Friday, May 27, 2016

Why I Prefer to Roll My Yarn (Before Using It)

Four balls of Caron One Pound

Rolling my yarn into a ball is the first thing I do before starting a project. 

Rolling your yarn into balls is a practice that goes way back before there were machines to do it for you. My first introduction to yarn was through a crochet kit I received long ago. At that time I was very young and my project was an utter failure. In fact, I never finished it. But what I remember most (other than never getting an accurate stitch count) is how badly my yarn tangled using it straight off the skein. Granted I was very inexperienced and the yarn was lower quality. I quickly began rolling the yarn into balls from skeins and have been doing it ever since. I will admit, I did it mostly because it made me feel authentic. But now I have better reasons.

(Note: when referring to balls of yarn in this post I am talking about personally rolled balls of yarn and not factory-made balls of yarn that look a little like skeins.)

The Benefits of Rolling Yarn


1. Fewer Tangles

First of all, using balls of yarn solves the problem of tangles while crocheting. It also allows you to handle and deal with any tangles the machine might have inadvertently created when winding. I don't know how many times I've come to the last few yards and had a ball of knots to contend with. Then again, if your skein does not have tangles, by the end the remaining yarn will be so loosely wound that it will need to be used up immediately or risk knotting when laid aside. And although the packaging may recommend the "pull from center" method, I have never been successful using it.

Crochet Yeoman Hat

2. Discover Defects Beforehand

Even the best quality yarns will at times have defects. One thing that has always annoyed me is the little knots where the machine apparently tied two ends together. If you've used even the smallest amount of yarn you will most likely have encountered this. There are times when I simply go on crocheting with it if I feel it won't show in the finished piece, but this is an exception and not the norm. Instead I cut out the knot and have to join the yarn again, creating two more ends to work in later on. And oh, do I hate weaving in ends! Rolling the yarn allows you to deal with these defects ahead of time.

3. Easier to Work With

I find holding a ball in your lap instead of a skein is clearly easier to work with. When I'm trying to meet a deadline I try to crochet like the wind. I've often wondered if there is a way to count stitches per minute like words per minute in typing. I know I've worked some pretty harried speeds before. A ball just rolls easily and at such times I am so grateful for this bit of physics. But even if you aren't in a hurry, there is ease to pulling yarn from a ball instead of an oblong skein.

Crochet Doll Blouse and Jumper

4. Get to Know the Yarns Character

A very commendable quality in a yarn is when the thickness varies, where you might have a chunkier section and then a thinner section. I find it's always lovely to feel the integrity of the fibers slipping through your fingers. When you know you are working with natural fibers or just a good yarn, this is a sign of quality. Getting to know a yarn before you begin a project may change how you use it, for instance, the hook size or stitch pattern.

Now on the other hand and just to be fair, there are a few let downs to “always” rolling your yarn.


The Let Downs of Rolling Yarn


1. Takes Time

I've been very tempted at times to forgo rolling the yarn so that I can get straight to the project, and this usually is because I'm in a rush. I really hate hurried crocheting, but there are times when you really need to meet a deadline. At those times, even I will abandon my preference and work straight from the skein. In this case though, I pull from the outside, never from the middle. And yet, I still hate to sacrifice the efficiency of a good rolled ball of yarn.

Caron One Pound yarn

2. Can Cause Pain

If you are like me you can get pretty intense doing something over a long period of time. I become more and more focused on accomplishing what I am doing that I begin to speed up and tighten my muscles. Early on I realized I would have to make the conscious decision to slow down and relax as I wind. I often come out of it with tight shoulders and a stiff neck. Or if my wrist is especially sensitive, I can bring on carpal tunnel for a few days, which really sets me back in my work. But the biggest challenge are the large skeins. You know, the one's that are so big you only need a few to make a full-sized blanket. Yes, I stick by my preference and roll these as well, but boy, do they wear me out! It becomes too much for me to hold --and yet I do it anyway. My advice to others though would be to split the one pound into smaller balls as you go in order to save your body from the wear and pain. Only I don't because I hate to sacrifice the integrity of a good, large, round ball of yarn. Silly, isn't it?

3. May Stretch Yarn

I've heard people suggest you not roll your yarn until you are ready to use it for a project very soon, posing that the irregularity of winding may stretch the yarn in select places. I have only noticed this with more delicate fibers, ones that are more wispy or fragile, for instance, mohair, silk, and even some wools. With these I wrap a ball that is very loose and squishy to the touch. And in doing so I get the best of both worlds.

Mrs. Muir Afghan closeup

But after all, this is just one crocheters opinion. I wouldn't have anyone thinking this is the last word in crocheting. The beauty of just about any craft is the personality you yourself bring to it. Do what works for you!

So how do you like my little list? Have I given you something to think about? Tell me what you like personally in the comments below this post. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 16, 2016

My Studio and My Yarn Stash

You enter a fairly large room with dark hardwood flooring and light colored walls, where light from the ceiling-to-floor windows on the opposite side of the room result in natural illumination most of the day. Perpendicular to the windowed wall is where my large and antique white desk sits covered in pieces of the trade, tins of scissors, hooks, buttons, snaps, felt and et cetera. Beside the desk is a large work table with adjustable height.

On the other side of the room stands another work table, slightly smaller and suitable for packaging and the like. Also on that side of the room, and in the empty space of the other side, stands multiple antique, dressers and bookcases of different heights filled with yarn, books, and material.

Then again, maybe I should put the main work table in front of the window to provide for better lighting. But then my desk would be farther away... Maybe both work tables should be on one side and the other filled with bookcases and dressers.

Well, a girl can dream can't she!

Nothing is more exciting, as well as discontenting, as looking at studio spaces on Pinterest. I pin this lovely desk and that beautiful dresser, and oh! take a look at that sewing machine! So vintage!

Actually, I have found Pinterest to be both inspiring and depressing. You pin all these things that you want and can't have. Or places you wish you could travel to but are unable. I often wonder if my time on Pinterest only serves to make me ungrateful for what I have instead of content. It is easy to compare and scrutinize what others have and find yourself coveting than it is to be grateful for what you deem as less.

Maybe one day, I'll warrant my own studio, who knows.

Until then, let me show you my present "studio" space.


Frankly, this is a leap of transparency for me. Our house is terribly 70's; paneling galore. And I try my best not to photograph in it. Otherwise, I would have pictures of the Great Yarn Stash Organizing that just went on.

Long ago I ran out of "Rubbermaid" room and was left with cardboard boxes for storing my yarn. The boxes built up and up until the entrance to the room was rather crowded and the door wouldn't open well. I should have bought more storage containers in the beginning but I was holding out for what I really wanted: antique chests and bookcases. I had the perfect distressed, white chest in mind to put at the foot of my bed for storing some of my yarn. I also had a lovely dresser with small drawers for my notions picked out.

Well, the chest was of my own imagination and so far I haven't found one like it "around town", so to speak. And the dresser? Well, I'm not actually sure there is a spot for it in the room right now. Yeah, I can't make it my studio since I share it with two other girls. Although they accuse me of trying.


So anyway, I finally got another container, telling myself this wasn't replacing the lovely chest and dresser idea, just postponing it. I decided to tackle the mountain of boxes and yarn Sunday afternoon. Surely it wouldn't take that long, right? Actually, I didn't really give it much thought.

It took me a couple of hours. I had the center space of our room entirely covered in yarn. I don't really think it was a good idea to let my family see how much yarn I actually had. Now they will definitely roll their eyes when I say I need to buy more.

But I was so happy to get rid of those nasty cardboard boxes. It is so nice to have containers, albeit plastic, instead of cardboard. I also realized that I would need more containers. Next I am buying one with drawers for my notions, because right now they are in that bag and tea tin. (The tin is pretty cute though, huh?)


And then there are the few boxes I had to keep for storing my oodles of finished projects and not-so-finished projects. Sigh. I keep telling myself they will be gone soon. But then again, what do I do with all those insignificant projects I have amassed in my almost 3 years of designing for Crochet Spot? Most of them I don't care enough for to sale but I would still hate to throw them away. And I can't ditch them on family. Nope, I am not going to do it.

This little organizing attempt has also brought to mind just how many unfinished projects I have. I need to sew a liner for the Woodland bag in the picture, finish an afghan I have been working on for a few years now, as well as a crocheted tank top half completed, and at least three projects need ripping. Can I be disgusted with myself? Please?

But honestly, this happens. Especially when you work a job that keeps you crocheting constantly. You find that you crochet so much for business that personal projects get set aside all too often. Hence the unfinished afghan.

What about you? Do you amass partially completed patterns? How do you tackle it? And what about your yarn stash? Does yours look like mine or does it look like my dream studio? Don't be stranger! Get in on the conversation and leave a comment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nancy Drew, Legendary Sleuth


"Nancy recalled that it was sometimes possible to pick a lock with a wire. She removed a bobby pin from her hair..."    [Book 1, pg 112]

Nancy Drew has been an iconic figure in both literature and film for quite some time now. She is known for her brilliant intellect in solving the mysteries she often comes in contact with. It's no wonder she has been the role model of millions of girls growing up -- she's adventurous, confident, and possesses incredible deductive skills, as well as a keen sense of fashion.

But most importantly, she is grounded in her personal status, something I personally admire her for, being evenly balanced in independence and femininity, never feeling the need to prove herself or show those who doubt her ability up. She eagerly chases down clues while keeping her family and friends near and dear to her.

Some say Nancy is too perfect to be true, and they would be right. I highly doubt you will ever come in contact with a woman as astute at everything as Nancy. But I do not find this a reason to dislike her or criticize her character. After all, she is fiction and fiction is often a mod-podge of fantasy and reality, that is why we like it so much.


Classic Books


"Nancy leaped to her feet, hoping the call would be from Ned Nickerson, her favorite date."  [Book 9, pg. 31]

Recently I decided to read through all the Nancy Drew books we own. I was looking for something light and simple to fall back on after busy days. Of course it hasn't taken me long since we only own the Books 1-10 collection and a scattering few others. I knew there was more but I wasn't exactly sure how many until I looked it up. The classic books go through to book 56 but after changing publishers multiple times, the series continued until early 2000, ending with book 175. I haven't read any of these but, like many other fans, I hesitate to include them in the classics that began in 1933. In my opinion, too much time has elapsed, and authors have changed, to keep Nancy Drew true to character. So I prefer to think of the classic series as stopping at book 56, and at the most 64. This isn't to say I will never read the others. As a good critic, and curious person, I'd readily read them all.

The character of Nancy Drew was created my Edward Stratemeyer after he saw the success of his first creation the Hardy Boys Mystery Series with girls as well as boys. Though he and his daughter, Harriet Adams, wrote many of the outlines, the books were ghostwritten by many people through the years, with Mildred Benson being the first and most well known author.

Sadly, Adams later took many of Benson's originals and rewrote them making Nancy, according to some, less spunky and more charitable. The originals are known by their basic design of a solid blue book with orange writing on the front. Later publishings and editions changed in book design by adding a silhouette and changing the title colors. In fact here's an example.


I received this from my Grandmother many years ago as a child, and loved it immediately for both the story and the age of the book. But little did I know that it was one from the first publishing in 1951. When I realized this I was ecstatic. It's an original! I want to put it in a display case, under lock and key! Of course, I won't. I'll just be very gentle with it and make sure others do to. Very gentle.

I can't tell you how much I would love to get my hands on the originals. Who knows how many people have these treasures without knowing their worth! They are priceless!

Old books are priceless, but I digress...


Nancy Drew in the Movies


"Suddenly the wall pushed inward. Nancy lost her balance and disappeared into a gaping hole below!" [Book 2, pg 167]


Bonita Granville from Nancy Drew... Reporter (1939)

The earliest Nancy Drew movies were produced in 1938 and 1939 starring Bonita Granville as the slightly younger and even more spunky sleuth. I really wish they had made more with her because they were great. I would say she differed a little from the Nancy Drew of the books I have read but then again, I only have read the revisions.

Later on, a TV series was produced in the late 70's with Pamela Sue Martin playing the role of the legendary sleuth. In description, I would have to say that Martin played similarly to the classic Nancy Drew but the heavy influence of the era makes it hard to really point out. I do love these and the Hardy Boy's from the same series. In fact, I think my siblings and I have seen each one too many times to count. One thing I have to mention is the fashion. Check out this post I wrote many years ago about Martin's outfit from one of the episodes.

Pamela Sue Martin in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-1979)

More recently though a movie was produced casting Emma Roberts as Nancy Drew but I really have to say this one was a bust. The character was rather white-washed and very goody two-shoes, not at all like the classic Nancy Drew. The only good thing I have to say about it was her costume and even that was a bit out of era, not keeping with modern or even early Nancy Drew.

Now CBS is promoting a new series called Drew in which Nancy will be much older and now a member of the NYPD. Their intentions are to modernize her entirely, which already makes me doubtful of the resulting quality. Only what surprises and offends me most is their declaration that this Nancy Drew will be of any origin but Caucasion. Is there a problem with Nancy being white, so to speak? She always has been so why change her? You wouldn't change Sherlock Holmes' character from British because that is what he is in the very essence of his character. You wouldn't make a story about Harriet Tubman and cast a Caucasion person in the role would you? Then why change Nancy?

I find it rather silly anyway, since the woman they have chosen is a Texan even if her heritage is not. I'm sure if I hadn't already found out her origin I would have taken her for just another "white American." After all, American is a mix of practically all nationalities down the line.

I dislike it greatly when political endeavors change what I know and love, but enough of my tirade. No matter what people may do to her character she will always be first and foremost respected as the Nancy Drew of the classics, the one Mildred Benson first breathed life into.

Nancy Drew Video Games


"Suddenly the young sleuth snapped her fingers. "I know what I'll do! I'll set a trap for that ghost!" [Book 2, pg 88]

Our collection of Her Interactive Nancy Drew video games.

If you're like me, you would love a chance to take a whack at a mystery like Nancy Drew. Unfortunately, life doesn't provide such convenient mysteries, and when it comes to danger, it might be a good thing. That's when I spend a couple of hours (*ahem* at least), playing one of Her Interactive's Nancy Drew video games.

The first one I played was Message in a Haunted Mansion many years ago and since then I have tried to play them all. My favorites so far are Treasure in the Royal Tower and Danger on Deception Island, simply because of the scenarios. I can't wait to get my hands on Sea of Darkness!

The Nancy portrayed in these games are naturally a modern Nancy, that is, except for Secret of the Old Clock. She's pretty spunky herself, and since you are the character, sometimes you can be as annoying to a suspect as you want. That's me, annoying. I find her personality to be a good Nancy Drew recreation, though sometimes she's more patient than I would like to be.

They are point-and-click adventure games, usually based around interesting mysteries and provide the player a chance to question suspects, work puzzles, detect clues in your own time, and often fix food or drinks as an added way of making money. I recently played The White Wolf of Icicle Creek and enjoyed making the meals. That is, except for when I wanted to be out working on the mystery and was instead stuck inside. But then, they provide ways to get around that some of the time.

So what do you think? Are you a Nancy Drew fan? How many books/movies/games do you have? Do you have an original book without knowing it? And which are you favorite? Leave me a comment below!

Some references taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Drew_Mystery_Stories

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Two Seventies Ensembles - Yellow Floral or Buttoned Down

Often when you do an online search of the clothing style of a certain period the result is usually a selection of the most popular or dramatic. Dramatic, more so, when the period was known for being revolutionary.

This is usually a misinterpretation of the facts. Not everyone in said era dressed as extreme as some would have you believe. Today I want to share with you two very simple and yet darling outfits from that revolutionary period, the seventies, that look like perfect choices for modern day.

The last season of the popular TV show Mission: Impossible was produced during the early 70's, (1972 - 1973, to be exact) and I've had a great time watching the styles change from mid 60's to early 70's as the show lasted for seven seasons. Hairstyles became less trimmed, makeup grew more natural, and brother, lets not even begin to describe textile patterns.


Barbara Anderson played a special agent in 7 episodes of the last season while the shows usual, Lynda Day George, was out on maternity leave. She played a reformed felon called Mimi Davis and in this episode, her character (as Mimi) was to play a small town girl.

They dressed her in simple outfits consisting of cotton knit blouses and rather average, but lovely, skirts. Let's take a look.



This is the first outfit Mimi wore as the small town girl. Her job was to get close to the enemy in order to find out where they had hidden a biological weapon, and what better way than as a waitress.

She wears a scoop necked, short sleeve knit shirt tucked into an a-line skirt that comes to about a foot above her knees. The bright red color of the shirt contrasts smartly with the soft yellow of the skirt for a rather typical example of the choice of colors during this period. I really love the gentle floral pattern on the skirt as well.

Her jewelry is quite simplistic, consisting of a plain gold chain necklace and a yellow wrist watch, which happens to be a tracking gadget. (Just had to add that last part.)


Rather briefly, I want to point out the natural choice of makeup she wears. No heavy liner or noticeable fake lashes. Her lip color looks like a frosted soft pink, reminding me of Revlon's Silver City Pink lipstick.



The second outfit she wears combines muted tones while continuing the tendency toward colorful. This time she wears a pale pink polo buttoned down the front and another a-line skirt, periwinkle in color, also buttoned down the front (love the buttons, by the way).

The outfit is neatly separated by a dark-colored belt, an element of clothing forgotten in this day and age. For shoes she wears a simple pair of slip-on loafers. In recreating this outfit today one might easily be passed up as modern. I can't figure out if that makes me happy or not. I love to look vintage, so when I do I want to be recognized as such. But on the other hand, you could easily wear this around without appearing as though you were in costume.

Of the two ensembles, I would have to say I love the color choice of the yellow floral skirt best but I really can't say enough about the buttons down the front of the other one.

What do you think? Can you see yourself wearing these outfits? Leave me a comment and let me know!