Walking AND Crochet!

So, I am officially combining my two loves -walking and crochet – into a single blog.  I am not able to post as often as in the past, so I’ll simplify and post my thoughts, insights, etc in a single space.

Today, Kris and I walked a fairly rugged three mile loop at West Tyson Park.  We had only walked this trail once before and had the dog with us.  We had remembered that there were place on the trail that were two narrow for me and the dog so we left Liz at home (much to her chagrin!).

The park is lovely.  It’s about 15 miles due west of the St. Louis Arch and about 3 miles east of Six Flags along I-44.  Tyson Park is one in a row of parks and ‘unimproved’ land along I-44.  It’s on a short outer road tucked in between Lone Elk Park and Route 66 Park (the old Times Beach).  While Route 66 park is dead flat, Tyson and Lone Elk have plenty of uphill climbs.

With 95% of the leaves on the ground, even an overcast day like today was lovely in the woods.  We encountered few other hikers and only 2 bikes.  At the top of the trail we hiked – at the very top where you can look out over the Meramec River – there is a single picnic table that bears a plaque on which is recorded the telephone number of the park ranger!  Hmmm.  Were they expecting trouble?  It’s a bit of a struggle getting up there – but certainly nothing that requires more than a few deep breaths and a bottle of water.

So, we didn’t take pictures today but the vistas were worth it.  We will walk this trail again.

Declaring Independence From A Craft Store

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Today is July 4.  That’s Independence Day in the United States of America.  In this wonderful country, every citizen is free to express political, religious, and philosophical opinions without fear of government repression.  It’s one of the wonders of our amazing country.  I fully support the right of every citizen and company to do so.

In today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, our venerable daily newspaper, Hobby Lobby placed a full page ad.  That’s not unusual for Hobby Lobby.  Unlike most of their full page ads as I recall, this one did not prominently display the name of Hobby Lobby.  Rather, one had to read the fine print at the bottom of the page to determine who paid for the full page ad – a costly endeavor.

This ad quoted liberally from the Bible and from some of our revered statesmen of old – Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others.  Not unusual for an ad on Independence Day.

However, the gist of this ad was that the US is a Christian country.  Each quote, hand picked for singular effect of course, nailed home the notion that this country was founded as a Christian nation, is now a Christian nation, and that it must remain that way.

I have a question for Hobby Lobby which I will write to them about in a few minutes.

What about those of our citizens who are not Christian?

Are they to be merely tolerated?

Should they buy their craft supplies at Hobby Lobby and keep their mouths shut if they aren’t Christian?  Does Hobby Lobby support the notion of another company or individual taking out a full page ad to state that this is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave no matter what religion the citizen is?  The owner of the business is?  The immigrant is?  The soldier is?  The protester is?

In the US, the right to freedom of speech (and print) is held to be a sacred one.  I strongly support this right.  I believe it is both God given and inalienable.  Clearly Hobby Lobby does not share my strongly held conviction that all our citizenry has the right to both full citizenship and freedom of religion.  That this country was founded – yes, mostly by Christians – as a haven for believers of all religions or none.  That those who are not Christian have the God given right to be more than tolerated.

As much as I love “I Love This” yarn, I will not be buying any more of it or anything else that HL sells unless I get a really compelling answer to my letter to them asking about what I see as their intolerance of all the US citizens who are not Christian.  It’s just that simple.  Either we are all free and equal or none of us is.

High Water Walking?

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Emmenegger Park under water ;-(

Kris and I tried to walk there the other day.  The Meramec River had other ideas.  It was a hot day and my asthma was flaring.  We detoured to nearby Powder Valley Park since we did not have the dog with us.  The scenery there was lovely but the hills proved too much for me that day.  We ended up walking only about a mile.  Too hot, too humid.

It will take Emmenegger Park weeks to dry out even after the water recedes.  The trails there are all mulch/soil and the cover is dense so the trails remain moist.  We don’t mind moist!

The pavillion at Emmenegger was under at least 4 feet of water.  It’s closest to the river.  The walking trails are on higher ground but, as seen in this picture, the creek backs up and covers the trail access.

Still one of our favorite places to walk.  But, we will have to wait it out.  Al Foster Trail, here we come!

My ‘New’ Water Bottle Carrier

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I clearly should never have let this picture been taken, but I wanted to share my ingenious ‘new’ water bottle carrier.  I got tired of wearing a belt to clip on a water bottle or a sling over a shoulder or a back pack.  My dog and I both need a cold drink on the trail from time to time.  This idea came to me after I saw a rather expensive back-worn bottle carrier on a sports web site.

Why not just tuck my shirt into the back of my waistband to create a pocket to hold the water bottle?  It cools me when I walk and leaves my hands free.  Simple, effective, and free.  I freeze smallish bottles half full of water then add a few ounces of water atop the ice.  As I walk, the ice melts and a cold drink is just a hand grip away!

So, if you want your hands free but want to have water with you on a hot summer walk, try this idea.  Works best if your waistband is not too loose.  My walking shorts typically have a drawstring so I can snug it up to hold the water securely.

The Crochet Lace Ladies Of India

 

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There is a remote area of India called Narasapur (or Narasapuram) in the West Godavari district of the state of Andhra Pradesh.  In this remote Indian town, some of the world’s finest crochet lace makers reside – and work feverishly to produce what can only be produced by human hands.  To date, there is no way to crochet by machine unlike knitting which can be accomplished by machines.

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More than 80% of this lace is exported – mostly to the US – but also to Europe and Japan and larger cities within India itself.  Chances are if you’ve seen a crocheted table cloth being sold commercially, it came from Narasapur.

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You can learn more about these lacemakers here.  One interesting feature of this industry is that much of the work is done from the homes of the women – thus the term ‘cottage industry’.  This sort of business venture is extremely important so that the women may care for their own children and household while producing income with the work of her own talented hands.  Imagine how quickly these women must be able to crochet!

This is one area where crochet is taken very seriously.  Lace production accounts for a hefty percentage of the area’s economy.  Skills are passed down from mother to daughter and the lace making tradition continues in a time when the vast majority of fiber arts are mechanized for mass production.

 

Learning Some New Crochet

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I have not personally taken a course from this online entity, but I wanted to share it with you in case you know someone who wants to learn to crochet or maybe you’d like to learn some new technique yourself.

Apparently some courses are free, like this 1.5 hour video course for beginners focusing on Christmas Crochet.  The two other crochet courses which are currently offered are $15 each.  Again, I can’t vouch for these courses since I have not taken them, but I always like to share new crochet discoveries with my readers.

If, like me, you are involved in more crafty endeavors than crochet, you’ll want to check out the other courses offered under the heading ‘Arts and Crafts‘.  There are plenty there.  You can also filter your searches to include only free courses or to cast a wider net, you can check out all the courses and perhaps decide to pay for a course.  While many great things in life are free, not everything is!

Should you decide to take a course, Crochet or any other arts and crafts course, please post a review here.  We’d all love to learn more about this new site.  Thanks in advance!

 

Lacy Crochet

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I am occasionally dumbfounded – and thrilled – to find a truly creative crocheter who designs and shares her (or his) patterns with the rest of us mere mortal crocheters.  Olga Poltava is one such designer.  Her designs consistently delight me.  Her blog is named ‘Lacy Crochet’ and it’s well named!  Her designs are always ones that leave me drooling for more and running to find just the right yarn from my stash to start on her latest project.

Since I crochet a lot of baby afghans (babyghans), I am constantly looking for fresh designs.  I have my favorite go-to designs, but sometimes they bore me and I want something new and different.  Olga never fails me.

You can get the free pattern for the afghan pictured above right here.  I believe this is one design she credits to her mom.  There is clearly a bloodline of fine crochet in these women!

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This crochet lace ripple is an one of her newest designs.  This would make a wonderful babyghan too.  Or sweater.  Or scarf.

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Here’s another example of a very sweet afghan which would work nicely for a baby girl.  Please check out Olga’s site to see her many other designs.  She has plenty of free patterns and offers others for sale.  Her patterns are well written and error free as far as I’ve seen.  If you like lovely stitch motifs worked in readily available yarns like Pound of Love, you’ll appreciate Olga’s designs and website as much as I do.

Quick And Easy Spring Crochet For Your Wardrobe

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These little hair clips might be just the thing you need to make an Easter outfit look complete and special.  And, best of all, you can color coordinate and work them up in a matter of minutes.  You can glue the cute little flowers on – or better yet, tie them to the hair clip and touch the knot with a tiny bit of Fray Check or nail polish.  I love this kind of clip for my very fine hair.  But, they will work just fine for anyone’s hair from tot to senior citizen.  Get the free pattern here.

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Here’s another quick, lovely idea to finish off your new Spring outfit.  Not much could be easier!  If you don’t use the idea for a headband, you can adapt it for a pretty bracelet.  The color combinations here are perfect, but you can use whatever color combo that will complete your special outfit.  You’ll find the free pattern here.

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I can think of a bunch of ways to use these lovely blossoms from Planet June (free pattern).  The idea I like the best, and that I am most likely to use, is to work up a cluster of them to use as an applique to brighten up an older cardigan.  I’m not much of a shopper and tend to buy the same colors and silhouettes, so why bother?  I have a lot of pink, including a pink cardigan and a pink hoodie that I wear over and over.  A grouping of these pretty flowers and leaves would be perfect on either of those.  Further, I’d make them repositionable so I could wear them only when I wanted to and leave my plain cardigan or hoodie in tact.  Maybe you’re not a ‘pink person’ like I am.  Make them in red or orange or blue or lilac.  Sprinkle them around your cardigan or tee shirt to give it a fresh, updated look without making a permanent change.  You can make them repositionable by using Aleene’s Tack It Over And Over glue which can be found at Michael’s and other craft stores.  Follow the instructions carefully to create an applique that you can move from one garment to another or store for later use.

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I’m a huge fan of Aleene’s glues which are now owned by Duncan Enterprises and of Aleene and her children and grandchildren who are inspired crafters.  Aleene’s glues are the finest in the field, including her Tacky Glue which is a must have for all serious crafters.  Maybe I’ll write more about this at a later date.

So, now you have a few, fresh ideas of ways to use your crochet skills to brighten your new – or old – wardrobe.  These ideas work just fine for all ages.  I’d love to see how you use them, so please send me a picture if you use them like this or adapt them in some unique way.  That would be totally amazing!

Cinderella Project – A Crochet Aside

 

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I recently had the opportunity to work for the Cinderella Project, a wonderful charity that matches teen girls referred by their school guidance counselors with beautiful prom dresses.  Many of these teens are in foster care, have educational issues which interfere with their success in school, or live in home situations where there is a lot of financial and/or emotional insecurity.  Each girl gets an appointment.  About 10-12 girls arrive each hour and each is assigned a personal shopper to help them find the right gown.  The Director of this project makes it clear to the volunteers that the girl shouldn’t leave unless she finds a dress that is at least a 9.  That’s a pretty high standard!  But, the personal shoppers guide the girls to the size and color the girl wants, assist the girl to try on each garment, and encourage the girl to make the right selection.

My role there was as Seamstress.  That’s a stretch for my sewing skills, but I can definitely sew on a hook and eye, make minor repairs, and shorten straps.  Those are the kinds of fixes most dresses needed.  Each girl would be brought to me or the other Seamstress for an evaluation of what it might take to make the dress fit the girl perfectly.

Some dresses were just clearly too large or too small for the girl.  But, we had over 2000 dresses, so each girl had at least 6 to choose from. Styles ranged from very frilly and full to sleek and sophisticated to short, baby doll looks.  Many are strapless.  Each girl also is gifted one additional item – either a shawl, purse, pair of shoes, piece of jewelry (necklace or earrings), or a coupon for an ‘updo’ at a salon.  We ran out of shoes pretty quickly but since most girls chose long gowns, this was not a tragedy.

One of the things that struck me was the body image issues so many girls had.  It was clear to me that a significant number of the girls were very much afraid to show any skin.  I remember being that way as a teen – in fact I’m still pretty much like that.  Of course, some of them seemed very comfortable with the strapless, backless, and thigh high slits of many of the dresses

I quickly found my stride here.  I was able to convince quite a few girls that a dress was too large, too small, or too immodest for her, that there was a better color or cut, that the length would work if she’d just try on some heels.  My best success was just being honest and encouraging.  There were so many pretty dresses that I saw no reason for a girl to ‘settle’  That said, some girls simply chose a dress that was just wrong for her body shape.  That’s where I had success explaining how just shortening straps or taking a nip or tuck would actually ruin the lines of the dress that would otherwise be flattering.  A dress should not overwhelm a girl.  A girl had to feel beautiful in her dress to look beautiful.  For many, this was clearly the first time there was a feeling of beauty.  What a joy to see!

The chatter from the girls quickly informed the volunteers just how important this project was.  For so many of these girls, there would never be another social event that would top her prom.  Many would not have dressy weddings.  Many would not attend any further schooling.  Some already had children of their own and prom night would represent the culmination of her teen years and the entrance into her adult life for good.  They talked about how important prom had been to their moms.  They texted pictures of themselves wearing each prospective dress to a dear friend.  We were not just fitting girls to dresses.  We were putting wings to their dreams.

Next year, I plan to volunteer to work each day of this project.  It was extremely rewarding.  How often does anyone get to be a small part of another person’s dream?  How often can we actually watch a shy ‘duckling’ turn into a gorgeous swan right before our eyes when she sees herself in the mirror wearing a dress that would be perfect on the Red Carpet – and is perfect on her?

NOTE:  I’m  going to sew and/or crochet a few stoles for the Cinderella Project to be used next year.  If anyone else is interested in contributing – something light weight and lacy – please let me know!