Daily Yarn: January 13, 2020

Well, hello, again. I hope this Monday found you ready for it.

I’ve been making scads of progress on my textured lap blanket for the baby. I only have two balls of yarn left in order to finish the project, and I’ve decided on a border style for the outer edge, so I’m feeling very accomplished.

I also determined the baby sweater that I’ll be making little man for Christmas, realized I had two options of yarn for it that I’d been saving for a while, and let the kids vote. (They chose the one on the left.) So I’ve begun knitting in the evenings and doing my crochet work during the day. Crochet doesn’t require much thought for me, so I’m able to work on that while teaching school or waiting for children to bring their completed assignments to me. Knitting, I actually have to count and focus on what my fingers will do. It will forever by my second yarn language. But that’s okay.

We did get a new armchair in our living area, so I’ve taken over that as my throne to reign supreme on during the day. It’s as comfortable as anything can be at nine months pregnant, but my husband says that he thinks it needs a little more foam internally, so I’ll likely be doing a small amount of upholstery on it in the next few months to get it up to standard. It was a floor model at our local IKEA, so it was extremely affordable in the clearance section, but it means that some of the interior foam and support has been used/abused heavily.

I’ve also been sitting on/breaking in the rocking chair in our bedroom, as it’s the only chair we’ve got that has an attached footrest. I figured I might as well get used to the feel of that rocking chair because I’ll be in it a lot in the next few months.

It’s also time to get our garden hoed and dug, so we finalized our plans for this year, and we have begun to stake out the plot that we’ll be using for this year. It’s not a huge garden, only about 215 square feet (20 square meters) especially considering the space we have available, but I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew with a newborn and soil that I’m not familiar with.

On another note, I can’t tell you how long I spent looking for burp cloths here in France last night, but I ended up finding a few beautiful knit ones. I’d never even considered knitting them before, but now I want some. There are a bunch of beautiful patterns on Ravelry, so I’m going to have fun looking about for just the right pattern.

Lastly, just a few photos of things I found beautiful or interesting from the past three days.

Colour My World: Brown

My favorite colour was brown for a few years, until orange burst on the scene. But I’ve been thinking about doing a little colour play with brown. Here are a few bits from recently.

What I like best about brown is how it hides its beauty. Your eye is drawn to the objects with the brighter, flashier colours, and you really have to LOOK to see the browns. Nature’s own form of modest beauty.

And brown brings with it so many thoughts and memories. Flavors of cinnamon, chocolate, coffee, ginger. The smell of fresh dirt and spring. What does brown mean to you? What memories does it evoke for you?

Fresh bread baking?

Dirty toes?

Your grandma’s old shag carpet or 1970s wallpaper?

That fancy swirled design on your cup of coffee in a touristy spot?

The mud on your uncle’s boots as he came through the door?

The tree stump you sat on and watched the river go by while you wrote beatnik poetry?

Brown has such potency. It’s everywhere, but we need to open our eyes to be able to see it.

A Quieter Day, Filled With Plans

And now come the quieter and steadier posts after the fun and flurry of “publishing” two patterns on Ravelry. It’s not really something I thought I’d ever do, and I know that I’ll eventually get better. I’m much more of a do it and don’t talk too much about how it happens kind of girl. But I’ll improve.

I have this golden blanket for little baby still to work on. It’s been almost two months since I picked it up and forgot what stitch I was working on completely. Fortunately, I managed to find it in my phone documents. In case you’re interested, it’s the Caron Crochet Textured Lap Blanket, although I’ve altered the dimensions a bit and will probably alter the edging as well. It’s fairly easy, once you remember that you are not—in fact–doing a “wheat stitch” as you googled frantically for half an hour.

After I finish that blanket, I think I’m going to get started on some knit sweaters (or jumpers if you’re European) for the kids for next Christmas…because I have five kids to somehow make presents for. Last year, I managed to snag matching jammies and cardigans on a clearance website after Christmas, where each garment ended up only being $3. This year, I’m trying to focus a little more on ethical fashion purchasing (mostly making my own or mending/reworking what we’ve got.) Kids’ clothes are very expensive here in Europe, and I’ve yet to find some good secondhand shops.

For baby’s Christmas sweater, I found a Norwegian pattern that I have just the perfect amount of Malabrigo Arroyo for. I’ve got it in two different colors from several years ago. I think I purchased it off of Etsy at the time, so who knows how old it is? In any case, all of my current boys outgrew the amount I had at a rapid pace, so I intend to get this sweater done first—probably while I’m in the hospital, and knowing how tall my babies tend to be, I’ll do an 18-month size for when he’ll be 11 months old.

I may decide to work on a flower bunting my little girl has requested, although I think I need to space it out and work on some other projects first. She’s had a blanket and a doll blanket lately, and the boys–despite having some new scarves–are starting to get a little jealous.

I also have some sewing I need to accomplish. I’ve got a bunch of lovely vintage sheets that I intend to turn into cloth napkins, as all of our cloth napkins somehow disappeared in our international move. I’m going to double that as a sewing lesson for one of the boys who seems more interested in sewing than other handicrafts.

Three of the kids drew tulips as part of their art instruction this week, so I’ve got them hanging up to remind me of Spring.

Meanwhile, it is starting to feel like Minnesotan spring. I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to the seasons here. I’m used to such extremes, and these mild sunny/rainy/not really genuinely cold enough for winter coats days are confusing to my mind. I imagine my neighbors think we’re all odd, as we’re often outside without our coats on or running around barefoot when it’s 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.5 degrees Celcius, for those of you who are fully enmeshed in Celsius living.) But what they don’t understand is that 40 is beautiful. 40 is when you throw the windows open and feel the fresh air after months of below zero temperatures that stifle you.

I organized all of my crochet hooks and knitting needles and found that I need to replace a lot of my circular knitting needles, as they were damaged during our move.

I’ve also been finalizing plans for our gardens because we need to start our plants at the end of next month. So far, the only seeds I’m missing are celery and some sweet potato starters. Probably some more bee-attracting flowers, because I’d like a highly successful garden. Wish me luck!

Doll Bed Crocheted Blanket Pattern for IKEA Duktig Doll Bed

doll bed crocheted blanket

For Christmas, my daughter received the IKEA Dukvig doll bed. It was sturdy and affordable (things that are handy when you work in the nonprofit sector and have a lot of kids.) It did come with a little “quilt” and mattress as well as something that functions as a pillow (which my little girl soon replaced with an infinity scarf she designed last year.)

However, my little girl has a birthday VERY soon after Christmas, and she always seems to be a bit forgotten in the mad rush of holiday gatherings. And this year is her….golden birthday.

Do you celebrate golden birthdays? It’s where the date you were born on corresponds with your age. For example, I was born on the 13th, and so when I turned 13, it was my golden birthday.

doll bed crocheted blanket

So I knew I wanted to make it special. Our girl is an odd duckling and requested a laundry basket, a rug, a full-length mirror, and something to hang her clothes on. (Closets are not really a thing here in France, and we’ve had to be economical in which furniture we purchase in what order.) Basically, she wanted a “big girl” room with all of the features. We were able to find all of those things for under $40, but I wanted something that would make her eyes sparkle and make her room feel extra special. So I decided to throw together a little doll-sized blanket for her IKEA Duktig doll bed.

doll bed crocheted blanket

Project: IKEA Duktig Doll Bed Crocheted Blanket

Materials Required

Four 100-gram balls of DK weight yarn.

(I used Stylecraft Special DK in Bright Pink, Fondant, Magenta, and Powder Pink.)

Size G (4.25 mm) crochet hook.

Project Final Dimensions

24.5 inches/62 cm (W) by 24 inches/61 cm (H)

Gauge

13 sc stitches by 16 rows should equal approximate 4″ square in size

Crochet Instructions

For blanket

Chain 85 in color A. (For mine, Magenta.)

Row 1: 1 ch (counts as 1 sc). Skip 1 st, *1 hdc into next stitch, 1 dc into next st. 3 tr into next st. 1 dc into next st. 1 hdc into next st. 1 sc into next st. repeat from * to end, turn.

Row 2: Change color to color B (For mine, Powder Pink.) 1 ch, skip 1 st, 1 sc into next st (counts as sc2tog), 1 sc into each of next 2 sts. *3 sc into next st, 1 sc into each of next 2 sts, over next 3 stst work sc3tog, 1 sc into each of next 2 sts; repeat from * to last 5 sts. 3 sc into next st, 1 sc into each of next 2 sts, over last 2 sts work sc2tog, skip tch, turn.

Row 3: As second row.

Row 4: Change color to color C (For mine Bright Pink.) 4 ch, skip 1 st. 1 tr into next st (counts as tr2tog), * 1 dc into next st, 1 hdc into next st, 1 sc into next st, 1 hdc into next st, 1 dc into next st** over next 3 sts work tr3tog; repeat from * ending last rep at **, over last 2 sts work tr2tog, skip tch turn.

Row 5: 1 ch (counts as 1 sc), skip 1 st, 1 sc into next and each st to end, turn.

Row 6: Change color to color D (For mine, Fondant.) As 5th row.

Repeat these six rows, using each color for two rows (so continuing onto row 1 with color D, and then changing to color A for rows 2 and 3, and so on.)

End on 65th row with color A.

Stitch or weave in all loose ends.

Edging:

Using color A, which should be at the top and bottom of your blanket, single crochet around the entire width of the blanket, remembering that the treble crochets on the edges count as four stitches in length. When you reach a corner space, 3 sc in each corner and turn.

After you’ve finished your single crochet round, continue using color A, and do one hdc in every stitch (excepting corner stitches which will receive 3 hdc.) Tie off and sew or weave in your loose border yarn.

And that’s it! Your little one will be so thrilled that their babies or stuffed loveys can be comfy and cozy too with your very own doll bed crocheted blanket.

( I feel the need to disclaim that this post is NOT sponsored by IKEA. However, should anyone from IKEA be reading this and notice a spike in your IKEA Duktig doll bed purchases due to this post, I’d love to work out an arrangement for some new living room furniture or bookshelves. Hardy har har.)

I plan to continue to add other patterns to my site, so if you’re curious about some of the other patterns I’ve got available, click here!

See this pattern on Ravelry: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/doll-bed-crocheted-blanket

Mending Matters (A Grannies and Rows Book Review)

Mending Matters

This week, I sat down and read Mending Matters, a book that I’ve had on my list for a very long time. I missed the boat when this book hit the crafting and intentional fashion world by storm in 2018. I’m glad I had a chance to read it now. (Plug for local libraries who offer e-book and audiobook reserving features. We love you!)

Mending Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh offers much more than instructions on how to mend. She also presents a treatise on WHY we should mend. (And bonus points: it doesn’t come across as sanctimonious or holier than thou.) Mending provides a method of frugality and also allows for ethical considerations of those around the world burdened with the weight of commercial fashion production. Mending also is a therapeutic and quieting activity, allowing for contemplation.

I have soon-to-be-five children. I strive to mend all of their clothes, but to be honest, my mending pile is more intimidating than the fires of Mount Doom right now. (Probably too much Christmas crocheting and not enough Actual Work.) One of my boys alone has about five pairs of ripped jeans. I’ve been procrastinating on mending his jeans, because he’s *just about* into another size, and then I’ll have time before the next boy grows into them.

A few years ago, back when the holes and jeans for the boys were so much smaller.

But after reading this short book about slow fashion and tips and projects about how I could mend better and more efficiently (even fashionably), I fully intend to conquer my own Mount Doom. Wish me luck!

The girl has plenty of mending to be done as well. She recently wore a brand-new dress, and a seam ripped within three hours.

Scarf Central: (Ta-DAH!)

I feel a bit like William Carlos Williams any time I use the phrase “This is Just to Say,” but I have to use it in this case.

This is just to say that I’ve finished 30 scarves and one baby blanket in the last six weeks. (For 21 of the scarves, I used the easy pattern I wrote about here.)

Things I’ve learned:

  • Start Christmas projects earlier. Ha. Hats are on the docket for next year for the guys we work with, so prepare yourselves. I’ll be starting somewhere around September probably.
  • Pink as a feminine color is an American social construct. My husband offered the first choice of scarves to one of the “leader” asylum seekers at the refugee and asylum seeker housing ministry we work at. He asked for us specifically to reserve a pink scarf for him. Here I had been worried all along that I was using up scraps of pinks and purples in the scarves and that these teenage and young adult boys would balk at the femininity of the scarves. Nope.
  • Always check your length when making scarves for men. The first scarf I made and we handed out was honestly a little short because this boy wrapped his scarf differently than I was used to wrapping scarves around my kids. He did the neck loop instead of the tie around. (For pictures demonstrating what I mean, see here.)
  • It’s possible to make a baby blanket in a day.
  • I need to buy more yarn.

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season and also taking time to reflect how you can make the world a more beautiful place in the coming year. All it takes is small acts with great love, right? Simple steps? Maybe preparing for a more beautiful tomorrow? However you go about it, set about it with intention, and together we can make the world a more beautiful place.

Cheers to 2020!

Easy (and Free!) Crocheted Men’s Scarf Pattern

This is the easiest crocheted men’s scarf pattern out there. I recently made 21 of these scarves for young men, most over 6-foot tall. Because we live in a country where men’s scarves are folded in half and looped through generally instead of tied around the neck, the scarves needed to be plenty long to provide ultimate warmth and comfort.

Project: Crocheted Men’s Scarf (Double-Stranded)

Materials Required

This pattern is designed to use two strands of yarn, held together. I used DK weight. It takes approximately 350 grams of DK-weight yarn.

Size J crochet hook

Project Final Dimensions

80 inches (L) x 10 inches (W)/ 203 cm (L) x 25.5 cm (W)

Gauge: 9 SC stitches x 9 rows produces a 3″ square with yarn held double stranded

Crochet Instructions

Row 1: Begin by chaining 28 with two strands of yarn held together.

Row 2: Double crochet in third chain stitch from hook and continue double crocheting until you get to the end of the row.

Row 3: Chain 3 (this functions as a double crochet) and turn. Double crochet in each stitch in the row.

Rows 4-117: Repeat row 3.

For color changes, see options below, or create your own!

Color Variations

I have several color variations of this project that I like to do.

COLOR VARIATION 1:

Hold Color A and B together for 3/9/13 rows. Follow this with color B and C held together for 3/9/13 rows. Then you will hold color C and D together for 3/9/13 rows. If you use the 3-row repeat, you’ll need 39 color combinations. When using the 9-row color option, you’ll need 13. Finally, if you use the 13-row color option, you’ll need nine blocks of color combinations. (Note, I choose odd-number color variations, so that the color changes don’t all end up on one side of the scarf, as this can create a dimpled look on the edgings…)

COLOR VARIATION 2:

Have approximately 175 grams of color A and use it throughout the entire scarf, adding in color B, C, D, and so on and so forth throughout the scarf. Again, you can use the 3/9/13 row idea, as written above, or you can create your own number.

COLOR VARIATION 3:

For one of your strands, use a solid color pattern, either A/B/C/D/etc. or A/B/C/A/B/C in 3/9/13 row repeats. For your second strand, either make a magic ball of yarn or use up scraps of yarn. Your color changes will likely not occur perfectly at the end or beginning of a row, so you must be okay with a more fluid-looking scarf and the idea that you *may* not be able to make it into a symmetrically designed scarf.

A side by side of solid color running all the way through scarf, 3-row repeat, 9-row repat, and 13-row repeat.

I hope you enjoy making this easy free crocheted men’s scarf pattern. It’s really easy and makes a fantastic (and fast) gift for those hard-to-shop-for guys in life.

Little Things and Sacred Places

Lately, I’ve just had to push myself to find goodness, find beauty, find any amount of energy. Parenting and homeschooling are hard work. Living in another country can be hard work. (It can also be a fun adventure.) Being eight months pregnant and iron-depleted is also hard work.

I manage to feed and educate the children and do the fun Christmas traditions they’re used to, but I’ve really had to force myself to do much more than that. I’ve been working on double-stranded scarves for the last week or two. I’ve made eight so far for the teens/young adults we work with, and I have theoretically 13 to go. Michael initially had a count of 15 boys that he works with, and then it ended up being 21 total, so I may have to order yet more yarn to get them all done. (They may end up being New Year’s scarves, depending on children/health/yarn supply/shipping.)

BUT:

Michael handed out one wrapped scarf to a young asylum seeker that he mentors, and the young man was so shocked to have been given a present. His eyes started to tear up, and his face was filled with joy. He didn’t expect anything, and he didn’t know what Christmas gifts were.

This.

This is why.

I have photos, but I can’t share them in order to protect the privacy of this young man. But they make me cry every time I look at them.

To know that a couple of hours of time, a few balls of yarn and approximately 3500 stitches could tell a boy that he was cared for and valued and that people see him as a person and not as a helpless case. It’s immensely humbling that my hands could be used that way, and it fills me with awe and a sense of sober purpose when I sit down to work. It reminds me that little hobby of mine can be holy work. Just like faithfulness in doing laundry, cooking supper, and scrubbing toilets is holy work.

Too often we separate things that are “sacred” and things that are “ordinary.” It brings to mind the snatch of Wendell Berry that I often quote.

There are no unsacred places;   
there are only sacred places   
and desecrated places.   

Wendell Berry

But even though I quote it so often to myself, I still forget that everyday work is a chance to breathe and worship in a sacred place. It’s a chance to practice gratitude. It’s a chance to bend my knee. And more importantly, it’s easy to forget that if I don’t make it into a sacred place, it might become a desecrated place.

I don’t share this story to toot my own horn. I share it as a bit of a journal to remind myself that this work that I have the privilege to do can indeed make the world a more beautiful place. And to remind you, too, that wherever you are found today….it can be a sacred place.

I’ll close with a quote from Brother Lawrence, who some call the Kitchen Saint because in the monastery he served in, he had the oh-so-glamorous-job of washing dishes. But he found that he was able to experience a vivid and powerful relationship with God because he was able to spend time doing little things while acknowledging the presence of God.

We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.

Brother Lawrence

With Great Love: Work That Honors

One of Mother Teresa’s favorite mottos was “Do small things with great love.” There are about three or four iterations of this particular motto, but all with that refrain of doing small things with great love.

Isn’t that what making the world more beautiful is about? We can’t just swipe a huge oil pastel brush over the ugliness in the world to paint a sunrise or a sunset in its place, or a “happy little cloud” like Bob Ross. That’s not how it works. Because the world is cursed with sin and sadness, it will always remain present. But in our own small acts of redemptive defiance, we can resist the darkness. We can’t erase it, but we can plant a garden. Or we can make a pie. Or we can fold laundry. And in doing those little things with great love, we redeem and cultivate.

A few nights ago, I was up in the middle of the night. I’m a bit of an insomniac, to begin with, but pregnancy emphasizes that. And I was worried about a few different things. So I began reading poetry. At 3 a.m. (Please tell me that someone else, somewhere in the world, does this?)

I turned to Wendell Berry because his poetry has been so soothing to me in the last few years and in particular, his book This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems.

Teach me work that honors thy work,
the true economies of goods and words,
to make my arts compatible
with the songs of the local birds.


Teach me patience beyond work –
and, beyond patience, the blest
Sabbath of thy unresting love
which lights all things and gives rest.

Wendell Berry

And this became a prayer for me. Work that honors God’s work. Small things done with great love. They’re both so interwoven that it’s difficult to see where one leaves off and the other picks up.

This past month has been one huge march, placing one foot in front of another. November is always our family’s most busy and haphazard month, with birthdays and Thanksgiving and trying to intentionally get things done so that December can be a restful season of Advent. But each of the kids has demanded attention in different ways.

I often notice that when some of my children want attention, they’ll pick up a handicraft and ask me to help work with them on it. It’s usually not well-timed or convenient. But it is a ministry. It is heart work. And it is teaching my kids that love is available and that love becomes available when needed. I’m teaching my kids about prayer and how the Father always is ready to listen to them. It’s nothing earth-shattering. It’s saying yes in a moment when my flesh and to-do list long to say no.

It’s also teaching the kids to fight for beauty in their own way. It’s teaching them that they have the agency to choose colors and designs in their own projects. They have creative license. But at the same time, their handicrafts are bound by the rules/laws of that particular craft, material, and gravity. It’s teaching them to take pride in their work and the joy of making for others. It’s giving them a way to do little things with great love.

One step at a time. One stitch at a time. One moment at a time.

Little things.

Two Finished Scarves

Finished this scarf today. I intentionally made it shorter for this kiddo, because he stretches out his scarves to previously unheard of lengths. I’ve learned a thing or two over the years of parenting.

I also finished this scarf, made from a magic yarn ball I threw together a few nights ago. I have enough left in this magic yarn ball to make at least one, if not two, more scarves. I think I’ll switch up the patterning, though, because I like variety.

Unfortunately, the lighting is such in northern France right now that I can rarely get a “good photo.” Having to be content with poor lighting, and that means that my photo colorations are wonky. Ah well.

I began another scarf in bright oranges, reds, and yellows, because there’s a kiddo in my life that shares my affinity for bright colors. It’s such a joy to knit multi-colored things after a few solid items. This one will be very simple in just a seed stitch. But it will work up really quickly for my little pal.