Chair Socks

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One of my favourite things to do is to come up with unexpected ways to use yarn in my daily life. A few years ago my mother-in-law asked me to make something for her that she had seen on Pinterest: a set of chair socks for her dining room. I had seen them before, usually done in lots of fun bright stripes, but hadn’t made any before. They seemed simple enough, it was basically like making a really tiny hat, but what I didn’t account for was the stretch. I measured the legs on her chairs, chose a durable worsted weight yarn, and set about making a test sock. It was good thinking on my part because despite measuring beforehand the sock came out way too big. We all know that yarn will stretch a bit. When you’re making something like a hat you count on this stretch to give a snug fit to your hat. But when it comes to chair socks, the amount of stretch in such a little object really surprised me. It took some trial and error, but it’s been a few years and the chair socks are holding up well. I’m now working on a set for my aunt and they’re going much more smoothly with the few tricks I learned from the first set.20180926_123058 (1)

First, make sure you measure the front and the back legs of the chairs. I’ve found that they’re often different and when you’re making such a small item, a quarter inch can make a big difference. Measure around the base of the chair leg as well as further up where you intend for the top of your sock to end. If the legs are tapered you may have to adjust to ensure a snug fit.

Second, pay attention to how much your sock stretches as you begin to make it. I found it easiest to try the sock on the chair after I had crocheted about three or four rows past the last increase. That way if the sock is too large (or too small for that matter), you won’t have wasted too much time.

Third, it’s really important to select the correct fibre for this project. These are going to be on the bottom of your kitchen chairs and if you have small children, like I do, they are going to get dirty. Really dirty. You need to choose something washable as well as something durable to ensure they don’t wear out from constantly moving your chairs.

Finally, think of this project like you are making an amigurumi: you want really tight, close stitches. This will ensure that the edges of the chair legs don’t start sticking through the holes in the stitches and scratch up your floor.

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Crafting for Mental Health

Every crafter knows the sense of calm that comes with working on a repititious stitch. That zen-like feeling when your fingers are flying fast to create something beautiful has real health benefits and, in a time when our society is suffering from a mental health epidemic, I think these health benefits are worth discussing.

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“I knit so I don’t kill people” – it’s a funny sentiment I’ve encountered many times in various places on the internet, on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and tote bags, but it has real-life significance. More and more reasearch is coming out to show the very real connection between knitting/crochet and the “relaxation response” which helps to reduce stress and improve mood in the person crafting. Research seems to suggest that the repititive hand motions combined with the mental work of counting stitches and figuring out complex stich patterns is what helps to relax your body and mind with crafting.

This relaxation response has important applications. One article talked of a woman who teaches parents of babies in the neonatal intensive care how to knit. When they are waiting at the hospital during long surgeries or simply while sitting vigil at their child’s beside, knitting/crocheting can help to pass the time and calm their nerves at the same time. This same idea is being used with some success in pain clinics in Britain to distract patients from their pain. While your mind is engaged on your knitting it literally cannot focus on your pain.

A girl showing how to crochet

There’s also evidence to suggest that those repetitive motions help people with anxiety and depression to live in the moment and not ruminate over the past or worry about the future. When you’re engaging your body in creating a physical object you have to shift your focus away from your troubles to the project you’re working on. Some psychologists are using this to teach their patients important skills: mindfulness, taking time for oneself, and building self-esteem by developing pride in their finished products to name a few.

Another way knitting/crochet is beneficial is when crafters come together to knit/crochet. All the benefits of the actual craft are combined with the benefit of social engagement. This can have the effect of informal group therapy. Attending a Stitch and Bitch is a great social gathering for those coping with some form of social anxiety because it allows you to choose your level of engagement. It’s perfectly reasonable to limit eye contact, for example, because you’re typically looking at your work and not at the other people at the table with you. Starting conversation is made easier as well because knitting and crochet become the obvious topic for discussion.

Girls with knitting needles

My favourite quote I read called knitting a “constructive addiction” because it can be used to replace other unhealthy habits such as smoking, binge eating, obsessing over past events, etc. Making something that can be put to practical use can give you such a sense of accomplishment. So continue feeding your constructive addiction; knit a sweater, crochet a hat, and take one small step towards better mental health.

Let’s keep the conversation going! How has knitting or crocheting impacted your life?

For more information about knitting and crocheting for mental health, please consider reading one or more of the following articles:

https://www.craftyarncouncil.com/health-press

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-25/crochet-fans-help-psychologists-create-case-for-mindfulness/9691612

http://anxietyresourcecenter.org/2017/10/crochet-helps-brain/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/open-gently/201311/should-you-knit

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/open-gently/201506/knitting-is-good-you

https://www.cnn.com/2014/03/25/health/brain-crafting-benefits/index.html

http://crochetsavedmylife.kathrynvercillo.com/crafting-health/

http://www.lionbrand.com/blog/5-mental-health-benefits-knit-crochet/

 

The Projects We Just Don’t Love

Have you ever picked out a really lovely skein of yarn, dreaming of all the wonderful things you could make with it, only to become frustrated with every pattern you try? That has been my trouble this week.

Autumn is my favourite time of year; the leaves, the crisp smell in the air, and mostly importantly all the beautiful colours! I gravitate towards jewel tones, specifically plums, sapphire blues, emerald greens, and rich merlot reds. But this year I’ve decided to push myself outside of my colour comfort zone and that is where the trouble began.

I have never been a fan of orange. It’s just not a colour that speaks to me. But I was working with a really rich shade of orange, called Yam, for a commissioned project and really loved it. The yarn is Estelle Bulky and it’s really soft and lovely to work with. When my commissioned project was finished I decided to grab another skein of Yam and one of a warm cream colour with visions of a cozy fall cowl in my mind. I searched Ravelry, scanned Pinterest, and finally decided on a pattern. After working several rows I just didn’t love it, so I ripped it out and tried another.

And another.

And another.

I’m on my fourth pattern now and I’m still not in love. It’s the colour comination. I know these colours work well together! So instead of becoming frustrated and starting again I’ve decided to stick to my pattern and finish this scarf. Maybe I won’t love it when it’s done, but I’m still glad I tried to push myself. So my question to you is, what do you do when you aren’t in love with your project? Do you frog it and start something new? Do you banish it to the time out bin? Do you push through and finish it as is?

In other news we’ve got some great events in the works and I’m so excited to share them with you all! First up is our Spinning Demo coming up on September 22nd. Paula from Knit4U will be teaching us all about spinning yarn. She’ll have a full fleece for you to check out, yarn in every stage of production, and drop spindles for you to try. It’s a great time to get more information if you’ve ever thought of trying spinning.

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Coming up in October is I Love Yarn Day on October 13th. To celebrate we’ve got a really exciting event in the works. We’re working with other yarn shops in the area to put together a Yarn Crawl. Each shop will be offering exclusive patterns, fun kits, and edible goodies. Stay tuned for more information!

Plush Pumpkin Pattern

A few years ago I made pumpkin hats for my kids to wear for Thanksgiving. They looked adorable and it only increased my desire to create more autumn-themed items. Flash forward to the present and you may have read about my pumpkin debacle with another pattern I was using. It got sorted out in the end (and turned out pretty cute!) but I wanted to have something with a bit more texture to it. So here is my old pumpkin hat pattern adapted to become a stuffed pumpkin to brighten up your autumn decor!

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Supplies:

Crochet Hook: US size H/5.0 mm

Yarn: Bulky weight #5 (I actually used 2 strands of worsted weight held together because I had it on hand, either will work fine) You will need three colours: Colour A is the main pumpkin colour, I’ve used white for this one. You’ll need approximately 1/3 of a skein. Colour B is your stem and Colour C is for your leaf and vine. You’ll need very little of colours B and C, I used scraps from my stash.

Polyfil for stuffing

Tapestry needle for weaving in ends and sewing on the stem, leaf, and vine.

Abbreviations:

ch = chain

dc = double crochet

dc2tog= double crochet 2 together

fpdc = front post double crochet

sc = single crochet

sc2tog = single crochet 2 together

sl st = slip stitch

Important note:

The increases are done by making a dc and then doing a fpdc around the same stitch from the row below. Make sure all your fpdc stitches line up as this will create the ridges around your pumpkin.

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Row 1: Begin with a Magic Loop and colour A: chain 2 and make 11 dc into the loop and join with a sl st to the 1st dc (11).

Row 2: ch 2, in 1st stitch (1 dc and 1 fpdc), repeat in each stitch around, join to 1st dc with sl st. (22).

Row 3: ch 2, *dc in 1st stitch, in next stitch(1 dc and 1 fpdc). Repeat from * around, join to 1st dc with sl st. (33).

Row 4: ch 2, *one dc in each of the 1st  two stitches, in next stitch(1 dc and 1 fpdc). Repeat from * around, join to 1st dc with sl st. (44).

Row 5: ch 2, *one dc in each of the 1st  three stitches, in next stitch(1 dc and 1 fpdc). Repeat from * around, join to 1st dc with sl st. (55).

Row 6-10: ch 2, *one dc in each of the next four stitches, fpdc around the next stitch. Repeat from * around, join to 1st dc with sl st. (55).

Row 11: ch 2, *dc2tog, dc in each of next two stitches, fpdc around next stitch. Repeat from * around, join to 1st dc with sl st. (44).

At this point you’ll want to secure/weave in your starting tail and begin to stuff your pumpkin. Make sure not to overstuff so the stuffind does not show through the stitches. Alternatively, you can use some scrap fabric or a pair of pantyhose to line the pumpkin so the stuffing cannot escape through the stitches.

Row 12: ch 2, *dc2tog, dc in next stitch, fpdc around next stitch. Repeat from * around, join to 1st dc with sl st. (33).

Row 13: ch 2, *dc2tog, fpdc around next stitch. Repeat from * around, join to 1st dc with sl st. (22).

Row 14: ch 2, dc2tog around, join to 1st dc with sl st(11). Fasten off and cut yarn leaving a long tail to sew pumpkin closed. Finish stuffing pumpkin.

Using a tapestry needle and the long tail, thread the yarn into the front loop of each stitch around and pull to tighten. Fasten off and sew in ends. I found the finish on the “bottom” side of the pumpkin (our original starting point) more attractive, so I flipped mine upside down before attaching the stem but it’s completely up to you.

To create the stem

Using Colour B, create a magic loop

Row 1: Using Colour B, create a magic loop. Ch 2 and sc 8 times in the magic loop. Join to 1st sc with sl st (8).

Row 2: ch 1, 2 sc in each stitch around, join to 1st sc with sl st (16).

Row 3-4: ch 1, sc in each stitch around, join to 1st sc with sl st (16). Make sure to secure/weave in your starting tail before moving on to the next step.

Row 5: ch 1, sc2tog, sc in each of next two stitches. Repeat from * around, join to 1st sc with sl st (12).

Row 6-7: ch 1, sc in each stitch around, join to 1st sc with sl st (12). Fasten off leaving a long tail to sew onto pumpkin. Stuff firmly with polyfil.

To create the Leaf

ch 9

Row 1: sc in 2nd chain from hook and in each chain across (8).

Row 2: ch 3, tbl in 1st stitch, tbl, dc, dc, hdc, hdc, sc, slip stitch into last stich, ch 1. You will now turn your work and will be working into the bottom of the previous row. Sl st, sc, hdc, hdc, dc, dc, tbl, tbl, ch 3 and secure to 1st stitch. Leave a long tail to sew onto pumpkin.

To create the Vine

ch 25, sc into 2nd ch from hook, *2 sc in next stitch, 1 sc. Repeat until end of chain. Fasten off and leave a long tail to sew onto pumpkin.

Sew the stem onto the top centre of the pumpkin and attach leaf and vine as desired. You’re done! This pattern is so versatile because by just adding another round or two of increases you can change the size of your pumpkin until you’ve got a whole bunch of cute little pumpkins to add to your autumn decor! Enjoy!

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Pliers to the Rescue

Today I’ve been working on items for our fall window display. I was looking forward to completing a cute crocheted pumpkin that has been waiting to be stuffed for nearly a week now (I finally remembered to bring in my Polyfil from home!). When the pumpkin is stuffed and finished off the last step is to thread the long tail of yarn through the centre, out the bottom, and back around to the top in order to make sections or ridges on the pumpkin. I’ve used this technique before to make bell peppers and it works really well. But today I learned an important lesson. A pumpkin, being much larger than a bell pepper, is much more difficult to thread a needle through. So difficult in fact that the needle is now lodged in the centre of my pumpkin. I’ll be bringing it home with me tonight to see if a pair of pliers can’t rescue it.

Beyond laughing at myself there’s not much more to be done with my pumpkin at the moment, but it reminded me why I love crafting so much. There are always unexpected surprises and new things to learn. I would never have expected to use pliers to crochet something, but here I am! May your craft projects always bring you joy (and laughter!).

Opening Day Has Arrived!

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Opening day has finally arrived and we couldn’t be more excited! Join us Wednesday August 8th for some light refreshments and come play with some yarn! We’ll be hosting our first official Stitching Social night from 6 until 8 pm. Everyone is welcome to stay and knit awhile (and crochet too!). We can’t wait to meet everyone and show you what our local yarn shop has to offer. Hope to see you soon!