Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Great Leap

Well, I've been considering opening an online shop for some of my original crochet creations for several months now, and I've finally done it.

I've got an Etsy Shop:

I hope the name isn't too sappy... if you hate it and have suggestions for a better store name, please let me know. "StitchThisFreud!" was too long unfortunately.

I've also made a matching Facebook Fan Page, since almost everyone I know spends a decent chunk of their time on Facebook these days...

So if you like what you've been seeing here on my blog, then you might want to check out my shop, or pass it on to a friend or family member. I'll keep adding new items as I create them - but first I have to make it through the Holiday Gift-Making Madness period.... more blog posts to come after that too!

Keep crafting!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Road Trip Safari

We recently moved from Guelph, Ontario, to Regina, Saskatchewan. That is a really long way, more than half the width of Canada, if you’re keeping track. And we decided to drive, so that we could take our car with us without having to ship it (especially when paying by weight…), and so that we could bring our cat without taking him on a plane.

As it turns out, my husband Deep loves to drive and really hates being a passenger, whereas I would much rather do something fun like crochet, than be the driver. So even though I always offer to take a turn now and then, it was a safe bet before we left that he would drive the whole way (he did). So, I packed up a bunch of yarn for a couple of different projects (including yarn for the super-secret project that you will hear all the details about in a few months when it's not a surprise anymore) into one of my shoulder bag carrying cases, and gave up about 1/2 of my already minimal leg room in the car so it could be accessible throughout the trip.

However I didn't get much chance to crochet on the drive after all. There were two main reasons:

First of all, we decided at the last minute to go through the US instead of through Canada (north of Lake Superior) as we'd originally planned. This was beacuase the Trans Canada Highway was washed out (!!!) near one isolated community, and there is basically no way around that section of road. And it would be at least a week before the road would be fixed. So our best option was to go south of the Great Lakes, through the US. This change in plans actually resulted in 3 days of driving instead of 4, which was a much better deal, but obviously cut down on crochet time.

Secondly, our (usually friendly and cuddly) cat Nikko, who happens to hate car rides, acted slightly to moderately insane for maybe 50% of the drive. This involved him complaining loudly using very strange noises, all while exploring the car full of our stuff. As a result, I had to keep my hands available for a large chunk of the time, in order to be able to deal with him... you know, little things like keeping him from leaping under the pedals (and thereby killing us all), or attempting to quiet him down to avoid making the driver completely crazy from frustration and annoyance.

So… needless to say, I didn’t end up with very much time to crochet. There were times when he finally fell asleep, or at least was calm for a while, and during those times I could finally crochet. I used most of this limited time to make a couple of gifts for some friends’ kids in Regina. And that is what this post is really about (I bet you were starting to wonder...)

We didn’t know many people before we got to Regina, but the one family we knew best was a couple where the husband is now one of Deep's co-workers. They have two very sweet children: a girl who is 4, and a boy who is almost 2. They have been really great for the last few months, making us feel like we would have a community when we arrived, and being really excited that we were on our way. So we thought it would be nice to show up with some kind of small gift for the kids when we finally made it to town. Of course, since I'm crafty, I decided to make something cute and crocheted.

Before I left, I made sure that my craft bag that was in the car with me contained my handy little pattern book of adorable amigurumi (that is, small knitted or crochet creatures) animals (this book from Lion Brand:, a few different fun colours of yarn, and some polyfil beads and some fibrefil stuffing.

After some deliberation (they're all so painfully cute!), I decided to make a purple hippo and a yellow and orange giraffe. Here you can see me working on the hippo, with Nikko (finally!) asleep  in my lap.

I almost didn't have enough stuffing, so I used more of the beads that I usually would, which made it a bit more difficult to manage in the car, with no flat surfaces and so much potential to spill them everywhere. I thought we were going to have to stop at a craft store for some more stuffing when we got to town, but I just managed to make it work with what I had. The upside of this is that they ended up being a little more stable (particularly the giraffe, who is a bit top-heavy as you can see), so that's good.

I also forgot to pack any of the tiny buttons that I usually use for eyes, so I had to improvise with some black yarn. I guess these eyes are a bit more baby-safe anyway, so that's a bonus.

Here they are, the night we got to town, all ready to meet the kids!

We had this family over for dinner the second night we were in town, and I told the kids I had a surprise for them. I pulled out the animals, and while the girl was trying to decide which one she wanted, the little guy came running over and grabbed the giraffe by the neck - It was so cute! The kids played with them all evening, clearly they were a hit. The next day I was told that the little girl had fallen asleep holding the hippo to her chest. She even came up to me the next day and thanked me in a shy voice for making her the hippo - very sweet!

Here is a shot of the two of them holding their new friends. Aren't they cute?

I'll post more about my previous amigurumi creations later, so stay tuned.

Keep crafting!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Crocheted laptop & tablet sleeves for everyone!

Shortly after I made the crocheted laptop sleeve for myself (see the previous post), I started getting compliments on it, and even a few requests.

My aunt saw my case while we were visiting them in the early spring of 2011, and I offered to make one for her laptop if she'd like. She seemed tickled pink by the idea, so I made a note of the size and model of her laptop, and took her requests for colours - Teal and Grey/Silver.
I tracked down some yarns in the right colours (sometimes it's really hard to find the right shade of silver/grey yarn - have you noticed the same thing?) and got to work right away... and then got side-tracked. I'll come back to this project in a moment....

One of the things that side-tracked me was the idea of making a case like this as a surprise gift for my really good friend who we'd recently moved far away from. {Ok, since I'll probably mention this friend a few times throughout my blog, let's give her a code name now... let's go with Jennifer.} She loves the colour orange, and I had this ball of really unique variegated orange yarn that I had set aside to use for a gift for her. So I decided to use it as one of the 3 strands in a case for her laptop. Unfortunately this turned out to be an ill-fated project...

I got some orange solid-colour yarn to compliment the variegated stuff, and some yellow and some pink as possible other combinations, since the special yarn included both yellow and pink highlights. I selected one of them (I don't remember which...), and started working. When I started, I asked Deep "Jennifer has exactly the same laptop as you, right?" and he said "Yes" - so I started working on the case, using his 13 inch Macbook Pro as a guide (can you see where this is going...?). 

One evening a week or two later I was working on this case and was maybe 3/4 done, while my brother-in-law and in-laws were over for the evening. My brother in law has the same laptop, so at one point I asked to borrow it to check the sizing, thinking I could finish it and send it by the next day. At this point Deep says casually "You know Jennifer's computer is the 15 inch, right?" (apparently when I had asked if they had the same laptop, he had thought I meant the same type, not the same size). My heart stopped.  

I cursed and fumed for a few minutes, feeling like an idiot for not being more careful when I started (or for asking more specific questions)... then went and looked up the dimensions of the 15 inch laptop online and concluded that there was no way on earth this case would be able to stretch that much. And I started to pull it out. My father in law said something about how much he liked pulling things out, and I handed it over to him. At least I didn't have to pull out all that work myself... so I tried to ignore the gleeful expression on his face as he did it. Then I rolled the 3-strand "yarn" (since for this pattern you work with 3 strands as if they were one) into a big ball so I could begin again.

I started over, this time adjusting the pattern to make it large enough for a 15 inch laptop. I got maybe halfway through the significantly larger case, and realized that I was definitely going to run out of that ball of special yarn. I searched everywhere for that yarn again - the original ball was from my mother-in-law's yarn stash, so I have no idea where it came from - or for something that would be similar enough to be able to substitute. But I had no luck. So I pulled it out all over again. This time though, I had to untangle the triple yarn into the 3 colours, since I had to switch out another strand for the original special yarn I was intending to use for this project. A friend and I spent an entire evening pulling it out a bit at a time and untangling the 3 yarns and rolling them each into a neat ball. 

Finally it was time to start over, for the 3rd and hopefully last time. I decided to just use the orange, yellow, and pink solid yarns. I would save that ball of special yarn for another project, another time. By this time Jennifer's birthday was approaching quickly, so I decided that it was too late to have this be a random out-of-the-blue "Thinking of you" kind of present, and that I would make it a birthday present instead. Her friend was planning a surprise birthday party for her, so I arranged that I would mail the case to another friend, so that she could give it to Jennifer at the surprise party. I scrambled to get it finished in time, and paid the procrastination tax of expensive shipping to get it there in time. Just before I sent it, I wanted to double check that it would actually fit, so I walked into a nearby electronics store, and tried it out on one of the floor models when none of the sales people were looking.

The surprise party worked out well, and Jennifer was very pleased with the case. Here's a couple of pictures of it:

She uses it all the time. And, as it turns out, last year it actually saved her computer - when she slipped on some icy steps and her backpack went flying, and fell so hard onto the pavement she was sure her computer was toast. But luckily it was in its cozy case, and it ended up having only minor dings - but it still worked just fine. I think that's pretty good testimonial for these cases, if I do say so myself. I'm glad all that trouble in making it paid off in the end, with a well-loved and apparently very useful gift!

Back to the case I was making for my Aunt. When the ill-fated project was finally finished, I eventually got back around to finishing the case for my aunt. A friend had the same model laptop as my aunt, so i tested the size on his when he came over for dinner one evening. I had intended to mail it to her, but instead I ended up bringing it to her in person when we went to visit the family cottage that summer. Here's how it turned out. I quite like the colours - the teal really stands out nicely against the silver and charcoal. Very sophisticated I think.

Then last Christmas I decided to make cases for my parents too - a green and blue one for my Mum's new-to-her 13 inch Macbook Air (so a larger version of mine), and a brown and grey case for my dad's iPad. By this time I realized that the cases tend to stretch out a fair bit over time, so I made their cases quite a bit tighter. Again I went to Future Shop to try out the cases. This time I told the sales guys what I was doing, a bit sheepishly "I made this for my Mom for Christmas and I want to make sure it will fit - is it ok if I try it on here?" - they were actually really friendly and helpful about it and were quite impressed that I had made it myself. It was trickier to try on the iPad, since the locking mechanism on the iPads in the store is on the back, instead of at one end, but I could at least try it on the bottom third or so, so I knew it would go on - but there was no doubt it would be snug!

I wasn't able to go home for the holidays last year, so we opened presents with my parents over video-conference at my in-laws place. The cases fit! Later my dad said that he'd gotten a few comments on his nice hand-made iPad case from store clerks etc., and he's always very proud to say his daughter made it for him. :) And yes, thankfully they did stretch out enough to make them a little easier to use!

A few months ago a friend of mine who was on a volunteer board with me got a new iPad, and he loved it and brought it to meetings with him and everything. But then I saw then he was carrying it around in the box that it had come in. I asked him about this and he said he didn't want it to get damaged, and he didn't have a case for it yet. So of course I made him a blue case for it that weekend, so he could start enjoying the portability of his new device. He must have thought my original offer wasn't serious, because he was very surprised when I showed up with it at our next meeting.

And finally, when Deep got a new computer (he had managed to drive over his old one with our car, so the screen was all cracked, but miraculously it still worked for a few months until the new model that he wanted came out), he asked me to make him a crocheted sleeve for it. I generally don't offer to make him crocheted things very often, since he has a particular sense of style and I don't want to end up with a situation where I work really hard on something that he won't really like but he will feel guilty enough to use it occasionally. So I was pleasantly surprised when he asked for this, and made this nice blue and grey case, which he does actually use all the time:

So, long story short, I've made quite a few of these cases, in pretty well every size and colour you can think of. I've also taught a couple of friends the pattern so they have made cases for themselves. They definitely seem to be a hit!

I've been thinking that I may open an Etsy store soon, to sell these custom-made cases, since there does seem to be some demand for them. I guess we'll see how that goes!

Keep crafting!

PS: You can find these items on my Etsy Store

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A Cozy Sweater for my Laptop...

In 2010 I was given a brand-new computer for Xmas... it was a lovely surprise (my husband Deep is notoriously terrible at keeping surprises, so I was really impressed!), especially since it was a super tiny computer that had just come out (the 11 in Macbook Air), which is similar in size to a Netbook, but a full computer. Since I do lots of travelling and my volunteer work often involves meetings etc, having a REALLY light, super-portable computer was a major plus for me. In fact, it still is a major plus - I still love this computer to death, and I'm using it right now to write this post!

I was really excited to use it lots and take it everywhere.... but then I realized that I didn't have a case for it. In fact, almost no stores had a case for it yet! Sure there were lots of cases for larger computers (obviously too big), and there were cases for netbooks (the wrong dimensions, my computer is longer and narrower), so unless I wanted to shell out the big bucks for one at the Apple store, I was going to have to order one online (and wait weeks for it to arrive), or wait months for them to show up in various different stores for a decent price.

Or of course, I could make one! (duh!)

I'd seen plenty of patterns for knitted phone or ipod cases/sleeves (sometimes called ipod socks), etc - it couldn't be that hard to make a crocheted or knitted laptop case, right?

So I started googling, and found this awesome blog by another crafter, who made these cool three-toned laptop cases, and offered a pattern. Well ok it was a description of a general method for making these sleeves, rather than a pattern exactly, but I gave it a try - with my own modifications of course, and I loved it!

Here is the purple sleeve I made for my laptop - the one that started it all:

For this one I used 3 strands as suggested in the pattern I had found, a dark blue, and two shades of purple (purple is my favourite colour, as you'll soon learn). The three strands not only gave it a neat variegated effect, it also meant that the case was thicker and softer - more padding to protect my shiny new laptop. I used a really big hook (11mm or 11.5mm I think) with this thick three-strand yarn, so it worked up really quickly. I used some jumbo snaps to close the flap, and finished off the edge with the darker purple yarn, and voila!

It started out quite snug, but over the last 1.5 years it has stretched out quite a bit, so when I've made other cases, I have adjusted my pattern a bit to make it more snug to start.

It's still going strong almost 2 years later - I still use it most of the time. There are some times when I need it to be really slim, and so I have a neoprene sleeve (ordered online) that I use then, but most of the time I much prefer my fun purple crocheted sleeve, plus it keeps my computer more protected, as we found out last winter...

Once I started using this case, I started getting requests from others to make one for them - but that's a story for another post.

Keep crafting!

Update: You can find this item on my Etsy Store