End of Winter

January was a glorious month of storms, fog, and frost. These days we still cozy up in socks and sweaters at night, but by mid-afternoon the windows are open for gentle breezes and warm sunshine. Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted another six weeks of winter, but here in Southern California we’re well into spring and halfway through autumn. (Half the trees in town are still dropping bright orange and yellow leaves, while the other half are covered in poofy white blossoms. No one knows what’s going on, and that’s totally normal.)

Into the New Year we’ve been busy with deadlines, designing, sketching, stitching, planning – all the things that go into new patterns. And we’ve even had a blissful spell of introversion – few social obligations, lots of quiet time to work, read, stitch, crochet, tinker, potter, and just regenerate our creative energies. After the bustle and madness of the Holidays, it’s a blessing to be able to sort one’s self out this way. (A quiet January with a cup of tea is the true holiday…)

I’ve been stitching one of our latest designs, Somebunny Loves You, and having a really lovely time. This happy bunny always brings a smile to my face. I’ve got plans to stitch up his cheery Happy-Go-Duckie friend, as well.

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On the crochet front, I’ve been having a wonderful time hooking hexagons. I’ve always been enamored of crochet hexagons, and this sweet granny hex pattern is my favorite. It’s quick and simple and fun. It’s delightful in multi-color, but I’m really loving solids right now, and wondering about pretty ways to bring them together.

I fiddled about with joining techniques; Whipstitch has been a favorite of mine in the past, but I wanted to give the single crochet join a go. Turns out, I’m not fond of it. It’s pretty, and the ridge creates a lovely texture to the fabric, but sadly, the process just wasn’t fun for me. It’s a bit tedious, actually. (And not in that fun challenge sort of way.)

Enter, join-as-you-go. (Why had I not tried JAYG yet?!) It took a few tries before my fingers got the hang of it (because it’s always about establishing muscle memory, isn’t it?) Once things got going, it was love. JAYG is fast, fun, utterly darling, and efficient. After hooking up 200 squares/hexies/whatever, you’re not suddenly left with the monumental task of piecing them all together, (although some of you may actually enjoy that – you lucky ducks!) Bringing everything together as you go is just my thing. A quick internet search of ‘join as you go crochet’ will open up a world of tips and techniques, if you’re so inclined.

Below is one of my latest projects: An afghan inspired by and named for Coney Island. I wanted all the bright and vivid colors of a seaside carnival, mingling with pale and salty sea air. It’s growing rather quickly, though my crochet time is split between it and another afghan project. (More on both later.)

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We’re delighted our first set of designs for Cross Stitch Crazy magazine came out recently. The designer’s life is rather funny – working on seasonal projects six months in advance is a curiosity at first, but thoroughly enjoyable once you embrace it. You’re always so far ahead of the season, you never feel rushed or hurried. And best of all, you’re always early.

It’s back to work for me. (Or maybe I’ll have a cup of coffee and some stitchery first. Yes, I think so.) We hope the days are treating you kindly. Otherwise, do remember to treat yourself kindly. Do a bit of what you love, whenever you can. It works wonders.

Yarn in Autumn

November is a beautiful month in Southern California. The days are warm, crisp, and blue, with the occasional passing cloud. Leaves are turning all sorts of wild colors, falling wistfully to the ground. By Thanksgiving, the skies will sometimes turn gray and dark, and the nights grow cold. Winter peeks in over the garden wall, promising frost and a peaceful slumber to all the green things. Sometimes I wish I could hibernate in the winter, too. After a long and busy year, the shortened days are a reminder to turn inwards awhile, and tend to the spirit landscape. I try not to fight my body’s natural tendency towards slowing down, resting more, and being still.

In other news…I had to share with you this utterly magical thing that happened: we’re in Mollie Makes! (See the kawaii cuties poking out from the corner of the cover???) This was such a delightful project to work on, and it’s amazing to see our darlings in the pages of one of our most favorite magazines.

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This is the time of year my thoughts turn to yarn. Needlework is my forever love, but on the first frosty wind comes a yarnie passion I can’t resist. My mind races and tries to sort through all the possibilities: stripey knit fingerless gloves, crochet mittens, knit hats, colorblock crochet scarves, shawls, tree skirts, table runners, coasters… In other words, all the beautiful things. I couldn’t decide on my knitting needles or crochet hook, wool, cotton, or acrylic, something for the house or something to wear… So I played with yarn for a bit to see if any colors spoke to me. Then I started a crochet linen stitch square for a possible scarf project. Nothing was clicking.

One day, quite by accident, I discovered this beautiful blog. I think I heard bells then, or birdsong – it was lovely. So I chose a few of my favorite Christmassy colors and got started on the ‘Granny Square Table Runner.’ I’m hoping to get this lovely project done in the next week. (And I foresee one of these for every holiday!)

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November is like a second spring in the garden. All the plants that withered in the scorching summer sun have been revived. The tomato vines are flowering, nasturtiums are popping up everywhere, and the rosemary is covered in purple blooms. In a few short weeks the frost will come and put an end to the green things, but it’s lovely to see a green revival in the meantime.

Cuddles the Garden Cat has put on his winter coat – a perfectly poofy strawberry blond he is, sunning himself on the cinder block wall behind the flower bed.

And the zinnias. Love of my garden life. They’re still blooming away – the hot pinks and reds more ferocious than ever, the whites more stark, the yellows richer, and my heart fuller than ever.

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Ahh…needlework. Happy, soothing needlework. Without it, I would be one very grumpy frumpy girl. (Because why bother getting up in the morning?) I’m making progress on my ‘Jolly Reindeer’ cross stitch. He’s such a sweet thing, and I can’t wait to stitch up his eyes, mouth, and nose. I just need that jolly retro smile of his.

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We hope you’re enjoying these last few weeks of autumn, before winter sets in. If you’re in the States, we wish you a warm and happy Thanksgiving!

‘Till next time!