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 pumpkin
I 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!

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!

It’s only weird if it doesn’t work…

Do you watch football?

It’s okay if you don’t. I’ll fill you in on the important stuff.

I love watching football, and there’s an ad that often comes on that I absolutely adore.

What I love about the ad is the tagline:

Oh, so true! Right?

Weirdness, Knitting & Crochet

Now, before you think I’ve gone off the deep end, I’ll tell you why I love this line so much… it’s my teaching philosophy!

I strongly believe that there are lots of different ways to do something… and as long as it works, you’re doing it right! Why should you do everything exactly the way I do it? Do you use the same amount of milk in your coffee as me? No? Well… why should you hold your crochet hook the same way?

Besides the frequent airing of these ads, this issue came up for me because I read a blog post by Kellie about her grandmother-in-law telling her that she wasn’t crocheting ‘right’. Do you know what affect that had? It made Kellie stray away from crocheting… isn’t that sad?

Are you weird? Some examples.

When you’re beginning to knit or crochet, it can be difficult to tell if you’re struggling because you’re learning a new skill… or struggling because you’re doing something problematic.

Let me give a few examples that come up frequently in my classes, and my ‘professional diagnosis’.

Holding the crochet hook/knitting needle: There are all sorts of ways to hold your hook/needles! I knit, holding my needles overhand with my yarn tensioned in my left hand. I crochet the same way (‘knife hold‘, yarn in left hand).

I know people who hold their needles like a pencil, hold the yarn in their right hand… you name it. And while ‘knitting/crochet rumor’ claims that this way or that way is faster, I know lightning-fast knitters/crocheters in each style/method.

So you hold your yarn with your right hand. Is that weird? No. Because it works! To put it differently: no matter which way you do it, the end result is exactly the same.

Which way you wrap your yarn: When you’re knitting/crocheting, there are two possible ways to wrap your yarn. You can either bring it from the back of the needle, over the top to the front (1) OR you can bring it under the needle, around the front and to the back (2).

Do you see the difference?

Most people do the second method. Are you weird if you do the first one? Maybe. Let me explain: these two methods produce different results, making the stitches sit differently on the needle. Since most people knit the second way, most knitting books/instructions assume that the stitches sit on the needle that way (with the front leg of the stitch to the right of the back leg).

So, if you knit the first way and don’t change anything else about your knitting, then your stitches will come out twisted… which is different.

Of course, their are solutions: I know someone who knits the first way, but then knits all of her stitches through the back loop to avoid a twisted stitch. She’s not weird, because her way works.

Which way you wrap your yarn matters in crochet, too. If you wrap your yarn the first way, the yarn will be difficult to catch with the hook. For most people, wrapping your yarn the first way doesn’t work.

How do you tell if you’re weird?

One simple question: is what you’re doing working?

If you’re new… I know this is hard. Sometimes nothing feels like it’s working! So as you knit/crochet, look for a consistent problem. In the example above, if you consistently find that you can’t catch your yarn with your hook, then that’s a clue that something’s wrong.

But if you find something that’s working for you, even if none of your friends do it the same way… don’t let anyone tell you you’re weird! That’s just how you roll!

Are you getting the most out of classes?

Let me ask you a question: have you ever taken a knitting/crochet class and felt like you weren’t quite getting the most out of it? Other students said it was great… but it just wasn’t clicking for you?

Well, I’ve got a little secret. There’s one thing you can do that will magnify what you get out of any class, no matter who is teaching. But… it’s something that YOU have to do. You have to do a little self-exploration. Are you ready?

What’s your learning style?

How do you learn best?

Do you need a picture? Does a step-by-step review of a technique really make something click for you? Do you like learning by reading books? Or, would you prefer a teacher grab your hand and guide you through the motions?

Some of us intuitively know how we learn best. These people say, “I’m a visual learner” or “I need someone to show me how to do it”. But, others of us have no clue. If you’re feeling clueless about how you learn best, think about classes or experiences that you really connected with and got a lot out of. This is a clue into your learning style.

My learning style

I want someone to tell me the basics, and then I want to be left alone to try it out for myself until I internalize my new skill. This is because I have a very hands-on learning style: I need to discover the technique for myself as a way of learning it.

That’s just how I am. Doing is what makes a new skill click for me.

Spend a minute thinking about what makes learning a piece of cake for you. Write it down.

How your learning style works in classes

Now, here’s the key part of my secret: once you know your learning style, you can make that work for you in a class.

Every teacher, even if they’re the best teacher in the world, has their own teaching style… which may or may not line up with your learning style. A teacher may like to show lots of pictures, or walk around and demonstrate… which is good for some students (who have visual learning-styles), but not great for others.

My learning style (and I know this from experience) annoys a number of teachers. Many teachers (particularly newer ones) teach you step-by-step how to learn a skill, exactly the way they do it. And they think that their job as a teacher is to make sure you’re ‘doing it right’ every step of the way. This drives me nuts. It’s not how my learning style works.

I’ll give you an example. A couple weeks ago, I went to a Native American festival. A man there was teaching firestarting. Of course, I wanted to give it a try.

My teacher was very keen to make sure I held it exactly as he would, and put my foot right where he would… but that’s just not how I roll. I just wanted to hear the essentials, and then experiment on my own.

The result? A less-than-stellar learning experience.

Action plan: voicing your learning style

My firestarting tale isn’t complete. But you can see how I stopped there, I would have walked away being very unhappy with my ‘class’. Here’s where my secret comes in.

Your teacher can’t read your mind. If you can clearly voice your learning style, you are more likely to get exactly what you need out of class.

To get the most out of a class you’re in, it’s helpful to do two things. One, say your learning style aloud (describe). Two, make a suggestions about exactly what the teacher can do to help you (ask).

Here’s a chart of suggested ‘describe/ask’ combos for various learning styles:

Imagine… getting exactly what you personally need from every class you take!

Back to my firestarting tale… as I said, my teacher and I weren’t clicking. So I said, “I need a minute to play around to get it right. Do you mind if I just try it on my own?” And he did. And I learned better!

Use with caution

I have to say, on behalf of all teachers everywhere, this doesn’t give you license to turn every class into a personal lesson. Keep in mind that if you’re in a classroom with 30 other people, each of those people has their own learning styles.

So, I don’t intend for you to ask more questions (and monopolize the teacher), but instead ask better questions, so that you can get exactly what you need. You’ll be happy, your teacher will be happy. Everybody wins.

And, I’m not going to fib… every once in a while, you’ll come across a teacher who can’t accommodate your learning style. They won’t be able to explain why they’re doing what they’re doing or guide your hands. In my opinion, these are the not-so-great-teachers. It happens. Acknowledge that they’ve tried, and move on.

So, what’s your learning style?

And do you think you can use this information to get more out of classes?