Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#2 - Learning to Crochet and Crochet-Along Project

For months I've looked at the pictures of all kinds of adorable projects a few friends of mine have crocheted.  I learned how to do the basic chain stitch about a year ago when my step-mom taught me so I could make fun fur flip-flops for my daughter and her friends.  I decided that it's time to quit saying I'm going to learn and just do it.

Since I don't have any friends nearby who crochet, I took to the internet and of course, Pinterest was my first stop.  Through my Pinterest friends, I found this tutorial through Maybe Matilda.  Rachel did a "Crochet Along" a few months back that I am now prepared to work my way through.  For the first step, she taught the chain stitch, which I refreshed myself on, the single crochet, and how to turn your work.

I have some leftover yarn from a past project and my crochet hook from doing the flip-flops so I pulled those out to practice.  I did these basic steps over and over again, just pulling out my work and starting over from time to time.  With just the basic single crochet stitch, I got bored quickly.  The next step was to learn the half double crochet and double crochet, as well as increasing and decreasing.  The double crochet is the only one of these I've really played with.  Here's one of the squares I've practiced making:

I haven't made anything to keep yet... I asked Santa for some new yarn in my stocking so I can really get down to work and start learning more seriously.  And today I plan to take on the half double crochet so I can move one step farther with the learning process.  YAY!

UPDATED (12/01/11)
I decided to go through and do some more practice for each of the basic stitches.  I realized that I had been making things much harder on myself than necessary.  I hadn't paid attention to the portion where she explains that when working the various stitches, you go through both the front and back loop of the chain below once you get past the foundation.

I did a big chunk of stitches, working my way through Single Crochet, Half Double Crochet, and Double Crochet.  This is definitely getting easier!  Here's how my practice turned out:

Now that I've gotten more comfortable with the basics, I decided it was time to try the Crochet-Along project - a cowl.  The pattern was provided by Lion Yarn and can be found here.  I picked up my yarn at Joann's, as well as a bigger needle.  The pattern calls for Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Yarn and a size N-13 hook.  I picked up the Chunky Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in Charcoal.  Unfortunately, Joann's didn't seem to have the Lion Brand hooks so I bought a different brand and got size N-15.  It is slightly larger, but has worked well with the Chunky yarn.  

I came home, got everything out, and sat down to go to work.  

I followed along with Rachel's instructions for the first two rows and after 4 hours, was very proud of myself for having about 6 inches done.  I leaned back and looked at my work, realizing something wasn't right.  I pulled my work back out and tried again, only to end up with the same result.  UGH!  I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong.  I decided to call it a night since it was getting late.  

I woke up yesterday morning determined to solve my problem.  I pulled Rachel's tutorial back up and immediately spotted my problem.  I hadn't realized  that "in each ch-2 sp across" meant the spaces I created by making the V-stitch in the chain below.  I had just been re-creating the V-stitch in every 2 chains.  WOW! That was a lot of wasted time.  

Now, less than 24 hours later, I have completed 36" and am ready to stitch the ends together.  (The pattern recommends 52", but I think that with the thickness of the yarn, 36" is plenty for me!)  Since I forgot to buy a needle with a wide eye, I decided to double crochet the ends together.

I absolutely love how the finished project turned out!  I can't wait to wear it out.  I may have to find some sparkly yarn and make one to wear to Christmas parties.  :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

#1 - How to Take Great Christmas Tree Photos

I've come across several informative blogs over the last few months on how to get those gorgeous photos of your Christmas tree.  You know the ones, where it looks like your tree is glowing with all of the lights.

The first Pinterest link I found took me to this post on UnskinnyBoppy.  Beth gives some great tips on how to get the beautiful Christmas tree photos we all dream of.  Here are the instructions she gives:
- Turn the ISO up as high as it will go (3200 for her camera).
- Find a way to stabalize your camera, using either a tripod or a piece of furniture that you can rest your camera on.  It must stay 100% still in order to get a clear picture.
- Focus your photo on the tree, then crank the shutter speed down to around 1/30.
- Take your photo.

The photo she got was absolutely beautiful (you can view it on her blog).  Here was the photo I ended up with:

I had my ISO set at 3200, my shutter speed at 1/25, and my aperture at F3.5.  I also opted to make sure that all other lighting in the room was turned off.  And one tip I highly recommend to ensure that your camera doesn't move while snapping the photo - utilize your in-camera timer.  Even if it's only a 2-second delay, it can make a difference in the little shake that you make get by pushing the shutter release yourself.

Here is another photo I took later that evening as it got darker.  I also changed the settings up just slightly to see what kind of effect it would have...

On this one, I still left my ISO and aperture the same, but I changed my shutter speed to 1/40.  I think I like the impact of the first shot better.  Do you have any tips for taking great Christmas tree photos?  Share them here!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Welcome to my Pinterest Challenge

I came across a 52 week challenge while I was surfing around on Pinterest last night.  It sounded like a fun idea since I'm always looking for things to make there but don't always do them.  I figured that if I joined the challenge, it would be the perfect way to force myself to make time to try out the things I "pin".

For those of you who don't know what Pinterest is, it's a website that allows you to set up your own folders (just like with email) called boards.  Unlike with email, you can add things to these boards from all over the internet.  You also get to do it with pictures rather than just the Subject line from the email.  You can create your own boards and search others' boards for everything imaginable.  If you come across something you want to remember, you can "Repin" it to one of your folders.  In addition, if you come across something while searching the internet and you want to remember it, you just click the "Pin It" link from your internet browser (downloadable when you join Pinterest) and choose which of your Pinterest boards you want to add it to.

One recommendation I do have is that before you repin something, click on it first to ensure that it goes to a website that actually has the information you will need when it comes time to utilize your Pin.  Sometimes people will post only the picture or a link to a link to a link and it takes forever to find what you're actually looking for.  That can be discouraging when  you have a project you want to do and no way to figure out how to do it.

Later on, whenever you want to go back and make that great recipe, craft, or whatever else, you just go to that specific board, look for the photo, and click on it to go to the link for instructions.

Through this blog, I will be posting photos of the things I have found on Pinterest and actually followed through in making.  Some posts will have step-by-step projects, some will inPublish Postclude the instructions I followed, and some may only include the end result.  Join me here as I document my progress in completing my Pinterest projects.

My plan is to start the 52 Week Challenge the first week of January, but seeing as how I've already done several things I've found on Pinterest, I am going to try to start blogging about some of them here beforehand. Who knows, maybe a goal that is one Pinterest project a week will become more.

If you're a Pinterest fan and want to join the challenge, you can follow this link: