Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sock Yarn Market Bag

I have a lot of yarn in my stash, but a lot of it was not purchased with a lot of thought.  What do I mean?  I mean that in my early knitting days, I picked up single skeins of fun yarns without any idea what I wanted to use them for.  This means that I have a lot of single skeins that are only useful for small projects.  Whenever I am tempted to do a larger project I have to go buy more yarn.  This is a cycle that leads to my stash growing and not using up some of my older yarns.  (I still can't just part with them!)

I have three skeins of Patons Kroy Socks FXin my stash.  I think I bought them back in 2008, back before ChemKnits even existed!  The colors are stunning, but since I only have one ball of each I don't have enough to make a pair of socks.  What should I use them for?  I started searching for a simple, mindless crochet project but I didn't want to make another baby hat for my stash.  Then it hit me... a market bag!  If the first one goes well then this would be the perfect gift to give people this Christmas PLUS being stashbusting.  Sock yarn (wool/nylon blend) might not be as ideal as cotton, but it is still going to be super strong.  Let's see how big of a bag I can make out of a single skein of yarn.

With a ball of Kroy Sock FX in "clover colors" (45 g, ~150 yards) and a size E (3.5 mm) crochet hook I downloaded the free Crochet Grocery Bag pattern and started hooking.  (You will have to check out to download the pattern, but no payment is due since the cost is $0.00)

The pattern calls for a DK weight yarn, which is thicker than the fingering weight sock yarn I've selected.  I'm using a slightly smaller hook, but I think that this still should be able to make a decent sized grocery bag.  If not, maybe it will become a toy grocery bag for my son's play kitchen.

Since I want the bag to be strong, I started with a Ch4 ring (as written in the pattern) rather than the magic circle that I usually use to start in the round crochet projects.  I didn't join at the end of the round because the pattern didn't say to do that.  Sometimes for simple projects I can follow along on the computer, but for this project I recommend printing out a copy so you can mark it as you finish certain rows.

This crochet pattern is very forgiving.  I found that sometimes I would make a Ch4 loop instead of a ch5 because I was counting the SC as one of the parts of the chain.  I didn't go back to fix the errors but tried to make an effort to always do a 1 AND 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 count.

This bag stayed flat for a long time.  I'm not expecting it to be bag shaped until the decreases at the end start.  Right before the decrease rounds, the bag is just starting to curl up.  Without any stretching, it is 14" in diameter (flat).  It can be stretched to 16" deep when folded in half like a bag.  18 g of yarn remain at this point.  16 g remain after one extra round.  A second extra round might be cutting it close yardage wise, but I think I'm going to give it a shot.

The first handle went on without a hitch, but I hit a snag (not literally) when trying to do the second handle.  I kept twisting the foundation chain, I messed up the spacing... finally I got the second handle on!

Cute bag right? but I'm concerned that she might be a little small.  Unstretched this bag measures about 12" long (including handles) x 12" wide.

It doesn't look like it would hold much, but look at all of the space with just a bunch of bananas.

Next I tried to hold 6 cans/jars of food or even a gallon of milk!  The bag easily stretches to be the size of a plastic grocery bag, but it has the added benefit of being much cuter.

5 g remain at the end of this project.  I could have knit 2 more rows before starting to decrease.  However I'm not sure how useful this extra length will be.  I suppose it will be less deep if you fit more items in it, the stretch could happen width-wise just as easily as length if you had something wide that fit in the bag.

There is no question that this could be useful as a market bag.  I'm not sure if you would want to use it for really heavy stuff, but it could be a useful holiday gift.  Maybe I'll end up making some more before the year is over!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Search for iPod Cozy Crochet Patterns

Crochet iPod cozy patterns allow you to create a custom iPod cover that is just to your liking. This post features dozens of these free iPod crochet patterns. These covers will protect your iPods, but are also very stylish. These cozies make great gifts for friends and family, customize the crochet iPod cover in the colors of their university or favorite sports team.

When the platform Squidoo existed, ChemKnits did multiple focused free knitting and crochet pattern searches.  These "lenses" were migrated to Hubpages at the end of 2014, but the Hubpages platform does not like Hubs that contain multiple links, especially if these links go to the same site (such as Ravelry.)  I am reposting the search here on ChemKnits.  I did all of the searching to find this list myself, and the descriptions are of my own writing unless otherwise noted.  Please let me know if any of the links are broken, I am working to migrate many pattern searches at once and may have missed one.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The True Cost of a Knit (or Crochet) Hat

"You MADE that?  It is amazing!  You should totally sell that!  You'd make a lot of money!"

Every crafter hears it.  Non-crafters (sometimes referred to as "muggles" on knitting forums) say this as a complement, not realizing that it would be very hard to make a living wage by selling knit and crochet items. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to go back through some of my projects and consider what I could sell them for if I was paid at least minimum wage for my labor.

Simple Crochet Newborn Hat - Materials + Minimum Wage Labor = $10.75
Let's take a look at the hat I created in my "Let's crochet a baby hat" video.  I was able to complete this newborn sized simple crochet hat in an hour.  The yarn (Bernat Cottontots Ombre) is now discontinued, but let's say that it was $5 for a ball of yarn.  I used 35% of the yarn (by weight), which would be $1.75 worth of yarn.

Now let's think about the labor.  I think that many people who open Etsy shops selling completed knit or crochet items consider the cost of the yarn, but not the cost of their time.  If I were going to be paid a skilled labor wage of $15-20 an hour, this simple crochet hat suddenly would cost at least $16.75!  Minimum wage in Massachusetts is $9/hour, putting the cost of this hat to $10.75.  What would the market say to this?  I might be able to sell this hat for $10, but there are people on etsy selling newborn crochet hats for as low as $2!

3 month old Hat - Low cost estimate $30.
Fun animal crochet hats like this Panda run between $15-25 on etsy and are normally made out of acrylic yarn.  I used 1.06 skeins combined of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes ($2.69/ball) for a material cost of $2.85.  I can finish a hat like in an evening (I didn't keep track of how long it took), but I'll estimate it took between 3-5 hours to finish the 3 month size hat.  At $9/hour, the labor would be between $27 and $45!

Now if the cost of materials is under $3, and would be even cheaper if acrylic were used, you can see how someone might sell the hat for $15, a price that is competitive for what you can find in a retail store.  This works fine if you're considering everything above materials to be a profit and  you make your inventory in your spare time.  But what happens once you start getting custom orders and you start crocheting to fill them?  Suddenly you are working 3-5 hours per hat to only get $12.  There is NO WAY someone can make a living off of that.  (If you are running an etsy store on the side and are happy with your profits, I am honestly happy for you!  I just know that this situation would start to strip the joy away from me.) 

1 year old Foxy Hat - Materials = $6.93.  Minimum wage labor ~$45
Next let's consider a more complicated hat.  The Foxy Hat is knit out of a nice yarn (Cascade 220 Superwash) which I paid $11/skein.  I used .53 skeins (in combined weight), bringing the yarn cost to $5.83. The buttons cost $1.10 for all three for a total material cost of $6.93.  (Wow, I was actually expecting the material cost to be higher on this one.)  I didn't keep track of the hours it took me to make this hat, but I worked on it during naptime and evenings for just over a week.  Let's underestimate the labor time and say it took me 5 hours to complete this hat.  With $9/hour minimum wage, suddenly the labor for this hat is $45!  Would you pay over $50 for a toddler's hat?

I find it sad that some muggles expect that handmade items should cost less than similar items found in retail stores.  The reason you don't find crochet animal hats in stores is that they are too labor intensive to make that no one would pay enough for the retailer to make a profit.  (Currently there isn't an option for machine crocheting.)  When I'm talking about material costs in this article, I'm only considering EXACTLY the amount of yarn used for each project.  I'm also not considering the price of needles or hooks or that sometimes there is not enough remnant yarn to make another project.

10 hour Afghan - Minimum $240.
Finally, I'm going to look at a yarn intensive project with very little labor, my 10 hour afghan.  I know that this blanket took under 10 hours to make (I kept a time log after all), but for the sake of this article I'm going to calculate the labor ($9/hour) to be $90.  I used 32 balls of Lion Brand Wool Ease Yarn, a low-mid range costing yarn.  Yes that's right, 32 balls of yarn at $4.69/ball.  This is $150.02 for the materials alone.  In order to value my labor at minimum wage, I would have to charge at least $240 for this simple, garter stitch afghan.  This is an afghan that is particularly fast to complete, many of my other afghans take dozens of hours to complete with similar amounts of yarn. Can you believe that some people sell hand knit/crochet afghans on etsy for $50-65?

If I were to start calculating the time for some of my handknit lace shawls, the labor alone would be hundreds of dollars.

If you're considering buying hand knit or hand crocheted items, please consider the value of the craft behind it. I'm not saying that you shouldn't purchase a hat priced cheaply on Ravelry, but don't scoff at the items that are priced higher.  Handmade does not equal cheap, and you shouldn't expect to find something hand crafted at the same cost as a machine knit item in a store.

Personally, I'd much rather enjoy my hobby and give away the items to people that I love. If I've ever given you a finished knit or crochet object, please know I don't think I'm giving you a $500 gift.  I'm giving you something made with hours of love where I thought about how much you mean to me as I crafted it.  If I like you, it is worth my time to create something for you!  I just know that I would never be able to make a living knitting because the market does not put a reasonable price on the labor.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Let's Crochet a Baby Hat! (Video)

Did you know that the ChemKnits YouTube videos have over 2 million views?  Keith has been wanting me to do a "Let's Knit" series for a while.  He wanted me to film the knitting of an entire object and then share that video on my channel.  I decided to start with a "Let's Crochet" video because I wanted a project I could complete in one sitting.  In the span of one hour, I completed a really fun Shell Stitch Beanie.

This is not really a how to video.  I'm not teaching anything, I'm just crocheting a hat on camera.  Upside down.  I didn't have a good table to work at where I could have the camera go over my shoulder, so I had it looking down at my lap.  I also was worried in the middle of filming about the contrast, it might have been nicer to use a yarn that wasn't so pale because sometimes I think the stitch definition was lost.

I used a size H crochet hook (5 mm) and 30 g (53 yards) of Bernet Cottontot's Ombre in "Wonder Dream"  As for the hat pattern, it was a really simple crochet project.  I wish I had selected some yarn with more elasticity so the hat would have a bit more give.

Can you find the mistake?
I made  one mistake during the crochet project.  In one of the shells there are only 3 dc's in the cluster instead of 4.  Whoops!  I don't think anyone would notice but me and I didn't want to rip out an entire round on video.

The mistake I discovered too late.
I don't normally time how long it takes me to finish a project (the 10 hour remnant afghan and arm knit cowl finished in under 1 hour are exceptions), but in this case I know it took me about an hour to finish this lacy crochet hat. This hat took me about an hour to complete and and in the video I'm going at about 1000% of my normal speed.  It would be awesome if I could speed myself up like this in normal life to get stuff done!

What do you think about the "Let's Crochet" video?  Should I try this with another type of project?  I hope that you had fun, because I sure did!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Resurrecting the 2013 Mystery KAL Shawl

At the beginning of September 2014 I saw that there was the autumn mystery KAL happening.  I'm so bummed to not be party of the sign ups, and not just because you get the pattern for free if you sign up at the beginning.  I know I just don't have time to make a shawl on a schedule.  I do need to resurrect the 2013 mystery shawl I have yet to finish (Meristem by Susanna IC.) I'm so close to the end, I know I could finish it up within a week or so if I just tried.  The tricky part is that since the project is beaded, I need a safe way to work on it without Lucky knocking it over.

How my project has been hibernating this last year and a half.
Of course I didn't make a note of what row I was on when I stopped working on this project!  I can tell that I'm about to do a right side row and I must still be in the middle of clue 7.  Hopefully I still have access to a version that lists the clues.  Aha!  I never updated the pattern to the most recent version so I was able to pull up the no spoilers version of clue 7.

Clue 7
There are so many notations that I have to remember.  I'm so glad I took detailed notes when I was working on the pattern last time, even if I didn't write down the rows.  From a close look at the lace I can tell that I am on row 7 of clue 7.

I can't remember the last time I worked with lace, or with beads or a 0.90 mm crochet hook.  Could it really be the last time I was working on this project?  That just seems crazy to me!

After clue 7, 29 g remain of ball 2.  Finished 5/3/2015

Clue 8
Now I can't see clue 8, I only have the finished pattern (waiting 18 months will do that!)  It took some time to figure out that clues 7 and 8 were part of Section F.  I panicked for a minute when I thought I made some mistakes before I located the correct section of the pattern to work on.  Only 4 rows left and then I'm done with this shawl.

I finished the 3 charted rows the evening I picked this project back off.  The bind off (P, p2tog) will take some time to finish since there are hundreds of stitches so I left it to the morning.  Even so, why on Earth did I wait so long to finish this project?  I was so close to the end!

You may not think I'm serious, but the bind off of this shawl is taking me LONGER than the 5 lace rows I had left.  And that includes the time to put beads on 3 of the rows!

After clue 8, 15 g remain of ball 2.  Finished 5-4-2015


Hello, old friend.
In the end this project used 84 g, 388 yards of fiber and almost two full tubes of beads.  Calculating the number of beads I'll need is always one of my least favorite parts of a project.  What will I end up doing with my extra bead stash?  I'd love some suggestions.

This shawl was a little complicated to block.  It isn't a crescent like many of Susanna's designs where you stretch the top edge without pinning it during blocking.  The top edge had to be pinned.  I didn't quite get the shape outlined in the pattern, but I think it is pretty close.

There is a LOT of extra fabric around the points.  I see this in the shawl pattern itself so I know I didn't bind off too loosely, it is just part of the design.  I think the finished shawl is adorable and I really hope that the recipient likes it.

It may look like I'm protecting the shawl... because I am!  I suppose you could argue that I'm protecting Lucky from pins, but I also know what sticky toddler fingers would do to my pretty lace.  

This is one of the last projects I completed before we left Evanston.  Finishing this project gives me a huge sense of accomplishment, I started this when I was still pregnant with Lucky!  Once I finished this project I felt safe to start packing up some of my knitting supplies and accessories.

I will keep an eye out for other mystery KAL's in the future.  Maybe I'll make some more shawls as my little guy gets older, but for now if I join in I'll just follow at a slower pace.  I love knitting lace so much!  I already know two other projects I want to make for myself but I have plenty of yarn in my stash that is just begging to turn into shoulder coverings.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Color Affection #2 (WIP)

Now that Samoline's Giraffe woobie is done, I need another project to have that requires little attention that I can bring with me to crochet club and other times we travel.  I need something that I can work on without my computer and that is easy to knit while chatting.

I picked the colors for the first shawl based on what I had in my stash.  Unfortunately it is navy based when I wear a lot of black jackets. I don't REALLY care about mixing black and navy, but I wanted to have one that I picked out the colors for specifically.  After Lucky was born, I bought myself some madelinetosh yarn to have as a treat with the intention of making a second color affection shawl.  (Yum!)

For this project I'm using Matelinetosh Merino Light in Nebula (teal), Heuchera (purple) and Charcoal (grey). The skeins of yarn weigh 108 g (gray), 107 g (purple) and 108 g (teal) to start.   I bought the colors online, so I struggled to make sure that I had colors that would work well together.  I scoured projects on Ravelry to make sure the colors I was considering would work with one enough with some amount of contrast.  The grey and purple are close in tone, but I think with making Grey #1, purple #2 and Teal #3 this scarf will be really dramatic.

Nothing like a new project to bust out some new tools.  I am going to use size 6 needles (well these aren't new) with a new 60" cable.  No more using a spacer to hook two cables together, I can go straight for the long one.  Wahoo!

My spinning station set up - the swift and ball winder fit PERFECTLY on our chair!

So I am a bit of an idiot.  I am making a YO after the first stitch of each round and then dropping on the next row like I did the last time I made this shawl.  In the first few rows, I accidentally knit one of hte YO's instead of dropping it to keep the edge loose.  I tried to go back and fix this, but since there were increases it looked like a loose mess.  I started the entire thing all over again.  Thankfully I was able to get back to the same place before it was time to leave crochet club.

Take 2 for the win!

There is a bit more to keep track of in the first section of this shawl.  I wanted to finish that up fast so that way I could work on the stripes when I'm out and about.  (It is MUCH easier to keep count of stripes than it is to keep track of garter rows in the sold section.)

After the first section is complete, I have 84 g remaining of the gray yarn.  Unblocked it is 6" deep at the deepest point and easily 26" wide along the "straight" edge.  I think I'll try to block it with a curve in it this time.  That would look pretty, right?

The grey and purple colors are close together, but as I've knit more rows in the two color section you can really see the stripes well.  I have no regrets over my color selection.  I'm hoping that this one is deeper.  So far it looks like the first section is deeper than my older color affection.

It is nice to have a simple project that I can work on intermittently.  I do have to remind myself about the increases each time before I can start knitting again, but things have gone pretty smoothly.   

I still have a long way to go with this shawl, but I know that it will be much used once I get there.  I may not finish this by the end of 2015, but I know I will keep making progress!  Do you have a project that you like to take with you on the go?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Search for Sock Monkey Crochet Patterns

The original sock monkeys were created out of knit socks, so it is no surprise that there are more sock monkey knitting patterns than crochet patterns. There is no reason to stick to tradition, and crocheting small stuffed toys is more common than knitting them. In this lens, you will find multiple free crochet sock monkey patterns.

Free Stuffed Sock Monkey Crochet Patterns

When the platform Squidoo existed, ChemKnits did multiple focused free knitting and crochet pattern searches.  These "lenses" were migrated to Hubpages at the end of 2014, but the Hubpages platform does not like Hubs that contain multiple links, especially if these links go to the same site (such as Ravelry.)  I am reposting the search here on ChemKnits.  I did all of the searching to find this list myself, and the descriptions are of my own writing unless otherwise noted.  Please let me know if any of the links are broken, I am working to migrate many pattern searches at once and may have missed one.