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Gnome Craft – In My Garden!

I took a little break from finishing up the latest book, Let’s Crochet! and did something completely different. This is a little gnome doll made with a wire armature body and wool felt clothing. He posed in my potted plant

and then had to take a stroll in the garden.

The inspiration was a book called The Gnome Craft Book” by Thomas and Petra Berger. I found it at my local library and thought it looked interesting. Turns out it was first published in Dutch and translated into English. That explains a lot.

It’s not like the craft books we’re accustomed to. There are lots of techniques and the authors assume that readers know how to do quite a few different things from knitting and embroidery to simple wood carving and wire work. Even the little fellow here would have been quite difficult if I hadn’t already known how to make wire armature dolls and had the proper tools.

The dolls eventually suggest their names but he doesn’t have one yet. Any suggestions?

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What is it with Starting Projects?

We’ve talked about UFO’s , those unfinished objects lurking in tote bags and closets, now let’s have a look at the other side of that story. Starting projects is fun, fun, fun, but it does have a dark side. Many of them turn into UFO’s with time passing and interest waning. So, why start so many projects when they can never all be finished?

Temporary Infatuation. What else can I say? It’s a crush on some new yarn, material or technique that just has to be tried. So, there’s another project started and the first hours or days are wonderful and exciting. Then, the crush dissipates, reality sets in and the faults and flaws of the thing are obvious. The color’s wrong, the technique is boring or truly aggravating or the finished item just isn’t something worth having. Here’s a UFO newly born and one that probably won’t ever be completed.

Simple Projects. These are the projects I like to call “mindless”. These are the ones that travel to the in-laws and the meetings to keep the hands busy and just enough of the brain occupied to keep from going nuts. These are useful and necessary projects. Very seldom do they age into UFO’s even though some take quite a while to finish.

Real Love. This is the prize in projects starts. These are things that the end result is something I love and truly want in my life. These projects can vary greatly in difficulty and time commitment. The materials and techniques are secondary to the item itself so learning something new or working with not so favorite materials is often worth it. The UFO danger here is taking too long to finish the project. If that happens, changes in taste or lifestyle can make it obsolete before it’s done.

There are just a few of my excuses to start a new project. I’m sure there are countless other explanations waiting to be discovered and used. So go ahead and start something new, you’ve got a good reason.

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Finally- Perfect Pom Poms

Maybe it’s just me, but making pom poms has always been an ordeal. Wind, cut, tie and then trim while hoping for the best. It’s the trimming and shaping part that always gets me. Lots of snipping and fuzz everywhere, but never a nice round little yarn ball. With all that trouble, I’ve never used pom poms very much for decoration. Well, that has finally changed because I’ve discovered the Clover Pom Pom Maker.

Just wind, cut and tie. Then a perfect round ball of yarn pops out of the ingenious folding plastic device. The principle is the same as the old fashioned circle of cardboard method, but this works so much better. The best part is there isn’t any snipping and fussing with the final shape. Perfect for me!

They come in sizes extra small through extra large, two sizes per package except for the extra large. I have the small size which makes pom poms 1⅜ and 1 ⅝ inches. Extra small is ¾ and 1 inch, large is 2 ½ and 3 ⅜ inches, and the extra large size makes a 4 ½ inch pom pom. See all four makers here.

The instructions are clear with excellent photographs and are inside the folded packaging. The photographs are clear enough to follow without the written instructions. That’s how I made the first couple pom poms because of not looking at the packaging carefully.

This is such a clever notion for the pom pom challenged. Now, I’m off to make more perfectly shaped pom poms.

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A Favorite Crochet Stitch

It’s called “Shell Stitch” or “Shell on Shell” or “Solid Shell” or what ever you happen to call it. No matter the name, it’s one of my favorite crochet stitch patterns and I use it a lot when designing projects.

As the name Solid Shell indicates, it is solid, not lacy, but has a light look and lovely texture. Fabric made from a lighter yarn, such as sport or fingering weights, in this pattern drapes beautifully.

Another reason I like it is simplicity. Only three stitches, chain, single and double crochet, make the entire pattern. The rows alternate in a half drop pattern so, once established, it’s easily memorized. Shaping in solid shell is straight forward as well. The shells are easily adjusted for half shells when decreasing or added stitches when increasing.

Another of its wonderful properties is the ability to tame variegated yarns. Variegated yarns can have some disturbing color effects in the most unexpected ways. They are lovely in the skein but can become “jittery” or “clumpy” or just plain unattractive when worked into fabric. I’ve had success with the solid shell pattern with several variegated yarns.

Try this pattern. Here are the written directions and the chart. Start with some leftover yarn and make a pillow or throw. See what happens and have fun.

Solid Shell

Multiple of 6 + 1 (add 1 for beginning chain)

1st Row: 1 sc into 2nd ch from hook, *skip 2 ch, 5 dc into next ch, skip 2 ch, 1 sc into next ch; repeat from * to end, turn.

2nd Row: 3 ch (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc into first stitch, *skip 2 dc, 1 sc into next dc, skip 2 dc, 5 dc into next sc; repeat from * ending last repeat with 3 dc into last sc, skip turning ch, turn.

3rd Row: 1 ch, 1sc into first stitch, *skip 2 dc, 5 dc into next sc, skip 2 dc, 1 sc into dc; repeat from * ending last repeat with 1 sc into top of turning chain, turn.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 for pattern.

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The UFO (Unfinished Object) Problem

I have lots of UFOs because starting projects is my favorite thing. The thrill of new yarns, fibers and fabrics and the shining possibilities of the finished projects – that’s heady stuff.

Of course, reality is somewhat different, isn’t it? Like many, my expectations are often higher than my ability to finish them all. I’m usually happy with the finished projects and they are very often as nice as or better than I envisioned. It’s just so darned difficult getting to that point. In my own land of the UFO, I’ve decided that there are three methods of dealing with them.

First, just drag it out, grit your teeth and finish it. This works very well for things that are almost done and for the projects that are going pretty well to begin with. Usually, I find that it’s enjoyable to work on a long put away project and the extra bonus of finishing is wonderful.

Second, repurpose it or condense it and make something new. Because this usually takes more thought and planning, it works better on projects that aren’t going very well, aren’t turning out as planned, or are just way too large to finish as started. This reworking is good for projects that you like the materials and are still interested in. Of course, the new project may run the risk of becoming another UFO.

Third, admit to yourself that you no longer even like it, will never finish it and then get rid of it without any guilt whatsoever. This option is the fastest but not always the easiest because we all agonize over the guilt part. It’s as if we’ve asked the project to go steady and now want to break up. Try having a UFO swap with friends – one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure – or donate them to charity. Either way, get it out of your life and see how much easier you breathe.

The best part of tackling the UFO problem is the twin rewards. You’ll have many lovely finished projects that make you the envy of your friends and associates. And, better yet, you can now start even more new projects!