Handcrafting Inspired by the Ocean Breeze!

Handcrafting Inspired by the Ocean Breeze!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

A stocked up yarnsmith!

My new crochet hooks arrived this week, all the way from Britain! How exciting!!!

KnitPro Waves ergonomic crochet hooks. The full 19 hook set!

I now feel an accomplished crocheter, with all these amazing tools! I've already used the 10mm hook for my latest creation: an amazing scarlet scarf, made in new Australian wool and alpaca! Scrumptious piece! And amazing hooks! I can't wait to use them all!

With these and all the other tools I showed you in one of my recent posts, I am all geared up! And the same way there are blacksmiths and goldsmiths, I propose knitters and crocheters shall be known as yarnsmiths! eheh What do you reckon?

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Perfect Crochet Hook

This is it! I have finally found it, the love of a lifetime, the perfect crochet hook!

Waves crochet hook by KnitPro

If you are a regular follower of my blog, you know I have been on a quest to find the perfect crochet hook. In my previous post, I told you I had found the new Waves crochet hooks by KnitPro. It seemed to have a lot of potential and now that I have tried it, I must say it is nothing less than spectacular! Just as I expected, the metal shank is amazing, the yarn slides beautifully, just like with the Addi swing, but the handle feels much more ergonomic and it's smooth and so much lighter!
Today I weighed my crochet hooks, all size 4 mm and the results speak for themselves:
Pony - 5g
Bamboo - 2g
KnitPro Symfonie - 3g
Addi Swing - 19g
KnitPro Waves - 8g

For a crochet hook with an ergonomic handle, 8g is pretty good! It is less than half of the Addi. I have now ordered the full set: 19 crochet hooks, from size 2 mm to 12 mm. That's another tick on my wish list and I am now set for life with crochet hooks! I'm so excited just thinking of all the amazing things I will make with them!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Stocking up for Winter - Part 2: Tools

When I started this blog, I intended to write a new post at least every week. However, sometimes my life as a scientist gets in the way of my life as a knitter; I have pretty busy week days and on the weekends I just want to relax and enjoy life.

But when I get feedback from people, even if it's just a simple message saying that they like my work or read my blog, it reminds me of why I started this blog in the first place and gives me motivation and inspiration for another post. I don't think people realize how much difference they can make in a crafter's life. Just a simple hello when I open my email, a quick message on ravelry or a "like" or comment on my facebook page is enough to make my day. You, dear reader, you matter to me, you are important in my life. And I thank you for being here today, bothering to read these words.

Anyway, mushiness aside! Today I am here to tell you about crafting tools. Tools can make all the difference. A quality tool will contribute for a quality work and make you enjoy it more while you're at it. So, if you're a regular knitter or crocheter, do not be afraid of investing in a better more expensive tool. It will last you longer and make your hobby more enjoyable.

If you've been following my blog, you already know that I am a big fan of KnitPro. You got to love a brand that puts such a big effort in making good knitting/crocheting tools! One of my biggest investments was buying their birch wood interchangeable knitting needle set and it was worth it! The set is so versatile, with all the different knitting needle sizes and cables, that I am set for life! Then I discovered their cubic double pointed needles. I love knitting with double pointed needles (dnps). The first time I saw it was in a book that I bought on amazon to make knitted dolls. My first thoughts were "I am never going to be able to do this!". But I loved the dolls so much that I set my mind to learn it - I love a good challenge! From then on, I use my dpns whenever I can! I find that it's easier to knit with dpns than circular needles and it looks very daunting to other people, so it makes me look like an expert (ahah!). Recently, after reading a great review on the cubic dpns by KnitPro, I just had to try them. And it is everything good they say! They are amazing to work with, they stack on each other making it easier to work on those starting rows without twisting them, the needles don't fall off the stitches (which happened to me a lot in the beginning) and it's also easier to store your work when you pause. And of course, as KnitPro has accustomed us, they are light and the yarn slides beautifully! Unfortunately, KnitPro has not made a set for these needles, so I've been making my own set - stocking up! - with different sizes of needles and different lengths.

In one of my recent posts, I told you about my quest to find the perfect crochet hook. I've been sticking with my good old Pony hooks but I am still hopeful! Yesterday I just found a very promising crochet hook, by KnitPro of course! I discovered their new Waves crochet hooks - aluminium hooks with a soft grip. I am hoping the yarn slides easily on the metal like on the Addi Swing hooks, but the handle is lighter and feels more comfortable. I have ordered one of these hooks to try it out and if they're good, I'll definitely buy the whole kit! I am really excited about these hooks and I will let you know how it turned out! (Disclaimer: I am not in any way sponsored by KnitPro, I am just a user and a big fan and believe their effort in quality should be given credit for).

My crafting tools

You will notice that besides the crochet hooks and the knitting needles I have included in my tools list a wooden spoon. That's because to me crafting also happens in the kitchen - Cooking is the most noble of all Arts! I know nowadays all the food safety standards require non-wooden spoons, but it's my party and I'll use them if I want to! In what's related to cooking, I still prefer the good old traditional way and I am very attached to my wooden spoons.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Stocking up for Winter: Yarn!

Winter has officially started here in my part of the world, both in the calendar and in the feel. Days are much shorter, colder and rainy weekends are frequent. So I've been stocking up in advance for those weekends that are just perfect to stay at home wrapped up in a warm cosy blankie, with a nice hot cuppa' and a fun knitting or crochet project.

I have yarn, of course. In fact, I have lots of yarn and I always feel it is not enough. I cannot resist a gorgeous luxury yarn, with alpaca, angora or silk. I usually get my alpaca and angora yarns from Ice Yarns. Although shipping expenses tend to be high, their yarn is reasonably priced and in the end you pay less than if you bought them in a shop because, for some reason, yarn is super expensive here in Australia. Their yarns are nice and soft and the colours are so amazing that it's difficult to choose!!! Sometimes I go crazy (well... actually more often than I would like to admit!) and just get one each colour. I like the self-striping yarns particularly.

As for silk, I recently bought the most amazing hand dyed mulberry silk yarn from Ann Collins. It is variegated in beautiful sunset tones of red and orange. In fact, it is so amazing that I feel I cannot find that just perfect pattern to use it. The yarn, however, comes with instructions to make two nice lace knitted scarves. Maybe I'll give them a go and take the chance to improve my knitting skills.

Hand dyed Mulberry Silk yarn
by Ann Collins

I am also a big fan of a nice sheep wool. I usually prefer merino wool as it's usually softer and more shiny. I am completely and uttermost in love with Malabrigo Sock but haven't been able to find it in any stores. And what about buying beautiful yarn and helping a kitty cat? That's what Ancient Arts and the Meow Foundation have done, and I must say in a most successful way. I wish I could buy one of each! Can you imagine having a nice shawl with the colours of your favourite kitty? Or all of your favourite kitties!!! I love cats so much I don't think I can decide on only one...

Well that was my yarn indulgence for this Winter. I've also been stocking up on kitting tools, but I'll leave that for another post (hopefully to be written soon!).

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Tools of the Trade - Part 2: Crochet Hooks

There's nothing like staying home with a nice hot cup of tea on those cold and cloudy Autumn days, just like today! And to make it perfect, add a nice ball of wool and a crochet hook and you're set for the day! That's exactly what I'll be writing you about today: crochet hooks.

First of all, lets have a look at the crochet hook anatomy.

Anatomy of a crochet hook by Nancy Nehring @ Lace Buttons

There are lots of crochet hooks in the market. Different sizes, different shapes, different materials - metal, plastic, wood, coated, uncoated... As a crocheter with almost a decade of experience, I've tried my share of crochet hooks and decided to make a review of what I've learned over the years (and money spent).

I first learned to filet crochet using cotton thread and the traditional silvered metal hook. These were probably the only hooks that our great grannies ever knew and I still think they are the best to crochet with thread, as long as they are good quality stainless steel. If you have sweaty palms like I do, trust me, you do not want a crochet hook that easily rusts.

After I gained confidence with filet crochet, I ventured into the wonderful world of crochet with yarn and my life was never the same! I was amazed with the variety of things I could do and all the luxurious yarns I could work with (my savings were never the same either...). For this, I used steel hooks coated with plastic, the best two brands I tried being Pony and Prym. But these hooks, although being good, they look so dull... All crocheters love colour, don't these look much more appealing? Yes they do! Bright and color coded, a treat for your eyes. But the truth is, they are not a treat to work with. Because they are made of aluminium, they are cheap and light (and that's good), but you will find bits of unfinished aluminium where your yarn will most certainly be stuck. So annoying! Don't judge a hook by it's color!

After the brightly colored aluminium hooks disappointment, I decided to stick with my Pony hooks until recently I was finally ready to try something new again. My new adventure started with a bamboo hook when I was flying over to Australia. I thought that being wood it would a) not be seen by the X-Rays in the airports and/or b) if it was seen on the X-Rays, it looks much less threatening than a steel hook. I was also pleasantly surprised when using it: it's much lighter than the steel hooks and the yarn glides nicely. But still there is something I cannot explain that does not satisfy me.

In my quest to find the perfect crochet hook, and since I am an unconditional fan of Knit Pro birch wood knitting needles, I decided to try their crochet hooks. I was not impressed. The hook is really light, as you would expect from a wooden hook, the yarn slides beautifully, just like only Knit Pro Symfonie has accustomed us, the head is nice and just enough pointy to go through the stitches smoothly, but the lip is too low, making the thread guide too deep and gasping the yarn constantly.

Going back to colorful crochet hooks, what to say about Addi Swing Hooks! They came into the market claiming to be ergonomic turbo hooks. It is true that the yarn just glides away smoothly but the handle is all but ergonomic. It's a very very heavy crochet hook and it's probably ergonomic only for knife gripping crocheters. Being a pencil gripper, my hand feels tired and cramping after just a few stitches. It feels like I'm doing something wrong, that I am using it the wrong way. Big no-no to Addi Swing hooks.

Also on the ergonomic range, and because I am not getting any younger, I tried briefly the Clover Soft Touch Crochet Hook. It's a light hook (nothing compared to Addi's) but the plastic handle again feels very little ergonomic. It kind of stands in the way and hurts the side of my middle finger the way I grab it. This might be more of a user problem than a tool problem, it might be worth to give it another try.

So all in all, after all these attempts to find the perfect crochet hook, I must confess: there is nothing like my good old Pony crochet hook!