Monthly Archives: September 2012

FO Friday: September Charity De-stash

This week, I finally finished a project I’ve been talking about since last year:  I donated 4,170 yards of synthetic yarn that I had no plans of using to charities.  (That’s the equivalent of about 11.5 skeins of Red Heart Super Saver, in case you need a visual.)

I’ve been participating in the Surmount the Stash challenge all year, and every month I’ve said that I would try to find a local charity to donate some unloved yarn to, but I never got around to it.  A few weeks ago, I was looking for some things in my stash and realized just how much space was taken up by yarn I never plan to use.  I went online and found that a local hospital‘s crochet and knitting group accepted donations.  After emailing the coordinator, I found that they would take any acrylic or acrylic blend yarns that are machine washable, and I started packing a bag.

On Monday, I delivered a 3,637 yard donation to the Roosevelt Yarnies.  This included:

An assortment of the yarns included in the donation to Roosevelt Yarnies.

I also included some extra hooks and needles that I had on hand.

With a little searching on Ravelry, I discovered that there was in fact a charity that would accept novelty yarns.  That is how I ended up sending Knitters and Crocheters Care 5 full and several partial skeins of Bernat Boa (533 yards).

Yes, I did donate 7-1/2 skeins. I already used a bunch, of what I initially had if you can believe it.

I’m really glad that these yarns could find a purpose elsewhere.  I bought these when I was buying anything in the world that was on sale.  Since participating in Surmount the Stash and the 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge,  I’ve been looking at my yarn (and other things in my life) much differently.

For the first time in years, all of my synthetic and synthetic blend yarns fit into one plastic tub, and my entire yarn stash fits into my plastic tubs.  (Previously, I always had a bag or box with yet more yarn that couldn’t fit anywhere else stuffed in a closet or on the floor.)  I’ve also reduced my collection by the equivalent of an entire plastic tub in just a month.  Now, I can actually find the yarns I want to use to make something fun!  Wow.

For more Finished Objects, visit Tami’s Amis.

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Juanita Quinones

This post contains affiliate links.

This post is part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series.

Today, I’m interviewing Juanita Quinones, also known as BoricuaCrochet, a crocheter I met on Ravelry who is also a crochet tech editor.  Originally from Puerto Rico, Juanita moved to the mainland U.S. about 20 years ago and now lives in Pennsylvania.  Her projects can be found on Ravelry here.  All pictures are used with her permission.

BoricuaCrochet’s version of #15 Lace Pullover by Dora Ohrenstein. (Click for project page.)

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet?

Juanita: My journey began by watching a neighbor making doilies when I was about six years old. After that, I picked up a stitch dictionary, Mon Tricot Knitting Dictionary Stitches Patterns Knitting & Crochet, that my mother had and learned each of the stitches. It is my preferred stitch dictionary, and I do still keep that copy. I always wanted to make wearable projects. I remember and still have my first poncho done when I was 13 years old. (UC comment: Wow, that’s impressive!  As much as I love stitch dictionaries, I’ve never worked my way entirely through one.)

UC: Can you tell us about your involvement with the Home work project through the Cyber Crochet chapter of the Crochet Guild of America?

Juanita: This group has taken the task of creating samples of the patterns provided in the Home work publication that is available online.  (UC comment: I love the full title of this book – Home work: a choice collection of useful designs for the crochet and knitting needle, also, valuable recipes for the toilet.  It was published in 1891 and is now in the public domain.)

It is a collection of vintage patterns of stitches, motifs, edgings, insertions, and other patterns both in knit and crochet. We are making the crochet samples. I’ve taken the task of coordinating these efforts and adding the patterns to Ravelry with pictures from several volunteers. We hope to have the samples available for display at one of the future CGOA conferences. We hope they inspire crocheters and designers alike to incorporate in future projects.  It is always better when you have a picture of what these patterns look like. It is a big project and we have completed about a third of the samples.  (UC comment: Thanks for your work on this great project which has benefits for the entire crochet community!)

BoricuaCrochet’s Mikado Lace, from Home work. (Click for project page.)

UC: You are a crochet tech editor. For my readers who don’t know, can you explain what a tech editor is and tell us how you got started tech editing?

Juanita: In a nutshell, a tech editor revises patterns from designers in an attempt to make them error-free before they are published. The tech editor makes sure the pattern is accurate and complete in how it uses the correct abbreviations, follows standards, and/or provides explanation for new or uncommon stitches used. We don’t need to make the item to know when something is missing, needs more clarification, or needs consistency.

I don’t know why – perhaps because of my mathematical background and/or experience writing technical documents – but it has always been easy to identify when a pattern has an error. Always, I’ve sent the comment(s) to the publisher and/or designer. It was after submitting several corrections that a well-known designer influenced me to pursue the career.

UC: Tell us about the crochet scene in Puerto Rico.

Juanita: There are a lot of artisans in Puerto Rico that work with thread, in what is called “Mundillo” (a bobbin lace). There are only a few yarn stores in Puerto Rico. There are classes offered by different groups for both knit and crochet, but they are scarce.  My passion for the craft increased when I moved to the States about 19 years ago as there were more yarns readily available.

I don’t think there is rivalry amongst crocheters and knitters in Puerto Rico. I think most learn to do both even when they prefer one or the other. Like I prefer crochet and my mother prefers knitting, but we know both.

BoricuaCrochet’s Prim Wheel Lace from Home work. (Click for project page.)

UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?

Juanita: I think my cultural background influenced the type of yarn that I prefer to work with. I prefer to crochet with cotton, bamboo, linen, or silk, but not wool (although at times I do use wool for felting). Since we don’t have changes in seasons, I do prefer colorful yarns all the time, and not according to seasons.

UC: What are some of your favorite Spanish or English language craft blogs to share?

Juanita: I prefer to read from the groups available in Ravelry. There are only a few blogs that I read, for example, Laughing Purple Goldfish Designs and Jimmy Beans Wool.  I also like the Talking Crochet newsletter and Crochet Insider.

 

Thank you so much for stopping by to share your experiences with us, BoricuaCrochet! 

Holiday Stashdown Challenge, Week 20

(Join along with me any time if you need a head start or moral support for your holiday crafting.  You can read more details here.)

I didn’t finish any holiday projects this week, but I did crochet 4 hexagons for the Vintage Hexagon Christmas Stocking I’m making for my grandfather.

I’m hoping to pick up the hat I was working on a few weeks ago and finish it before next week’s post!  If I finish a project each week, I should be back on track to complete all my holiday projects early and stress free by mid-November.  I set that deadline in case I need to do some holiday shopping for anyone I couldn’t make a gift for in time.

How is your holiday crafting coming?  Feel free to share your progress on your personal holiday gift making journey in the comments!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Vanessa Laven

This post contains affiliate links.

This post is part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series.

I’m thrilled to interview blogger Vanessa Laven today.  Vanessa was actually the first person I interviewed on my blog and I’m a regular read of her own wonderful blog, Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts.  Vanessa is also Cuban-American and from the NYC area, so I feel a strong connection to a lot of the stories that she shares about growing up and her family life.  In addition to her blog, you can find Vanessa online on Ravelry, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter.

Vanessa Laven in one of her knit cowls. (Click for blog post.)

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to knit, crochet, and embroider?

Vanessa: My mother had taught me how to knit but it never really stuck, ditto for crocheting. I picked up the Klutz book about crochet and suddenly it clicked with me. I fell in love and I joined a Stitch n Bitch group. I decided to give knitting another try and this time my mom’s advice stuck. My sister, Maritza, taught me how to embroider when I was in the fourth grade but again, it never really stuck. My mom kept nagging me to not embroider all the time because it would ruin my eye sight, so I dropped it. In college, I bought Jenny Hart’s book and kit and this time it stuck. I embroidered a bunch of doodles on to a pair of old jeans and while it looked super cool, I never wore them after that. Plus my hands were killing me. I didn’t know at the time that I should have used a better needle!

Vanessa’s multi-crafty Frida Kahlo doll. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You are multi-craftual. What is your favorite “go to” craft these days?

Vanessa: I find my knitting to be the most portable project, so it’s the one I do the most often. While I do like to crochet, I find that sometimes my crochet stitches end up coming undone if I try to tote it around with me. Plus, I have to look where I’m crocheting. I knit so much that I can do it by feel now, which has become a “party trick” of mine. I once managed to play Texas Hold ‘em Poker and knit at the same time. It was less impressive than it sounds because I really don’t know how to play poker all that well. Embroidery has become a sort of “in between projects” project, mostly because I tend to make much smaller pieces. Plus, it satisfies that part of me that still likes to color in coloring books.

Vanessa’s Lily Owl. (Click for blog post.)

UC: We both have parents who were born and raised in Cuba.  Tell us a bit about your background and the crafting scene at that time.

Vanessa: I grew up in Union City, NJ. At one point, Union City was called “Havana on the Hudson” because we had more Cubans living here than in Havana. (UC comment: Yes, this is where most of my Cuban extended family lives!) When I was growing up, I would say that 98% of my classmates were Hispanic. We had a few Indian and Egyptian students but they were the exception rather than the rule. I don’t remember many people outside of my family crafting, but there were a few businesses advertising hand painted signs. My niece Olivia took a bunch of photos of these signs.

Apparently, most of them have been taken down. I love the look of the lettering but I’ve never really seen them outside of the greater NYC area.  (UC comment: Olivia has a great website of her own here.) 

My town does have an interesting crafty history. Starting in the late 1880s up until the 1990s, there were tons of embroidery factories. My parents worked a few, actually, particularly during the Viet Nam war. The factory they worked at made military insignias like company badges and rank stripes. They would take the big sheets of these home to cut out and got paid for so many that they cut.

My mom also worked in clothing factories. It’s where and how she learned to sew. My father was part of the book binder’s union thanks to one of the places he worked at. He later stopped factory work and became the superintendent of the buildings we lived in. He wasn’t the best handyman but I think part of him really enjoyed it. He used to build and set up model trains and also enjoyed photography, though he was terrible at it.

Vanessa’s Featherweight Cardigan. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Tell us about your blog. How did you get started blogging?

Vanessa: My husband bought a “Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts” t-shirt for me and thought the name would make a great blog for me. I had just finished up chemo two months before and I needed an outlet. He encouraged me to blog about the things I made during treatment. I was really shy about it at first but I quickly dove in. I had a Live Journal account for years so the idea of blogging wasn’t new to me. I’m glad that I listened to hubby because I love to blog like this! It’s given me both an outlet and a sense of purpose which is what I needed especially so soon after being so sick. (UC comment: I’m glad you listened to him, too, because your blog has a really unique perspective to offer!)

Vanessa’s hexipuffs. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You share some of your personal life, including your experience as a cancer survivor and posts about your family, on your blog.  A lot of crafty bloggers struggle with how much is enough/too much to share of your personal life.  How do you find the balance between being part of a community and maintaining your privacy?

Vanessa: I try to keep my personal stories focused on either crafting or cancer. With my cancer experience, I felt best to share the good, the bad and the really ugly because I wasn’t prepared for most of what happened. And if I felt that way, chances are good that someone else does and hopefully I can better prepare them.

I do share a lot about my family’s history partly because I think it’s a unique story, particularly how my parents met. And it’s the easiest way to share with the rest of my family since we’re all around the world at this point. Thanks to Facebook, lots of cousins and uncles (my father’s half brothers) are coming out of the woodwork and finding us. Most of them are still in Cuba but a few are in Miami and Venezuela. My mother’s family are in Cuba but do have internet access so it’s been nice to share with them as well. I’ve often thought about turning some of their stories into a novel, so I try to write those entries as creatively as possible. I also feel like everyone has a great story. Hopefully, I can encourage other people to put the tales of the past down on paper to preserve them. I do regret that I didn’t get more memories out of my father before he passed away.

Vanessa’s Wurm Hat for Olivia. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting?  If so, how?

Vanessa: I’m not sure if I can say that there is a direct influence, but it certainly is a passive influence. Whenever I pick up my needles (be it to knit or sew or crochet) I feel like I’m part of the past. My mother remembers that her mother, sister, and later, her step-mother, would spend time making bobbin lace when they weren’t busy making clothing for the family. Her friends tell me that they were all taught to knit socks before they were taught the alphabet!  My parents didn’t have a lot of schooling (my mother left school around the 4th grade and my father the 6th) but they both learned trades. My mother’s was more domestic (making clothing for the family and housewares and how to cook) but my father was a cobbler. I think about them when I’m working away and I laugh. What today is considered “hip” and “novel” and “crafty” was, once upon a time, part of a normal education. I remember trying to sign up for Home Ec in High School only to be told that they changed the class format. It was now a parenting class for the girls (and boys) who were expecting. I’m very sad to hear that this isn’t something that was unique to my public school system. If we bring back these skills, I’m sure we’ll see an overall increase in math and reading scores. (UC comment: I agree, Vanessa. We use math all the time in the needlecrafts!)

Some of Vanessa’s embroidery. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You recently moved to Hermitage, Tennessee from the Northeast.  What’s the crafting scene like down there?  Do you have any favorite spots to share?

Vanessa: I’ve noticed that quilting tends to be a lot more popular in the South. I’ve been able to find more fabric shops than local yarn stores. Also, the big box stores like Joann’s tend to rule. Since I’m not really a quilter, it’s been difficult for me to find my niche.

Vanessa’s childhood kung-fu ID card. (Click for blog post.)

 

UC: One of the things that’s unique about your blog is your combination of needlecrafts with martial arts and self-defense.  (One of my favorite guest posts on your blog is by Packing Pretty.  Thanks for introducing me to someone who so stylishly conceals weapons for personal protection!)  Tell us about your interest in martial arts.

Vanessa: I started martial arts when I was in the first grade. My parents put me in ballet and I hated it. Then they tried tap dancing and I hated that, too. The last thing on their list was the kung-fu studio that was near. My brother had taken lessons with Sifu Vizzio and suggested that they sign me up. They did and I loved it! I was finally in training to become a Ninja Turtle. Unfortunately, I had to stop thanks to homework overload but I always carried that regret. I tried some other styles as an adult but it wasn’t the same. I missed Sifu and I missed Fu Jow Pai.

For me, martial arts helps me relax and focus on my goals. The philosophical aspect of it has also spoken deeply to me. I’m not sure I’ve discovered the meaning of life but it’s helped me really think about what I’m doing here. I come out of class feeling like I’ve honed both my body and my mind and I’ve got them working together.

UC: What are some of your favorite Spanish or English language craft blogs to share?
Vanessa: In Spanish, I love Che Crochet. She’s an Argintine crocheter and makes some really nice stuff. Of course, I also have to mention FreshStitches as an English crochet counterpart. Stacey’s designs are fun and really modern. Mighty Distractable also makes me feel better for having a thousand interests and a short attention span.

I also read Craftzine to keep up to date on the latest crafting news. And I love to listen to CraftLit while I’m busy. Heather Ordover is a great hostess and knitwear designer in her own right. She’ll be starting Jane Eyre (my favorite book), which has wonderful knitting references, in October. I think I’ll work on something lacey and fancy while I listen.

UC: What’s next for Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts?
Vanessa: I do have some pieces in the works of my own. I’m currently designing a cancer awareness hat that should be released in November. And I’ve got some more book reviews and tutorials in the pipeline so keep your eyes peeled in the next few weeks! I’m not quite sure what next year has in store for Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts, but I’m always open to suggestions.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story, Vanessa!

Year of Projects, Year 2: Therapeutic

 This post contains affiliate links.

I guess that crocheted motifs are my go to project when I’m feeling stressed, which is how I managed to finish 9 during another busy week.

 

My running total of grannies for charity is now 25, so I have 27 more to go.  Let me tell you a little about these squares.

1) First up is my version of the Rosebud Square from 75 Floral Blocks to Crochet by Betty Barnden.  The center is actually the block from the book, but to get it up to 12″, I added several additional rounds.  I think the block would look best in one sold color, as it is in the book, but I ran short on that color while crocheting.

2) This is my version of Squaring the Big Circle by Kate Jenks, and 3) is Puff Pastry, a great block by Donna Kay Lacey, who I interviewed a few months back.  I used up plenty of little yarn bits in my version.

4) Here’s another great pattern by Donna Kay Lacey called Bubblegum.  I had a moment of fear when it looked like I ran out of the yarn in the last row, but I was able to find another scrap in hiding to finish off my block.

5) This square is a variation of Precious by Julie Yeager.  I’ve been seeing a lot of her blocks popping up in my friend updates on Ravelry, so I thought I’d give it a try.  6) Then I got creative and designed my own block!  I’m working on a new version now that should clean up the pattern a bit.

7) By this point in the week, I thought I’d try something a little different.  I decided to look for a pattern that was in my collection but didn’t have a picture posted on Ravelry.  Of course, that meant that my version couldn’t have modifications, so this one is straight from the pattern: Square 17 by Colleen Gilbert from Contest Favorites Afghan Squares.

8) I also followed the pattern very exactly for Pineapples by James G. Davis from 50 Fabulous Crochet Squares.  The pineapple effect would have been visible if I used a solid yarn, but I’m glad I took the chance to use up as much of this variegated yarn as possible.

9) Finally, I tried to add another picture to Ravelry’s pattern database by making my version of the Owl Granny Square by Sarah Zimmerman.  Normally, I wouldn’t have made this block because I always think of owls as being harbingers of death rather than cutesy craft motifs.  It turns out that Sarah’s the only editor on Rav so I can’t add the picture to the pattern database anyway :(.  Any suggestions on what to do with this block?  I sort of feel weird donating it to charity because it has buttons which present a potential choking hazard…

That’s it for me this week.  I wish I could say that I think next week will be more peaceful, but I’m sure it will be equally rushed.  Most likely, that means you will see more grannies from me!

For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.