He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist. ~St. Francis of Assisi

May we each strive to do ALL that we do as an artist working as unto the Lord for His glory! Thanks for stopping in to visit! ~Cara Louise

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Some Helpful Resource Pages to Pass Along

In the process of writing up my newest pattern, I used some special stitches which may not be familiar with some crocheters. Rather than write out detailed instructions for each of these stitches, I felt it was more beneficial to find some great tutorials to share.

There are some terrific sites which have tutorials already published on the web, much better than I would have done, with clear writing and helpful photographs.

One which I re-discovered in my latest research for resources is this page- Crochet Spot, which has tutorials on a myriad of topics.

I was specifically searching for instructions on making the single crochet invisible decrease this time around, which if you are interested can be found here.

PlanetJune is also a great place to go for help on furthering your crochet skills. June has recently re-done her website and made it even easier to find tutorials by making a master list! From the basics to embellishments to special techniques, June has you covered!

What are your favorite resource sites?

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Creative, Confident, Careful

One of my Facebook friends posted this question on her page: "Why do we lose confidence in our abilities the older we get? How do you combat it?"

I am actually finding just the opposite for myself. Being out of work for over a year and a half (except for part-time fill-in-the-gap stuff) has allowed me to take a look at who I am. I came up with three C's: Creative, Confident, and Careful.

The creative aspect I think I always had- even as a child. I have been very blessed with artistic and musical talent which lets me see or hear what a finished project could be like. This ability has served me quite well in my craft work, and in my ministry work on the music team at my church. It also translates well to employment, as I am able to visualize a desired end result for a work project.

Confidence is a character trait which I have had to develop within myself. I did not possess in my earlier years the sureness I do now in my own abilities to get going on a project. So many things just sat unattempted (craft projects, book reports) because I was afraid to start. Just gaining life experience has produced a better understanding of what I can do now and knowing the reality that the world does not end if a wrong step is made. I think confidence also means an awareness of my own limitations and not being shy about looking for help when it is needed.

Carefulness means that I'm not just going to blindly jump off the edge. Wrong steps may be made, but I do my research, and I work with diligence so mistakes are rare. It is always easier to do something right the first time than to have to go back and fix errors. This is true in crochet projects and life.

So, can I 'sell' myself on interviews with this awareness of who I am? Just because this hasn't worked yet doesn't mean it was a waste of time. It is the employers' loss!

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

The versatile I-Cord- new name, old stitch

The I-Cord or I-Tube is a very popular component of many recent patterns, and for good reason.It is elegant yet sturdy, fashionable yet functional. The I-cord makes great purse straps for one example.

Many don't realize though that the I-cord is actually a generations old stitch! Remember those old-fashioned spool knitters? The work produced from spool knitting is the exact same stitch as the I-cord! And while my hands used to be able to pinch tiny loops and crochet such I-cords, lately I have had to revert back to the tried-and-true method using my own home-made spool. One end of this I-cord was made with the crochet hook, the other with the spool knitter- and even I can't tell the ends apart!

The craft stores sell new-fangled plastic versions of the spool-knitter these days- like this one from Clover-

Here's a great page I found with a lot of information- history, pictures, instructions, etc: http://www.newenglandsimpleliving.com/spoolknitting.htm

So don't shy away from patterns calling for this great design feature- there's a 'new' method to the rescue!

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Challenge of Determining Hook Sizes

A question was asked in a pattern testers group I belong to:
"My hooks have numbers printed, not sizes. According to a google search, I found that 1.75 is a steel hook 5 and 1.25 is steel hook 12. Is this correct and does it match your specs on the latest test patterns?"

I replied- 1.75 mm is indeed a "5"; but 1.25 mm is an "8" steel hook, here's a link to the chart I like... http://www.karpstyles.com/crochet/hook-chart.html

BUT having said that, different brands' numbers are different mm measurements...

Doing a search of the top 5 well-known crochet hook brands brings these results for current generation hooks-

Addi's 1.75 mm is a "6", their 1.25 mm is a "10"
Tulip's 1.75 mm is a "0", and 1.25 mm is a "4".
Susan Bates' 1.75 mm is a "4", and 1.25 mm is a "9".
Clover's 1.75 mm is a "4", and 1.25 mm is an "8".
Boye doesn't have a 1.75 mm...they've got hooks on either side of that measurement-  slightly larger 1.8 mm is a "6" and slightly smaller 1.65 mm is a "7". They also don't have a 1.25 mm, 1.3 mm is a "10" and 1.1 mm is an "11".

So, are you confused enough yet?

To make things even more confusing, most older hooks don't have the mm measurement, simply a number...and different 'generations' of the SAME brand are different sizes! I have 3 Boye size 10's, the oldest one about 60 years old, and they are ALL different mm's!!

Fortunately for most thread crochet work, gauge isn't that critical of an issue, so just try your pattern design with what you've got and see how it turns out...sometimes 'close enough' really is okay! 

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Learning a New Way To Begin Your Crochet Piece

I discovered this excellent tutorial some time ago, and find it so continuously helpful that I thought I should post it here so I don't have to worry about losing the link to it, and of course to share it with all of you!

There are more and more patterns calling for one of the 'chainless' foundations...
MadMadMe's wonderful wrist wraps is one that comes to mind:

If you need instruction in how to do this fantastic way of working your first row, or if you are like me and can't seem to remember from one project to the next, check out this great Flickr post:
Vashti's Crochet Pattern Companion: Which Foundation Stitch? and Why?

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Embellishing a Plain Blouse With Crocheted Lace

After not even knowing I was searching, I finally found the perfect clothing for my style. I have been buying a couple pieces from Holy Clothing just about every month for the past year and every one is just so flattering and comfortable and feminine. I really can't say enough good thing about the clothing...but that's not really the focus of this post!

I decided that one of my new pretty tops from HolyClothing would be the perfect 'ambitious' projec to crochet some trim to go around the bottom of the really nice handkerchief style sleeves and hem. Altogether I calculated that I would need about 7 yards of trim. I knew I didn't want to work the edging directly onto the blouse- it might never have seen the light of day again if I did that! So I chose a 'sideways' style edging so I could see it growing, rather than trying to make one lllllooooonnnnnggggg foundation chain and getting frustrated!

Now this was the clincher in deciding whether to crochet an edging for my Holy Clothing top: I was looking in my thread box for something else and spotted this thread. I seriously have had this thread for at least 20 years, and it was bought at a thrift store so it was old to start with! The top started out a lighter peachy/salmon rose color, but I deliberately washed it with a burgundy top so it could absorb some of that color which it did very nicely. I am not sure quite what color you would call it now...BUT it matches perfectly to that ancient thread I had! I mean exactly! It must have been meant to be!


Lace on the sleeves of my handkerchief hem top is done- now it REALLY looks like a handkerchief!


Every little loop had to be pinned in place.

I made a little bit of extra handmade fancy for the front and center of my luscious 'Moira' top....

I haven't quite finished the length of lace to go around the bottom hem...but I have been wearing this blouse anyway- a great advantage of working the lace 'sideways'! I am making a commitment right here now that I WILL finish this lace by the end of September! I have a bunch of crochet orders to fill, but I have scheduled some 'ME' time in there as well and I PROMISE I will get this done!

Here's the stock photo from Holy Clothing>>>

A photo of
my embellished blouse
WILL be posted
right here ***

Love and prayers,
Cara Louise

UPDATE- STILL haven't attached the lace to the bottom of this...
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Royal Pineapple Seraphim Crocheted Treetop Angel

all white with red and burgundy roses
I am just so in love with this angel! The pattern is called 'Royal Pineapple Seraphim' and was designed by the wonderful Cylinda over at Crochet Memories. This angel may be custom ordered in any color combination you desire. She stands about 11 inches tall and is $45 plus shipping. You may order at my webstore.

The beginning of one angel in white.
the top of another angel in natural and antique white

the bottom of the angel's gown before starching
after trimming and starching
angel stands about 11 inches tall.

detail of sleeve and wing

bouquet of crocheted roses
such graceful curves

lovely from all directions

detail of wing

pretty curved flare to the wings

so peaceful

not just for Christmas!

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blocking- crochet, not football!

Just posted a picture of a doily-not-quite-done on my facebook page (Cara's Handcrafted Crocheted Ornaments) and received and EXCELLENT question- is the blocking necessary?

Here was my post with the photo:
"I've been crocheting with thread for a few decades now, so I have learned to remind myself that just because a crocheted piece is 'done' doesn't mean it's finished! The crocheting part of thread crochet items is the first step; washing, blocking and starching is the last step. This 'wedding lace' doily has taken every single one of my pins to hold the pretty delicate loops open so they can be lightly starched to perfection- that's a lot of pins on one piece! But oh it will be so worth it- just you wait to see. ♥ Pattern from Crochet Memories."

and my reply to the question:-
"oh, most definitely! I just buy a can of ordinary spray starch from the grocery store laundry aisle, then depending on how intricate your design is, you might be able to get away with just smoothing it into shape with your fingers and let to dry, or if more detailed like this one you'll want RUST-PROOF pins to hold it until dry.

You don't want to iron though- that smooshes the stitches, unless you can hold a steam iron just above but not touching.

Blocking makes thread crochet go from ordinary to wow!"

That, along with the size of course, is one the differences between yarn and thread crochet. Most yarn projects require perhaps only a light misting with water and a bit of tugging here and there to 'finish' them. But thread crochet definitely benefits tremendously by some careful attention and 'polishing' before proclaiming it complete. I have seen some photos of thread crochet work which hasn't had this attention to detail performed and I just want to reach through the computer and pour some LOVE onto the poor thing!

I very rarely take photos of my pieces before blocking, so I don't have much to show you by way of before and after shots, but here is one example:

Before blocking.
Note how the leaves are trying to curl,
and the loops are crooked.

After blocking-
leaves are nice and flat,
loops are all even and open.

So, PLEASE, take the time to properly finish your thread crochet pieces. You will not regret the extra time it took you.

Love and prayers,
Cara Louise

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Starching Thread Crochet Pieces

HI! You may have headed here because of a reference on one of my thread crochet patterns, and I am very glad you came! I will be leaving this info up, but the rest of my blog has now moved and you are cordially invited to visit me there when you are done here! "NEW BLOG SITE"

After trying umpteen different starching methods over the past 20 plus years, this is my favorite...and it's cheap besides!

Simmer one tablespoon of cornstarch in 1/2 to 1 cup of water until it becomes transparent, stirring continuously.

That's it!

I do NOT recommend microwaving this, unless you have an extra large container to do it in, and cook for only 30 seconds at a time, stirring often. There's really too much of a chance to boil over in there, and it does indeed somehow end up much hotter than on the stove.

This starch can be kept in the fridge between uses, but it is so easy to make up that I don't bother.

I dump my crocheted pieces in the starch while it is still quite hot and use a spoon to squish them all around. Carefully (hot- remember?) give them a bit of a squeeze, you want them thoroughly wet with the starch but not gloppy. It may take a few experiments before you come up with the right amount of starch to leave on. I have found that it is much easier to UNDER-starch, then if the piece isn't as stiff as you would like after it dries just repeat the process. If you over-starch, often the only remedy is to try to wash it all out and start over.

Pin piece flat to your blocking board or form 3-D pieces over an appropriate plastic covered mold. PLEASE make sure you use RUST-PROOF pins!!! I learned that the hard way and it is very discouraging to find rust marks on your beautiful pieces! It is SO worth it to invest in a package of good rust-proof pins- trust me on this! If there seems to be too much starch in the little nooks and crannies just use a good paper towel to dab the extra away.

Do let dry completely before unpinning. I often set my pieces in front of a fan to help speed up the process a bit, but drying does take time, so don't be in too much of a hurry.

This works as a refresher to any other method you have tried that hasn't worked quite how you wanted... just smooth some on with your fingers and let it dry.

I have been using this starch for years, and the earliest pieces done (like this little angel which is 20 plus years old now!) are still holding their shape extremely well with no yellowing occurring.

I have not ever experienced dulling with the cornstarch either, unless I mistakenly put too much on... years ago I used a cooked sugar water solution which I think does perhaps give a bit more shine but it takes longer to dry... Here's a new angel with cornstarch and you can SEE the SHINE.

There's a lot of great information about other starching methods (and tons more info too!) on both the 'Snowflakes and Thread Crochet' and the 'Crochet Memories' websites.

Hope this helps!
Love and prayers,
Cara Louise

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Improvements on Older Crochet Hooks

Tiny steel hooks and skinny cotton thread- those are my chosen artists' tools.

While traditionally, thread crochet was worked in white or ivory colored thread, these days you can find ANY color you can think of!

Once upon a time I used even skinnier thread, and even tinier hooks- but alas, the eyesight just isn't what it used to be! (The patience level isn't what IT used to be either!) So size 10 thread and size 6, 7, and 8 steel hooks are my usual go-to's these days.

Most of my hooks are older Boye hooks which were my grandmother's... this one is so old (maybe 60 years or so?) its price was only 25 cents!

Many new hooks have GREAT improvements in the handle part, and since the HANDS aren't what THEY used to be either, I've been playing around with fashioning my own handles from polymer clay.

Here is the SAME hook sporting a new pink swirly clay handle. An old favorite now made even better! Grandmother would approve!  The arthritis in my hands definitely approves!

Some other quite necessary equipment? My EYEGLASSES, for aforementioned reason...

little scissors to snip, snip, SNIP!

a PINK basket from the dollar store to tote the current WorkInProgress around in.

and a small notebook to keep track of 'stuff'- orders, pattern changes, ideas for new projects, shopping list for my next trip to Hobby Lobby...

Here are all my steel hooks, before I started to give them new handles.

This was my first attempt at a clay handle. Here it is being used for the start of a new treetop angel. The hook had a bamboo handle that just didn't suit me at all. The finger grip is where I really wanted extra 'grippy' stuff, and the bamboo part was just way down at the end, so I added a lump of clay, stuck it in the fridge to harden a bit, then actually used it to crochet with a while!

That formed it to exactly what I wanted! Then I carefully covered the exposed bamboo section with foil and baked the whole thing per the directions on the clay and gave it a shot of shiny gold spray paint when it cooled!

Not too bad for my first try! You can see behind my retro-fitted hook some Clover Soft-Touch hooks. Those are really great, but a bit expensive, so I only treated myself to 2 of them in the sizes I most often use. The other hooks are all going to get their own new handles eventually as I find that I need them for a project. 

Here is another hook with a new handle being used to make a lovely heart design doily! This hook still needs some color on it- maybe blue spray paint this time?

I found a couple great tutorials to share if you fancy a try at making your own polymer clay crochet hook handles.

The first site I'll share is just a great place for ALL kinds of crafty projects-
Cut out + Keep. If you aren't acquainted with this site you really ought to go and take a look!

The next link is to a YouTube video, which shows exactly what to do, and treats you to some fabulous uplifting music while doing so!

I would love to see pics of your updated hooks!

Here's my newest one, November 13, 2012

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Small Shell Stitch Angel Crochet Pattern

The Iron Cross I designed had me feeling so good, that I decided to design another small little item! This is mostly for my mother- she loves to decorate her Christmas tree with snowflakes and angels I have crocheted over the past 18 years! She does have quite the collection. While I may give others in my family only one new snowflake each year, my mom gets doubles, and other little goodies...I know she loves them, and I love making them for her. There is just no better feeling than to pour love into an item for someone who you KNOW will appreciate it and cherish it!

I couldn't find exactly the design I was looking for anywhere  so I designed a new pattern combining the best aspects of several others I have made over the years.

This pattern is written in tutorial style, with lots of photos to completely illustrate the trickier steps, and includes an optional halo embellishment and an alternate version which uses a wooden 'doll' clothespin.

If you have been thinking about trying your hand at thread crochet, this would be a great place to start! I used size 5 crochet thread, which is not the really skinny thread, but you could also adapt the pattern to use sport weight yarn.

You may do whatever you like with angels you make from this pattern, but you may not republish, sell, or trade the pattern in any way. Sharing the link to this pattern is always appreciated though!

*** Please note- I have no control over who pins what to pinterest or what they say when they pin. My original pin said this was to be 'free for a limited time only'- which it was, and those who re-pinned it later should have kept that original description but obviously they didn't. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

Click on this picture to be taken to Craftsy where you can purchase this pattern.

This small angel is only about 4 inches tall, can be hung on the tree or she will stand up by herself. I hope you take a look at it and make one for yourself! Please let me know if you have any trouble deciphering my instructions.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Iron Cross Appplique Crochet Pattern

I just published a pattern on Craftsy! It's just a simple little applique a facebook friend asked if I could work up for her...but it's my first published pattern ever, so yay me! Most of the patterns I developed were 'for my eyes only', so this was a challenge writing it in standard crochet lingo so anyone else could follow it! I would be honored if you would give it a try and let me know if there are any ways I could improve this!

Happy happy, this is so exciting!  

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Story of Lovey-Dove, the rescued ring-necked dove

Writing the post 'Birds on the Brain' reminded me about this story...

The summer of 2008, I discovered a ring-necked dove in the "wilds" of the city neighborhood where the office I worked in was. She (he?) was definitely an escapee from someone’s house- we had seen her (him?) for a couple weeks outside looking scruffier and more miserable as time passed. We all got concerned for her. She had actually started walking right into the office of the president of the company when he would leave the sliding door open. The beginning of July 2008 (with company money!), I bought a large cage. When I set it down on the floor near her next time she came in to visit she practically jumped inside! We all saw her immediately grow calmer as she hopped over to the food dish. Mr. Boss-man named her “Lovey-Dove”.

She settled in quite easily, flying to the perches I installed around my office, pecking at the buttons on my calculator and phone, throwing the faxes on the floor, investigating any drawer left open. She was quite vocal at first, then went through a very quiet period, while she was re-growing a bunch of feathers that had gone missing during her ordeal outdoors, then went back to coo-cooing very often. More and more it was confirmed that she was really a HE! And all this noise was to try to impress me somehow. Well, I certainly was impressed, but not so much when trying to carry on a phone conversation and all the party at the other end could hear from my office was “Coo-COO, Coo-COO!”

Every once in a while, he would fly through my doorway and into my other boss’s office. While he seemed content to visit there a while, sooner or later it was clear he wanted to come back. I would have to help him find his way back home though; lots of things seemed to end up “lost” in my boss’s office! In order to restore a bit more sanity to the office, I hung screen doors over the doorways to my office. Lovey-Dove quickly learned that he couldn't fly through the doorway anymore- but if the screen was left open even a little bit, he discovered he could WALK through the crack. So there were still occassions where I would have to track him down and return him to his official place. Once birdie was back in my office, he would settle down and take a nap in my "IN BOX".

At first he seemed to not like hands too much- understandable for a tiny bird. So to help him see the hand as a good thing, instead of just letting him out of his cage in the morning, I actually picked him up and carried him out of his cage. Then later in the afternoon, when he went back in for food and water I quietly closed the cage door. If I needed to get Lovey-Dove in the cage fairly quickly, I put a few black oil sunflower seeds in the food dish inside the cage. I discovered right away that those were his very favorite seeds and so I kept a stash on hand as treats (or bribes- however you want to say it!) Previously I was doing it the other way around- just letting him come out in the morning on his own, and then spending quite a bit of time trying to catch him at the end of the day. That way didn’t seem to work well for anybody concerned! I was convinced that my little friend learned what "time to go home" means. In fact, on a few occasions when I had to leave work earlier than usual I told Lovey-Dove “I need you back in your cage at Noon”, and there he went. A few treats were all it took! Birdie went after those seeds right away. Who trained whom here exactly?

On weekends I made sure he had plenty of food and water, and set his cage in the window right by the pine tree that he was hanging around in when we first found him. As soon as I put him in that window on Friday afternoons, he turned around and faced the outside- looking for the wild birds that come to the bird feeder just a few feet away. He always seemed very content to be “visiting” his less fortunate cousins and blatantly ignored me.

But then Monday morning he was very happy to peck on my telephone and my bracelet and stand on my stack of papers that I was trying to work on! I had originally planned to bring him home after a period of time, but I thought my two resident parakeets would object to that- the female one especially. And with a little apartment I didn't really have the option of "separate bedrooms!" So Lovey-Dove stayed at work. It was actually quite a neat thing to have a bird in one's office! Who would have ever thought that one could look forward to going in to work Monday morning, all because you know you’ll be greeted by your beautiful little bird co-worker.

After two and a half years of living at the office, in January 2011, due to circumstances beyond our control, both Lovey-Dove and I found ourselves unemployed from that office job. So now He lives at home with us. The parakeets were quite accepting of him, much to my relief. Sadly, the parakeets both passed away over the next year, but our household was joined by two cockatiels in July 2011. Lovey enjoys a continuous view outside the window now. And has an enormously grand time investigating all the things there are to be found in the apartment, like my breakfast! He isn't locked in his cage except if he is harassing the cockatiels too much and they need a break from him!

He loves to come land on the arm of my chair and cuddle up and be petted.

And he absolutely loves hogging up my entire netbook keyboard when he thinks I am spending far too much time paying attention to IT instead of HIM!

Here is Lovey-Dove with one of our dearly departed parakeets, Sonny, and with newest residents Sprite and Pixie the cockatiels.

All are rescued birds- Sonny started it all. He was also found outside, on the 4th of July of 2003, his mate Cher (sorry, not in this picture) was adopted a year and a half later in January 2005. Then Lovey-Dove found me, and the cockatiels were adopted from a shelter July 2011. Hmmm....July is coming up again soon- wonder if there's another bird who will come find me this year?!

Fly high~ Cara Louise

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