A Warm Welcome – Sitto’s Blanket

Sitto–my Syrian grandmother–taught me to crochet when I was eight years old. Sitto was the daughter of immigrants, the first in her family to be born in the US in 1912. Her brothers and her parents all emigrated from Syria and settled in La Crosse, WI, where my mother was born.


Sitto’s High School Graduation Photo

Being Syrian has always been about welcome–about having something delicious to eat when someone arrived, about making room for friends, family, strangers, visitors. Sitto would joke, “If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake,” as she was pulling out homemade Syrian bread, tabouli, meat pies, along with midwestern corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes, watermelon, cookies. Sitto didn’t speak a lot of Arabic around me and my brother, but “ahlan wa sahlan,” was definitely something we heard growing up. It means “welcome.”

Here’s how the website “Arabic Without Walls” at UC Davis translates the expression:

“Ahlan wasahlan comes from an old saying that shows Arab hospitality to strangers. Ahlan means ‘family’ as in you’ve come to stay with family, and sahlan here means a flat land or place where grass/food is abundant to be shared with visitors.”

The urge to welcome is deep in my DNA, and the reaction I have when welcome is revoked–when people are turned away–is visceral. I was so glad to hear that Jayna Zweiman, the amazing mind behind The Pussyhat Project has come up with another act of craftivism–this time a response to the idea of building a border wall. The new project, called The Welcome Blanket Project, proposes to create welcoming warm wooly blankets–enough of them to measure the length of the proposed wall. This is what crochet and knitting are for. For creating warmth, sharing love, welcoming. The finished blankets will be displayed at a museum in Chicago, and then distributed to refugees and immigrants along with letters from the makers.

Designer Kat Coyle from The Little Knittery designed a simple square with two contrasting right triangles. It can be used to create lots of great patterns. I offered to “translate” the pattern into crochet, and now my version of Kat’s square is up on welcomeblanket.org. You can also find it on Ravelry.

I also wanted to create my own square, in honor of Sitto, who crocheted so many blankets, mostly from scrap yarn in her 93 years. It incorporates a granny square, and it features green–a color of abundance, of “sahlan,” and blue–color of the oceans on which those freeing persecution must often travel. Creating those rounds in blue, I imagined easy, smooth passage. Creating the green corners, I envisioned safe harbor, welcome.

I’m still working on my Welcome Blanket, and I’ll post again about the fun with tessellations–arranging the square into a blanket pattern. Meanwhile you can download the pattern and get started. Please join the Welcome Blanket Project too.

Download Sitto’s Welcome from Ravelry


Alpine Frost Cowl: Crochet Along with Me

Model: Linnea Pearson

We have had a looooong winter here in Alaska, and we’re really enjoying it. There is still snow on the ground, even here at sea level, and the skiers and ice skaters are very happy. After a couple of years of not much snow, (my photo almanac tells me last year at this time, things were well into blossom), we have plenty. But as spring is “officially” here,  we’ve reached the equinox, and our long days are back, I’m happy to be crocheting something light and airy–even if it is still frosty and warm.

I created the Alpine Frost Cowl for my sweet friend Missy who’s the brilliant dyer behind Northern Bee Studio. She lives and works here in Juneau, and her colors are inspired by our surroundings. I love collaborating with her because my shapes and stitches are also inspired by the trees, mountains, water, and in this case, frosty windows.

I adapted my nearly decade-old design, the Alpine Frost Scarf, into a cowl because it’s the perfect combination of Missy’s squishy Targhee Baby lace yarn, and wearability–I’m all about cowls these days because they are so pretty and don’t get in the way like a scarf sometimes can. Of course–cowls are also quick projects–a plus when you’re trying out a new lace pattern. Alpine Frost is a great, easy beginner lace pattern. Since my friend Linnea both crocheted and modeled the version in the photos, I am getting ready to start my own cowl. Will you join me? We can post photos on Instagram and Facebook (hashtag #AlpineFrostCAL), and I’ll bet we’ll be done before spring gets too sprung.

Alpine Frost Cowl. Model: Linnea Pearson

New Ripple Page



NOTE: Hi Friends–this is a re-publishing of an old post called “Rippling Along” from 2012 that was experiencing technical difficulties.

“Like a blanket to wear around your neck,” we agreed. I’d been chatting with Melissa, who owns Seaside Yarns–the lovely little yarn shop here in Juneau. We are both crocheters from childhood and we have strong associations with granny squares and the popular zigzag patterns of the 1970s. My house has my grandmother’s scrap blankets on various beds and couches. We reach for them when we’re chilly or just need to feel comforted.

Missy and I wanted to have a fall project that would be soft and meditative, comforting. I had seen someone crocheting a ripple-stitch baby blanket the other day out of fingering weight baby yarn and that gave me the idea for a scarf. We settled on sock yarn–fine, washable, generous put up. And we picked a simple two-color stripe. It was serendipity that Missy had just gotten a new sock yarn into the shop–“Nordly’s Superwash” from Viking of Norway is a single-ply 75% wool, 25% nylon yarn with long color repeats that just begged to be turned into a stripy, ripply scarf.

Ripple yarn

So, join us, if you will, in rippling. You can use any yarn and hook you like. I’m using a US size F.

This is a one-row pattern that takes no time to memorize, so you’ll be rippling meditatively as you contemplate the color changes in your scarf or the ones out the window. Or, like me, you can listen to a book “on tape.” Mine is yet another vampire novel that I’m listening to via audio-book (A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, It was with this book that I discovered Amazon, who owns Audible.com now has the option of purchasing a bundled audio and kindle version of certain books, you can start reading, listen a bit, then go back to reading and your location is sync’d. The weird thing is, it’s cheaper to buy the kindle edition first and then add “voice narration,” than it is to buy the audiobook and subsequently add the kindle version. thank you, Marly Bird for the recommendation).

sc-bl = single crochet in the back loop of the stitch. This makes the yummy, scrunchy ribbed texture of this scarf that compliments the undulations of the ripple.
shell = 3 sc-bl, or 3 sc in the foundation row, in the stitch indicated. After the foundation row, the shells will always be worked in the center stitch of the shell from the row below.

The pattern is adapted from Jan Eaton’s wonderful resource 200 Ripple Stitch PatternsIt’s a multiple of 11 stitches +10. You can make yours as narrow or as wide as you like. I began with a chain of 54, (i.e. 44 +10)

How to Ripple:

Foundation Row:  sc in 2nd ch from hook, and each of next 3 ch, *[shell in next ch, sc in next 4 ch, sk 2 ch, sc in ea of next 4 ch.] Repeat from * to last 5 ch, shell in next ch, sc in next 4 ch, turn.

Pattern Row: Ch 1. Skip 1st sc, sc-bl in the next 4 stitches *[shell in next st, sc-bl in next 4 sts, sk 2 sts, sc-bl in next 4 sts.] Repeat from * to last 6 sts, shell in next st, sc-bl in next 3 sts, skip 1 st, sc in both loops of final st, turn.

Repeat the pattern row to grow your scarf. Change colors every two rows carrying the unused color not too snugly up one side of the scarf. A little note about changing colors: when you reach the end of the second row of a color finish the final stitch by pulling up the last loop with the new color. That way your turning chain will be in the new color.

Work the ripple, as Elizabeth Zimmerman might say, “until you can’t stand it any longer,” or until the scarf is generous enough to make several warm wraps around your neck or until you run out of yarn. I picked one multi-colored stripe and one semi-solid, and I’m already enjoying watching the shifts in color and the variations of contrast happening with my scarf. Yes, I’m easily entertained. Will we decide to add an edging or a fringe? Only time will tell. Let me know in the comments if you decide to join our ripple-along.

Turning a #pussyhat on its ear…

The nation’s fiber community appears to have gotten a bee in its collective bonnet. Or, rather, we’ve been grabbed by the urge to make pussyhats for the Women’s March–on Washington and all over the country. So much so, that there’s been a run on pink yarn across the country!

Actor and playwright Jeanne Sakata models the pussyhat she’s going to wear to the LA Women’s March.

Purrsonally, I’m tickled pink about the idea of so much craftivism happening all at once. A couple of things are particularly awesome about this project:

  • The idea of the pussy hat is striking–a sea of people, women AND men, standing up for equality by wearing fun, handmade hats. I love hats!
  • The folks at the pussyhat project conceived a super-simple construction idea–a rectangle, that when folded in half, creates a hat with auto-magically appearing ears. What this does is leave an OPEN CANVAS for knitting, crocheting, or sewing and creating that rectangle any way you want.

I decided what I wanted to do was crochet my hat sideways, so that I could easily create a rectangle with both ribbing and smooth fabric using the bulky pink yarn I had in my stash. I have several more hats to make–that I should mail ASAP, so I’m keeping this post brief. (If you want to see another cute take on a crocheted version–check out Kim Werker’s. I love it!)


Working on my second #pussyhat

Here’s a recipe to make my crocheted version. Grab a pencil and a measuring tape, along with your yarn and hook. Any yarn and hook size will work! This pattern is especially great for bulky yarn and turning out many hats quickly.

Measure your head. The width of the hat fabric needs to be 1/2 of this measurement, minus an inch or so for stretch (The bulkier the yarn, the less elastic it will likely be. you can wrap the hat around your head while you’re working to see if it’s big enough). My hat made with bulky yarn is 9″ across the front, unstretched. (Head circumference/2 – 1 = _________ [W])

Make a ch 17″ long, then add 2 ch.
(TIP: make your tail long enough to sew up one side–a yard should probably do it).

Hdc into the back bump of the chain for 4 1/2 inches across the ch. Count that number of stitches (for me it was 11). This will be your ribbing section, and you’ll repeat it at the other end of the hat. ________ sts [R].

Esc (extended single crochet) across until you reach the final ____ [R] stitches.

Hdc in those final stitches. Turn.

Work all subsequent rows as follows:

Hdc ____[R], esc across to final ___[R] sts, hdc to end.

This gives you a fabric that’s ribbed on each end and soft and flexible in the middle.

Work as indicated until your fabric is [W] inches wide.

Hat after seaming, before securing ends.

Fold the hat in half and crochet the side edge together with a slip stitch, loosely. Fasten off and repeat for the other side. Weave in ends. Make several and share with your friends!


Asteroflora Cures Fear of Charts


One of the things I love most about teaching a Craftsy class is the interactions I get to have from crocheters all over the world. Students are engaged and excited, and they pose interesting questions, and share beautiful examples of their work.

Today, I got a sweet note from Papitha, writing from New Zealand–a long way from Alaska. Papitha took My First Crochet Shawl, and her Asteroflora came out so beautifully that she wanted to display it in a fiber (fibre in New Zealand!) exhibition, and she asked me to sign her photo.

Here’s some of what she had to say:

Your class has helped me overcome the fear of reading and crocheting a shawl from the charts. I’m thrilled to showcase my first crochet shawl at the exhibition. Will send you the pics of the exhibition which happens from 21-25 June. Cambridge Creative fibre exhibition is considered as a big and an important event which generates money for our club. We meet up twice a  month to share our passion for fibre. Two weeks ago at the National exhibition I noticed no one exhibited crochet items. Something I’m planning to take on as a challenge.

I’m so glad Papitha now likes working from charts, and has challenged herself to exhibit at the New Zealand National Fibre Exhibition next year. I wish I could go! I’ve asked her if she would do a guest blog post after she goes to the Cambridge Creative Fibre Exhibition, and she’s agreed! So stay tuned for that later in the summer. Have fun, Papitha!

BONUS! In Celebration of overcoming fibre fears and taking on big challenges, here’s a 50% off coupon for My First Crochet Shawl. Enjoy!


Diving Deeper into Mod Waterfall