Pattern: Easy Child’s Crocheted Ruffle Scarf

This is an easy scarf for the child in your life who loves all things ruffled! It was inspired by the “Mindless Mandala Scarf” from Trifles & Treasures; the biggest difference is that with my pattern you’re only working on one side of the starting chain, which gives a spiral effect.

This works up quickly. I used some Lion Brand Mandala in “Thunderbird” that I had left over after finishing Anselm’s afghan, and I love the effect of the long bands of colour. Between the shape and the stripes, this scarf made me think of turkey tail mushrooms the whole time I was making it.

Anyway, here’s the pattern!

Child’s Crocheted Ruffle Scarf

Abbreviations used:

  • ch = chain
  • sc = single crochet
  • hdc = half-double crochet
  • dc = double crochet
  • st = stitch

Materials: Any 4-weight (worsted) yarn with its suggested hook size; adjust as needed if you’d like a longer or wider scarf.

Foundation: Ch 150.

Row 1: Ch 1, turn, 1 hdc in each ch across

Row 2: Ch 1, turn, 2 hdc in each st across

Row 3: Ch 1, turn, 1 dc in each st across

Row 4: Ch 2, turn, [2 dc in first st, 1 dc in next st], continue across

Row 5: Ch 1, turn, 1 hdc in each st across

Row 6: Ch 1, turn, [2 hdc in first st, 1 hdc in next st], continue across

Row 7: Ch 2, turn, 1 dc in each st across

Row 8: Repeat row 7

Row 9: Ch 1, turn, 1 sc in each st across, fasten off

Happy crocheting!

Flat-worked crochet Christmas stocking

Last night I finished a project that has been the bane of my existence for probably about two months now. Behold, my new Christmas stocking, made to match the family set:

There are… so many things wrong with this project I’m not sure I even want to list them. I had to start the whole thing over when I was 85% finished because I realized that a) I had used too small a hook and would never be able to get the letters on, and b) I had forgotten to make the heel. That involved ripping everything out because I was low enough on white yarn that I wouldn’t be able to make a second stocking without cannibalizing the first. I had to do the top red muff section twice because the first time I was accidentally increasing on each round instead of staying true to size. When I was joining the two white sides together it ended up wrinkly because one of them was shorter — but only on one side. Don’t ask me how because I know very well that’s impossible. Because I was using frogged and re-balled yarn it was super kinky and I was constantly fighting splits. My letter spacing is all sorts of wonky and my ‘S’ is upside-down.

And you know what? I don’t even care. It’s FINISHED.

The big problem, I think, was just my own hubris: this is a pattern I created, and I’ve made it three times before. I relied far too much on my (faulty) memory of how it went, instead of digging out the actual pattern, with the above results. Ah, well… a lesson learned, I supposed.

Assuming that you’re making it correctly, this is actually a very easy pattern. The entire thing is worked flat and then joined, and only uses single crochet (with, optionally, some double crochet at the top just to make it go faster). I used a 4-weight yarn (good old Red Heart) and a G hook for this:

  1. Chain 31, turn. Single crochet across (30 stitches). Chain 1, turn.
  2. Repeat until you have 50 rows.
  3. On the turn, skip a stitch (to decrease) and then sc across. Ch 1, turn.
  4. On the return, skip the stitch right before you last one. Ch 1, turn.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have 11 rows in your decreasing section; this forms the heel. (On step 3 you will work 29 stitches across, on step 4 you will work 28 stitches, and so on.)
  6. Rotate your work 90 degrees. Single crochet 20 across. Ch 1, turn. Repeat 10 times.
  7. Decrease 2 stitches per row (one on each edge) to form the toe. Repeat six times or until your top row is 8 stitches across. Tie off, weave in end.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 to make second half of stocking.
  9. If you are going to be adding letters or any other embellishment, do those now. I used surface crochet to add my letters, but you could also do yarn embroidery, sew on felt, etc.
  10. Join the two halves together with a contrasting colour by single-crocheting around the edges.
  11. Make the cuff: single or double crochet around, joining your rows with a chain stitch and turning so that you’re alternating working the inside and the outside of the stocking (this prevents you from creating a spiral which will look uneven). When it’s long enough for your taste, form a chain of 20-30 loops to create a hanger. Join the bottom of your chain to the inside of your stocking near its beginning, tie off, and weave in ends.

And there you have it. I’ve not added dimensions because — to be perfectly forthright — I’ve made four of these and they’re all different sizes. A lot will depend on your hook size (I recommend a G but you may want to size up or down), yarn weight, tension, etc. If you’re not sure, make a swatch and see how you feel about it (ie: be cleverer than me!).

Anselm’s afghan (I)

This post marks the beginning of what will be a small series documenting a large project of mine: I have decided to make my son an afghan. He has a baby blanket which he loves but which is getting very small for him, and I want to make him something he can grow into. So I found some yarn I liked, and a plan was born:

It’s pretty simple: seven panels with three yarns. I picked Lion Brand Mandala because it’s very enjoyable to work with and I like the colorways they offer. This would have three panels of “Thunderbird” to frame it, which is sort of a darkish rainbow gradient, for some pops of colour. The other two, “Genie” and “Spirit”, are more muted: blues and greys and greens and whites.

Well, that was the plan. But since I’m more of a guesstimator than a measurer/counter I realised about halfway into my first panel that the proportions were all wrong: if I continued the way I was going, it would be strangely long and much too narrow according to its length. But I had already put in six or eight hours of work on the first panel, so I really didn’t want to tear it out and start over.

Enter plan two:

This is how I think it will work. I will still have the pops of colour on the ends and in the middle, but I will extend one of the other colourways around the first panel to make the whole thing wider. That centre band will end up thinner as a result but I think it will still look fine. Some of the panel work will be a challenge — I don’t want to sew anything so I will be joining all of the crochet together by fudging some sort of entrelac on the edges — but I think I can do it. I suppose we’ll all find out!

Anyway, here is the first panel, which I finished this afternoon. My friend Lisa (hi, Lisa) pointed out that it’s sometimes hard to tell how big my crochet projects are so I have included a banana for scale:

The edges are quite straight in person; it draped a little funny on the couch. But there it is. As you can see, it’s going to end up pretty large by the time it’s done. But that’s fine. After all, this is something that I hope he’ll keep for the rest of his life!

The technical deets, such as they are: moss stitch, size I hook, an unknown number of stitches across because who has time to count all that? Not me. Obviously. Which is why we’re on to plan two — stay tuned to see if it will work out or if a further revision will be needed.

Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Icing

We had a birthday in our family recently, and as is tradition, the birthday-haver gets to request any flavour combination of cake and icing, and then I do my best to make it. This time around: strawberry cake with strawberry icing. I looked at a lot of recipes online, and then came up with a hybrid version of my own which uses both strawberry jello and freeze-dried strawberries in the cake, and a strawberry cream cheese icing. The result is a moist cake with an intense strawberry flavour.

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist Vanilla Cake Mix (any white or yellow cake mix will do)
  • 1 box strawberry Jello
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (as per cake mix directions)
  • 3 eggs (as per cake mix directions)
  • 1 oz. freeze-dried strawberries, crushed to powder and reconstituted into a purée

Method:

1. Preheat oven according to package directions.

2. Mix together powdered cake mix and Jello powder until well combined. Add wet ingredients (as per package directions; the above is what mine called for but yours may vary) and beat well.

3. Gently whisk in reconstituted strawberry purée.

4. Bake according to package directions — this makes a pretty moist cake and so it may need a few more minutes. Cake is done when the top is springy and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

5. Cool in pan 10-15 minutes, then remove and finish cooling on baking rack. If you’re making this a day ahead, pop the cake into the refrigerator once it’s come down to room temperature.

Ingredients for the icing:

  • 4 oz. plain cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 oz freeze-dried strawberries, crushed to powder
  • 2.5 cups icing sugar

Method:

1. Using a hand mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter together on low speed.

2. Add the strawberry powder and blend in.

3. Add icing sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time, blending until it has a nice spreadable texture. You may want to use more sugar or less depending on how sweet you like your frosting.

4. Slap it on the cake and enjoy! This makes enough to frost two nine-inch round cakes with a joining layer in between.

Icy purple baby blanket

I did not expect to be posting another crochet project so soon after the last one, but this one whipped itself up incredibly quickly, taking maybe five hours all told.

These were two more yarns from the church stash: the purple is Baby Bee Hushabye Solid in the colourway “sugarplum” and the blue-white is Loops & Threads Snuggly Wuggly in the colourway “baby denim marl”. I wasn’t crazy about either of these yarns on their own, but I had a hunch that they would look good together. The result is a nice mixture that’s a little icy and not overly feminine, with some extra visual interest from the random yarn pooling throughout.

The blanket was worked in moss stitch (what else?) using both yarns at once on an N (9mm) hook. That’s what made it work up so quickly: both yarns are light-weight but using them together made it more like a bulky yarn, and combined with the large hook size that gave me a lot of bang for my buck in terms of row height. I used about 2/3 of a skein of the denim marl, and somewhere between 1-1/3 and 1-1/2 skeins of the sugarplum. They were fairly uneventful to work with, except for a few knots in the second sugarplum skein. Well, sometimes there’s no avoiding that!

This was a fun one to make, not least because it came together so quickly. I may experiment more with using multiple yarns on the same hook — as it turns out, it’s an effect I rather like.

Colour-panel baby blanket

Another month, another crochet item, this time back to a baby blanket. I had no plan when I started this, but I chose two yarns from the stash at church that I thought would look well together, and off I went. Not without a false start; I was going to do alternating stripes but ended up tearing it all out again. But I am pleased with the result on the second go-round:

The two yarns I used were Bernat Soft Bouclé in colour 26949 — at least, that’s all it says on the label. As it turns out, the yarn has been discontinued, but after some searching I found it on Ravelry; the colourway is called “Westport” and is a nice blend of blue and brown. The border yarn is Vanna’s Choice Baby in the colour Lamb.

I worked the whole project using a J (6 mm) hook, but used a few different stitches. The centre blue-brown panel is done in my beloved moss stitch. It looks like a pretty tight weave (especially combined with the nubbiness of the bouclé yarn) but because moss stitch is always working in gaps in the row below, it’s deceptively light and drapey. For the border, I started a row of single crochet to anchor it, and then two rows of triple stitch to give it some width. This was important because my centre panel ended up a bit smaller than I had envisioned, and I couldn’t get any more yarn because of its discontinuation. I then finished the border with a wave pattern, following this tutorial from Bella Coco:

My border didn’t end up as neat as hers and I definitely fudged the corners (you can see in the first picture that they curl up because I didn’t add enough extra stitches) but I won’t blame the tutorial for that. I was also finishing up during a long car ride, so I couldn’t have gone back to check, anyway.

All in all, though, I’m pretty happy with how this one turned out. It’ll go in the pile and await a suitable baby boy to be born! And in the mean time, I’ve picked out the yarn for my next project…

A Fall Shawl

Another month, another project for the prayer shawl ministry — this time a shawl (since we somewhat over supplied ourselves with baby blankets) in some pretty fall colours:

It felt like I was making this one forever, probably because I was putting it down for long swaths of time in between bursts of crocheting. It’s harder to want to have a project like this on my lap now that the weather is heating up!

For this shawl, I just did a very simple double crochet all the way across. The yarn was two skeins of Lion Brand Homespun and I think the colourway is Wildfire (I forgot to keep a wrapper… as usual). I used an N (9mm) hook which kept it nice and airy and helped it to work up relatively quickly.

I don’t think I would work with Homespun again. I like the way that it looks when it’s finished but it’s a pain to work with as it splits very easily and frays at the ends. Definitely not my favourite.

I do love the self-striping action, however. This picture (under fluorescent light) isn’t the greatest in terms of showing the actual colours — it’s darker, as you can see in the first picture which was taken beside a window — but it does show the stripes. I’ll award a point to Homespun on that account! (Probably still not enough points to use it again, though.)

It’s aliiiiiiiiive!

… the yogurt, I mean. I made yogurt. This is exciting to me.

A while ago I found a second-hand breadmaker for sale on Nextdoor, and I’ve been making all of the bread we eat. I bake 2-3 loaves every week, depending a bit on the size they come out and who’s home for which meals. But we’ve stopped buying bread at the store entirely, and even accounting for the cost of ingredients this change will save us about $175/year. It’s not break-the-bank money, but it’s nothing to be sneezed at, either! Little changes like this add up, after all. But it got me wondering: what else could I be making for cheaper than I can buy?

Enter this recipe from The Daring Gourmet for homemade yogurt. My mother made yogurt for a time when I was a teenager, but her method involved leaving the milk and starter in the oven overnight, to be kept warm by the pilot light. Since moving out I’ve always lived in apartments with electric ovens, and so making yogurt never even crossed my mind. But this recipe uses something I do have: a slow cooker.

As it turns out, making yogurt is pretty darn easy. You simply fill your crockpot with milk (mine holds about 3/4 of a gallon) and heat it up to 180 degrees F. Using milk straight from the fridge, that took about three hours for me. Then you turn it off and let it cool down to 110 degrees — that took another two, two and a half hours. At this point you should also get your starter yogurt out of the fridge to come up to room temperature.

When everything’s sitting nicely at 110, you take a little of the hot milk and add it to your starter, just to temper it before everything goes back into the slow cooker. Stir the starter in very gently, then put the lid back on and wrap it all up for a cozy night in a bath towel:

That sign was for me as much as anyone else. I couldn’t wait to see how/if it would turn out!

In the morning, I unwrapped the towel, lifted the lid, and voila: yogurt. So  easy! So cheap! So yummy! We ate some of it straightaway for breakfast, and then I set the rest to strain through cheesecloth for a few hours to thicken it up a bit.

And here’s the result: somewhat more than a litre of yogurt (besides what we already ate), 18 oz or so of whey (which I can use instead of water in the bread I make for an extra protein punch), and a small container set aside to act as starter for the next batch. Perfect. And the best part is that assuming I make this once a week, we’ll be saving about $200/year just on our yogurt costs. If it lasts us more than a week we’ll be saving even more. Like I said: the little things add up.

Happy yogurt!

Recipe: Banana Muffins

Banana muffins

We like banana muffins in this house (I meant to take a picture of the whole pile, but we started eating them instead!). This recipe makes a dense, not-too-sweet muffin that’s full of banana flavour. Optional add-ins are cinnamon or chocolate chips.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mash bananas in a mixing bowl. Add butter; stir until combined. Add sugar, egg, and vanilla and mix well.

Sprinkle baking soda and salt over batter and mix in. Add the flour and stir until combined.

Pour into greased muffin tins — this recipe usually nets me about 16 muffins.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until done.