes. Fox everything is everywhere. My friend Jackie, who is going through hard times, needed a pick me up. So I made her a fox hat and this fox toy.  The hat pattern can be found here

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The name of the toy was suggested to me by a lovely lady at the Crochet Addict facebook page. I have to admit I’m in love with all of these crochet pages. Everyone has great insight and there’s lots of great projects to look at. The lady said my fox looks like he’s about to start dancing and thus it should have the same name as the main character in Dirty Dancing. Yes yes, that’s Patrick Swayze.

 

side of fox toy

Speaking of looking at things… now that you’ve looked at Johnny Fox a bit, get your FREE PATTERN!  Mr Johnny Fox pattern

mr fox toy back

 

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Sant Jordi! and a rose for you

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Today is without a doubt my favorite holiday of the year. Sant Jordi. It’s not only the day in which we celebrate that Saint George slayed the dragon, but also the international day of the book. Did you know that? the reason is that Cervantes and Shakespeare died on April 23rd. So we celebrate their life by buying lots of books!

Let me take a step back and explain to you how big of a deal this holiday is. Today, the streets of my hometown, Barcelona, are flooded with couples, families and friends, walking around browsing book and rose stands. Most schools let kids leave early and most colleges don’t even bother to stop the youngsters from enjoying the day. Girls buy guys books and guys buy girls roses. Fathers buy white or pink roses for their daughters and red roses for their wives. The wild ones buy blue, purple, orange or even black roses. The city smells of roses and it sounds like great written stories.

To read more about the Sant Jordi celebrations, go here! 

Let’s not forget the legend! Sant Jordi (Saint George) rescued the princess in the castle by slaying the dragon. From the blood of the dragon a rose was born. Because love can kill any dragons!

This is my knight in shinning armor! My lovely Aaron. And the pattern for the hat can be purchased here

knight hat square marked

The picture up top is what my cardigan looks like today. A thread crocheted rose hangs from it, to honor the celebration. The rose pattern is free and was adapted from here. I did 3 petals of 3 hdc, 4 petals of 4 hdc, 5 petals of 5 hdc, 6 petals of 6 hdc and 3 petals of 7 hdc. I used a 1.5 mm hook and crochet thread 3 ply. Then I sewed a pin to the back of the rose so I could attach it to my cardigan.

Have yourself a rose and a great Sant Jordi!

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C.F.E. Part 2: Baby bunny hat free pattern

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If you are a regular of this blog, you know I recently started my ‘Candy Free Easter’ series. The goal being to get rid of some of the abundant Easter chocolate and sub it with either homemade or store bought non sugary goodies. 

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The first part of this series, here, featured a fuzzy furry Easter basket. Which was featured at craftgossip! here. So here is part 2, with this baby bunny hat. 

I made this hat for my friends’ baby, who you can see below, happily modeling. Isn’t he a cutie?

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The yarn is Bernat Baby blanket and it’s SO SO SO SOFT. It’s just a delight to work with and to put on anyone’s head. The size was 9-12 months, but baby Jameson has big brains, so it’s a bit tight. Below are my recommendations for larger sizes. You can also use a larger hook, as I used only 9 mm. This makes a tight crocheting, but I like that it creates some texturing in the hat. 

Without further delay… here’s the pattern

BABY BUNNY HAT

Materials: 1 skein of Bernat baby blanket in white, 10 yards (approximately) of Caron simply soft solids in pink. 

9 mm crochet hook 

Body of the hat

Make a magic circle, chain 1 and make 6 sc in the circle (6sc)

Rnd 2: 2sc in each sc around, (12 sc)

Rnd 3: (2sc in the first st, sc in the next st) around, (18 sc)

Rnd 4: (2sc in the first st, sc in the next 2 st) around (24 sc)

Rnd 5: (2 sc in the first st, sc in the next 3 st) around, (30 sc)

Rnd 6: (2 sc in the first st, sc in the next 4 st) around (36 sc)

Rnd 7-8: sc in each stitch around

For larger sizes

Toddler size, which should fit 12-18 month

Rnd 7: (2  sc in the first st, sc in the next 5 st) around (42 sc)

Rnd 8: (2 sc in the first st, sc in the next 20 sc) twice (44 sc)

Bunny ears

Using Caron simply soft pink, or a different worsted weight pink yarn

Chain 10, dc in 3rd chain from hook and in each stitch around. 

Join the baby blanket yarn

Chain 2, dc in the next 6 st. Make 3 dc in the last stitch, then continue on the other side of the ear, making 1 dc in each stitch. 

Fasten off

Make the second ear. Pinch the edges of the ear together and sew the ears to the hat. They will stand up on their own. 

By the way! you may or may not have seen it, but the knight hat pattern is up for sale on Ravelry and Etsy… 1.99$. As always, the profits buy more yarn so I can offer more free patterns!

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