Fiddlehead fumbling

On my local fibercraft blog we’re having a craft challenge a la Iron Chef: craft something inspired by or about fiddleheads, the young fern coils that New Englanders like to eat around this time of year. More details and where you should comment with your project are here, and I would love it if you wanted to participate — whether or not you’re local and whether or not you would be working in fiber, in fact. It would actually be a big favor, helping populate this challenge.

I started working on fiddlehead-themed crochet last night, and I must say, my blogging partner picked a tricky challenge theme. With all sorts of spirals on my mind, my first attempt was a two-strand spiral beginning with single crochet into a magic ring (with strand A, let’s say) and then alternating between slip stitch into back loop only with strand B and single crochet with strand A into the front loops of the slip stitches. The single crochet gradually grew to half double and then double. The result, which looks more like a seashell than a fiddlehead, is the first picture below.

playing with crochet fiddlehead ideas playing with crochet fiddlehead ideas

The second picture above is my second attempt, a strip of foundation sc (then fhdc, then fdc) that I then coiled up and sewed into a spiral. To me, this one evokes seashells even more than the previous one.

The commas below are my third attempt. Chain 2 and make 6 sc into the second chain from the hook. Increase around in back loops only, except the last (12th) stitch of this round was an extended sc that led into about a dozen foundation sc. Here and in the second coil I made sure *not* to pull the linking loop of the fsc out very far, so the strip would naturally curl toward the bases of the stitches.

playing with crochet fiddlehead ideas playing with crochet fiddlehead ideas

The last picture is of a mess. I chained for a while, then I slip stitched into a chain a little ways from the hook, and alternated ch 2 and sl st into somewhere further around the ring for a while. When I was only a few chain-lengths away from the previous linkage to the starting chain I slip stitched into it again, and went back into the ch-2/sl st pattern. Ultimately I think this is best described as a coil of ch-2/sl st going counter-clockwise on top, and a coil of a periodically-secured starting chain going clockwise on the bottom. It was an experiment.

The challenge goes until the end of the month and this won’t be my last attempt, but I’m going to change media for my next effort.

Barbershop Quartet Day crochet

This post is dedicated to the Champaign-Urbana Sweet Adelines chorus, Toast of Champaign.

Tomorrow is Barbershop Quartet Day, the 76th anniversary of a Tulsa songfest considered the beginning of the Barbershop Harmony Society. I’ve never celebrated, but it is nevertheless close to my heart because I grew up with barbershop music. My mother has been in a Sweet Adelines chorus (and sometimes quartets) throughout my life, and through her I heard many choruses and quartets, male and female. The latest Sweet Adeline Queens of Harmony are a young quartet called LoveNotes, but the big name when I was listening a lot was Ambiance. I believe I’ve seen them live; I know I saw Joker’s Wild and The Gas House Gang — I have the cassettes to prove it.

The latest music to hit my ears was from this gang:

Sluggos singing barbershop harmony
Be sure it’s true when you say “I love you;” it’s a sin to tell a lie…

If you have your own quartet, only lacking a barber pole, a pattern is below, in time to make for any of your Barbershop Quartet Day celebrations. It may be made with stripes in up to four colors. The one above is two white and two red stripes, but it would also be traditional to have two white, one red, and one blue stripe, with the white stripes separating the red and blue. The store has a name your price pdf of this pattern that not only prints more nicely, but also includes a 6-stranded version so you can make cheerful candy sticks, and instructions to use either the 4 or 6 stranded version for a lip balm cozy, pen case, or reading glasses sleeve.

spiral lip balm cozies spiral pen cases

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Baby animals for spring

I used to crochet in embroidery floss much more than in yarn, and have a desire to try all my patterns in floss. Here are the thumbnail animals:

embroidery floss hippo and pig from ReveDreams.com

They were stitched with six-stranded embroidery floss and a size 4 steel hook (2 mm). One skein of floss (8 m/8.7 yd) made one animal, with plenty left over. I used some small beads to weight their back ends, and a tiny bit of stuffing for the rest. Each one is about two inches long.

embroidery floss hippo from ReveDreams.com embroidery floss pig from ReveDreams.com

The hippo’s little ears don’t want to show up, so I think I would add a chain to each were I to make another. Otherwise I’m very pleased by the translation. Spider Plant likes them too.

FF: Container Gardening

rosemary towers above spearmint and oregano Welcome to the newly non-anonymous First Friday series! We’re still snowbound here in Vermont, but last week I started craving spring and growing things. I struggle with lacking a yard, good sunlight, and a green thumb, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

The two-level herb pot pictured was the result of my craving: rosemary up top, sunk one or two inches into the soil of a pot containing spearmint and oregano. Since then we’ve started some vegetables, including a climbing spinach that I’m looking forward to seeing.

Of course what I really wanted (and resisted… for now) was something breathtakingly gorgeous. Let’s peruse some options for small and/or striking container gardens.

Succulents are a large percentage of my houseplants because they are very forgiving. You can plant them in tiny containers, including corks and snail shells. Of course this reminds me of last year, when I planted a seedling in a little gelato cup and made the mistake of placing it somewhere I couldn’t see from a distance. It is no longer with us. Now plant watering is on my to do list weekly, but the truly tiny containers still do not suit my gardening skills — which is a darn shame, because they are incredibly appealing.

If you get enough sun you can make wonderful collages or mosaics of many kinds of succulents in a single pot, or even in a wreath or hanging box (soil held in with chicken wire or hardware cloth). Chicweed features many such plantings in the container gardens category of their blog, including the one below.

wood-trough-edited1
Photo used courtesy Chicweed

You can readily root succulents from cuttings, which I’m in the process of doing with some broken pieces I brought home from the garden center with the herbs. Martha Stewart has a photo tutorial. For continuing care check out Succulent Gardens and The Cactus and Succulent Society of San Jose.

Another plant suited to tiny containers, or to landscaping larger containers, is moss. The gallery at Moss & Stone Gardens shows some larger plantings. I love the way multiple kinds of moss planted together look like a distant aerial view of a full size landscape, such as in the planting below.

Blue-pedistal-moss-small
Photo used courtesy Moss & Stone Gardens

Moss is a wonderful cover for the dirt around other plants, and Moss & Stone Gardens has a large archive of moss growing advice.

To branch out into other parts of the plant kingdom, Drought Smart Plants has two posts about plants with scale suited to miniature landscapes and fairy gardens (and very fancy model railroad setups). One has photos but fewer plants, and the other has more plants and care instructions but no photos. The Miniature Garden Shoppe has a large gallery of fairy gardens, miniature landscapes, and other creative container gardens (submitted by customers – that is to say, many works by people who aren’t plant professionals) that is enjoyable and inspiring to scroll through.

Finally, if you want something that needs literally no maintenance, you can make a faux terrarium, large or small (click that last link. You won’t regret it).


This was another tricky First Friday post, though it was for a different reason than last time. Photos of lovely container gardens seem to become detached from their sources quite easily, and even searching by image may not reunite them. In the interest of giving credit, I’ve only linked to photos in their original locations.

Incidentally, if you want gardening advice tailored to your area, I recommend looking first at your state university system’s cooperative extension. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work – University of Vermont links to a nationwide resource for container gardening – but in bigger states you’re likely to have luck. If you search on some combination of your state’s name, “university extension,” and “cooperative extension,” you should turn up something (though it might not be the state university per se; in South Carolina, look at Clemson). Here are a few links directly to materials about container gardening: from Texas, Ohio, Arizona, and two from Maine.

FYDP Final Roundup

The first quarter of 2014 has drawn to a close, and with it Finish Yer Dang Projects, our challenge to do or dump all those partially completed crafts that have aged to perfection. You can see all of my weekly updates as well as posts about FYDP projects under the tag FYDP.

rainbow soap

I have one last FYDP accomplishment.

  • Made rainbow soap. It may be weird colors that look more like an unappetizing jello mold than soap, but it’s rainbow soap.

We trimmed the edges off after I took this picture, which helped a bit.

Total accomplished projects:

  1. Mending: 7
  2. Non-mend sewing: 5
  3. Elimination: 11
  4. Website updates: 6
  5. Crochet: 3
  6. Other crafts: 1

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Restructuring

tag-151102_150 I’ve made some changes in the tag structure here. The tags “tutorials,” “practicalities,” and “technical details” have been retired, because I used them without enough uniformity and with too much overlap.

Some tutorials belonged under the patterns tag. Others are now tagged recipes, which means not-quite patterns — something has to be worked out by you to complete the instructions.

Still other tutorials, as well as posts with the other tags, were really basic techniques, which are now split into crochet techniques, embroidery techniques, sewing techniques, and general craft techniques. Those tags also include posts that would perhaps be better described as advice than techniques. The gauge etc (crochet) tag has declared independence from other descriptors.

The remaining posts under the retired tags are under the tags tools and accessories, storage, legalities, and computing (as of this writing, the last two tags are applied to one post apiece).

This should make the tags more useful. I’d love your opinion on this site’s user-friendliness!