Crochet from the Heart – The Snuggles Project

Today, my family and I braved the scorching heat that is sweeping across the lower Western states to run some errands. First thing on the list: get more supplies for our pet rabbit. While we were at the pet store, the good people of the SPCA of Northern Nevada were there holding adoptions.

These little guys were there. I wanted to bring one home with me!

These little guys were there. I wanted to bring one home with me!

I remembered reading a while back that some of the animal shelters accepted knit or crocheted blankets for the animals while they waited to be placed in their forever home. Later when I got home, I did more research and came across The Snuggles Project from Hugs for Homeless Animals. So what exactly is a Snuggle? The purpose of a Snuggle is a lot the same as a security blanket – when animals arrive at shelters, oftentimes they are frightened. Because they’re scared, they may corner in their cages, refuse the medical attention that they desperately need, or even fight off the very people that are trying to help them. They don’t know that the humans they are now coming in contact with are there to help; it makes a frightening situation that much more terrifying and difficult. The Snuggles allow the animals to feel warm, comforted, and calm. Once calm, they respond better to their caregivers. As an added bonus, Snuggles help make shelters feel more like home – for the animals and visitors alike.

Snuggles Project Picture credit.

Snuggles Project Picture credit.

The Snuggles Project website states that it is “a very good project for kids and people learning how to crochet, knit or quilt because the Snuggles don’t have to be perfect. The animals love them any way they can get them. All that is required is that they be made with love.” Simple enough, right? And if you’re not sure what to make, the website also offers knit and crochet patterns.

However, not all animal shelters participate in The Snuggles Project. When I looked through the directory on the Hugs for Homeless Animals website, I found that the SPCA of Northern Nevada was not identified as a participating shelter. However, in Reno, the Nevada Humane Society was a Snuggles Project participating shelter. If you don’t see your local animal shelter listed, you could always contact that shelter and ask if they run a similar program or accept knit/crochet/sewn blankets.

Help an animal start their journey to their forever home by giving them an item that will help them feel like they are already home.

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Lesson on Rows and Turning Chains

In my previous post for Cheater Crochet Headbands, I worked back and forth in rows to get the rectangle from which we’d form the bow. In today’s post, I’d like to focus more on how to correctly form your rows and turn your work so that you can continue adding more rows…over and over and over.

It’s important to know how many chains you’ll need in your foundation row to get the desired number of stitches in your rows. You’ll also need to know how many chains you’ll need to start your next row. In a Red Heart Yarn video tutorial, you can learn how to create five basic stitches – I will only go over single crochet, double crochet, and treble crochet.

I made it so that for each of the examples below, we’d end up with 10 stitches on our rows.

Single Crochet Stitches (sc)
Single Crochet Turning RowYou will cast on 11 foundation chains.
Your needle will go into the second chain from the hook.
Hook the yarn to the front of the work.
Yarn over and pull through the two loops.
Move to the next chain and create your next stitch.
Repeat until you get to the end. You have completed row 1.

To turn, you will chain one and turn your work. You are going to insert your hook into the first stitch, pull the yarn through the front of work and crochet your first single IMG_6772crochet stitch.
Insert your hook into the next stitch, pull the yarn forward, yarn over, pull through two loops.
Continue this way until you get to the end. You have completed row 2.
Repeat instructions for row 2 to obtain as many rows as necessary.

Double Crochet Stitches (dc)
IMG_6776
You will cast on 12 foundation chains.
Your needle will go into the fourth chain from the hook. The three chains before the fourth chain will be treated as the first double crochet stitch.
Hook the yarn to the front of the work.
Yarn over and pull through the two loops. Yarn over once more and pull through two remaining loops.
Move to the next chain and create your next stitch.
IMG_6777Repeat until you get to the end; you should have 10 stitches total, including the three chains that counted as the first double crochet. You have completed row 1.

To continue to row 2: you will chain 3, yarn over once, and insert your hook into the second stitch. Like in the first row, the chain-3 will count as a double crochet stitch.
Complete a doublIMG_6779e crochet stitch (yarn over, pull through two, yarn over, pull through two). Continue this way until you get to the end.
For the final stitch, you will insert your hook into what would be the third chain of the chain-3 that you did in row 1.
You have completed row 2.
Repeat instructions for row 2 to obtain as many rows as necessary.

Treble Crochet Stitch (tr)
Chain 13.
Your needle will go into the fifth chain from the hook. Similar to the double crochet stitch, the four chains before the fifth chain will count as the first treble crochet stitch.
Hook the yarn to the front of the work.
Yarn over and pull through the two loops; do this a total of two more times.
Move toPresentation1 the next chain and create your next stitch.
Repeat until you get to the end; you should have 10 stitches total, including the four chains that counted as the first treble crochet. You have completed row 1.

To continue to row 2: you will chain 4, yarn over twice, and insert your hook into the second stitch. Like in the first row, the chain-4 will count as a treble crochet stitch.
Complete a treble crochet stitch (yarn over, pull through two x 3). Continue this way until you get to the end.
For the final stitch, you will insert your hook into what would be the fourth chain of the chain-4 that you did in row 1.

So there you have it. I absolutely hope the information proves helpful to you.

For crochet tips, patterns, and news follow me on Twitter @noemijgarcia.

Cheater Crochet Headband

Raise your hand if you’re ready for another easy project? (You are raising your hand…right?). If you have any special little girls in your life, this one’s for you. I don’t have any daughters of my own but I am blessed to have three adorable nieces – they help me get my girl-fix. The pink, the frilliness, the sparkle – how can one resist?

Girly Headbands

Girly Headbands

One of the trends that I find adorable in girls’ fashion is the use of headbands with big bows or flowers. Crocheted bows and flowers happen to be very simple to make and are an excellent project for beginning crocheters. Headbands are also fairly easy for beginners to make – and there are lots of patterns available online. You can find patterns for a simple headband or a more elaborate headband. However, for this project, I decided to use headbands that can be purchased at a store — hence why I call them “cheater” crochet headband because really we’re only going to crochet the bow and flower (by the way, I got these headbands at Walmart). I like that they are elastic so that they can fit snugly and stay put on a little girl’s head.

First, the Bows:
We are going to crochet a rectangle of single crochet stitches (sc), sew up the seams, and pinch in the middle. Specifically…

How to Make a BowChain 25.

Row 1: sc into second chain from hook, sc to end. 24 sc total. Chain 1, turn.

Row 2: sc in first chain, sc across. 24 sc total. Chain 1, turn.

Row 3-5: repeat row 2 instructions.

Row 6: repeat row 2. Cut off tail at least a foot long and fasten off.

Using the tail, sew together both short ends so that you have what looks like a cuff. Pinch in the middle to create the bow shape and with the remaining tail, wrap several times around the middle. Make sure to stay centered otherwise you’ll end up with a lop-sided bow…unless of course you’re deliberately going for that look.

Now that your bow is ready, sew it onto the headband.

Flowers
There are as many patterns for crochet flowers as there are flowers themselves. I really enjoyed the video tutorial from The Making Spot. In it, we are taught how to make a very basic five petal flower. Before you hit play, I do need to caution you that they use UK crochet terms. So when you are instructed to do a “treble stitch” you will be doing a double crochet stitch (the US equivalent). A slip stitch is a slip stitch in both UK and US terms.

You can make different size flowers by varying the size of the hook and then layer the flowers for a more dramatic look. For this particular style of flower, I don’t like the look of the hole in the center so I usually sew on a button. You can see in the picture above that I used a black button for the grey flower on the pink headband. If you want something more dramatic you can check out the May Roses pattern from Attic24.

HeadbandsTell me: are these cute or what? Try making them for the special girly girl/s in your life.

7 Things Your Yarn Label Will Tell You

I don’t know if it’s my love for crochet that feeds my love for yarn, or if it’s the other way around – regardless, I do love yarn. In my 5 Foundation Chain Tips for Beginners post, I showed you that a yarn’s label will tell you what crochet hook size is recommended for that skein of yarn. Did you wonder what all the other things meant, too? In this post, I’ll go over 7 bits of information that can typically be found on a yarn label.

Yarn Label

Label from Vanna’s Choice yarn from Lion Brand. This label even has ruler markings along the side (cool)!

1. Weight: Not only the net weight of the skein (ounces or pound) but also weight of the strand of yarn. This will usually run from 1 (lace) to 6 (super bulky). You need to make sure to use the correct weight yarn that your project calls for.
2. Yarn Composition: The label will tell you if your yarn is acrylic, cotton blend, or wool blend. This yarn is 100% acrylic.
3. Number of Yards: It’s important to know how many yards a skein will give you. Will one skein be enough for your project, or will you need to get two, or three? Personally: I would rather have too much yarn than not enough; especially if the yarn has a lot dye number (to be discussed later).
4. Needle Sizes: Whether you are going to be knitting or crocheting, the label will give a recommended needle size for each. In this label, the recommended hook size is J-10 (6mm).
5. Swatch Size: A swatch is a square that you knit or crochet using the stitches recommended on the label. Based on those stitches, your project should measure what the label indicates. In this example, you are being instructed to stitch 12 stitches across and 15 rows up. This swatch should measure 4 inches by 4 inches. If your swatch measures bigger, you need to use a smaller hook. If your swatch is smaller, you need to switch to a bigger hook.
6. Dye Lot Number: Because not all yarn is created equal, the dye lot number is extremely important if you’re going to need more than one skein of yarn for your project. If skeins of yarn have the same dye lot number, this means that all of the yarn with the same number was dyed in the same vat. If you ignore using yarn with the same lot number, you will end up with a project that has slight color variations even if all of yarn is the same color. In this label example, I will need to make sure that all of my yarn for the same project is not only color “Duckie” but also from dye lot number 69743.
7. Wash Care Instructions: Most of the icons on the label will refer to the wash and dry care of the yarn. Sometimes the instructions will be written out but you should become familiar with the icons as well. You can visit Textile Industry Affairs’ website for a list of the most common care symbols. For this yarn, from left to right, the icons tell us: machine wash with warm water, do not use bleach, normal dryer setting, do not iron, and can be dry-cleaned with any solvent.

So go on. Tackle those yarn labels!

How to Crochet an Invisible Bind-Off

Stitch Bump

Stitch Bump. Picture credit.

Binding off – at some point, our project has to come to an end. For most crochet projects worked in the round, the last instruction will read something along the lines of “join your last stitch with your first stitch using a slip stitch, cut a tail x inches/centimeters long, fasten off, and weave in the tail.” However, this method of binding off leaves a stitch that looks like a bump – it’s an eye sore and takes away from the beauty of your project. So in this post, I’ll show you a neat crochet trick I learned to create a bind-off that is seamless.

I first learned of the invisible bind-off thanks to Stitch-Story. I am a proud convert and I have never gone back to the “bump” method. The invisible stitch isn’t really invisible  as much as it is a concealer; in essence, it recreates a crochet stitch and makes it difficult to spot where the bind-off took place. Again, this way of binding off is perfect for works done in the round – granny squares, doilies, and hats, just to name a few.

In a previous post, I showed you how to crochet a border around a baby blanket. Because this work was done in the round, I used the invisible bind-off method when I got to the end. Here are the instructions…

How to Do an Invisible Bind Off

1. Once you’ve completed your final stitch, cut a tail about six inches long. Do not pull the yarn through.
2. Insert your hook into the back loop of your first stitch. The back loop is sitting on top of pink yarn.
3. Yarn over and pull the entire tail through your stitch.
4. Insert your hook through both loops of your second stitch. Both loops are sitting on top of the dark blue yarn. Yarn over and pull the entire tail through your stitch.
5. Insert your hook into the front loop of your last stitch. The front loop is sitting on top of the teal yarn.
6. Yarn over and pull the tail through the stitch.
7. Voila! An “invisible” stitch. Be sure to weave the tail into your project for a truly seamless look.

 

Try this method on your next in-the-round project and be sure to let me know if you become a convert like me.

Simple and Quick Project

Finished Project.jpg

Here’s a very simple project that any beginner can do. You can take any plain and ordinary blanket and simply crochet around the edges. The end up result is a finished project with a gorgeous border. You don’t need to know any fancy stitches — a single crochet or double crochet stitch will do. The best part: not only will you be making something unique and special, you’ll also be doing it in a fraction of the time it would take to make an all-yarn blanket (perfect for a last-minute baby shower gift).

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • a blanket (it can be a receiving blanket or even a fleece blanket, I used one of the many that my son outgrew)
  • a ruler, or measuring tape
  • a pencil
  • your yarn of choice (just don’t use a thick weight yarn)
  • crochet hook (I used a size 7/1.65mm hook)

Picture1The Project
You’ll want to start off by laying the blanket on a flat surface. Next, you’ll place the ruler on top of the blanket and mark even points – these will be where you’ll insert your hook for your stitches. For this project, I marked at every centimeter. If you have a nifty rotary stitch piercer (which I don’t), you can just run the blade along side the ruler. This will definitely allow you to more easily insert the crochet hook and make your stitches; plus, because the holes will be evenly pierced, you don’t have to worry about measuring and marking.

Next, you’ll insert your hook into any of the stitch marks, pierce through, yarn over and pull the yarn through to the front of your work. You’ll yarn over once more and complete your first single crochet stitch; repeat until you get to your first corner. On the corners, you’ll want to stitch up to two single Stitchingcrochet stitches per stitch mark – this will allow for the stitches to look like they are curving around the corner. Once you’ve gone all the way round, you can either cut the yarn and bind off or you can continue with a second row. For ideas on edgings, you can visit CrochetPatternCentral.com.

Other Ideas
You can also use a crochet edging on:

Any other ideas for things that could use a crochet edging? Let me know in the comments section below!

Laying Down the Foundation – 5 Foundation Chain Tips for Beginners

Just like any proper building structure requires a solid foundation, so will your crochet projects. If you don’t pay enough care and attention to your foundation chains, your entire project will suffer for it. Although a faulty foundation won’t cause your project to fall apart, it may cause it to bunch up, curl up, or even tilt like the Leaning Tower of Pisa (kind of).

Obtaining clean foundation chains is one of the first challenges any beginner will encounter. After you’ve tied your slip knot (Crochet Guru shows you how), you’re ready to begin with your foundation chain. These next five tips will help you crochet the perfect foundation chain.

1. Take it Slow and Easy
Until you get a feel for the crochet hook in your hand and how your yarn will respond to it, take it a few chains at a time. I stitch five chains before readjusting my yarn and stitching on another five. Speeding through the foundation stitches also makes it so that your stitches come out different sizes; more times than not, they come out too tight. A tight stitch is a small stitch and this will result in your project bunching up at the foundation row instead of lying flat.

Examples of two yarn labels. Top one recommends G/6 hook, bottom recommends H/8.

Two yarn labels. Top one recommends G/6 hook, bottom recommends H/8.

2. Use the Right Tools
You’ll need to make sure that your yarn and hook are a good match for each other. If your yarn is too thick for your hook, you’ll have a difficult time completing the stitch or your stitch will be too tight. On the flip side, if your yarn is too thin for your hook, your stitches will be too big and loose. The label on the yarn skein will also usually recommend what size hook to use for that skein of yarn.

3. Start Big
Use the next hook size up for your foundation chain than what the pattern calls for. Let’s say your project calls for a size H hook, you may want to start your foundation chain using a size I hook (this is the next hook size up) and then switch to your H hook for the remainder of the project. Why is that? For most beginners, and even for the old pros, our foundation chains run a little smaller and our row stitches run a little bigger.

Purple indicates back loop of foundation chain, while white-speckled indicates front loop.

Purple indicates back loop of foundation chain, while white-speckled indicates front loop.

4. Be Consistent! B-E CONSISTENT!
A foundation stitch has three parts: the front and back loops (these form the V), and the spine. Once you start working on your first row, you’ll want to make sure that whichever part of the first stitch you insert your hook into that you do this for the rest of your foundation row. This one is a biggie because if you alternate which part of the stitch use, you’ll throw yourself off in the stitch count and end up with more or less stitches than you cast on. Not a big deal if you’re making baby booties, downright tear-inducing if you’re making an afghan.

5. Nip It in the Bud
If you don’t like the way your foundation chain looks, it’s best to rip it and start again. There is no need to drag it out hoping that your project will fix itself as you go along – trust me, it won’t! But a word of caution: don’t cast on and rip foundation chains too many times with the same piece of yarn! Your yarn will to get kinks in it that will make it increasingly difficult to cast on the foundation chains (Catch-22, I know).

Are these tips useful to you? Sound off in the comments section below.