Thursday, December 19, 2013

Presenting the 30 Minute Crochet Cowl (for those who need some last minute Christmas gifts)

Christmas is only 6 days away but I still have a few things I need for gifts. Last week, thinking about this need, I set out to design a chunky cowl that could be made in an hour. When I finished the cowl, I check the clock and it had only taken me 1/2 hour! Amazing! Here's the story of how to do this. It's so easy even a beginner could make this in 30 minutes. An experienced crocheter will find, after the first cowl, that they'll be making these much faster.

In addition to speed, this cowl only takes 1 100 gram skein of bulky yarn, so you can indulge in some of the wildly gorgeous yarns available without spending too much. The other thing you'll need is a Jumbo Size S (19mm) crochet hook. This is a really big hook that measures 2 1/2 inches in diameter on the handle. This picture shows the hook with a penny next to it so that you can get an idea of just how big it is:
Generally speaking, using these gigantic hooks and knitting needles results in rather stiffly thick accessories and garments and I definitely wanted a soft cowl that draped well and was comfortable to wear. To accomplish that, I used a very simple, but open crochet stitch. Incredibly, the stitch only uses chain stitches and single crochets. It's the way they're arranged with spaces between them that makes the beautiful texture and drape of the cowl. 

For the first cowl I used a beautiful blue, 100% Merino, bulky yarn by Tahki called Baby. I chose the blue because I wanted to make a unisex cowl. Here's how it came out:

I always knit or crochet my patterns at least one more time to check for accuracy and, in this case, to make sure the cowl really only took 1/2 hour. For the second cowl I chose a lovely grayish mauve wool yarn from Rowan called Big Wool Fusion. While still in the bulky class of yarn, it actually had a few more yards to the 100 gram ball than the Tahki yarn - 87 yards as opposed to only 60 yards for the Tahki. This meant that when I crocheted the same length as the first cowl, I really could have gone on to make it longer so that it would be an Infinity Scarf. The stitch definition was quite lovely with this smooth yarn. I did check my work time and it was less than 1/2 hour! Here's the mauve scarf:

Since these two came out so well, and since they took so little time, I found myself a bit addicted to this design so I tried it with two other yarns. The third cowl I made with Rowan's 100% Wool Chunky Tweed. You can tell from the name that this was a chunky rather than a bulky yarn. Moreover, when I tried using just one strand, the thick and thin nature of this yarn left large open spaces that were not appealing. Because of this I used a double strand of the Chunky Tweed to make the third scarf. The texture is really wonderful I think.

Since I was on a roll here, and since it is about to be Christmas, I couldn't resist making a fourth cowl using my old workhorse yarn - Paton's Merino Wool Classic - in red. I crocheted this cowl with three strands of yarn held together as one. This worked out very well and gave the cowl a different texture because of the three distinct strands used to form each stitch. 

So there you have it! 4 cowls made in just 2 hours with a giant hook and bulky weight yarn. The pattern can be found in my Craftsy shop and my Etsy shop. If you make this cowl, please send me pictures. I'd love to post a gallery of them here and feature your work!

 Happy Holidays to All!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Cozy Knits for Christmas

Christmas will be here soon and if you're like me, you're knitting and crocheting lots of gifts. It's always good to find some quick knits at this time of year, so I did want to let you know about a book I came across recently called Cozy Knits edited by Tanis Gray. 

 This book includes 50 projects to knit divided among 5 Chapters:
Heartfelt Hats
Warm & Wonderful Mittens
Cuddly Cowls & Scarves
Snuggly Sweaters, Shawls & Shrugs
Quick & Clever Gifts

There are excellent illustrations and clear directions. All the stitches used are charted, so if you like working from charts you'll be happy with this. While there are some larger projects for sweaters, shawls and blankets, there are enough quick projects to make this a good book to use for holiday gifts. You can find the book here from Interweave/F+W Media.

I hope you find some nice things to make! I'll be posting some other patterns soon for very quick knits and crocheted projects that you might want to give for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Let the Holidays Begin!

It's two days before Thanksgiving and my mind is on the big feast - the menu planning, shopping, cooking, and so on. However, I'm a knitter, so I'm also thinking about holiday presents for everyone - what I have on hand and what I need to knit and/or crochet. This leads me to think about the yarns I have on hand, and believe me, at KnittingGuru there's always a huge stash of yarns. Still, I may have to order some new yarns for the season. That's why I jumped at the chance to add My Favorite Yarns on Craftsy to my blog. It updates the yarns for sale at Craftsy, including their many excellent deals. You can get a head start on these sales by checking the Craftsy Yarns in the right hand column of this page.

While you're looking there, please also check out my Craftsy Pattern Store which has so many patterns for things to give for Christmas. I always think of the babies first at this time of year. For the littlest babies, why not whip up this Baby Santa Cocoon and Hat Set. It takes only a few hours and not too much yarn. Think how cute your Christmas photos will be with baby wearing this!

The cocoon set is made with 200 grams of red knitting worsted used doubled and about 25 grams of white. While I used some Paton's Classic Merino Wool to make this cocoon because I had it on hand, it would knit up beautifully in Cascade 220 Yarn in Ruby which has the same yardage. And... if you click on that yarn in My Favorite Yarns on Craftsy, you'll see that the regular price is $7.65, but it's now On Sale at Craftsy for $5.40 per skein. That means you could make this cocoon set for less than $16.20 for the yarn and only $6.50 for the pattern.The white yarn will last for many projects, so the next time you make this set your cost will only be $10.80 if you take advantage of this current sale at Craftsy.

That's very little to make such a warm and cozy outfit for your baby or grandchild. But consider this -- The very same pattern can be used to make a springtime or Easter cocoon with other colors. You might want to pick the beautiful Goldenrod Yellow, the Mystic Purple, or the Puget Sound Blue to make the cocoon and hat and trim them with your left-over white. I'm sure once you make this speedy pattern, you'll want to do it again and again for your baby, and those of your relatives and friends. 

So while your checking your turkey and pumpkin pie recipes, take a minute and click here to see the color choices for Cascade 220 now!

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Signs of Autumn - Part 3 - The Pumpkin Baby Cocoon

My final Autumn post for this year is the quintessential Autumn vegetable - The Pumpkin!

What can we say about pumpkins? They look good, they taste good, and they're a great color. So my knitting brain naturally connected this to babies who also always look great, especially when they're wearing cuddly cocoons. First came the Carrot Cocoon, then the Green Pea Pod Cocoon, and now the Pumpkin Baby Cocoon....

Just what's needed for taking babies Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother's House on Thanksgiving, or any other day! The cocoon is snug and warm for Autumn strolls in the carriage, photo-ops, or just cuddling. It's a great way to calm your infant! The pattern has a photo tutorial on how to knit the leaves and includes step-by-step pictures and directions for making invisible increases.

Here's a full view of the cocoon:

This Pumpkin Cocoon is available as a knitting pattern and there's also one available that I knitted in pure Merino wool. The pattern is available at Etsy and Craftsy. The ready-to-wear cocoon is available at my Etsy BurryBabies shop.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Signs of Autumn Part 2 - Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone!

I was going to write many more Signs of Fall, but this year the season has been extraordinarily busy for me. Most importantly, my daughter got married on October 5th and between the lead time and the aftermath time, it took me several weeks to get back on schedule. A very happy event!

At any rate, my Carrots and Peas Baby Cocoon Patterns did very well this year as newborn baby costumes.  


These patterns have been popular for a couple of years because they are so fast and easy to make with thick yarn and big knitting needles. Even new knitters tell me they can finish one in a couple of evenings. These are adorable all year, not just for Halloween. They're always sweet for family pictures and would be a great way to bring baby "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house" for Thanksgiving! I was even thinking that if the bobbles on the Pea Pod Cocoon were made in red, this would be a terrific Santa's Elf pattern.

You can get these patterns in several places in addition to the links above:

Finally, I'd like to share with you some of the many pictures knitters have sent me of the cocoons they made with these patterns.

The last two pictures are of the cocoons made for brand new twins by their proud aunt. If you want to make both of the cocoons, I have a double pattern for them at a discount at Craftsy and at Etsy.

Aren't those twins amazing? They're already interacting with each other just days after birth! Most babies get to look like the one in the top picture when they're wearing a cocoon. Putting babies into cosy and snug wraps is a time honored way to help them be calm. I certainly found that to be true for my three babies. 

Please write to me if you have any questions about these cocoons. I also have a Santa Baby Cocoon in my shops and am currently at work on a Duck Cocoon. I'm always happy to hear about requests for others you may be interested in.

Enjoy the Autumn! I'm working on some things for Thanksgiving now and taking lots of leafy walks too in my favorite season.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Signs of Autumn Part 1 - Sweet Buttered Corn

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the foliage colors, the golden quality of the light, and the bountiful harvest. Here in New York City, there's lots of fresh corn available at the Union Square Farmers' Market and elsewhere. I've been gorging on Sweet Buttered Corn and will be having some tonight. I love it so much, I've made a soft woolen scarf dedicated to it. So even when there's no more corn to buy and eat, you can still wear it!

I used a beautiful 100% soft wool yarn for the scarf. It's knitted and then edged with crocheted bobbles. The textural result gives it a definitely corn-like appearance. As a final touch, I added two tiny corncob buttons to each end. So when it comes to corn on the cob I say... eat it or wear it!

This scarf is available in my Artfire store Here.
Happy Autumn!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

My 4th of July celebration preparation continues with my newest pattern - Red, White and Blue Coasters. You can make one of these coasters in less than 30 minutes including crocheting, finishing and blocking! Create a little excitement for any national holiday - Independence Day, Presidents' Day, Election Day, Memorial Day - with these Fireworks Coasters.  

I'm very lucky to have a view of the frequent holiday fireworks in New York City from my house near the New York harbor. They're always spectacular and were the inspiration for these coasters. 

I wish you all a very happy 4th of July holiday!

This pattern is available at Etsy and Craftsy. Enjoy!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Firecracker Necklace for the 4th of July

Are you getting ready for the 4th of July? I made this Firecracker Necklace to celebrate this year.

The necklace is a graduated series of curlicues on a choker base. I made it with a shiny red rayon (bamboo) thread and added an appliqued gold metallic chain around the base. The necklace fastens with a vintage button from the 1960s. 

I've made this style before and it's firm and durable - made to last for decades. It's lightweight and fun to wear all year. Since it looks like firecrackers to me, it's especially nice for celebrations. 

If you crochet, please let me know by your comments here if you'd like me to create a PDF pattern for this one and I'll add it to my TO DO list!

The necklace is available in my Etsy shop.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Happy Father's Day Sale!

I always make sure I have some Gifts for Men in my Etsy shop because I find it hard to buy presents for men. This week I'm having a Father's Day Sale. Just use code FREESHIPDAD when you checkout in my Etsy shop: and you'll receive free shipping on your purchase in the Gifts for Men Section of my shop. Here's a picture of the knitted and crocheted men's scarves I have available. They're all made with luxurious Merino wool, English chunky wool, or mohair. They are also one of a kind or limited edition pieces, so you'll be getting an original.

Also, there are still 14 days until Father's Day, so if you crochet, you can make the Fred Astaire Scarf featured in this picture in just a few short hours in your man's favorite colors. You can purchase the Fred Astaire Scarf in my Etsy shop in the Patterns Section, or at Craftsy

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Father's Day to All!

Monday, April 29, 2013

New Crochet Pattern at KnittingGuru

Brand New This Week -  the 'Round the Loop Crochet Scarf Pattern. It's super-fast and easy to crochet. The stitches used are chain, slip stitch and half double crochet. You'll be surprised at the intricate texture you'll achieve using these simple stitches. Even a new crocheter could make one of these in an evening.

The scarves shown are made with Paton's Roving - a soft wool unplied yarn, and Web's Berkshire Bulky - a wool and alpaca singles yarn. Because of the pattern's openness, the yarn texture really stands out so that the scarf looks very different in these two yarns. Suggestions for ways to vary the scarf are given in the instructions. An effective substitute for the bulky yarns, for example, is to use knitting worsted doubled.

These scarves don't take much yarn at all. With one skein of each color, you'll have enough yarn left over to make a matching hat.

You can get your pattern here at Craftsy or Etsy.

I hope you'll enjoy making this quick scarf! Please comment or ask me questions below.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Variety is the Spice of Life

I like a lot of variety in life. When I knit or crochet something, I try to design it so that it may be worn many ways. My customers feel the same way I do and appreciate the versatility of their KnittingGuru designs.

The Tangerine Sherbet Swirl Summer Scarf exemplifies this philosophy. The addition of a removable tasseled drawstring allows the scarf to be worn gathered as a ruffled cowl, tied at the neck or lower, or tied casually without the drawstring. That's lots of variety for one small scarf!

The Tangerine Swirl Summer Scarf is available at my Etsy shop.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Vintage Knitting & Crochet Patterns: Buyer Beware!

When it comes to buying vintage knitting and crochet patterns, the Latin phrase Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware - needs to be taken seriously. I'm in love with vintage knitting and crochet patterns and have been collecting them for many years. This is just a small fraction of my collection:

 To look at the great styles of the past and the beautiful workmanship of previous generations of knitters and crocheters is always inspiring. However, it's important to remember that many things have changed since those patterns were written. Do not expect to buy a facsimile pattern or a cleaned up PDF pattern and be able to follow the directions!
Here's why: yarns have changed, needles and hooks have changed, sizes have changed, and most important standards of clarity have changed. The handbag pattern begins with these instructions:

Please keep in mind that the only parts of the pattern that are missing in this picture are the directions for the straps and inserting a zipper. In other words, this is all the instruction you get to make this lovely crocheted handbag from 1944:

What do the pattern instructions tell us to do? First of all we need 6 75 yard tubes of Jack Frost Cordet or we could substitute Soutashe, Ribbon Braid or Straw for that. Do you know what Jack Frost Cordet is or where to get it or the other yarns? The answer is that none of these yarns are available now. Cordet is now generally called corde and it's a dense, stiff yarn as is the soutashe. I'm not sure what ribbon braid looked like in the 1940s, but it definitely wasn't what we now think of as ribbon yarns which are usually quite lacy. I once had some of the yarn that was used to be called straw in the 1940s. It was very thin and dense also.

Looking further into the pattern, we're told we need a Size 5 White Crochet Hook. Would you know what size hook to use? Do they mean a vintage bone crochet hook? Possibly, but what size modern crochet hook should you use?

Modern knitting and crochet patterns always include the gauge which tells us how many stitches and rows equal an inch, or more likely 4 inches (10 centimeters). If we knew the gauge, we could crochet some swatches with yarns that seem similar to what is shown in the bag picture. After making several swatches, we would eventually find something suitable - maybe some heavy crochet cotton such as size 3. However, THERE IS NO GAUGE given in this pattern! This is not unusual for patterns published in the first half of the 20th century and earlier. Because of this, a lot more time would be necessary in order to come up with a suitable pattern for this bag.

Now let's examine the actual crochet instructions. We're told to make 79 circular motifs. That seems OK, but do they mean to actually make each motif separately, or do they want you to join them in strips? If you are to make each one separately, you're going to have a huge number of threads to weave into the inside of the bag! I suspect that the authors want you to join the motifs as you go along, but they don't say how. The finishing instructions tell indicate that strips of motifs should be sewn together, but they don't specify how to do that either. Looking at the bag, it seems to me that there are crochet stitches between the motifs, but the pattern makes no reference to them. Should the motifs really be crocheted together?

At the end of the pattern when we're told to attach the zipper, we're instructed to join two of the motifs together and attach them to the zipper pull. There is no mention of lining this bag with it's hundreds of loose ends from all those motifs. I would expect that the average crocheter would be stymied by these instructions and would give up on this pretty bag. What a frustrating waste of time and money!

The next time you're tempted to buy a vintage pattern, please keep all of this in mind. It's not impossible to duplicate the design, but it does take a lot of work and time.

Because I adore these patterns, I've started to produce some that I've updated - or translated - into modern knitting and crochet instructions so that they are doable. So far I've only done two: one for a belt and one for a hat that we would call a fascinator. Here are the two patterns I've updated.

 1940s Retro Crochet Belt Pattern

 1940s Crochet Tassel Hat Pattern

 To make these patterns, I first went through the process of figuring out what yarns would be suitable that are available now and what size crochet hooks should be used. I then retyped the instructions using large, easy to read type. (Did I mention that most of the vintage patterns are in tiny type?)

Then I worked on the pictures using Photoshop. I made them brighter and clearer, and just for fun I added color to the bag and belt. Each pattern shows several color variations to get your design started. I also added suggestions for ways to vary each pattern and finishing techniques so that the end result is professional looking.

Needless to say, each pattern took many hours to produce. I'd love to hear what you think of this project I've started. How interested would people be in acquiring these updated patterns? Please leave your comments here and I promise to answer them.

Meantime, you can get these patterns in my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Floral Forms Inspire Fiber Art Jewelry

Flowers are an inspiring source for many kinds of crocheted and knitted jewelry. If you pick a simple floral shape, you can interpret it in thread crochet using perle cotton or embroidery floss. Stitched with tiny hooks, these threads will be dense and will keep their shape. You can wash the rings by hand so they will last indefinitely. 

I'm very fond of Zinnias. They come in many colors and shapes and always look quite bold. I began with a pretty zinnia in gold, orange, and hot pink. First I crocheted the flower. It took shape beginning with a circle and proceeding outward in tendrils of variegated color. Then I crocheted the band in a cotton and metallic dark gold perle cotton. I securely attached the flower to the band. This dramatic ring weighs almost nothing but packs a big visual punch. I hope you like it as much as I do!

This ring is available now at my Etsy shop. Each of my fiber art jewelry pieces is one-of-a-kind so when this ring sells, I could only approximate a similar one.

There's a nifty little app available at Sherwyn-Williams that lets you separate out the colors from a picture you have. Here's what I came up with for the Zinnia: 

 That was a little harsh for me so I ended up choosing these colors in floss for the ring:

 They're similar shades but with a more predominant red/peach tone for the flower's center. 

I hope you enjoy the spring and summer flowers and look to them for inspiration as I do. Please leave your thoughts, comments, etc. below and join in the conversation!

Monday, March 25, 2013

How to Crochet Floral Jewelry

My flower garden is a great joy and one of the major sources of inspiration for my fiber art jewelry as well as my knitted and crocheted accessories. Each of my pieces begins with an image. In the case of this necklace, the image was of the humble morning glory. I'd like to invite you to share in my design process for making this piece.

Once the image is determined, I gather my materials: *crochet hooks *threads in cotton, bamboo and silk *beads and other findings. I then experiment with shapes. I'm not seeking to duplicate nature, but to interpret it in order to design versatile wearable art. The Morning Glory may be worn as a long lariat, a doubled and twisted choker, and even as a dainty looking headband. This is made with fine threads, but it's crocheted so tightly that it's very durable and even hand washable to last for many years.

Many people view morning glories as weeds because they're so invasive. I go after them in my garden too, but they're so lovely that I wanted to preserve them in this necklace. You can find my Morning Glory Lariat / Choker / Headband in my Etsy shop. To see all of my current Fiber Art Jewelry please click here.  I'd be glad to speak with you about any questions you may have about this work. Just comment below to begin the discussion.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Kudos for Craftsy from the KnittingGuru!

I've been selling my patterns for years, but when I decided to open a pattern page on the process became much more gratifying. The site is well organized and so beautiful to look at. It's rare that I find a venue where everything works perfectly and is absolutely intuitive. So I'm giving a shout out to Craftsy and would like to tell you about ways they've helped me too.

Last July my husband and I were in Paris and I was only checking my emails once a day. There are much better things to do in Paris than check emails! One day we came back from an arduous day strolling in the streets and parks and lounging in cafes and eating, and I noticed that I had sold many copies of my Delicate Lace Scarf Pattern. I wondered why so many of the same pattern were purchased at one time. During the next few days, this continued to happen.

It took a long time, but I finally understood. Craftsy had listed it as one of their Top 13 Lace Patterns and it was widely seen. Well that was great!

Then, in January, I got an email from Craftsy saying they wanted to feature my lace scarves in their blog. They sent me some interview questions for my responses. Again the high quality of Craftsy was evident in the intelligence of their questions. Instead of answering the same questionnaire I've always received from bloggers, they had some really interesting angles and it was a pleasure to respond. Here's the great article they put together:

Finally, the second week in March, I was selected as a Craftsy Guest Pinner on Pinterest (another one of my passions that I must write about soon!)

Here's the Craftsy Blog article on my week of Guest Pinning:

The week is now over and I miss it. The response to my Craftsy Guest Pinning was amazing. So many people repinned my pins and responded positively. I added a few hundred new followers. It was a really great week. You can see my Craftsy Guest Pinner Board here:

I hope you enjoyed this story and that you'll follow me on Pinterest where I continue to pin  every day at: