The Right Tools

Standard

Any person who works with their hands knows that proper tools are essential.  Whether you are an artist, carpenter, mechanic, crafter, chef, surgeon – this list could go on forever – using tools that are comfortable for you and that fit the job are essential.

When I first started to crochet, I purchased inexpensive plastic hooks. These worked okay, although I did manage to break a few.  Hubby, being ever so helpful and economic attempted to mend these, needless to so that did not work out very well.  On to slightly more expensive aluminum hooks.

The metal hooks worked out well, although my hand would get tired after crocheting for an extended period of time.  It was while using these aluminum hooks that I discovered my preference for a tapered hook.  Below is an image from Planet June, that illustrates the differences between an in-line hook, such as Bates, and a tapered style.

hook_types

After trying plastic and metal, I gave wood and bamboo hooks a try. I found these hooks beautiful and they felt very comfortable in my hand.  A downside to these hooks is that not all fibers were compatible with this hook material.  Some yarns would “hang-up” on the hook, thus interrupting the rhythm of stitching.  Another negative was that my cats loved to chew on them!  A chewed hook can really cause your yarn to snag.  Ha-ha!

I continued to explore other options and read comments from other hookers about the merits of different hook brands.  Two brands that frequently popped up in the discussions were the Addi Swing and Clover Amour.  These are just two styles that have a soft handle.

 

While the Addi Swing is beautiful and ergonomically designed, it was a bit pricey and outside of my budget.  So, ventured into my local craft shop and I purchased two Clover Amour hooks in the sizes H & I.

What a difference the soft handles made!  I found that I could crochet all day long – well almost.  Another plus for me was that the Amour hook had a the tapered head which I favored.  After a few weeks, and of course researching the best price, I took the plunge and purchased a set of the Amour hooks.

However, my hook adventure does not end here.  One set of hooks is never enough for any serious hooker who tends to keep hooks used with works in progress (WIPs).  For me that meant I was always searching for the hook I needed to start a new (short term) project while working on longer projects.  And of course since I love participating in Crochet Alongs (CALs) I always have multiple extended projects in the works.  One of the most recent being the Cosmic CAL by the amazing designer Helen Shrimpton of Crystal and Crochet. But that is another post!

Cosmic CAL

Cosmic CAL – Parts 1 – 4

Back to crochet hooks.  It was my need for a size 7 or 4.5mm hook that led to my initial discovery of Athena’s Elements.  This is not a standard U.S. size and is not always easy to find in a local shop.  Thank goodness for on-line shopping. 🙂  Since I need multiple hooks in the same sizes, I am always looking for a good product at a fair price, and I found what I needed at a popular on-line shopping resource.

Recently, I was again getting frustrated, because the hooks I needed for a project were not available.  I have hook markers, but find that there can be a slight variation in hooks between different manufacturers, so I prefer to keep my hook with the project.  Which means that I need – – you got it – – multiple hooks.  Making the decision that I was going to purchase another set of hooks, the research commenced.  I already had an idea of what I wanted, but wanted to make sure I was getting the best price.

Athena Hooks 1

The hook set offered by Athena’s Elements fit my needs perfectly.  The set had 12 hooks in US sizes B – L ( 2.25mm – 8.00mm), the head was tapered, had a long shaft and a soft handle.  As a plus, you never have to guess about the size of the hook because they are marked with the U.S. alpha and numeric size, plus the metric size.  What more could this or any crocheter want!?!  I placed my order on Amazon on May 29, 2018 and they package was delivered this morning, May 31, 2018.  My happiness with these hooks prompted this rather lengthy post!  Best of all, these hooks are currently on sale at Amazon.

‘Til next time, happy crafting – –

Advertisements

Mandala from Millan

Standard

I love mandalas!  Love the colors. Love the designs.

There is a spiritual aspect to mandalas that draws me to them. Perhaps it is the repeating design in a never ending circle. Or, the way one’s eye is drawn from the center outward to the edges and beyond. They are labyrinths of yarn that encourage visual meditation.

I have collected more mandala patterns than I could possibly ever make and must have a dozen books of designs and crochet instructions to make mandalas of all sizes. Even when planning a new project, I am often drawn to patterns begin with a circle.  Today,  I again saw this pattern, and being very happy to see it now in English, I thought to share it here.  No doubt this will be on my hook very soon.

Enjoy and Happy Crafting –

Winter Mandala

Photo from Crochet Millan

via Winter Mandala / English Pattern

Golden Squares Shawl

Standard

This shawl actually started as a project re-work for the shawl ministry of which I am a part.  I had the golden hued yarn and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to create, only that I wanted to do a crochet shawl using multiples of three.  WIN_20160208_23_42_16_ProThen I saw a picture of a scarf that had square openings and was inspired to incorporate something similar into a prayer shawl.

I started with a row of foundation single crochet.  Since discovering and learning this method about a year ago, I try to utilize it in all my crochet projects instead of using a beginning chain. The squares are made with triple crochet and chains with rows of half-double crochet. As I worked with the yarn and the square pattern, the design of the shawl began to emerge.  I was pleased with the results, so I decided to write up the pattern and make it available to others.

This is a great shawl to make for a shawl ministry (as I did), to create as a special gift for Mother’s Day, or even make to pamper yourself.

I hope you let me know if you decide to try this pattern.

Golden Squares Shawl by Mary Stanton

 

World Cancer Day

Standard

Today, February 4th is World Cancer Day.  I imagine that most people have been touched by cancer in one way or another. They may have had cancer themselves, or been through this life-changing event with a loved one. Perhaps you know a neighbor, church member, or student who has had cancer.  Thankfully, with today’s advances in medicine the prognosis for cancer patients is improving. However, it all depends on catching the cancer early.

In January 2009, my father was diagnosed with late-stage throat cancer. he had ignored the signs and would not see a doctor until the cancer was quite advanced.  By mid-February we said our final goodbyes at his memorial service.  Later that same year, I too was diagnosed with cancer, fortunately my outcome was different.  I knew something was wrong, but not what and went through test after test, all with negative results until an ultra-sound finally uncovered what was wrong; I had bilateral ovarian cancer.

Bald

With my mom, in 2010 after chemo-therapy. We are both wearing teal for ovarian cancer.

Today, I consider myself one of the lucky ones in that my cancer was discovered at stage 2, which is still an early stage.  Only 20% of all women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at an early state.  Yet, an early diagnosis means a world of difference and an amazing 94% 5-year survival rate.  Unfortunately, there are no tests for early detection. Instead, it is important to know the symptoms and your body.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Vaginal bleeding or discharge from your vagina that is not normal for you.
  • Pain in the pelvic or abdominal area (the area below your stomach and between your hip bones).
  • Back pain.
  • Bloating.
  • Feeling full quickly while eating.
  • A change in your bathroom habits, such as having to pass urine very badly or very often, constipation, or diarrhea.

If you experience one or a combination of these symptoms, and they persist for several weeks then you should see your doctor for an evaluation.  Being aware may save your life or the life of another woman.

For more information on ovarian cancer, please visit the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) or the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA).  You may also click on the link below to open a PDF file with information provided by NOCC.

http—ovarian.org-docs-NOCC14.08_PDF

It’s National Chocolate Cake Day

Standard

A Day Honoring a Favorite Dessert!

I can never quite decide which I love more a luscious deep-dish apple pie fragrant with cinnamon, or a rich, melt-in-your-mouth slice of dark chocolate cake.  It never entered my imagination that there would be a special day for Chocolate Cake, until a good friend sent me an e-mail with a recipe for a microwave cooked Chocolate Cake in a Mug in honor of today.

WIN_20160127_14_04_47_Pro

Watching my cake cook!

Of course I had to try the recipe, which is quite simple. The result is a somewhat spongy cake, with a pancake like under-taste. Not bad for a super quick cake to satisfy an craving for chocolate cake.   I am wondering how the recipe might fair if a rising agent were added, or perhaps self-rising flour were used, which I do not keep on hand as a staple.

For a microwave baked product, it is good and should be a hit with younger kids especially if they are watching through the microwave window when the cake starts to rise like a souffle!  It is puffs up quickly – almost like magic.  Make sure you use a LARGE mug; you only want the batter to fill about halfway up you cup.

My mug is now empty, as I was enjoying my cake as I was typing this review.  Hmmm, I haven’t had lunch today so maybe a second helping is in order.

Chocolate Cake in a Mug Recipe

WIN_20160127_14_04_18_Pro

Mixed and Ready to Microwave!

Combine: 4 T flour, 4 T sugar, 1 T cocoa

Add to dry ingredients: 1 egg, 3 T milk, 3 T oil

Mix well. Bake 3 minutes in microwave. Cool and enjoy!

Optional Ingredients: 1 T of chocolate chips, or chopped nuts, or coconut

Let me know if you try this recipe and what changes you make!

Happy Microwave Baking!

 

 

 

 

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Standard
Bald

At the beach in N.C. with my mom shortly after finishing chemo

This year I celebrated 5 years of being cancer free after my diagnosis, surgery, and chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. Ever since my diagnosis and while going through treatment I did what I could to spread the word about ovarian cancer, its signs and symptoms. You see, while I had my annual PAP test and breast exam (oh, the joys of mammograms) I knew nothing about the early signs of ovarian cancer. In fact, I knew nothing about the disease.

Before my cancer was found I knew something was wrong, but not what.  For months, and months, and months I went to doctor after doctor and had test after test. I was checked for celiac disease, had my gall bladder tested, had blood work, I even had an abdominal ultra-sound (not pelvic), but all of the tests and exams were negative.

I was ready to give up and just live with my symptoms, but my husband pushed and pushed, so I kept going to doctors. It was only because of an abnormal PAP that my cancer was finally found by means of a trans-vaginal ultrasound. Please, please, please remember that a PAP test does NOT detect ovarian cancer.

So what are the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer?

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or Abdominal Pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urgency or frequency of urination
  • Changes in bowel movements

If you have one or more of these symptoms on a persistent basis, please, please, please go see your doctor.

TakeAction-Not-Chances

I was lucky, my cancer had not spread beyond my two ovaries and one Fallopian tube and I have survived. Most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are not so lucky; 70% of my teal sisters do NOT survive five years.

On Sunday, September 20th I will again walk in the Central Maryland Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Run/Walk in order to raise earlier awareness about this deadliest of gynecological cancer and to support more research.  Please consider lending your support to help educate others and save the life of a mother, daughter, grandmother, sister or niece.

2014 NOCC Walk Run Event

2014 NOCC Walk Run Event

Team Teal’s Team Page for the NOCC Walk/Run

In order to help raise awareness and help fund further research, I am donating 50% of all proceeds, through October 31, from my ETSY shop to NOCC. In addition, you can get free first class shipping to anywhere in the United States. Just enter the code TealPower at check-out.