Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Getting Started - Crochet Basics

Q. Dear Aunt Esther,
Hello from Canada eh! I've never ever crocheted in my life however I'm willing to learn because of a pattern I came across of a unicorn/horse that I would like to make time and time again.
Link: http://web.archive.org/web/20070104045405/http://www.allfreecrafts.com/crochet/horse.shtml
In your opinion, where should I start and what should I be learning to understand the basics of crocheting and not just the doing but the written instructions as well? Thank-you for your time and all of your great videos!
Sincerely,A Canuck Wanting to Crochet

A. Hello, my Canuck friend! I'm so glad you're wanting to learn to crochet! You will really enjoy it! You ask where to get started in learning how to crochet. First, you'll need to buy a hook. Some of my favorite sizes are the F and G hooks. Hooks can be labeled differently, so I've made a chart up showing how the different labels match up. It's shown on this site:

This same page also shows the different terms that are commonly used in crochet patterns. The basic 2 that you'll need to learn first are the chain (ch) stitch and the single crochet stitch (sc). It looks like the pattern that you're wanting to make is made up of single crochets, so that would be good. Before you start your pattern, though, I would recommend that you make a practice swatch (square) just to learn how to do these 2 stitches. Perhaps chain 15 stitches, then turn and single crochet in each of those stitches. I have a YouTube that shows how to do this at:

After you're comfortable with these 2 stitches, I have 2 other YouTubes that show a couple of other stitches, if you're interested. Here they are:

Double crochet, how to hold the yarn for tension, counting stitches, end of row turn

crocheting in back of stitch, half-double crochet
When you've accomplished these few techniques, you'll be able to crochet most patterns! Even if a pattern uses another technique, they will always explain how to do it in the pattern. I plan to do some more videos of different stitches, but need to learn how to do a movie maker editor first.

Again, I know you'll love crocheting - let me know if you have other questions!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hanky babies in blankets

Q. My aunt used to entertain us little girls by folding her hanky to make it into a baby wrapped in a blanket. Very small of course. I have a granddaughter now and would love to have the directions to create this little gem. My aunt is gone now. Any knowlege of these little hanky babies in blankets?

Esther - The following was sent to me by one of our wonderful readers:

Do you know what a "church baby" is? Of course, you probably have infants and
toddlers in your church nursery, but they are the real-live crying and diaper-wetting kind!
However, in Elsie's time, "church babies" were tiny, old-fashioned dolls that a very
young child would carry to church. Unlike a rattle or some noisy toy, these were
perfectly acceptable for even the strictest parents because they were . . . well, silent!
Made simply from things they had at home, mothers showed their ingenuity by creating
these tiny dolls that would amuse their wriggling children. And so, church babies were
born! And like all handmade items, no two are exactly alike - which is what makes it that
much more fun. If you had been born in Elsie's day, it is likely that you would have had
a "church baby" in your carriage as your parents pushed it to church. Oh, what a sweet
scene! But we have work to do!

One of the ministries that would benefit from these sweet and easy-to-make dolls is your
own church nursery. Perhaps, if you and your friends made enough "church babies," then
they could be given as a special token to each infant that is dedicated or baptized in your
church. You could always make some for the nursery workers to keep on hand for that
little one who just needs a special plaything while at church.

Or maybe you could see to it that there were always several of these dolls in a pretty
basket for guests who visit with small children. Think of it! A new couple attends your
worship services with their very young boy. He is fidgety, he is fussy, and because his
parents are strangers and probably a little nervous, too, they keep him with them in the
pew. What if someone were to hand the baby (or toddler) a "church baby" -- with a blue
ribbon, of course! -- as a welcome gift? His parents would be grateful for the
thoughtfulness and hospitality of your church and the small boy would be . . . well, silent!
It's just the sort of gracious, little gesture that goes a long way toward making strangers
into friends.

There are so many other uses for these soft, sweet dolls. How about the nursery of a local
hospital, or a day care center, or pre-school, or any place that has small children that need
to be reassured and loved. And there is hardly a sweeter baby gift than a handcrafted
"church baby" for a new sister or brother or cousin or other newborn!

As always, use your wonderful creativity, and be generous and sweet in your giving.
"The Lord loves a cheerful giver," the Bible says! So enjoy this next activity and spread
good cheer. You are sure to be rewarded in smiles and thanks beyond what you can

Materials needed: Handkerchiefs (large men's handkerchiefs are good for the boys and
lacy, embroidered or pretty ones are sweet for the girls); cotton balls or polyester batting,
fine point fabric markers or paint pens, rubber bands, satin ribbon (blue, pink, green,
yellow, peach and white), and scissors.

This craft is very, very easy! Why not have a "church baby" get-together and make lots
of these dolls? First, all you do is take the handkerchief and pull it up in the center. Stuff
the "head" with cotton until it feels soft but firm enough to draw a face on. Then wrap a
rubber band to secure the "head" in place. What you should have at this point is a round
ball, a fairly tight neck and a flowing gown. You may need to adjust and play with it
yourself to get it to look just the way you want it.

Next, you'll design and draw a very simple face. Remember these are for young children
and it's often better to let them use their active imaginations than to fill in too much
detail. Besides, these are very tiny dolls and it might be overpowering or look more like
a clown than an angel! A simple dot for each eye, maybe eyebrows, a tiny nose and a
sweet mouth and you are done with the face. If you want you may draw or paint hair, but
it usually looks really fine without it. It's up to you. However, don't add any buttons or
glued on items or yarn hair that a child could swallow!

Now, the final step of the craft is as easy as the rest. Take some ribbon - blue for boys
and pink for girls (use other colors when you don't know the gender of the child and for
variety's sake!) and wrap that around the neck covering the rubber band. Tie it in a firm
knot, then make a pretty bow and let the rest of the ribbon stream down onto the
handkerchief. Important: after you have secured the ribbon, snip the rubber band away
and remove all traces of it. We don't want anybody choking! Babies and young children
love to stroke the satiny edges of blankets and dolls -- for some reason it is a comfort to
them. So, don't scrimp on the ribbon! Be lavish with it. It's part of the old-fashioned
charm and it's the only colorful part of the church baby. In fact, if you choose to, you
may make an all-white "angel church baby" using white ribbon on a pure white hankie.
Then you can add tiny dots for eyes and a smile using a gold or silver paint pen. Simply

So there you have it -- easy as pie. (Well, maybe easy as eating a pie is more like it!)
Have a great time and feel free to experiment with different sizes and face designs and
ribbon colors, but remember -- absolutely nothing that would choke a child, okay? Okay!
God bless you as your hands do the work of the Lord. Be Creative and Have fun!