How to Edit Photos for Free

I used to think photo editing just meant adding a fancy Instagram filter to my pictures. My favorites were Lark, Juno, and Ludwig. Now there’s nothing wrong with those filters but using an actual photo editing app gives you so much more control. More control = more happiness! Haha! Well, it does for me anyway!

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How to Read a Crochet Pattern

Do you remember that scene from the movie A Christmas Story when Ralphie is hiding in the bathroom trying to decode the message from his favorite radio program, Little Orphan Annie? Reading a crochet pattern is kind of like that, except (spoiler alert!) you won’t encounter a disappointing advertising message for Ovaltine at the end!

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Free Printable Amigurumi, Crochet, and Knit Project Pages

If you are anything like me you can’t remember what you ate yesterday let alone what brand of yarn you used for a project made six months ago! In an effort to become a bit more organized I created two printables so that I can keep track of all the details of a project in order to easily recreate it. I originally wanted them to be super colorful and pretty and then I remembered the price of printer ink…so I opted to go with plain ole black and white. Of course I had to add some cute, cuddly creatures and balls of yarn just to make them fun!

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A Thank You Letter to Crochet

Dear Crochet,

We got some really good news today and I wanted to share it with you. But first I need to thank you for everything you have done for me. Two and a half years ago I was in a bad place. I couldn’t stop worrying about my son. I couldn’t stop dwelling on “what if” scenarios. While scrolling through Pinterest late one evening, I stumbled upon a photo of you and that moment changed my life.

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5 Lessons Makers can Learn from Disney

Yes, I am that crazy woman who brought a crocheted pig into Disney World and snapped a photo of him! On an average day almost 53,000 individuals enter the gates of  Magic Kingdom in Orlando, FL. Gasp. Let that sink in for a sec… That equals over nineteen million visitors each year! It is the most visited amusement park in the world and there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon, even with more competition coming on the scene in recent years.

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Differences of Knitting vs Crocheting Amigurumi

I’m just going to admit this right here and now, I’m an amigurumi addict. I love making them and love learning new ways to create them.

Even though I’ve crocheted dozens of amigurumi, knitting them was totally intimidating. I consider myself a basic knitter and was unfamiliar with the techniques used to create knitted amigurumi. When I discovered the adorable patterns from Mary Jane’s Tea Room I knew I had to give it a try! I’m so glad I did. Her pattern is also a tutorial in and of itself and worth every penny! There are wonderful explanations and photos to help along the way. She also has links to video tutorials to help with certain stitches.

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KonMari for Crafters

This is the stuff of horror movies and I’m putting the carnage and chaos on full display.  I’m ashamed to admit that my beloved crochet room is no longer the pristine, restful place that it was just a few short months ago. When we turned our spare bedroom into a space for my own creativity I proudly shared a tour and was so incredibly proud of it. (You can read more about that here: A Room of Her Own: A Tour of My Little Crochet Room and What it Means to Me). Fast forward to today and it’s a complete disaster. A big hot, unorganized mess. The video below isn’t for the faint of heart! Lol!

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Interview with an Amigurumi Designer: Crochet to Play

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Have you ever thought that something looked fairly simple, but when you actually tried doing it yourself you found it incredibly difficult? No, just me? Haha!! Well that is exactly what amigurumi design is! When a designer does it well, they make it look easy and that certainly is the case with the talented Jennifer behind Crochet to Play

Jennifer’s style is whimsical and full of the wonder that fills childhood play. I found Crochet to Play just last year and was immediately impressed with her unique designs and adorable characters. I feel lucky to now consider her a friend. Jennifer’s designs are so imaginative and I want to make every single one of them! I was honored to be able to pattern test her Felicity Fawn pattern last month! Isn’t she adorable?

I’m not the only one noticing Jennifer’s work, recently her Little Red and Wolf pattern was published in Crochet Now magazine! She is currently designing animals for her Forest Friends collection and has released Mrs. Millie Mouse and Felicity Fawn. Jennifer just finished designing Mr. and Mrs. Hedgehog and they are the cutest pair you ever did see!

I am amazed with Jennifer’s “scope for the imagination” (bonus points if you know where that phrase comes from) and I can’t wait to see what is up her sleeves! I hope you enjoy this interview and I just know you’re going to love her work!

 

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Jennifer from Crochet to Play

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, husband, kids, job, favorite food, movies, hobbies outside of crochet. I’m from the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where I met and married an amazing guy and where we’re now raising our three sweet kids together. We met at a golf course over 18 years ago – I was a cart girl and he worked in the restaurant. The rest is history!  I’m a part time teacher (I work with students with reading difficulties like dyslexia) and mostly I’m just a busy mom. I love Mexican and Italian food and tend to binge-watch Hallmark movies while I crochet at night. Crochet is definitely my main hobby, but if I don’t have a hook in my hand, I love making memories with my family – going on walks, to the zoo, or to the beach.
  2. When did you start crocheting? I started crocheting about nine years ago when my oldest daughter was a baby. I wanted to be able to make her cute things and was intimidated by knitting, so I learned to crochet. I knew a little bit from my mom and grandma and learned the rest from the public library!

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    Daniel and the Lion’s Den

  3. When did you start making amigurumi? One day, a few years ago, I was browsing the yarn aisles at Michael’s and I stumbled across Ana Paula Rimoli’s book Amigurumi World.  To say I was mesmerized by the cuteness is an understatement! I fell in love with amigurumi right then and there and haven’t stopped making it since.
  4. When and why did you start designing amigurumi? I designed my first amigurumi pattern (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) three years ago. I was ready to transition from selling made-to-order items, mostly hats at the time, to something totally different. So I gave designing a try, and knew right away I wanted to design amigurumi. I had (and still have!) notebooks full of ideas that I couldn’t keep inside. It was a slow start, maybe a pattern every few months at first, but it has built up over time.

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    Little Red Riding Hood

  5. What does your creative process look like? Like I just mentioned, I have notebooks full of toys, themes, and sketches of amigurumi I’d like to make. When I officially begin a project, I generally do a quick sketch and then decide on yarn colors. This can be painstaking for me. I can always “see” the finished design ahead of time and then have to find yarn to match my vision. Once I finally do, I map out the parts and pieces I’ll need to shape and join and then I start experimenting until I get it right!
  6. Why do you think people should make amigurumi? Oh, so many good reasons!  I think amigurumi makes people smile. It’s such a unique niche in the fiber arts.  It’s very satisfying to make a toy from start to finish, especially as your skills improve and you can enjoy it more and more.

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    Felicity Fawn

  7. What makes you excited about the yarn and crochet community? I am crazy about the crochet community!  I absolutely love the connections I’ve made with other makers in this craft – people from all walks of life who get just as excited as I do about a yarn delivery, or a new finished project, or a pattern release that has roped us all in. Social media has given us a window into how many amazing makers are out there right now, putting their fresh stamp on crochet. It’s being modernized in a lot of ways and I love getting to see it and being a part of it.
  8. What are your goals and dreams for Crochet to Play? This year, I’d like to continue releasing patterns from series I’ve started – more animals for the Forest Friends, more Bible stories, with a few other patterns in between. I would like to grow Crochet to Play in the future as my kids get a little older, but I don’t yet know what that will look like. Perhaps books, perhaps with a blog.  It’s been a dream come true already so I am open and excited to how it’s going to grow.

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    Christmas ornaments

     

    You can find Crochet to Play on Instagram and Etsy

    If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

Making Amigurumi: The Artistry is in the Details

Do it Scared…Explore Your Creativity

 

 

How I Healed my Crochet Elbow: AKA Tendonitis

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I tend to overdo things. When I’m interested in a subject I will eat, breathe, and live every single minute detail and then some. Crochet has been no different for me, if anything it’s been more engrossing than anything I have been passionate about before. I love reading about it, looking at it, writing about it, and doing it!

I began having problems early in 2018. I would occasionally experience pain and stiffness only in the right elbow but that began to change as the months wore on. By spring of of that year the pain was waking me up at night and doing normal everyday activities began causing me a lot of discomfort. Gripping items like a hairbrush caused lightening bolt pain to radiate up and down my arms.

For months I tried to ignore it. I tried a few home remedies but nothing worked. Finally I went to the orthopedic doctor. He diagnosed me with Tennis Elbow, or tendonitis. He recommended a shot of cortisone in the joint might help with pain and advised that I take some time to rest. The injection itself was fairly painful, and I say this as a woman who has given birth with no anesthesia! It wasn’t horrific but it was definitely uncomfortable. By the next day I was actually regretting having the injection done because I was feeling a good bit of pain. By day three the discomfort was noticeably better. A week later I claimed that I was completely healed and went right back to crocheting 24/7.

Approximately three months later the trouble with my elbow was worse than ever. Everyday activities were even more difficult and I was now emotionally worn out and discouraged. Something that brought so much joy to my life was now causing so much harm. I reluctantly went back to the orthopedic doctor. He recommended that I begin physical therapy and that’s when my condition finally began to improve.

The following suggestions are what I learned from the physical therapist I worked with. She was very knowledgeable about repetitive motion injuries and how to heal them. I am so grateful for her wisdom and understanding! I hope you find something that you can apply to your own life to either help heal tendonitis or help prevent it.

Rest

This was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. I did not want to put my crochet hooks down for any reason, but eventually the physical therapist convinced me that I would never get better if I didn’t. What surprised me was that I didn’t have to put them down for days, weeks, or months at a time. She just recommended that I only pick them up for a max of a couple of hours a day and to take breaks. This seemed very reasonable to me and I began implementing this right away. I stopped the marathon crochet sessions late into the night. I started taking breaks every thirty minutes or so. If I could only recommend one suggestion this would be it!

Stretch

When my physical therapist first examined my arm she noted all the knots up and down my forearm, around my elbow, and up my tricep. These knots are caused by tight muscles and tissue bunching up and causing pain. During my crochet breaks my PT encouraged me to stretch. I would stretch my wrists, elbows, chest, forearms, and back muscles. As with most things, in the beginning I would overstretch and cause pain and more damage. My PT taught me that stretching should never hurt. Push to the point where you feel the stretch but not to the point of discomfort.

Ice

This is my second most important suggestion. After putting ice packs on my elbows following crochet sessions I began noticing considerable improvement right away! This was the hardest thing for me to remember to do, but I also believe it made a huge difference in my recovery from tendonitis. I used simple gel packs from Walmart and always kept one in the freezer so that I could apply it at any time.

Identify

Identify what triggers your pain. While listening to a BHooked podcast about different types of yarn I learned that cotton could be part of my problem. (You can read more about that here: Saying Goodbye to my Beloved Cotton Yarn) I switched to wool and wool blend yarns and began to notice a big difference right away. During my physical therapy treatment I tried using cotton yarn again and immediately began feeling that familiar pain. I haven’t picked it back up even though I absolutely love the look and feeling of quality cotton yarns.

You can read more about my favorite podcasts here: My Favorite Handmade Business Podcasts

I also identified that holding my dog’s leash was causing problems as well. My physical therapist recommended using a different type of leash that I could wrap around my forearm rather than by holding the handle on the type we have.

Crocheting was definitely the main trigger for my tendonitis but there were other factors that were contributing to it. Really begin to notice what could be causing pain, even if it seems too small to be the culprit. You might be surprised what little things you are doing in your own life that could be causing problems!

Strengthen

My physical therapist used a metaphor that helped me to see more clearly the objectives we were trying to achieve through strength training. She compared crocheting to running. Just running improves your cardio condition and endurance levels but to prevent injury you need to strength train. The muscles you use to crochet need to be strengthened to prevent injury down the road.

My preferred way to gain strength is through yoga. Many people think of yoga as more of a stretching activity, but upper body strengthening is a key component. I regularly practice gentle yoga through the YouTube series Yoga with Adriene. There are a few poses that do cause pain in my elbows and wrists so I adapt them or skip them altogether. For the most part it has been the easiest way for me to gain the strength I need and stretch tight muscles caused by crocheting.

Heal

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“Dry needling is also called trigger point dry needling or myofascial trigger point dry needling. It is done by acupuncturists, some chiropractors, medical doctors, and some physical therapists (PTs) to treat myofascial pain. The word “myofascial” is made up of the roots “myo” (which refers to muscle) and “fascia” (which refers to the tissue that connects muscle).

Muscles sometimes develop knotted areas called trigger points. These trigger points are highly sensitive and can be painful when touched. They are also often the cause of referred pain (or pain that affects another part of the body). Clinicians push thin solid needles through the skin into trigger points. The needles are used to stimulate the tissue, not to inject medication.” – Cleveland Clinic

Dry needling is not something I was particularly looking forward to. Thankfully I’m not afraid of needles, but they aren’t my favorite either! Dry needling was done during my physical therapy appointments and was one of the best things I did to help heal my tendonitis. The sessions were $30 each and were well worth every penny. The physical therapist explained that inflammation is not always a bad thing. By injecting the needles into specific trigger points she was causing controlled inflammation. She explained that bringing fresh blood into the area would help the healing process. I’m so glad that I didn’t let the fear of a little additional pain prevent me from doing this treatment. It did cause discomfort at times, especially when she would tap the bone with the needle. When she would pinpoint a particularly good area my muscles would spasm! She always got excited when that happened because it was a sign that she had gotten the right spot!

Wait

This is the absolute hardest part. I can be a very impatient person and want problems to be fixed yesterday. Tendonitis definitely taught me that healing takes time. Typically there are no easy fixes, especially if you wait a long time to deal with a problem. My current strategy is to prevent tendonitis from happening in the first place. I work really hard to rest, stretch, ice, and strengthen routinely so that I keep my joints healthy for years of healthy crocheting!

I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful! I would love to hear about some of your own tips for keeping your joints healthy for crocheting and knitting!

Transformation of a Dog: Jersey-boy

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Look at that smile!

Although technically speaking, sharing the story of how we came to adopt Jersey boy and his transformation from an untrusting shelter dog to a loving family member isn’t crochet related. But he is such a regular feature on my Instagram account and I receive quite a few direct messages about him. He even has a few legit fans! Most importantly he lays beside me when I crochet so often that I feel that he is an integral piece of my creative journey.

WHY WE WANTED A DOG

The first dog we ever had as a nuclear family came to us in an unusual way. When I was pregnant with our third child, I found a tiny puppy walking along a very busy road. I scooped her up, she had no collar, and was full of fleas. We immediately took her to the vet and from that day forward was our baby. We named her Belle, after the Disney princess from Beauty and the Beast, and she was a Pit Bull. Never was there a sweeter dog. We nicknamed her Nana because of the way she looked after the children, just like the St. Bernard from Peter Pan. We had her for fifteen years and putting her down was one of the hardest days of my life. We knew we weren’t looking for another dog right away but believed that the right dog would come into our lives when our hearts were ready.

GOING TO THE SHELTER FOR THE FIRST TIME

In late 2015 I decided that I wanted to adopt a shelter dog. I knew we weren’t looking for a puppy but I definitely wanted a female. When I arrived at our local Humane Society I was greeted by the volunteers and invited to look around the rooms where there were dozens of dogs in cages, all waiting to be adopted. Some were silent, some clearly seemed afraid, and some were aggressively barking and snarling. It was completely overwhelming and I began to cry. How was I ever going to choose a dog? But one did catch my eye. She was a small female and her name was Buttons, but she was in quarantine and wasn’t able to be adopted quite yet.

I went home and shared my experience on Facebook and a local friend reached out to me. She said that she knew a great dog trainer who routinely worked with the dogs from our particular shelter. She said she would check and see if the trainer had any recommendations. Within a couple of days I received a message from my friend recommending a dog named Jersey.

I went to the website and looked at his photo. To be honest, I wasn’t excited about him. First of all, he was a “he” and not a “she”. I really wanted another female. Also the description of him stated that he was returned to the shelter because he was killing chickens at the home he had been living at. He looked too big, he was boy, and he had an aggressive nature, three big red flags.

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Photo of Jersey from the Humane Society’s website

2nd Shelter Visit: Meeting Jersey for the First Time

On January 2, 2016, my son, Ben and I decided to head over to the shelter to give it another try. I knew before walking through the door that I could not go back into the large room where most of the dogs were being held and asked if they would bring out a few dogs for us to meet instead. The staff was more than happy to oblige us. I originally asked for Buttons but was told that she had already been adopted. I then decided that we ought to at least look at Jersey. The staff member said that we should head back to the smaller room where he was being held. We were led back to that area and I remember being surprised at how much smaller he was in person than in his photo on the shelter’s website. We leaned down and put our hands up to his cage. He leaned against the bars and we scratched his little side. We knew then that we wanted to at least get to know him a little better. We asked if we could take him outside and spend some time getting to know him out of the confines of the shelter walls. Jersey was so happy to be outside and immediately began running around in the grass and small field beside the building. My son was smitten and loved spending time with such an active dog.

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First moments spending outside of the shelter with Jersey

Jersey’s Background

The shelter staff gave us all of Jersey’s background information, which surprisingly they had a lot of. They informed us that Jersey’s birthdate was July 5th, 2010. I was surprised that they knew his exact birthdate but then they shared that little Jersey had been born in the shelter. He spent the first two years of his life there and was finally adopted by a family, with a mother, father, and a couple of kids. He lived in that home until the parents had a very ugly divorce and Jersey saw a lot of yelling and conflict. Jersey was then moved to the grandparents’ home where he was an outside dog. Although the grandmother was quite fond of Jersey, her husband didn’t like him one bit because he kept killing his chickens, which was the reason he was returned. Jersey had been back in the shelter for several months by the time we met him.

Decision Time

Even though I had some reservations my son was absolutely certain that he wanted to adopt Jersey. We filled out the paperwork and brought him home! This is the video I took of us taking him home from the shelter. It’s so precious to watch now!

ISSUES THAT BEGAN CROPPING UP

Initially Jersey seemed very happy to be with us. I could tell he wasn’t used to being in a house. He wanted to smell every single thing but he wasn’t sure how to sit on a couch. He enjoyed the attention but seemed to be a bit overwhelmed by it all. We spent a lot of time the first few days going on long walks. I could tell that being outside was something he really enjoyed and I was so happy to have a walking buddy.

Jersey soon started having issues. He didn’t like people standing over him and would growl. He didn’t like people standing near his bed when he was in it and would growl. He didn’t like anyone to come near treats or toys we gave him, he would really growl then. He began getting off of his leash and running away. He even snapped and bit one of our son’s friends. Thank God the young man wasn’t hurt but it scared us all. We then took Jersey to the dog trainer who worked with him in the shelter. Donna was such a gift and was able to help Jersey but also helped us understand his insecurities and issues from having been in the shelter for so long.

Did Jersey Like Us?

After working with Donna, Jersey’s issues began to melt away. But he still didn’t seem like he really liked us. Our old dog, Belle, would greet us at the door when we returned with tail wagging and excitedly running around. Jersey would wag his tail a bit but there wasn’t much enthusiasm. I began to wonder if even though we really liked Jersey if he really liked us back! I began googling questions like “How to tell if your dog likes you?” I began to wonder if dogs could be depressed.

Turning Point

About a year later my son took Jersey out for a walk and returned home carrying him with blood streaming from his paw. We jumped in the van and took him straight to the vet. The doctor examined him and found a gaping tear on his paw pad and a deep puncture wound in his leg. We still have no idea how it happened but Jersey needed quite a few stitches and antibiotics to prevent an infection. Because of Jersey’s trust issues we had to bring him back to the vet each time his bandages needed changing and he had to be sedated. Poor Jersey freaked out any time we even looked at his paw. Every other day for two weeks we drove him back and forth and tended to him as he came out of anesthesia. After his stitches came out we still had to tend to his wound by changing his bandage. I was exhausted from taking him to the vet so often and worried about the effect of so much sedation on his little body. My son asked if he could try one more time to change Jersey’s bandage. I saw the calmness in my son’s demeanor and thought it couldn’t hurt to try. We both agreed that if Jersey seemed nervous or anxious we would abandon the venture and take him back to the vet to let them do it. But that time Jersey didn’t seem anxious, he rolled over on his back and gave my son his paw. It was like the heavens opened up and Jersey finally realized that we weren’t going to hurt him. He finally realized that he could trust us, that all we wanted to do was love him, help him, and be there for him for the rest of his life.

TRUSTING, BELOVED BABY

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From that moment on Jersey was a different dog. Enthusiastic tail wagging and body wiggling now greet us at the door if we’ve been gone for any length of time. He smiles and shows his love for us every single day. We go for walks daily and no lie, sometimes he just stops and turns his head to look at me. He looks me straight in the eyes and I know he is telling me how much he loves us for loving him and being patient with him. I truly believe in the transformative power of love and consistency, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.