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  • Celebrate Relaxation Day With Knitting and Crochet

    Happy Relaxation Day! It may be Monday, but it's still the day for chilling out, hanging in a hammock, and having a mellow time. Since it has been shown that knitting and crochet have many health benefits, including stress reduction, they make a great addition to your relaxing celebrations.

    Anyone who has any experience with either craft knows how meditative it can be to sit and work on something simple, like the kind of project where you don't really need to pay close attention to the stitches because they're repetitive and basic. You can lounge with a drink or movie and work on them while you tune out the world around you.

    It can be great to zone out with an easy pattern, so celebrate Relaxation Day with one of these:

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  • How to Knit Lace: The Basics

    Lace knitting can seem daunting at first, but it's actually not as hard as you might think. You are using the same basic stitches, increases, and decreases as always, just arranged in such a way as to make beautiful patterns.

    The stitches you need to know to make simple, beginner lace are knit, purl, yarn over, k2tog, and ssk. If you need a refresher course on any of those, click on the term and it will take you to our tutorial on each. More advanced lace patterns may use other increases and decreases, but for now, those are enough.

    Left-leaning vs. Right-leaning decreases Left-leaning vs. Right-leaning decreases

    The various lace patterns are created by alternating the yarn overs, which make holes, with the decreases, which create direction in the pattern (ssk leans left while k2tog leans right). If you are working a pattern that is even, like a scarf or blanket, there should be the same number of yarn over increases as decreases. Something like a shawl or hat, or even some sweaters, will likely have an unequal number on some rows to create shaping.

    The key to lace knitting is following the directions exactly. These will be either written out or shown as a chart. Sometimes a pattern will provide both -- in that case you can use whichever you prefer -- but often there will only be one or the other, so you should understand both. Written instructions are exactly what they sound like. The stitch pattern is written out in words, for example:

    k2tog, yo, k1, rep to end

    You will see some variation on "rep to end" a lot. It just means you repeat the stitch pattern over and over until you get to the end of the row (or round). Sometimes, the pattern will only want you to repeat part of a row. When this happens, the repeated part will be marked, usually with brackets, parentheses, or asterisks. It may also tell you to stop a certain number of stitches before the end of the row and do something else. For example:

    k1, k2tog, yo, [k3, k2tog, yo], rep to 2 before end, k2

    Charts take the same information and present it visually. They look like a grid filled with various symbols, usually with a key to tell you what each one means. You read them from bottom to top. When knitting flat, you will go right to left on right side rows and left to right on wrong side rows. In the round you will go right to left for every round.

    The benefit of using written directions is that they're easy to follow, but the drawback is that it can be harder to visualize if you're doing it right. Charts lay everything out so you can see what the piece should look like, and are great if you're a visual learner. But it's easy to lose your place, which is why row counters and stitch markers come in handy. For example:

    Basic Lace - Stitch Fiddle

    The best way to learn a new technique is to just jump in and do it. Below are a few of our easier lace patterns. Good luck!

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  • Man Makes Thousands of Charity Hats While in Hospice

    Photo credit: Chris Clark/Spectrum Health Beat Photo credit: Chris Clark/Spectrum Health Beat

    Some people are truly generous. Morrie Boogaart, a 91-year-old man from Michigan, has been making charity hats for more than 15 years.

    Even being in hospice care for terminal cancer hasn't stopped him. He still uses a knitting loom to make hat after hat for the homeless population. Over the years, Boogaart has made too many hats to count. He doesn't know exactly how many he has produced, because he stopped keeping track at 8,000.

    He learned how to make the hats in 2001, when his daughter taught him while he was recuperating from hip surgery, Boogaart told Spectrum Health Beat.

    He may be slower than he used to, but he isn't stopping. Using yarn donated or received as gifts, he makes hat after hat in bed each day, donating the finished products to any charity that needs them, like the Salvation Army or local missions.

    Boogaart has had a long life of helping others, from shoveling snow For neighbors to his service in World War II. Now, he's spending his remaining days helping those in need keep warm.

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