Kyle’s Crayon Box Blanket

Kyle's Crayon Box AfghanMy sister, Annie, and I are 21 months apart in age. My mom used to say: I can’t give to one and not the other. Now that I have grandchildren who are 21 months apart, I feel the same way. Recently I shared with you the Itsy Bitsy Spiderweb Blanket that I made for Cora who is 3 years old. Now it’s time to make one for her big brother, who is 5 years old.

A ripple afghan seemed the perfect pattern for Kyle. He’s a very busy boy who loves bright colors so I ordered worsted in 5 of them. I found a wonderful free pattern available on Ravelry from Project Linus - many thanks.

kyles-crayon-afghan-0111Last week my yarn arrived. I chose Serenity worsted from Premier Yarn’s Deborah Norville Collection. It is very soft but because of the density of the single crochet stitches, my work is quite stiff. This may change as my project grows - so far there is almost no drape.

I have been crocheting each evening and seem to be able to get almost one full color stripe accomplished each day. There will be 16 chevron stripes in all. I’ll keep you up to date on my progress.

All is well, Mary

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Cora’s Itsy Bitsy Spiderweb Finished

Itsy Bitsy Spiderweb BlanketI am happy to report that I have finished the Itsy Bitsy Spiderweb blanket for my granddaughter, Cora, and posted it on Ravelry (I am maryshoo there).  It took about 3 weeks of evenings. I really enjoyed the pattern.  Once I had completed the first set of  motifs forming the base row of spiderwebs, it made perfect sense.

The advice that Lily Chin offered in her book of Tips and Tricks for dealing with turning chains at the end of double crochet rows was just great. The side edges of my work were stable and firm as they would be with single crochet row edges. Another advantage was the ease in adding the border. Rather than the one given in the pattern, I used a row of half-double crochet for the surrounding edge’s foundation, followed with a  second row of simple chain scallops to form the outer edge.

coras-itsy-bitsy-spiderweb-0083Cora, who is 3 years old, saw this work-in-progress when I brought it with me on a recent visit. She said: “I would like to have that.” She wanted to hold the hook, and then proceeded to insert it gently into the holes. I look forward to the day when I can share my love of crochet with her.

I doubt that this pretty pink filet affair will replace the first blanket that I made for Cora. With the simple name of B, it is now a graying rectangle of well worn pink and white fuzz. I do think though, based on her keen interest in the production process, that the Itsy Bitsy Spiderweb Blanket is destined to find a place in her sweet and loving heart.

All is well ~ Mary

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A Caddie A Day

When I started listing KOALA Caddies on Etsy, I came to appreciate what a great vehicle it is for the handcrafter. There is no initial investment - setting up one’s shop is free and the listing cost per item is only $.20 for 3 months. The sales fees are reasonable and most transactions are instant via PayPal. The smart and talented young people who developed this site provide a detailed Seller Handbook and add frequent updates and improvements. I LOVE IT!

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The only part of the process that I found intimidating was the photography. I am a perfectionist - a good thing when producing a handmade product but not so good when feeling compelled to take 50 photos of each item to attain the 5 best images. Even now, after almost 2 years of listings, I still have about 450 photos on my camera for 20 Caddies.

When I added the slideshow to this website, I was happy that there was now a way to show the Caddie in all its configurations. You can imagine how many photos I took to get to the final 40. Bless Ann Kelleher of Fancy Purls Yarn Studio in Plymouth, MA, who modeled the Caddie for this undertaking.

I used to let the dreaded photos of finished Caddies go until I had about a dozen to list. My sister got tired of my whining and suggested that I take photographs and list each Caddie as soon as I finished it. This has worked very well. My goal now is to list a new Caddie each morning. This keeps my Etsy shop fresh and interesting and makes the listing process painless. The most recent additions are varied and each was a joy to make from these wonderful (and out-of-print) fabrics. There is a Laurel Burch, a novelty ladybug print from Michael Miller, a Tula Pink, a Timeless Treasures Sphinx, a Kaffe Fassett and a Keith Mallett print. See them all in my Etsy shop. Now it is time for me to get to work so that there will be a new Caddie to list tomorrow.

All is well ~ Mary

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Itsy Bitsy Spiderweb

Leisure Arts Baby AfghansREGARDING CROCHET BOOKS and cookbooks, if I spent less time day-dreaming over the patterns or menus, and more time making them, I would have a whole lot more to show for myself. I have had the Leisure Arts book Our Best BABY AFGHANS for a long time - its copyright is 1996.

Here’s the thing. Every time I look through the book, I stop on the page titled Itsy Bitsy Spiderweb. I love that pattern, light and airy and very different from the aran or fisherman crochet blankets that I usually make. Yet, I haven’t made it. Yesterday, when I stumbled on the book and pattern again, I decided to just do it.  I am between projects, I have enough new exquisite pink Wendy Peter Pan DK yarn (that I love), and I have no excuses.

Last night I made my gauge swatch, 16 double crochet and 10 rows equal 4 inches. I achieved perfection with a G hook. Then I realized that I would have to deal with those awful turning chains at the end of each row: the holes they leave and the annoyance of digging into them. Thankfully, I also remembered another book that I have been consulting off and on for about a year, Lily Chin’s Crochet Tips and Tricks.

Book, Yarn and PatternLily gives a great tip to avoid the space at the beginning of half double and double crochet rows. The tip is on pages 128 and 129 of this down-to-earth volume. It eliminates the holes, and the annoyance of trying to stitch into a turning chain that is counted as the first half double or double crochet.

It works! I could see how much better the sides of my project will look and how much neater and easier the edging will be. I don’t think that I can share the tip in a public post without permission but the book is probably in your library or on the shelves of one of the big book stores in your area.

Tonight I begin with enthusiasm: a new pattern, beautiful yarn, and a tip from a pro. This is going to be fun. I’ll share my progress in this post.

All is well ~ Mary

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Be My Valentine

vet-mexican-knitting-sheep-0921Saint Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! Today I decided to scour my enormous stash for some fabric to make special gifts for those crafty loved ones in our lives.

At left is the first Caddie that I made using a modern patchwork heart fabric designed in Japan for Hobby Lobby Stores. It’s an oldie but a very goodie and will make lovely travel pillows too. I listed this Caddie in my Etsy shop today.

Catsnova from Balson ErlangerTwo other fabrics caught my eye in my first fabric sweep. The one to the right is titled “CATSNOVA,” designed by Nana for Balson Erlanger. It is very clever, with the debonair feline suitors pouring on the love.  The second, below, is another fabric designed for Hobby Lobby Stores and has a larger granny-square look with softer muted colors. This would be perfect for a sweet old-fashioned girl.

Granny Square ValentineI’ll get to work and will list Caddies and pillows in my Etsy shop as I make them. If you have questions, or want something special, please feel free to contact me either via Etsy convo, email - koalacaddie@comcast.net, the contact form in this website or through Ravelry (I am maryshoo). If your Valentine friend loves a special designer, critter, hobby or theme, I’ll bet that I might have the makings right here in KOALA Caddie land.

All is well ~ Maryfrogs in love

P.S. I listed this Caddie in my Etsy shop today (1/23). The fabric is rare and out of print (1996), “frogs in love” by Phillip de Leon of Alexander Henry Fabrics. See the listing and more cute photos by clicking HERE.

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Annie January 24th, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Oh, how I love those Froggies!!! How sweet.

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A Tale of Two Cruciate Ligaments

emily 8 years oldWe have a wonderful 8 year-old springer spaniel named Emily, who thinks that she is 8 months old. One day, in mid October, Emily was flying around checking the windows for local dog-walkers to scream at. The next time I saw her, she was still bouncing around, but now on 3 legs, the 4th tucked up close to her flank. Oye, oye, oye.

So off to the veterinarian to learn the diagnosis: ruptured cruciate ligament. We treated it conservatively with ice, meds and rest. A few days later, I spotted Emily standing in place and looking totally frightened and confused, back legs hunkered down and front legs spread wide. Guess what - ruptured cruciate ligament in the other back leg. Now there was no question: Emily would need surgery. Thank goodness for Veterinary Pet Insurance.

Needing services beyond the skills of our small local veterinary hospital, we took Emily to Chase Farm Veterinary Hospital in North Dartmouth, MA. After a consultation with Dr. Rickard, Emily was scheduled for her first surgery. We have known Dr. Rickard since she was a young teen. Nicole proclaimed at age 5 that she wanted to be a veterinarian and never wavered from that goal.

what's up doc?

What's Up Doc?Dr. Rickard is fantastic and we trusted her completely. She performed the first surgery and, less than 3 months later, the second. Emily is almost back to normal and it has been a challenge keeping her from doing too much, too soon. By the beginning of summer, she should be back to normal, again acting more like 8 months than 8 years old.

I have a fabulous fabric from the Alexander Henry Collection from 2003 titled “what’s up doc.” I made a KOALA Caddie for Dr. Rickard from this fabric. I don’t know if Nicole is a crafter, but I do know that the Caddie is now being used for every purpose known to women - beach bag, purse, book bag, roving bag for spinning, etc.,  in addition to my original purpose as an apron/tote for knitters, crocheters, and crafters. I know that she will find a use for it in her busy life and I know that she will like the fabric. I especially love the Kitty in bed, a new mom with her three bundles of joy.

When our pets hurt, we hurt. Thanks to Dr. Rickard and the staff at Chase Farm Veterinary Hospital, and to Veterinary Pet Insurance, Emily isn’t hurting any more.

All is well ~ Mary

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A Priceless Gift

THERE IS a special place in my heart for gifts that have worth and meaning far beyond the item bestowed. I received one of these gifts recently from a man who traveled with us to Mexico.

Frank lost his wife about 8 years ago and enjoyed watching me crochet. He commented that his late wife, Jeanine, was a lover of many crafts and had filled their lives with fabric, yarn, patterns, tools and accessories of all kinds. Frank knew how much pleasure this brought to her and so he was very sympathetic when I had to abandon my crochet hooks at Cancun’s airport security (see my earlier post: A Cautionary Travel Tale).

A priceless gift in Frank’s life now is Eileen, a longtime neighbor and friend, who was also alone after raising her family. They have built a wonderful relationship and her presence on our trip to Mexico was a joy. She has a marvelous sense of humor, and the best laugh in world.

jenines-crochet-hooks-blog-012We received a dinner invitation from Frank and Eileen on New Year’s day. We had a wonderful evening and a superb meal. I mentioned that I had ordered some wooden handled hooks to replace those that I lost. Frank went into the next room and returned with a small black zippered case. “These are for you,” he said. “They were Jeanine’s and I want you to have them.” I was touched beyond words by this gesture.

"desert sisters" from Alexander Henry Fabrics 1996

"desert sisters" - Alexander Henry Fabrics 1996

We are sisters - knitters, crocheters, spinners and crafters of every kind. Receiving another woman’s tools is an honor that perhaps only a fellow handwork creator could appreciate fully. An important part of a lifetime is represented in that little black case. I will use Jeanine’s hooks to make a special gift for Frank. I know that she would like that.

All is well ~ Mary

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Do Ewe Knit

TIMELESS TREASURES Fabrics has a new collection that is sure to please knitters. It is called Do Ewe Knit and features bespectacled sheep industriously tackling their WIPs. Like Hen and Knitting Kitties before it, and certainly Michael Miller’s Knitmare On Elm Street, Do Ewe Knit is likely to become a wildly popular set of prints for knitting accessories of all kinds.

I have purchased the main fabric - the knitting sheep - as well as two of the companion fabrics - the balls of yarn on black, and the knitted stripe.  They are listed in my Etsy shop in the “Ready To Sew” section. Red, gray, white and black satins coordinate well as does pink, which matches the sweet shade of ears and blushing cheeks. I can’t wait to start sewing these Caddies.

I am glad to make satin-back travel pillows from these fabrics, or coordinate two for the front and back of a cotton-back pillow. Feel free to email me or to use the Etsy convo to request a special order. Prices for these will be the same as for pillows and Caddies already made and listed.

For those of you who want to purchase Do Ewe Knit fabric, I have some resources to share. I purchased mine at Fabric Paradise, a great fabric website. Now the wonderful Etsy shop 3dogdesigns has the main sheep fabric listed, and also many other hard-to-find cat and dog fabrics. For other places to purchase online, do an item search at www.quiltshops.com. I have learned to buy fabric that I love sooner rather than later because later usually means too late or paying higher prices for out-of-print treasures.

All is well ~ Mary

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A Cautionary Travel Tale

MY HUSBAND AND I have traveled to Mexico at the beginning of December each year since 2004. Our first trip was for the wedding of our son and daughter-in-law at the Iberostar Tucan, an all-inclusive resort on the Mayan Riviera. Since then, we have stayed at the Tucan’s “sister” hotel, the Iberostar Quetzal. It’s a jungle paradise and we love it there.

This year, we left on November 30 and flew from Providence, RI, to Philadelphia, where we changed planes for Cancun. I don’t look forward to the travel day, but I get around that by starting a new crochet project at the beginning of the trip. I loaded my Mexican-themed KOALA Caddie with the pattern and makings of a pale yellow fisherman crochet baby wrap, a gift for a new arrival to the family, he or she expected in mid-January.

Everything went smoothly at check-in and security. I worked on my swatch for gauge and by the time we boarded the plane, I was ready to start my foundation chain. Our stay in Mexico was wonderful. We had about 5 minutes of rain during the two weeks. The daytime temperatures were in the high-70s and low 80s, and the evenings in the low 70s. With sunshine, great food, a beautiful beach, and wonderful service from the dearest people in the world, there was everything to love.

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We left the resort for the Cancun airport on December 13. When we went through the security checkpoint, a young man asked who owned the big orange beach bag. Yes, it was me. As I joined him he said: Senora, we do not allow needles. I dug out my Caddie stored in the bag and I showed him my project and hooks. Well, they do not allow hooks either.  I had 6 or 7 aluminum hooks, and 4 wooden handled ones. There was no choice. I bid them goodbye and wished them well in their new lives in Mexico.

So, no crocheting on the trip home. I should have been wiser and checked into the security regulations on leaving Cancun.  As for my hooks, I heard a saying once that I repeat often: If your horse is dead, dismount.

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I am sharing this little tale in the hope that another needlecrafter will be spared losing their needles or hooks. As a crocheter, it was a simple matter, but for a knitter with a complex project underway on who knows how many needles? … well, I cringe to think of it.

The traveling baby wrap is almost finished.  I will post it on Ravelry along with the information about checking airport security regulations regarding knitting needles and crochet hooks on each leg of a trip. What you might be able to carry in, you might not be able to carry out!

All is well ~ Mary

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Melly’s KOALA Caddie

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ADDING THE FIRST LISTING to my Etsy shop in March, 2009, was an emotional experience. Excitement, joy, anticipation and apprehension whirled inside me. I felt that I should sit at the computer and wait for the first online buyer and sale. My sister, Annie, told me to get back to work!

I was ecstatic when, a few days later, the shop inventory was reduced by one item! A woman from Texas had purchased the Eurosyle Mod Owl KOALA Caddie, that very first listing made with my very favorite fabric. In fact, that KOALA Caddie stars on the first page of this website.

I was even happier - if that’s possible - when my Etsy customer left her feedback. She wrote:

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE MY KOALA CADDIE…..IT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD!!!

kaffe-and-brandon-dump-123As Christmas approached, this wonderful lady purchased another Caddie for one of her granddaughters, to be presented with yarn, needles, hooks, and the priceless promise of knitting and crocheting lessons.  She chose one made with Brandon Mably’s Waves in red, pink, green and orange stripes, certain to please any teenager. Again, the feedback was wonderful:

LOVE THESE CADDIES! THEY ARE FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!!

As we convo’d back and forth (that’s Etsy’s term for conversations), she wrote this to me:

I ONLY WISH YOU MADE ONE A BIT SMALLER FOR MELLY (the teen’s younger sister who also wanted to learn to knit and crochet).

Of course this was possible! Armed with Melly’s pants size and a tape measure, I was off to the mall to find the waist and waist-to-knee measurements for a Size-7 girl. I adapted the Caddie pattern to fit our small stitcher-to-be and made the sweetest little KOALA Caddie in a fabric from Tula Pink’s Flutterby collection.  It was a hit with Melly’s grandmother, and destined to take its place with the other gifts under the tree.

Melly's Pint-Sized KOALA Caddie

Today I received a convo from this thoughtful woman, saying hi and telling me of Melly’s recent visit.

MY GRANDDAUGHTER YOU MADE THE CADDIE FOR WAS HERE YESTERDAY SCRAPBOOKING WITH ME. SHE BROUGHT HER CADDIE TO WEAR WHILE SHE WAS WORKING. AFTER WE FINISHED I TOLD HER SHE COULD LEAVE IT HERE FOR NEXT TIME. SHE SAID SHE HAD TO TAKE IT HOME BECAUSE SHE CAN’T PLAY WITHOUT IT. SHE LOVES TO PRETEND SHE OWNS DIFFERENT KINDS OF SHOPS (PET STORE, BAKERY, SCRAPBOOK SHOP, ETC.), AND SHE HAS TO WEAR HER CADDIE. SHE SAID IT IS ONE OF HER FAVORITE CHRISTMAS GIFTS. THOUGHT YOU MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW. BEST WISHES!

I was deeply touched, to say the least. Almost every day someone tells me of a new way to wear or use a KOALA Caddie. I definitely need to update this website to include that information. For today, though, please keep in mind that you can use a KOALA Caddie when you do your scrapbooking, or when you are taking care of business at your pet store, bakery, or bookshop! Thank you, Melly, and bless you.

All is well ~ Mary

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