Monday, September 30, 2013

Meet Karen Baisley

I "met" Karen Blaisley through Share a Square, the group that formed the foundation of SASsy Stitchers.  I always love seeing her work, particularly the fabulous squares she makes.  Even though it's still not in person, it's lovely getting to know her better.  So, please,


I’m so glad to have been asked by L.J. to be a guest on her blog. I want to thank her for her patience, since I’m late with my article for her. L.J. is one of the truly lovely people I have met through the craft of crochet, and I’m thankful for her friendship across the miles.
Growing up in the Midwest there was always somebody making something. I had aunts who baked all their own bread, sewed clothes, and canned anything that could be canned.   I had a great uncle who would drive around on trash day looking for lawn chairs set out for pick up. He would clean them up and macramé new backs and seats for them. One grandmother taught me how to darn socks. The other crocheted me hats and mittens, but her real gift was doilies. She made such beautiful pieces. My mother decorated cakes. She took a class in the early 70s, and from then on made cakes for every celebration for everyone in the family. She even made my wedding cake! 

Shortly after moving into our home in 1994 Mom and Grandma Bentley made the drive to Virginia to visit. I didn't have curtains for all the windows, and things were still in boxes. I felt quite frazzled and unprepared to have "guests". Little did I know Mom and Grandma had other plans.  Mom brought fabric, and Grandma set to work. She hand sewed these cafe curtains and a small valance that were promptly hung and fluffed in my dining room. When my grandmother was sewing them she gave me something of permanence from her heart that allow me to connect with her love every time I see or touch them.   

Now, over 20 years later, the curtains hang in my bathroom. Not only do I still get compliments on them, but the memories attached to them are priceless.

My sister, Laura, taught me early on how to crochet and cross stitch. Well, she tried to teach me. It didn’t stick. She also tried to teach me how to quilt. That didn’t stick, either. It seemed the crafty gene had skipped me.

Then, I hurt my back volunteering at a dog kennel for service dogs. Activities like grocery shopping caused me to walk like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. My children were in their teens, so they didn’t need constant care. My husband was stationed clear across the country. Gardening and walking my dogs used to be my favorite activities, but I couldn’t do either one of those, anymore. Frustrated and depressed, I spent a lot of time on the computer.

That’s when I learned about The Snuggle Project. It was founded by Rae French to provide handmade, pet mats for shelter pets. Here was something I could do right from the couch! I quickly learned that sewing was not going to be fun for me, though. Grandma crocheted. Mom crocheted. Sis crocheted. I knew I could do it, but who would teach me?

Sandra Petit taught me! Through her website,, I found her Youtube videos. She was so patient. She didn’t mind at all if I stopped her and hit the rewind to see something again. Finally, I got past a chain! Snuggles were the perfect project to practice with. Dogs and cats don’t care if their bed is square or lopsided or uneven. 

With physical therapy my back is much better, but crocheting continues to enrich my life. It doesn’t matter what is going on in my life, once I have that hook in hand I relax. I meet the most amazing people through my craft. I’ve met crafty folks from all over the country through Ravelry and Facebook. 

One of my great mental necessities is getting together with friends in my area for Sit and Stitch sessions. We’ll bring our hooks and yarn and meet at a local burger joint or coffee shop to stitch and share and chat. I love the emotion that is attached to everything I made. Hand crafting something gives that item so much more meaning than if you simply bought it at the store.

One of the first things I made after gaining confidence through Snuggle crafting was a comfort shawl for my mother. It’s big and made from soft Homespun yarn. She says when she wraps up in it she feels like I’m giving her a hug. I live four states away, but my mom can feel a loving hug from me anytime she needs one. That’s magic!

I have donated items to groups that help babies, the homeless, the aged, pets, veterans, bereaved parents, and abused women. It means so much to me that a hat or a scarf or a blanket square I made can provide hope and comfort to someone I have never even met. When it’s appropriate I attach a note saying, “We have never met, but I thought about you with every stitch. Know that you are not forgotten.” Isn’t that what we all want? Someone to remember us? Someone to care?

I cherish the things the women in my family have crafted for me. More so now that Grandma has passed, Mom has a hard time seeing, and my sister has Multiple Sclerosis. She isn’t able to do all the things she once did, so the love and effort she put into this small magnet last year make it one of my most treasured items. I hope that the items I crochet for my family will carry my love to them long after I’m gone.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Maureen Kane: My Stitching Influence

As I would stroll through the main page on Facebook, I would often see wonderful photos posted by Maureen Kane.  Then I realized they were taken in the part of Ireland from which my ancestors came, and we started communicating.  Then she mentioned stitching.  I invited Maureen to join SASsy Stitchers.  Trustingly, she joined and now she's one of us.  I love all the things she makes and her photos of Portrush, Ireland.

My Stitching Influence - Maureen Kane

A blue pleated dress and a white crocheted collar made especially for it by my mum is one of my earliest memories, especially as I fell in a stream while wearing this outfit.

Throughout our childhood we watched as mum sat every evening crocheting covers for chair armrests, cushion covers, chair backs, tray clothes, table clothes--mostly to give as presents.  As a teenager, she made me an amazing dress which I wore to go to dances.  I even had a Irish Crochet blouse to wear to work and, oh how I loved it--even if it was not the best fit!

                     Scarf Crochet for me around 1970
A Colored Irish                       The Irish Crochet Blouse
Crochet Blouse                       which I loved.

"I will teach you to crochet" was more an order than a suggestion but, with perseverance, I learnt but did not really appreciate the skill.  Eventually, I joined a small group of people who were learning to crochet.  I made my own Irish Crochet blouse, but it did not have the same appeal to me as the first one.
Around 1995, I developed a great passion for cross stitch, which was good therapy during many happy/sad times.  Working with the bright colours helped to divert my attention from many a challenging day.  Two years ago, I cross stitched wee pin cushions, called Biscornus, and The World of Cross Stitching published pictures which I had sent to them.   
I have also knitted a few Aran jumpers, but knitting used to make me cross (do not know why).  On the occasion of my twin nephew's birth, one wee jacket had one arm longer than the other, so I just gave up the knitting until about 2 years ago when I joined a small group called "The Causeway Castoffs" who meet weekly in our local library.  Now I have devleoped patience and have produced lots of wee baby clothes, some of which I give to a group called "Sleeping Angels.  Some garments I made have gone abroad.

Today, with the computer, it is great to see the work of everyone.  I enjoy the friendship and especially appreciate all the work LJ Roberts puts into the SASsy Stitchers group.  My greatest needlework influence on my life was my mother.  I certainly loved her work but, in reality, did not appreciate her great knowledge of all things crochet/needlework.

I love on the North Coast of Ireland in a town called Portrush.  We have long, sandy beaches on either side of the town.  We are famous for golfers Fred Daly, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, each of whom has won Open Golf Championships.  The North Coastline is beautiful with many people visiting each year.  Rather than describe Portrush, I have included a few photographs.

Portrush Harbour
West Strand

Dunluce Castle Approx. 5 miles away
East Strand Portrush with Royal Portrush Golf Course
Whitepark Bay

Monday, July 15, 2013

Carol George: Crocheter and Birthday Girl!

I "met" Carol George through Share-A-Square, a charity for which we both crocheted.  When the founder, Shelly Tucker, decided to move on to other ventures, many of us decided to make her an afghan in order to thank her for many years of hard work.  I had not assembled an afghan in over 30 years.  Carol was one of the people who encouraged me and reminded me to "Breathe in.  Breathe out."  One day, we will met in person.  It doesn't matter.  I definitely count her as one of my friends.  Her story is an interesting one.  Please join me in thanking her for sharing it with us, and in wishing her a very Happy Birthday!!!!!.

My name is Carol, I am also known as Mimi, and I am a (HOOKOPOTAMUS). July 15, 2013 is a milestone for me. I turn 65 years old.

I have had an interesting life. At eleven months old, I was adopted by the only people I ever knew as Mom and Dad. I was very fortunate. Mom was my crafting mentor. I remember being sick and, to keep me occupied, she would hand me her button box and a shoe lace and tell me to make a necklace or count all the white ones – a great pastime for young child. (To this day, I have a button box.) Then I graduated to the potholder loom. Sewing was next then knitting. I also attended school during a time when we were able to take home economics – sewing, cooking, graphic arts.

My craft interest also expanded into needle point and a lot of cross stitch. My eyes don’t allow me to continue with that any long. Every Thanksgiving one of Mom’s sisters provided a craft project for us to do. I remember one year we made clothes pin “dolls” for the Twelve Days Christmas.

Mom and I spent many hours crocheting. We made many prayer shawls, especially after my dad passed away. Mom also made a lot of crochet and knit blankets for charities through the church. She taught me well. My dad’s older sister was an avid crochet whiz; I loved her work. There were a lot of granny squares in her work. She made all her nieces and nephews afghans and sweaters. So, I guess even without the genetic connection, I was surrounded by people who help instill my love of crafting.

The most important part of my craft which these days is basically crochet (perhaps some knitting and beading thrown in), is that it has opened my new life in California.

I have told that I was married and have three sons (now grown) from that relationship. To make a long story short (1982), we divorced and he passed away in 2000. I spent years not knowing anything but raising kids and being a dollar short. That is when Mom and I started our crochet revival.

Around Valentine’s 2004, I met this guy online playing bingo. We started chatting and in May he flew from Sacramento to Massachusetts to meet me and my family. At that time he bought me a plane ticket to come to Sacramento in July, to meet his family. Ironically, I had lived in Sacramento from September 2001 until April 2003, but returned to Massachusetts to take care of my mom. In September 2004, we rented a U-Haul and moved me and my “stuff”, back out to Sacramento… stopping in Reno to get married. We had a wonderful three years, working, taking cruises, enjoying our new life, including visiting a parrot habitat in Puerta Villarta, MX (think cruise).

In July 2007, Rich was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma – a cancer of the bone marrow. From July 2007 until March 2008, we spent 3 days a week preparing his system for a stem cell transplant. Most of my family got sweaters (knitted) for Christmas that year. In April 2008, we spent every day going to the infusion center to ready him for the harvesting of his stem cells [I am now knitting and crocheting]. On May 8, 2008, he was admitted to the hospital for the final steps: two heavy doses of chemo and finally the stem cell transplant. He was there for 21 days while he built up his immune system.

All the while, I was making squares for an afghan. Then it was chemo hats… baby blankets… and crochet took hold of my heart. Small projects and they were completed so much faster than my knitting projects. After 21 days, Rich came home, but could not do too much. I am delighted to say that, although it's still a day-to-day thing, Rich has now been in remission for 5 years.  Still, I felt I had to hold on the homestead to make sure everything was okay.

I participated in many online charity projects. Share-a-Square got me really involved in making six inch squares for charity. Then I joined Handmade Especially for You which provides comfort scarves and baby blankets to several California women’s shelters.


Next was Charity Crochet Exchange – making six and twelve inch squares for charity projects (a new one every month).

Finally, I participate in Project Linus. I had been crocheting so many small and medium blankets I just didn’t know what to do with them.

This charity thing is all very good and I have made a some wonderful “online” friends in the process. But until recently I have still felt tied to the homestead. My break-out moment began with a phone call I made to a gal I had known through the YMCA water arthritis therapy. We were chatting and I asked what she was doing for adventure these days. She mentioned a group of knitters and crocheters who meet at the neighborhood library Friday mornings at 10. I asked if I could join and that was that. I love this group.

Not only am I learning more, I am making friends in the process. I now am the group photographer and write weekly notes on Ravelry for the group. We also do projects for charity. The most recent is making comfort dolls for children in Africa. The dolls are shipped with their medications and are so appreciated!

Through this group I have also found a church group to help lift me spiritually. And I have joined the Sacramento Crochet Guild which meets once a month. There is a program for learning and sharing for learning and ideas. Slowly I am regaining my people skills and realizing more blessing will come to my life the more I get out there and look for them. Finally, when I crochet or knit, my hand isn’t in the cookie jar. I am in my own little world thinking about what I am going to make next… and then after that I will make…

These are some of my favorite creations:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Welcome knitter/crocheter Karina Aguirre

It delights me that SASsy Stitchers is truly an international community.  Although she no longer lives in the US, we are delighted to have South American born Karina Aguirre as a member of our group and willing to share her story with us.  I have to admit, the very last line really touched my heart and rather says it all.

My name is Karina.  I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and now I live in Denton, Texas. I’m married and I have two sons. I love to knit and in the last years I learned how to crochet. Of course I love to buy needles, yarn, bags and everything yarn related! I also believe, like any other knitter, that I never have enough yarn!

The reason I learned how to knit is because of my brother. I was almost 10 years old when my mom surprised me with the news! I was having a baby brother and he needed a blanket, booties and so on.

One day, my aunt put my first set of needles in my hand and some yarn.  My first stitches were purl and I felt IN LOVE!!

I have never stopped knitting. My therapy, my yoga, my free time is always trying to find a new yarn store, a teacher, a place to knit, a group with fellow knitters. I rather spend money on yarn or magazines than on anything else.

I love handmade things. They are great gift to show how much you care for another person. I love when my friends or family buy me magazines or yarn or anything for my craft. I love my knitting group, the one who meets at B&N every Wednesday and the one I have on Facebook. I love that this year I went to a Fiber Fest.

Learned at Fiber Fest
Another thing that I love is that my mom uses the blue vest I knitted for her and wants another one.  Somehow, it is like having her near me.

When I travel with my family, my husband knows he needs to stop in at least one yarn store in the new city we are visiting.

Now , that I don’t live in my home country, two of my  favorites activities when I’m going to visit my family are  going to classes, or visiting my teachers.

My mom told me that only I can spend money on this because, let me tell you, my mom hates all related to knitting or cooking or anything craft involved.

Within the years I knitted the most important projects of my live; the first things for my sons.

For my oldest son                                                      For my youngest son
I knit or crochet for everybody--the person who helps the kids to cross the street, the teacher who is waiting outside when it is so cold in winter, for  friends, for the teachers, for my mom, my husband  and my kids.

For the crossing guard                      scarf for the preschool teacher             panda hat for son's teacher                 
I really think that I knit or crochet because I think that it is my way to hug people with love.
A scarf for a friend

Friday, June 14, 2013

Overcoming our own limitations

Do you find you're often intimidated by something that appears to be difficult?  I had seen pictures of this stitch and loved the texture of it but couldn't figure out how it was done.  Finally, I downloaded a pattern.  Wouldn't you know?  It's really very simple.

It's sad how many times in our lives, we think "I can't to that."  We believe we're not talented enough, or smart enough, or capable enough.  Sometimes it takes someone else believing in us but, now that I'm alone with neither partner nor job, I find I really need to believe in myself.

I can find the information.  I can find the resource.  I can find someone to help me.  I can do it!  And many times, I find that which I thought would be so hard, turns out to be very simple.  All I had to do was take the time and try.
Whether it's a new crochet stitch or pattern, or whether it's a much more life-altering change, believe in yourself.  Sometimes you may need someone to help you, but that's okay.  You can do it!

Note:  For those interested, you'll find the pattern on Ravelry.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Meet Greg Cohoon; Husband, Father, Knitter

When SASsy Stitchers started, I wanted to ensure it was an inclusive group of crocheters, knitters, quilters, weavers, sewers; people who loved all forms of fiber arts.  And that is who we are.  However, I am even more delighted that we are also gender inclusive and have men in our group. 

One of our newer members is Greg Cohoon.  Greg Cohoon is a husband, father, knitter, worship leader, amateur theologian, musician, IT professional, amateur radio (ham) operator, geocacher, baseball fan, marathoner, novelist, and poet. He's drmellow on Ravelry and loves making new knitting friends.

I am so pleased Greg agreed to share his heartwarming story with us.  Enjoy!

I learned how to knit almost a year ago, in June of 2012, a few weeks after my daughter was born. Rorie was born at 30 weeks, two-and-a-half months early. She was a tiny baby -- two-and-a-half pounds -- and as a result of her premature birth, she spent five weeks in the NICU before she was able to come home.

Life in the NICU is often described as a roller coaster, in that it is full of ups and downs. Compared to the experiences many people have in the NICU, we were blessed with a relatively easy stay, but we did experience our share of setbacks, disappointment, anxiety, and all of the difficult emotions one encounters in a situation like this. We also experienced our share of milestones met, accomplishments, joy, pride, relief, and happy surprises.

One of the highlights that will always stick with me was one of the NICU happy surprises. One night while we were sitting by Rorie's isolette watching her sleep, one of the nurses came by with a handful of tiny hand-knitted hats. They were made and donated to the hospital by volunteers who do such things. The nurse gave us a few of the hats and went along the hall, distributing hats to the other families who were in the NICU. Those hats were such a welcome gift to us. Not only were they practical -- they helped Rorie regulate her own temperature when we were holding her outside of her isolette -- but they were also whimsical and fun. They were full of color and really did a lot to brighten the atmosphere whenever Rorie was wearing one of them.

As I looked at those hats, turning them over in my hand, I thought to myself that knitting hats like that was probably something I could learn how to do. I could almost see how the stitches were constructed, and I was sure that if I could get someone to show me how to knit, I would be able to make my own hats for Rorie. That was something I really wanted to do, because a lot of my time while she was in the NICU was spent feeling helpless and watching her sleep. I thought that if I could give her some hats, that would be something I could do to help.

I found a simple hat pattern online -- the Preemie Stocking Cap pattern from Lion Brand Yarn -- and convinced my mother-in-law to teach me the basic stitches I needed to know to knit it. My wife had knitted scarves in the past, so we had some yarn around the house, and I found a skein that would work for a hat. After a little tutorial from my mother-in-law, I was off to the races. Knit two, purl two, knit two, purl two.... Get all the way to the end, turn it around, and do it again. After a few rows, I had a respectable band of ribbing on my needles and switched to the main portion of the hat. Knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one.... Turn it around. Knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one.... Turn it around. Repeat. And so on. Soon enough, it was tall enough. What is this "knit two together" that the pattern talks about? A quick demonstration from my mother-in-law, and I was decreasing. Soon enough, I'm done, with a triangle-ish looking thing hanging from a few stitches on one needle, curling over on the sides. How do I sew it together? Once again, another quick demonstration from my mother-in-law, and I'm sewing the seam together then weaving in my ends.

Imagine my joy when I was holding in my hand a complete, finished, tiny hat, hand-made by me, just for my daughter.

It was a day or two before we got a chance to put the hat on her head. And when we did, it barely fit (that's a good thing -- she was growing quickly!), so she didn't get to wear it often before she completely outgrew it. But it really did make me very happy to look down at her in her isolette, wearing that hat. She seemed to like it, too.

After finishing that hat, I was definitely addicted. Knitting is a perfect NICU activity. As a parent, I spent a lot of time in the NICU, pretty much actively doing nothing. Knitting helped pass that time. And what fun it is when a completed project comes off the needles. I kept up my knitting when Rorie came home and expanded to things other than hats. I knitted booties (that she only got to wear once before growing out of them). I knitted her a small teddy bear. I knitted more hats. I knitted the cutest frog toy -- the body is stuffed with a tennis ball for added bounce and fun! I expanded my knitting audience to include hats for my wife and friends. I knitted geeky dishcloths for myself. I learned how to do simple lace work with a triangle shawl. I learned what blocking was, and how it magically makes something ugly look good. I dove into Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket -- and loved it. Recently, one of my friends had a premature baby, so I immediately knew to go to my needles and whip them up a whimsical hat. I'm currently working on a cardigan for Rorie, and my wife has already put in orders for sweaters for herself. She has a good time going into my Ravelry account and adding projects she wants me to do to my queue.

I've heard it said that knitting is good therapy. For me, it certainly is. I'm a software developer, and knitters are human computers. After a long day at the office, I love coming home, settling in my favorite chair, pulling out my needles and yarn, and getting a few more rows on whatever project I'm working on done. I can't knit fast enough -- there are so many projects I want to do, and just not enough time to do them. So I just keep adding them to my queue. Whenever I finish a project, I love going though my queue and picking out the next thing that is going to go on my needles.

So from one NICU Dad, on behalf of NICU parents everywhere, to anyone who has ever knit and donated an item to the hospital for preemies -- thank you. Thank you so very much. I know you probably never get to see the recipient of your gift, that you never get to know just how meaningful a gift it is. I want you to know what a great joy it was to our family when we received those hats. I'll never know who knitted them, so I can't thank them personally. And in addition to bringing us some joy during our NICU stay, receiving those hats turned me into a knitter.

We just celebrated Rorie's 1-year birthday and she's doing great. I pulled out the first hat I knitted for her almost a year ago and put it on her head to get a gauge of how far she's come.
It's really hard to believe that her head used to fit in that.