The Joy of Foundation Crochet

Hello Dear Readers. Your unfaithful blogess has a glorious tip to share with you. For those that crochet, it may even be LIFE CHANGING!

From the very beginner to the most advanced, all crocheters are well versed in the nightmare that is crocheting into the beginning crochet chain. That first row is the bane of my existence, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. I’d like to expand my crochet skillz, and start crafting some full fledged garments. I love the ease of shaping in crochet, the freedom to create textured or openwork stitches, the rapidity with which fabric seems to fly past my fingers.

Unfortunately, most garment patterns begin something like “chain 208. single crochet in second ch from hook and each ch around.”

The mere thought of wedging my hook into 100 or 200+ chain stitches makes me shudder in horror.

Cue the FOUNDATION CROCHET STITCH!!! It’s amazing! A miracle! Foundation crochet essentially combines a chained edge with your first row of single, double, or half double crochet.

Rather than use my clumsy layman’s terms to explain, I am providing a link to a straightforward set of instructions and diagrams. Click the links below and rejoice.

Foundation Single Crochet Instructions

Foundation Double Crochet Instructions

Foundation Half Double Crochet Instructions

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Goodies and Parisian Rambles

I have been a neglectful blogess of late, and I feel quite badly about it. I’ve been a busy girl recently– holding down the fort at my boutique and trying to get my sea legs at my shiny new internship. Have I mentioned I’m the Yarn Intern for a group of magazines called Interweave Press? Yes, yarn is in fact part of my official title. Swoony swoon. I now spend my days immersed in fiber crafts, and have decided to get a little more indulgent with my supplies.

Without any more hooplah, I’d like to share the two things that I’m most excited about adding to my craft stash.

Preface: I have not yet fully explored the world of sock yarn, and there are oodles of tasty merino/nylon blends. But I REALLY like the colorways available from Lorna’s Laces. I couldn’t resist picking up a skein of the classic Shepherd Sock in Unicorn Parade. I mean, duh. The color is called Unicorn Parade. I’m a total sucker for names.

Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock Unicorn Parade

Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Unicorn Parade, courtesy of EatSleepKnit.com

Turns out, the color is quite a bit more flamboyant than I imagined. I’m thinking it may be better suited to a baby garment than the cabled socks I originally planned. This yarn is handpainted, so I’m not sure if my personal skein is the norm. I purchased online (EatSleepKnit.com has a nice selection) and only have a tiny sample. If I remember, I’ll try to get a good shot of my swatch to show the color.

Secondly, these macaroon stitch markers. On my last, and very brief, trip to Paris, I went on a Special Expedition to track down the best macaroons in Paris. I went several Metro stops out of my way, got lost in a very posh neighborhood, asked several people (some surprisingly helpful, some confused by my Okie-twangin’ français) for directions, and elbowed my way through an out-the-door line, all to order half a dozen of these babies.

I really like macaroons. And now I can ponder their tastiness while I knit.

Macaroon Stitch Markers from Beadpassion

Macaroon Stitch Markers from Etsy seller Bead Passion

Unfortunately, these ship from the Philippines, so I don’t yet have them in my hot little hands. They are 1.3 cm wide, and profess to fit up to size U.S. 10/6 mm needles. This seller also has stitch markers and jewelry shaped like sushi, cupcakes, donuts, mushrooms, etc. Yum.

Macaroon Stitch Markers from Beadpassion

Kawaii!

Until next time,

Love!

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Summer Pasta Salad

For me, pasta salad is a comfort food. Everyone’s mom has a family recipe, probably because cold pasta salads are a tasty way of cleaning out the fridge. Cook whatever pasta you have in the back of the cupboard, throw in some cooked meats and veggies, add a random assortment of herbs, some sort of dressing, and BAM! A quick lunch or pretty contribution to your next potluck.

The recipe below is pretty vague… that’s kind of the point. Pasta salads are very forgiving, and you can use pretty much anything.

I made one this morning with my favorite stinky foods. Stinky is a harsh word… let’s call them “pungent.” I mixed some penne noodles with tuna, feta cheese, tomato, celery, dill, and a big splash of caesar dressing. Very tasty, but keep some mints on hand!

So, here’s a basic guideline for creating your own salad.

You Need:

8 oz (half of an average-sized box) small pasta (think rotini, penne, macaroni, farfalle, wagon wheels…)

1/2 to 1 cup chopped protein (I used one can of tuna, drained. Try leftover chicken, cubed tofu, cooked shrimp, canned beans, whatever.)

something sweet or salty (Here’s where you can go nuts. Cold pasta salads are a fast way to experiment with different flavors. Throw in a bit of crumbled feta or blue cheese, a can of mandarin orange slices or water chestnuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, baby corn, frozen edamame, leftover cooked veggies, whatever you have kicking around in your fridge or cupboard.)

2 celery ribs, minced OR one cucumber, diced

1 fresh tomato, diced

optional: spices. Curry, garlic, or onion powder, fresh basil, Italian seasoning, soy sauce, etc.

dressing: For a homestyle classic, use mayonnaise. For the health conscious, try a high quality olive oil. My personal favorite is bottled salad dressing. I think it’s a happy medium.

Cook pasta in boiling water until tender. Rinse under cold running water to remove excess starch and cut down on chilling time. Fun Fact: You should NEVER rinse pasta being served with a hot sauce. The leftover starch from cooking helps sauces and cheese stick. Pour rinsed pasta into a mixing bowl, or throw it right into some Tupperware.

Add in your meat, cheese, fruits, veggies, and spices. Give it a good toss. Now, stir in dressing to your taste: a spoonful of mayonnaise, a splash of salad dressing, or a drizzle of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. If using bottled dressing and/or salty cheeses, you won’t need much salt. If using mayonnaise, you can afford to go a little heavier with your spices. Mayo and curry play surprisingly well together!

Chill. Give it another good toss immediately before serving.

Some Combos to Try:

Leftover chicken with mandarin oranges and a dash of curry powder

Canned tuna with feta cheese and a generous sprinkle of dill (pictured!)

Canned black beans, rinsed and drained, with lots of fresh basil

Sliced peperoni/sausage with fresh mozzarella and oregano (I don’t eat pork, but this one’s a crowd pleaser.)

Have fun experimenting!

White Sangria Recipe for the Broke and Fabulous

Today, I will do a magic trick. With a few simple (and cheap) ingredients, an inexpensive bottle of wine will transform into a sparkling beverage sure to make an impression at any summer party.

This experiment started the other day after work, when I picked up a party-sized bottle of Alice White Pinot Grigio. No offense to Australia, but this wine is terrible. So, I decided today would be a good time to try my hand at white sangria. We’ve all (probably) had the red variety. Sangria is essentially wine punch, and is traditionally made by adding fruit, sparkling water, and a touch of brandy or liqueur to a light red wine. A restaurant in Boulder serves a white sangria that has all the sweetness of the original, but adds a refreshing kick of champagne and uses lighter flavors like peach instead of the usual oranges and red apples. This stuff is delicious, and I highly recommend the Med’s cocktails to anyone who’s not up to making their own.

This recipe is easy, frugal, impressive, and deceptively potent in the alcohol department. Many sangrias have a lower alcohol content because of the added seltzer. This one… doesn’t. Plan accordingly! Enjoy poolside or at your next BBQ.

You Need:

white sangria ingredients

1.5 liter bottle fruity white wine I used Alice White Pinot Grigio

1 200 mL bottle of gin (lime gin would be tasty, but I couldn’t find it in a small bottle)

2 cups sparkling water

1 1/2 cups white sugar

white sangria ingredients1 cup tap/non-sparkling water

2 peaches or nectarines, cut to 1/2 inch dice

1 pink (gala, honeycrisp, or pink lady) apple, cut to 1/2 inch dice

1 fresh lime

1 fresh lemon

a large pitcher or punchbowl

ice, for serving I found an adorable fruit shaped silicone ice cube tray at Joann’s

Slice off the ends of the lemon and lime. Place ends in a small saucepan and set aside. Slice the remaining fruit in half for juicing.

Place the diced apple and peach/nectarine in the bottom of your pitcher. Add all of the wine, all of the gin, and the sparkling water. Squeeze in all of the juice from the lemon and lime. Set pitcher aside in the fridge to chill.

Meanwhile, add the sugar and 1 cup of plain water to the small saucepan holding the citrus ends. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Once boiled, remove from heat immediately and let cool completely.

When syrup is cool, remove the cooked citrus pieces. Add the syrup to the chilled wine mix. Stir and serve over ice! Add a lime wedge if you’re feeling fancy. Try topping each glass off with some champagne if you really want to sparkle.

white sangria recipe

white sangria in my sweet tea jug

The whole process takes maybe 15 minutes, plus time to chill.

Knitting for Dudes (or, the ticking timebomb)

Knitters are a giving bunch. After all, a gal can only wear so many of her own creations. It’s only a matter of time before the men in a knitter’s life start to look suspiciously in need of a handmade sweater.

So, after weeks of hard work, you hand your man a masterpiece. You picture delight, gratitude, and awe for your knitting prowess. “Aw, shucks,” he’ll say, as his friends ooh and ahh over his new oversized alpaca hoodie. After weeks of tireless knitting, how could you expect any less?

Here’s the thing; non-knitters will never appreciate the amount of love and anguish in every stitch. More importantly, few things are worse for the knitter than shelling out big bucks and lots of time on a project for a guy that rejects them.

So, here are my suggestions for gift-knitting for men without the heartbreak.

The Guy Friend: Scarves are the perfect gift for friendly guys of all non-romantic varieties, from your next door neighbor to the barista slinging lattes for your weekly Stitch and Bitch. While they’re super easy, scarves tend to take FOREVER, and are best saved for someone who’s going to be around awhile.

The Hey-I-Might-Like-You Guy: You’re fresh in the throes of love. He’s everything you dreamed, he treats you like a queen… but you’ve only been dating three weeks. Do yourself a favor, and stick with a Simple Hat for this one. A nice crocheted beanie will show your affection and skillz without scaring him off. Avoid fancy patterns and pompoms, and show the depth of your feeling with the caliber of yarn you choose. Try an inexpensive cotton for your summer fling, or spring for a sumptuous cashmere blend for a real keeper.

The Serious Boyfriend: He knows all your friends’ names, he waters your plants, he uses the words We and Our. This one gets an Afghan. An afghan you say? Isn’t that the most committed project ever? Well, yes and no. Yes, afghans are gigantic. BUT, with a simple pattern and large needles, toiling away on a collection of squares or strips will ultimately cost you far less pain and heartache than weeks of sweater shaping. Besides, if he’s around long enough for you to finish a blanket, he probably deserves it. I like Granny Square Afghans for the endless variety.

The Husband: He shelled out for the ring. He’s danced with grandma. You share dental bills. This dynamo deserves a Fisherman Sweater. Now that he’s stuck with you through thick and thin, knit him something that will keep him warm in all kinds of weather and last for decades.

All pattern ideas are clickable links to free patterns. Knitting With Balls is another great resource, as are vintage patterns. Choose your own adventure!