Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What's Happening Wednesday

This week I have a finished project to share with you. (I actually finished 2 projects this week, but one of them cannot be shared until the gift recipient receives it.)

As I posted earlier in the month (See my blog entry HERE) I have been participating in my first mystery stitch along. This one was sponsored by Bernat yarn and JoAnn's Fabric and Craft Stores. Each Monday in the month of October they have posted "clues" to a finished blanket. They offered patterns for both a knitted and a crocheted one. I did the crocheted one.

With this week's clue in hand, I sat down to complete the blanket and was very pleased with the final result.

Now to reflect on the experience....

There are several aspects I need to consider when talking about this project.

1) Yarn Selection- This was my very first time working with the Bernat blanket yarn and I discovered that I really like it! Bernat offers a wide variety of colors: brights, typical crayon box colors, pastels, and variegated blends. It is very easy to mix and match and put together unique combinations that turn out to be beautiful together.

I was a bit concerned that the blanket would be bulky and cumbersome, but it wasn't.  While the yarn is nice and thick it does not create a weighty blanket. The finished project is just thick enough and warm enough to be comfortable. I am sure that my blanket would be enjoyed by some young girl or teenager, especially one who is like me and stays cold in the winter months.

2) The Mystery Aspect- As I mentioned in my earlier post, I am a self-proclaimed control freak. I carefully plan out every aspect of my projects from color to yarn selection to stitch count. Because of this, I found this Crochet Along to be a bit of a challenge. Weeks one and two were fine, but at the end of week three my stitch count was off and I was a bit discontented with the order in which I had used my colors.

Nearly as soon as I finished week three's "clue" however, I went online and discovered that many other ladies had also finished the third week's stitching and they, like me, had an incorrect stitch count. It did not take very long for Bernat to jump on top of things and realize that their original pattern, as posted, was incorrect. They prepared a corrected version and posted it.

After looking at the new instructions and counting my stitches (twice) I discovered that I was now only 2 stitches off and I could easily correct that as I worked week four's "clue". WHEW! Tragedy averted!

3) Overall Experience- Looking back on my experience with this Crochet Along I have to say that I am pleased with it. I debated and debated whether to purchase my yarn weeks ago. (After all, I had plenty of other things in the works. I truly did not need another project on my plate.) I typically jump into a project only when there has been a customer request or I have a purpose or recipient in mind for the finished project. I could not "pre-plan" this time, so I truly do not know what I will do with the finished blanket, even now. It may end up under a Christmas tree. It may end up as an item in an upcoming Christmas craft sale. Whatever happens to this finished blanket, I am glad that I participated and did this.

It required me to stretch myself and turn over a bit of control to someone else. Letting go of the reins actually helped me come to a realization. I have learned that crafting is not always meant to be a controlled process. Yes, there are typically patterns that are used, but it is nice every once in a while to allow those little "friendly accidents" to instill more character and personality in the finished product. I may not have exactly the number of stitches that the pattern says. My finished blanket may be smaller than the measurements posted on Bernat. BUT..... I have a brightly colored, warm, beautiful blanket that someone will love!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Pressing On....

Last week was a tough week for me. It came on the heels of a rough weekend. My daughter, who is a junior at Union College had some tough exams in her nursing class and was not thrilled at her scores. Being the mother that I am, I wanted to reach out and comfort her. Doing that effectively is not easy from over two hours away. She also had a bad experience with the cross country team. She was busy with an important meeting with her nursing professors when the team had to make the decision to go on to a meet without her. Again, my daughter reached out to her father and I for comfort and support. 

Then on Monday, came the "final blow". I had been to town to run some errands and was sitting at the end of our road, only a few hundred feet from our house, when my Toyota Rav4 got rear-ended by a pickup truck. 

Not only did my car take a hard hit; my life did also. With the car having over 145,000 miles on it, we are pretty sure that it will be totaled. I find myself sitting at home, totally dependent on my son and husband for travel assistance, and not really sure when I will have my own vehicle again.

What surprises me about the whole situation is that I am not as devastated emotionally as I expected to be. Then, yesterday at church, our minister used the following passages as part of his message.....

2 Corinthians: 4: 8-12 and 16-18

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Life can throw all of the blows at us that it wants. People can say bad things about us and criticize us, we can suffer personal problems, and we can find ourselves tossed about on the stormy seas of our everyday lives, but we can go on. 

When my daughter's cross country team made the decision to go ahead with her she was heartbroken... for a brief moment. She shed her tears and then set about searching for a 5K in the local area, so she could still run that day. She found a 5K in a nearby town that was being used as a fundraiser for a community children's group. She put together a costume, since it was a costumed event and she was ready and waiting at the starting line that night.

That night I watched as she gave it her all, finished with one of her best times and taking the first place medal for women at the event.

She did not lose heart. She could have sat there in her dorm room, moping and feeling sorry for herself, but she didn't. She wanted to run and she did what she needed to in order to do that.

As for me and my car, I am very shocked to discover that I am learning to do without a vehicle. So much so, that I actually recommended to my husband that if the insurance company DOES decide to total mine, we should sell his car and use the proceeds from the sale along with my insurance check to get him a good reliable used car. You see, his car has over 160,000 miles on it and often has those little lights blinking on and off on the dash like a Christmas tree. I can manage. Yes, I will have to stay home more. Yes, I will have to have someone find time to take me wherever I need to go. Yes, I will have to give up some of my freedom.... BUT.... on the bright side, it will give me more time to get things done here at home and it will enable me to spend more time with whichever family member ends up chauffeuring me to and fro.

As Christians we need to remember that whatever troubles we encounter are truly momentary. As Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day." It may bring sunshine; it may bring rain. But whatever it brings our way, we must not lose heart. We must keep on trudging ahead, making the most of the moments we have now, remembering always that God is there for us and will lift us up for our eternal reward. We must keep on running, keep on studying, and keep on living.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What's Happening Wednesday

Hello.... my name is Stella and I am a control freak! (That probably does NOT come as a surprise to those of you who know me personally.) When it comes to projects, I am the kind of person who likes to make the decisions. I want to know the "end goal" and prefer getting step by step directions on how to get there. 

This month I decided to stretch myself and try to "loosen up" just a bit. I decided to participate in the Bernat Blanket "Mystery" Stitch-Along. With this stitch-along, "clues" or portions of the pattern are placed online each Monday in October. I do not know what each week's portion will actually look like until it is completed and I have NO IDEA what the finished project will look like. 

For a control freak like me, this is totally new territory! I normally carefully plan the colors for a project and purchase extra yarn, just in case something happens along the way. I also frequently count and recount stitches to be certain that each row or section is just perfect. I know what my finished item should look like and I have that as my final "goal". With this project, I don't have that luxury. 

I did make very deliberate yarn choices. The Stitch-along used the Bernat Blanket yarn, so soft and cushy! But it also gave me TONS of color choices. I decided to use one variegated yarn and 3 solids from that mix. Baby steps, I know..... but for me this project is my big step! 

I had to wait until one color of my yarn was delivered so I could decide in which order to use the colors. When it finally arrived I sat down with the pattern (clue) and stitched away. Here is what my blanket looked like after week 1:

Looking good, huh? Nice and bright. One would assume that the blanket was going to be round in shape, but I learned very quickly not to get too comfortable with that idea. 

When clue 2 came online, I printed it out and kept stitching. Here is what it looked like after week 2:

I have a nice looking square and I am still happy with my color choices.


That brings us to this week, week 3. I just finished that portion of the blanket and here is what I now have:

I pause for just a minute to give you an update from this control freak. IF I had any inkling of the finished design, I think I probably would have switched the placement of the orange and purple, but I am still ok with it. I also have to confess that I did go back and count my stitches on this last round and my stitch count fell about 12 stitches short of the intended number. I am not sure where I lost those, but the blanket still looks like it is shaped correctly, so I won't agonize over it TOO much.... LOL!

As for the overall reflection on this experience, with each week it gets a teeny-tiny bit easier to do this. I am pleased with the blanket so far and I am anxious to see what the final one looks like. Allowing myself to loosen up and give over control has become a bit easier, but I don't think I am ready to totally shed the control "freak" inside me. I am, and probably always will be a control freak when it comes to my projects. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Not Finished With Me Yet....

You know that feeling..... that little voice that says, "You are NOT done! There is something else that you need to do."  Well, that voice has been speaking to me for a few days.

I love retirement, but I really have missed having a connection to school. It has been such a LARGE part of who I am as a person. Let's face it.... Of my fifty some years here on this earth more of them have been spent IN a school or classroom than OUT of one.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that God led me to retire when I did. I spent many hours praying about the decision and weighing the pros and cons. At the same time, I also feel that God has been telling me that there are still ways that I can stay connected with school and that my personal role there is not finished.

When I left school in July (and several times since) I have said that I would only go back as a substitute if it became financially necessary. Well, today I did what I never thought I would do. I completed an application to be a sub. As I walked into the building to speak with the principal about my decision I encountered several students. "Mrs. Baker!" one would squeal, while another would grab me to give me a hug. With each smile and hug it was as if I was being shown that there was still some work here for me to do.

The same thing happens in my Christian life. Though I have been a Christian since my early teens, I know that God is still working to help shape me into the wonderful creation that he intends me to be. Each day of my life here on earth he gives me some experience, some relationship, or some lesson that helps to continue to mold and make me the person he wants me to be.

In Philipians the Bible says...

I am confident that God will NOT give up on me. He will continue to work, IN ME and THROUGH ME, each and every day of my life. He can do that for you as well.

You may be struggling with something, feeling as though you have failed.... failed yourself, failed someone you know, or failed God. You may feel that God has turned his back and given up on you. That will NEVER be the case! God will continue to work in you. He will be there for you, as long as you allow him to be. Continue to pray, to seek God's guidance, and to allow him to work in you. You just may be surprised at the outcome!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Five Minute Friday- Test

Today I begin a personal test--- a test of my patience and (to some) a test of my sanity.

One of the crochet skills I have developed over the last twelve months is the skill of doing C2C crochet. (For those of you who are not in the know, that means corner to corner crochet.) With this type of crochet I create a grid pattern on graph paper of whatever design I plan to make. I then crochet tiny blocks of color, starting in one corner of the design and working diagonally across the remainder of the project.

The catch to making this work is the use of small "bobbins" of yarn which I add in each time I encounter a new color in the design. Because of the intricacies of some of my patterns I sometimes find myself working with several bobbins within a single row. The upside of this type of crochet is that I can create a blanket with almost any design I wish, as long as I can create a graph for it.

One my most difficult graphs to date was a police car blanket I created for a dear friend of mine. It was a true test of my patience and my sanity. As I worked my way across the graph I drew lines and labelled how many stitches of each color I would need in that row. Even with my careful graphing and counting, I still managed to mess up. The problem with that was that I did not catch my mistake until I was 5 or more rows PAST THE MISTAKE! This required me to pull out all of those rows and to back up to the point where the problem was.

So.... why do that? Why not just crochet a simple little blanket with straight rows of color? Surely that would be just as appreciated..... While that might be true, I enjoy the challenge of the whole thing. How much detail can I put into the graph? How far will I get before I do make the inevitable mistake? How long will it take for me to actually finish the project? Some people would definitely say that I had lost my mind, but I love to test myself and see whether I actually can complete the project.

The personal payoff for me is twofold: the personal satisfaction that I get when I actually pass the "test" that I set for myself and the joy that I see on the recipient's face when they receive the finished project. Just look at the photo below....

How could I NOT attempt something that would make someone so happy?

Pardon me now.... I have to go prepare my bobbins for this "test". I will post pictures when it is finished. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What's Happening Wednesday

Big things happening in the Baker household tonight. Our daughter came in from college. She will only get to stay one day of her fall break, as she is traveling to North Carolina to help support the Union Cycling team in their end of season race later this weekend. Even for only one day, it is sure good to have her here!

Even our dog got excited to see her come in the front door, as evidenced by this photo....

I think he was just very excited to finally have someone to keep him company and play a little. I have been hard at work this week crocheting. Typically, when I am working on a project, Rudy will tolerate it for just so long. Then he will do one of two things. He will either climb up onto my lap and plop down, right on top of the yarn (his way of saying "You need to stop and give me attention!") or he will find my finished projects or works in progress and lie down on top of them.

This week's big project was to create a Star Wars themed scarf for a customer. I am not really a Star Wars fan, but I was pretty confident that I could come up with something. I did an extensive Google and Pinterest search and finally decided to try to create my own "light saber" scarf. The customer requested black and silver as the colors and I managed to find some great sparkly yarn to use for the "lighted" portion of the saber. More black and grey yarn was used to create the handle on the saber. I was pretty pleased with the final results and the customer was too!

I think I have finally gotten most of my orders filled, so I am trying to squeeze in some things to stock upcoming Christmas bazaars. This will be my first year participating on this scale and I am a bit undecided about what items will sell. If you participate in bazaars or if you shop at such sales, I would love for you to drop me a comment to suggest items. Many of you have purchased things from me and know what I can make. Please let me know the kinds of hand-crafted items that you might be looking for. I am always willing to try! 

Monday, October 3, 2016


I was struggling this morning, trying to decide what I would write about today for my "Message Monday". I should have known that the Lord would provide the inspiration!

Each day I try to set a goal for the projects that I want to complete. Today's projects involved the following: Put buttonholes and buttons on a dress that I am making for a relative, Cut and adhere vinyl to a Halloween tumbler, and Cut and adhere vinyl to a special frame for my niece who recently got married.

I was dreading the buttonholes most, so I started with those. I found my buttonhole attachment rather quickly, hunted up my machine's manual to brush up on how to do them, and set to work to attempt a trial run on scrap fabric. The results were awful! I kept trying about 10 times, with only limited success. The machine would either not sew the zig-zag stitch correctly or would stop halfway through and begin beeping at me. About the time I became very frustrated, my son walked into the room to see what was going on. I handed him the manual and had him follow along as I again attempted a buttonhole. It failed again! My son, thinking he was being helpful, said, "I don't know what is wrong. It looks like you are doing everything right." Seeing that I was going to have to cave in and make the buttonholes myself, I did a quick Google search, grabbed needle and thread, and sewed them all the old fashioned way- by hand.

One project down and I knew the vinyl projects HAD to be easier. Well..... I was wrong. The vinyl cut smoothly enough and then I set about weeding the projects. The orange vinyl weeded fine for the tumbler and I smiled to myself, thinking how quickly I would be done for the day.

As I began weeding the black vinyl for the frame, it began to stick to itself. The more I gently pulled, the messier it got, to the point that vinyl stuck to vinyl and destroyed the bottom third of my design. Oh well, I thought to myself, no problem. I will just cut it again. That should be simple. I went to my computer, prepared the design, and cut the vinyl. I carried my new cut to the living room and sat down in the floor, knowing that this would only take a few minutes. As I looked at it, however, I soon realized that my cuts were not matching up. I had forgotten to mirror the image! A third time I returned to the computer, cut the vinyl, and finally finished my two projects.

Sometimes in our Christian life our days go like my morning. We try and try and try again, but things just don't go the way we plan or the way we would like.

Romans 5:3-5 says,

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 

It is much easier to try things one time and then just give up. It is more difficult to suffer through our failures and continue to trudge on, attempting again and again if necessary. We may offer witness to a friend, only to have them shrug a shoulder and turn away. It is harder to go to another friend and even more difficult to return to that same friend and attempt witness again. But, if we do continue to persevere, we develop endurance and character, along with a hope that we will eventually reach that friend. 

As for me and my project....

Here is the finished product!

I persevered! I am very pleased with the final result and I am sure that it will be a blessing for my niece and her new husband.