October Crochet Fun + Fave Links

I know I say this every month, but there is just SO MUCH going on! Fall is the time for crocheting, so I’m just going to go ahead and get started!

October Ami Club Pattern

Isn’t Mr. Jack the Pumpkin so adorable?
freshstitches pumpkinI designed his arms to be like ‘vines’ that you can style any which way! And I created an easier technique for making the ‘pumpkin grooves’ than many other tutorials I’ve seen, so I hope you find it a cinch. Ami Club members can hop over to their account and download the pattern!

Get the pattern here.

Fave Links

Have you heard about the Red Scarf Project?

This post originally appeared on November 20th, 2013. But it’s such a great cause, I’m reposting it with additional information!

What happens to a child in the foster care system when they turn 18? They’re ‘adults’, and are set out into the world alone, and without a network of family or social resources.

Sad, right?

If those kids are awesome enough to get themselves into college… who sends them care packages? Who do they call if they need an emergency $50 for a surprise textbook?

In most cases, they have no one to turn to.

Makes you sniffle, right?

That’s why I love Foster Care to Success, an organization that supports foster care children who have ‘aged out’ of the system. The organization collects money for emergency funds and runs other great drives to support this often-overlooked population.

I particularly love the Red Scarf Project. I read about it in Craft Activism.

Red Scarf project

The Red Scarf Project collects scarves from September 1st – December 15th every year, and then distributes them to a foster student on Valentine’s Day.

Isn’t that sweet? Can you imagine how special you’d feel if a handmade scarf with a sweet note showed up on your door? And what a boost that would give to your semester?

That’s why I’m knitting one!

Red Scarf Project

I didn’t feel like I had the time: the Kit Club packages, hosting Thanksgiving dinner, planning for the holidays… and then I told myself “Balarky! You can make the time! These college students don’t have families!”

And surprise… I’m finding the time!

Join in!

Can you spare the time?

Nothing fancy is required, just a simple red knitted or crocheted scarf. Check out the guidelines, here.

This link tells you where to mail the scarves, as well as the not-too-hard guidelines (basically is red, gender neutral and about 60″ long). Pattern suggestions, too!

Sweet extras, such as a hand-written note, are welcome!

Color Theory: Neutrals + Pop of Color!

You know that I love color.

In fact, one of my most popular blog posts is this one where I talk about putting colors together.

But maybe you’re not into wearing lots of different colors. I have another great color combo for you: a neutral + a pop of color!

How to do it

My philosophy for mixing neutrals and color is to mix warmth, but keep the darkness the same. For example, I mix a warm color with a cool neutral… but keep them about the same lightness.

Here’s a little chart showing some ideas:
mixing neutrals and color from freshstitches

See it in action!

I just finished knitting Dromos (well… actually, I finished knitting it a long time ago, but I just finished weaving in the ends!), and I just love it. It combines a medium brown with a soft blue.

Dromos knit by Freshstitches

Here’s a close up:
close up

Yummy, right? It’s a warm brown mixed with a cool blue, and they’re both similar darkness and a similar muted tone.

And do you remember Phi?

Phi Shawl

A cool grey plus a warm orange… both fairly dark. Delicious!

Dark grey and lime green? Oh, yeah.
Bonus: whenever you use different colors in a project, it’s an opportunity to stash-bust and use up some odd skeins you might have on hand! Stripes are a stash-busters best friend!

Have you done this before? What’s your favorite color combination?

When should you teach a child to knit/crochet?

A little while ago, someone on Twitter asked me:

When should you teach a child to crochet?

My reply: whichever she’s most interested in, whenever she’s ready

Children begin to crawl at different ages. Kids start to speak at different ages. Is it any surprise that different children are ready to knit/crochet at different ages?

When is a child ready to knit/crochet?

There are a couple prerequisites to knitting or crocheting, so these are some good signs to look out for to see if your child is ready:

  • They hold and use a pencil (sloppy handwriting is okay!)
  • They can sit and work on an activity for at least 10-15 minutes
  • They can count to 10 (not a must, but helpful)
  • They show interest in the craft

Trying to teach a child before they are ready is not a good idea. It leads to frustration and can discourage the child from trying again later, so I highly recommend you look for these skills!

I began writing at four, and learned to chain when I was 5-6 years old. I just made chains for a really long time! That’s okay!

It’s most important that your child enjoys the activity, rather than hoping they accomplish a certain syllabus of skills. I liked crocheting (and according to my mom) was hopeless at knitting. Again, that’s okay. Encourage what the child is interested in.

What can you expect at what age?

One of the members of my Ravelry group taught her 6-year-old son to crochet. He made this frog all by himself!

frog crocheted by 6 year old

Isn’t that amazing? Before the age of 10, a child can typically learn to crochet with help from a parent who shows them the stitches and teaches them the steps of a pattern.

I’ve had children as young as 10 learn to crochet on their own in my Craftsy Course. By this age, kids are used to following instructions in class, and are able to take instruction from a teacher. So even if you can’t knit or crochet, your child might be able to learn!

child learning to crochet

Once a child is a teenager, they’re just about adults as far as learning knitting/crochet is concerned. ‘Kids’ of this age are usually fine taking an adult class at an LYS/shop (but double check with the store’s policy, first).

The younger the better!

As long as a child has the prerequisite skills (listed above), the younger the better! My husband, Tim, learned to knit when he was about 6 or 7, and it’s a skill he still has today!

With that background, I taught him to crochet as an adult in no time!

I think that exposing children to skills and experiences is a great thing to do… and they may never use it later on. (Tim has knit, like, one thing in his life) That’s okay! They may also latch on to it and the skill becomes a lifelong love, like it did for me!

You won’t know unless you give it a try! I recommend reading my post on tips for teaching a child to crochet!

Interview with Heidi Bears!

If you’ve been on Ravelry or Pinterest, you’ve probably seen Heidi Bears‘s gorgeous stuffed animals! She creates totally unique designs using the African Flower Motif.

I’ve been a fan and I’m thrilled that Heidi agreed to come over and have a chat with us!

Hippo by MissWorld

Hippo by Ravelry user, MissWorld


Stacey: I have to say, your concept of putting the African Flower Hexagon together to make animals is absolutely stunning! When did you first get the idea to experiment with the technique?

Heidi: Thanks Stacey! I think it came about as I was fiddling around with the basic hexagon pattern to see if I could make a pentagon and other polygonal shapes. Some of these were quite different in 3D shape to the hexagon, and while sitting in my kitchen one day, I thought, “Hmmm…. what if I combine this polygon with this polygon, maybe I can make it look like something…”

This led to an enormous amount of testing, crocheting, frogging, re-testing until I finally put together the pattern for Lollo Bear. I had spent several years as a Teddy Bear pattern designer and maker, which I think helped with the ability to “see” how different parts would fit together. Naturally (since I love and collect artist bears), my first design idea was for a teddy bear.

Heidi Bears Lollo

From the time I released Lollo Bear, my day job started demanding much more time, so my designing took a back seat. At the beginning of 2013, I had the opportunity to take a break from my regular job and concentrate solely on designing. At that point the kinds of items made from crochet motifs, seemed to consist of bags, blankets, scarfs and hats with the odd clothing item thrown in.

With so many amazingly talented people in the designing world, it can be extremely hard to produce something completely different, unusual and original when trying to establish a name for oneself as a designer. With the background I had in writing the pattern for Lollo, it appeared that there was nothing else on the Internet that I could find that was similar to my motif toys idea, in my style, so I decided to try and pursue that avenue.

Hippo from Ravelry

Hippo from Ravelry user, SteffiFalun
It took me several months to put together the pattern for Happypotamus, but during this time I learned a lot about polygons and how they act and what works and what doesn’t when putting them together. I like designing toys as they are smallish projects and when made well, appeal to both child and adult alike. I will branch out into other kinds of items when the time comes, but at the moment I still love thinking up ideas for animals, so until that well of inspiration runs dry, toys are it!

Your style is certainly unique… I can’t picture anyone doing a better job of creating an original design niche! What attracted you to the African Flower pattern over other motifs?

I love symmetry and balance in design. I can’t stand seeing a skew picture or lamps that are not symmetrical…the flower is both pretty and appeals to my love for symmetry…

African flower from Heidi Bears

Were you nervous about taking the step of writing up the instructions? I mean, it’s a lot of steps!

Absolutely! My previous profession had nothing to do with my current work, so I had no experience in writing a crochet pattern… I pretty much winged it, hoping more than anything, that I hadn’t left any important bits out.


My goal was to provide a really detailed newbie’s guide to making Lollo, and from the feedback I have received over the years, it seems to have done the trick. However, I have since developed a much more streamlined approach, which, although it still has all the detail a crocheter may need, doesn’t run to such a big pattern anymore!

Can you tell us a bit about the yarn culture in South Africa? Is crocheting and knitting popular? What are yarn stores like?

Yes, knitting and crocheting are very popular here! Over the last few years, we have seen a wonderful increase in local indie dyers providing us with gorgeous and affordable natural fibre yarns that come in a much bigger range of colors than can sometimes be found in retail lines. I use yarns from two amazingly talented and lovely ladies, who use local merino and other fibres to dye up the full range of colors you see in my animals.

Similarly, there are more “indie” yarn shops popping up. There are a couple of traditional LYS too, but the growth has certainly been in the online indie shops!

I know that you’re also a sock knitter… what’s your favorite method for knitting socks?

Definitely toe-up two-at-a-time with a short row type heel.

toe up sock knitting from Heidi Bears

My favourite is the Sherman heel… hides any holes perfectly! I am experimenting with all kinds of new heels and toes (just for fun), but knitting them in baby sized socks. They are from a wonderful new ebook teaching just that.. sock anatomy and all the variations you can get for heels and toes… learning is growing, so I like to keep trying new techniques!

Tell us a bit about yourself! Hobbies? Family? Pets?

Well, I am very happily married to the most awesome guy… we’ve been married for 20 years and are still best friends. We live in beautiful South Africa. We have two lovely (and adored!) girls and a pitbull, who is, if the truth be told, is more like a cat in many ways. Likes his comforts, worships the girls and gets spoiled waaaay too much.

I love learning new things and over the years have tried pretty much all the different types of hobbies you can find… I quilt, sew, paint, knit, lampwork, make stained glass… at one stage I ran a photographic studio and at one time even tried my hand at carving full sizes rocking horses! I am terrified of being bored, so I like to have loads of stuff on the go at the same time. I love the color pink, use only natural fibre yarns and have a stash that is shameful (except I can claim I neeeeed all that yarn for my work 😉 ).

I hear you… I’m a bit the same way with hobbies! Your new sea turtle is fabulous! What animals are on your brainstorming list?

Heidi Bears Sea turtle

Thank you very much! I have a string of designs all worked out and ready to write up…the problem is the pattern writing takes a tremendous amount of time. I take around 500 photographs for each pattern that I write. I then edit the best ones for colour, focus, composition etc. I then annotate each one. Then I start the actual pattern writing, which also takes a lot of time, so the write-up is essentially the delaying factor.

I am currently writing up the pattern for what I think will be a very popular animal and have also test crocheted two completely new and different bear patterns. I love bears! Everyone loves bears! I had read a comment by someone that a bear is a bear is a bear… this couldn’t be further from the truth! It’s like saying “a human is a human is a human… they all have two arms, two legs and a head…” Obviously people are incredibly different despite having the same basic anatomy, and bears are no different. These bears (plus two other totally different bears which will follow) will be focused on making what would traditionally be called an “artist bear”. The regular crocheted and knitted bears have been seen by some as the “humbler cousin” …something I really want to change. The cleverness of the first two designs is that they are self-shaping. I have purposely created them in such a way that they have a little hump (as bears do), they have fat tummies and shaped limbs…all of which is achieved by simply constructing the bear as directed. The patterns will have a whole section devoted to finishing techniques, which will allow the bear maker to create something unique and of artistic quality. Yes, of course it may just be for a grandchild, but it will be the best bear anyway!

I also have plans to release my first shawl pattern this year. It’s for a really unusual geometric pattern that creates a shallowish triangular shawl. I am very excited about it and have started dyeing and testing up yarns and yarn combinations for it… also there is a secret line of new toys that is in the process of being created. This is something I am sooooo looking forward to seeing as it’s a totally different take on my current line….

Thank you so much for joining us, Heidi! Be sure to check out all of Heidi’s amazing designs on her Blog & Pattern Shop!

All photos courtesy of Heidi, unless otherwise specified.

Tips for Getting Back to Knitting after an Injury

Do you remember when I severely cut my thumb?

Three months later, I still only have partial sensation on my right thumb. And I’m right handed. The doctor told me that it might take a full year for the nerves to completely heal.

But you won’t catch me complaining… it could have been much worse. Did you know more than 500 Americans lose a limb every day? My numb thumb is a piece of cake.

Tips for Getting Back to Knitting/Crocheting

There are still some things I can’t do. I definitely notice that my hand is ‘not normal’. But I’d like to share a few insights that will help you get back on the path to knitting/crocheting as quickly as possible after an injury.

Talk to your doctor

This may sound obvious, but your doctor is the best one to advise you on treatments/therapy you should be doing to recover after your injury. Don’t hesitate to mention that you have a needlework hobby! A doctor may automatically ask about your line of work… and forget to ask about other goals you may have.

doctor illustration

It’s completely okay to say, “I crochet as a hobby, do you have recommendations for improving my fine motor skills?” Vanessa from MMAAC recommends bringing a notebook with you that contains questions you have for your doctor.

Accept the ‘New Normal’

For now, I can’t lift items one-handedly (at least, not reliably!) and I find myself relying more on my left hand. I’m very fortunate that for the most part, I can knit and crochet similarly to how I did before.

If that isn’t true for you, it might be time to have a talk with yourself about your expectations. You can only do what you can do, and lamenting over your loss of ability is only going to cause heartache.

Set Reasonable Goals

Think about where you’d like to be (remembering what’s reasonable!) and create concrete steps you can do to get there. Physical therapy may be a component of this.

goal setting

Can you crochet for 5 minutes a day? Do it consistently, and you might find yourself at 10 minutes. Baby steps.

Research Alternative Techniques

There’s more than one way to knit! If an injury is plaguing you, look into other techniques that may be more comfortable. Is your Tennis Elbow making knitting a pain? Perhaps knitting continental (holding the yarn in your left hand) is less painful.

holding crochet hook like a pencil

Or maybe try holding your crochet hook a different way? Or swap to an ergonomic hook? There are lots of possibilities!

Reach out to Chat

Don’t be afraid to be open about your injury- you never know when a game-changing suggestion will come your way! There are a number of Ravelry Groups dedicated to particular injuries… you never know where you’ll find a great suggestion that will help!

Have you had an injury?

Did it affect your knitting/crocheting? Any recovery tips you’d like to share?

Photos from Stitches East!

What an awesome weekend!

I had such a fabulous time at Stitches East this weekend!

View of the market session

Rainbow of Yarn at Knit New Haven booth

I had the chance to hang out with friends…

with Melissa Leapman and Daniel Yuhas

Fellow teachers Melissa Leapman and Daniel Yuhas (who are both so amazing!
Stitches teachers having dinner

… and even more fabulous and fun teacher friends!

And of course… I did a little work… book signing and teaching!

my books! Yarn Barn book signing

We had so much fun we had in my courses!

crochet colorwork course Stacey Trock Stitches East

Especially the Kool-Aid dyeing class… check out these fabulous skeins!

Beautiful Kool-Aid dyed skein

Pretty skein from the Kool-Aid class!

Kool Aid dyeing Class

I had such a blast… and I can’t wait until Stitches West in CA! If you’re on the west coast, check out my classes and join me in the fun!

Wanna see what I’ve made this year? The 2012 projects wrap-up

2012 has been a year full of crocheting and knitting! So, I thought I’d do a little round-up of the projects I’ve completed this year. (you know, I’m always looking for a wrap-up… I just adore doing these calculations!)

The Projects

In 2012, I crocheted and knitted approximately…

number of yards knitted and crocheted in one year

Isn’t that crazy? Here’s the breakdown of how those yards got used up (in number of projects per category):

number of projects knitted/crocheted in 2012

Animals still dominate my yarn-y life, but I’ve done a good number of other types of projects, too! For a full listing, have a peek at my Ravelry projects page!

projects completed in 2012 on Ravelry

New Techniques

This year, I tried my hand at a few new knitting/crocheting techniques!

I learned bead crochet, and crocheted a bracelet:
bead crochet bracelet

I learned to knit with beads and finished a lovely shawl:

Shawl knitting with beads Stellanti

And, I had my first attempt at spinning on a wheel.

rainbow handspun yarn


Okay, you know that I love all of my creations oodles… but let’s face it, some of them I love a little more than the rest.

I just finished crocheting a unicorn that I’m head-over-heels in love with:

crocheted unicorn with rainbow hair handmade

(Can you tell I love rainbow brights?!?)

I also have a huge soft spot for the slug that I designed this year:

Plush Banana slug toy

I also went through a little sock phase… I can’t get enough of these socks that I knitted from mushroom-dyed yarn from A Verb for Keeping Warm:

socks knit from mushroom-dyed yarn


Not every project is a roaring success… there are a couple fails. Many of them, I sense that something’s gone awry, and I frog them before they’re completed. This year, one sweater slipped by my radar and made it to completion:

Kyuu knitted sweater

It’s a lovely pattern, but I chose a yarn that was too thick… which resulted in a clunky, unwearable finished piece. Boo.

The Book!

A huge finished item this year was completing the projects for my newest book manuscript.

shipping projects and manuscript for book

See? That big box is proof!

Favorite Yarn

The yarn I’ve been most obsessed with this year is Stonehedge Fiber Mill’s Crazy Skein:

Stonehedge Fiber Mill Crazy Skein self-striping

Isn’t it fabulous? I’m using one skein in my current project.

What have you done this year?

Any favorite projects to share?

I’m going to have to start scheming for my 2013 goals and projects, aren’t I?

A behind-the-scenes peek at the making of a Kit Club

I promised my Ravelry Group that I’d take photos of the process of putting together the first shipment of my Kit Club. And since I already have the photos… why not share with everyone, right?

By the Numbers

  • Number of members: 120
  • Boxes: 120
  • Spools of Ribbon: 4
  • Sheets of Labels: 16
  • Grams of beads: 1080
  • Number of customs forms: 34
  • Hours at the post office: 1.5
  • Record at local post office for longest transaction: 2.5 hours
  • Length of post office receipt: 12 feet, 8 inches

The photos!

Cutting labels for kit club
cutting ribbon
winding yarn
checking off the to-do list
boxes in car
at the post office


What does ‘amigurumi’ mean?

Today’s guest post is written by Alyssa, MonstersToyBox on Ravelry.

Alyssa is a student in Linguistics and Japanese, as well as a very talented knitter and crocheter. Who better to tell us what ‘amigurumi’ means?

What does the word ‘amigurumi’ mean?

You probably know that amigurumi are incredible cute toys made from yarn. And you probably know that amigurumi was originally Japanese.

A collection of amigurumi knit & crocheted by Alyssa
But what exactly is amigurumi? There are a couple different answers for that, and one of them is looking at what it originally meant in its native Japanese:

The first kanji (Japanese symbol of writing) is the character for “knit”; it can also mean several other things, but the knitting is what is important here.

And it is not just knitting; this character can apply to both knitting and crocheting. Japanese does not have two different words for knitting and crochet like English does. In fact, to crochet in Japanese is actually “to knit with a hook”.

So now we have the “knitted and crocheted” part of amigurumi. However, the second kanji is a bit trickier. One of its meanings is “wrapped”. At first, it doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with toys, however, “wrapped” implies that there is something being put inside. What is put inside amigurumi? Stuffing, of course! So perhaps a better meaning for this part, at least as it applies to amigurumi, is “stuffed”, although a native Japanese speaker told me that it is not limited to just stuffing. All sorts of things could be put inside amigurumi to give them shape, rubber balls, for example. The toy part here is assumed… what other knitting or crocheting is stuffed?

Does it have to be worked in the round?

Almost all translations will say that amigurumi means “knit or crocheted stuffed toy”, however, the majority of amigurumi (and especially Japanese amigurumi) is crocheted. That doesn’t exclude knitting as a valid form of amigurumi nor does amigurumi have to be worked in a particular style. I have found that many Japanese amigurumi are worked in joined rounds, but not all amigurumi has to be worked that way, and it certainly does not make it any less of an amigurumi!

Ready to start looking for Japanese amigurumi?

In Japanese, amigurumi is rarely written using the kanji anymore. Instead, it is written using the much simpler, syllabic hiragana (a phonetic alphabet):

If you are interested in looking for amigurumi in the original Japanese, this is what you are most likely to see.

Highlight this piece of text: あみぐるみ and pop it into Google… it’s your trick to finding oodles of images and even Japanese amigurumi books. Most Japanese books are charted, so they’re accessible to you even if you don’t speak Japanese!