In addition to the free shipping promotion we are offering through Dec. 15th, today only we are offering an additional 10% off for #CyberMonday. Stop by AlyCatCreations and pick something up today! We love to craft and want to share those crafts with you. Stop by and see what we have!





Crochet Coziness

Lately I’ve done a bit of writing about writing, but I have still been crocheting! I unwind in the evenings by winding up pieces of yarn. This summer, I was particularly busy as many people I know had babies and grandbabies. Since May, I have crocheted five baby blankets; some are full on baby blankets, and a couple are stroller blankets. And as of today, all have been gifted. The latest is a stroller blanket for a colleague’s granddaughter. I am particularly proud of this one as I made up the pattern myself–or as the case is with most home-created patterns, I put together pieces of other patterns to create a new one. In addition, I made it entirely from my stash! This, as any experienced crafter knows, is quite a feat!

I started with a chain in a solid dusty rose–I can’t remember now how many, but it was divisible by 6 plus 1. Then I did several rows of half double crochet. You can tell by now that I am not a pattern maker, can’t you? I didn’t write down what I did while I did it. I should have. Let’s say 7 rows. It really doesn’t matter. Make the band as wide or as narrow as you would like. Then, I switched to a variegated yarn in purples, pinks, yellows, and white. With this, I stitched a shell pattern along the lines of Bev’s Preemie Coverlet . When I finished the stash of the variegated yarn, I switched back to the dusty rose and the half double crochet. Since I couldn’t remember how many rows I had done to begin with, I used the old, trusty “fold the blanket in half and compare the bands on either end” method. It works. Finally, I switched to a purple for a scalloped edge all the way around. Then all that was needed was the AlyCatCreations tag, and voila! a sweet stroller blanket.

Here is another I made this summer with the same center but different ends and edging, for another friend’s granddaughter. This one has the bands all around, not just on the short ends. These bands are made of alternating double and single crochet. The final ending is a simple single crochet. This one came almost all from my stash! The sea foam green edging came from a friend’s stash.

It was quite fun and freeing not being too tied to a pattern, but I think I’ll have to return to patterns for the Christmas gifts I wish to make next. For at least one, though, I should be able to hit the stash again! Fingers crossed! Remember, Christmas is right around the corner; if you want to give homemade gifts, you’d better get started, but if you don’t feel like doing it yourself, you can always check out AlyCatCreations1 on Etsy. We take special orders. Happy stitching!

Binge Watching, Creativity, and Murdoch

I have to be honest: I never really understood binge watching. Don’t get me wrong–I like TV and have shows I follow faithfully. Sometimes I do watch rerun upon rerun of Castle or Bones, so I guess that might qualify as binge watching, but as they are reruns and I have probably seen them at least once before, it doesn’t feel that way to me. I feel free to move about the apartment to take care of whatever it is I need to do.  And if I miss something I had either forgotten or remembered as a particularly good moment, I can always rewind. If the story gets a little disjointed, it doesn’t matter; I have seen it before; I know what is going to happen. This is not what most people mean when they say they binge watched a show. When a friend says he binge watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or House of Cards, he means that he stayed home all weekend on the couch (or the bed) glued to the TV or computer. He didn’t open the mail, put in the laundry, or make himself lunch while the show was still running. And as much as I love a well-told tale, this feels like a hostage situation to me. I feel trapped and guilty; I should be doing something more productive with my time. No judgment here, by the way; I do not think this kind of relaxing is bad; it just has not been for me.

And then I met William Murdoch.

And I had a crochet deadline.


Three things conspired to turn me into a binge watcher: 1. A friend’s baby shower was looming, and I needed to furiously crochet two blankets. Yes, she’s having twins. And yes, I didn’t leave myself enough time. I needed to devote my daytime hours to crochet, not just my night time, relaxing, TV watching time. 2. My husband caught a summer cold. We were supposed to go camping for three days, but the first day it rained and the second he came down with a cold. We didn’t go, but all my friends thought I was out of town, so my social calendar was quiet. Plus, it was good for him to have me home to make some soup and tea. 3. I remembered that a friend recommended Murdoch Mysteries to me.

I knew I had to buckle down to crochet these blankets, so I turned on the TV to find something to watch while I stitched. Being summer, nothing was on, so I flipped over to Netflix and started browsing. The name Murdoch Mysteries sounded familiar, though I really could not remember what my friend had said about it. “Eh,” I thought, “I trust his judgment.” And I turned it on. It is a little corny, a little predictable, and utterly charming. I was won over very quickly and started moving seamlessly from one episode to another. Murdoch, a detective in Victorian-era Toronto, turned me into a binge watcher. When the week was done, so were the blankets, and off I headed to the baby shower!

Now, vacation is over and real life has intruded. I have not quite finished the 7th season, and I think I’m going into withdrawal. And in googling Murdoch Mysteries for the picture above, I realize that while they are currently airing season 10, Netflix only has through season 7. What am I to do???

But in all seriousness, I do not think I could have finished the blankets without Murdoch. Binge watching kept my mind as busy as my hands.

Here are the two blankets: the same two colors,  reversing which is the main and which is the accent.  Though it took me nearly 45 minutes to choose the colors,  I am quite pleased with the result.  I can’t decide which one I like better! These little girls received many beautiful blankets before they have even been born. May they feel snuggled up with all the love that went into all those stitches.

Damn! I’ve Gotta Rip It!

According to my husband, my mother-in-law used to say, “Damn, I’ve gotta rip it” when she made a mistake in her crocheting or knitting. First of all, let me say that she was such a good crafter that I can hardly imagine her making a mistake. On the other hand, I know how easy it is to drop a stitch. And it is frustrating. How frustrating depends on how quickly you realize it. Tonight, for example, I realized I had dropped a stitch in a very easy pattern about 12 rows back. Boy was I annoyed! “Damn, I’ve gotta rip it!”

20170715_232938Just as I thought I was making headway and  nearing last third of the project, I sent myself back to less than halfway. (The picture was taken after I had already rewound much of the yarn.) I am frustrated now. Yet, also strangely inspired. (Hence this late night blog)

Creativity does that to us doesn’t it? We are inspired by something and we forge ahead trying to get what is in our heads out in whatever form we are working in at the moment. We struggle with the words on the screen (or paper) or with drawing that picture that is so clear in the mind’s eye or in crocheting a perfect blanket. What is in our heads is so beautiful, so inspiring, so communicative. But what comes out at the end of the pencil, the brush, the hook, the needle, is often so knotted and gnarled that we go back again and again to smooth it out, leaving instead a muddied, crinkly wake in our trail.

But it does smooth out. The tough part is believing in the process again and again. Not letting the defeat of ripping out a dozen rows of a blanket get in the way of completing it nonetheless. Not letting the umpteenth rejection letter stop you from writing or submitting. Not letting the misshapened hand or disporportionate body lead you to putting down the charcoal or the brush. The mistakes we make show us what not to do in the future. They lead us to the another path and another perception. And sometimes, they lead us to an altogether new inspiration that we had missed in our single-minded pursuit of the original vision.

Crochet and Mishaps 2

Last week I started a post about my crocheting mishap and published it accidentally, which is really apropos actually. If you read my last post, you know that I made some big mistakes in crocheting a baby blanket. And, I posted about it on the Instagram (and Facebook) page for our Etsy store (AlyCatCreations1) too. Here’s the thing: This series of posts garnered 90% more likes than our other posts.

Now, I am not one to quibble about likes. I’m happy to have traffic to our site. Please, come browse. Like it. Buy something! We’d love to have you. The thing that struck me though, is that while we do get likes and comments about our finished products, the posts that garnered the most attention were the ones about my mistakes. I began to wonder about that. There are so many “feel good” memes and the like on Facebook and Instagram about building each other up and saying nice things. Which are great. Which are the right sentiment. Which we should do. But then, the likes poor in when I fail.

I wasn’t sure how to feel about that at first. Well, actually I guess I should say that I was feeling many emotions at once. I did laugh. It struck me as funny that posting about a product that would never be on our site brought more traffic to the site than the pieces available for purchase. I was happy the posts were getting likes. I also found it funny that Facebook kept wanting me to boost the post. But I would be lying if I said there wasn’t also a twinge of something else-some hurt or embarrassment.

This led to some pondering of the phenomenon of social media. We post all these lovely catch phrases about being good to others, you never know what they are going through. feel-good-meme

And we should. We should think of other people’s feelings. That has been lost on social media. Too frequently, perhaps in an effort to be brief (140 characters only please) or because we’re posting on the go from our phones and not really crafting prose, posts can be too blunt or even hurtful, so we do need to be attentive to tone and diction, now more than ever. But then, when I admitted I failed at a crochet project, the abundance of likes seemed out of proportion to the post. This is where things get a bit tricky. I posted the photos and the story, so I wanted it out there. I wanted to draw traffic to our site, which it did. I feel good about all of this. I am not really hurt or embarrassed. There was just a twinge, no real regret. My main reaction to the failure of the project is frustration. I did begin to wonder, however, what this says about people in general. Do we really like to see others fail?

What I’ve come up with is yes and no. On the one hand, some like to see others fail because it makes them feel better about themselves, but I think that is the minority, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, that is not what was going on with my crooked blanket posts. I think, rather, that the likes on the failure posts were commiseration. Too often we try to make our lives seem perfect on social media. I’m sure you have all seen the memes and videos of Facebook versus real life. (This one is pretty powerful about how destructive this fake life can be.) Perhaps when a post comes up in which someone admits to making a mistake, and does so without whining, we empathize. “Oh I hate when that happens.” “I understand the frustration.” There is no emoticon for that, so we “like.”

So, let’s continue to like each other’s posts, and let’s comment too. I have to admit that I did receive some encouraging and empathetic comments on the blanket debacle posts. I really liked those; they let me know that others understood my frustration. Sometimes that understanding is what we need most to pick hooks up and begin to stitch life back together. So, let’s like; let’s continue to build each other up and support each other when we were down.

As for that blanket, I rewound all the yarn.


And I’ve started again. This time, I’m crocheting my tried and true pattern and so far, it’s lovely. I’ll let you know when it’s done. Wish me luck!


If time is a human construct,
Why haven’t we learned how to make it
Slow down.

A propos to the above,  I started this post a few weeks ago,  and then time got away from me. Those of us with creative minds often find find those minds teeming with ideas. A writer may overhear a snippet of a conversation from which she extrapolates and creates a whole new world,  if she can get pen to paper in time before the words and the world vanish in a fog of mundanity.  Or, she may be creating that world when a picture or a view,  a “Certain Slant of Light,” steals her attention and imagination.  Writers have long carried notebooks to record these flashes of intuition, though today they may be phones or tablets. She can preserve the moment,  return to the world she was creating before this second one came vying for her attention,  and revisit it later.  A beautiful idea,  that I know many,  if not most,  of us employ.  Yet,  when those notebooks fill up, how do you choose which visit from the Muse best deserves your time?

For those of us with multifaceted creativity,  the problem increases exponentially.  Do I devote my time to that drawing/painting that calls to me?  Or do I develop that story that keeps rattling around my brain?  Perhaps instead I will crochet with that luscious yarn I could not help buying.  And then there’s that fabric yearning to be made into. ..something.

The world lately is all about multitasking, yet study after study proves it to be ineffective. We are not hard wired to try to do too many things at once; one at a time is much more effective. I know this is true from my own work and play. When I focus on one task, it is completed well and I feel a sense of accomplishment, but when I jump from task to task, I feel scattered and my tasks are either half done or not done as well as they could be . So why do we still jump from task to task? Perhaps it is this computer age we live in. With so many tabs open in our browsers, our eyes are tantalized by the other places we could go, the other things we could be doing. And let’s face it, even with our chosen work or hobby, there are onerous bits that we would rather not do. At other times, our creativity just bubbles over, seemingly uncontainable, each new idea brighter than the last. And this is good. In fact, children are taught from a young age to brainstorm, to get the most out of their creativity. Brainstorming is a good idea. Those ideas that lie beneath the surface, beyond the obvious are what lead to genius.

Eventually, though, we need to stop brainstorming and start writing (or painting, crocheting, sewing…). Perhaps this is when play begins to feel too much like work, so we jump to the next big idea without having hashed out the details of this one yet. And time seems to fly before anything is finished.

That work though, those details, they lead to the fulfillment of the promises of our creativity and to the greatest sense of achievement and accomplishment. The idea of a poem is at first exciting, but the actual poem is delicious and exhilarating –a tangible thing we can call our own.

And how do we decide which path to follow first? We dive in. We read through our notes, choose what is speaking to us now and go. Perhaps another will pan out another day. Perhaps not, but if we spend too much time trying to decide where to start, we will never begin. So shut down those other tabs, give yourself time and space, and focus. It takes practice, but the results are worth it.

We just need to remember that we cannot live in the storm. We ride it out, clean up the debris, and rebuild a better world.


Does Creativity Matter?

This week it’s been on my mind to write about prose poetry, yet the truck attack in Nice, France and the attempted (?) millitary coup in Turkey have distracted my attention and wavered my resolve to keep writing about creativity and my perhaps banal thoughts thereof. I was struck with a moment of “what does it matter?” But creativity does matter.

I live in America which, for now at least, is still the home of the free and the brave. And our creative voices must be heard. Yes, there are the political voices heard loud and furious around the nation, but the creative writers–fiction, poetry, even creative non-fiction–must also contribute. Sometimes, often times, many of us, myself included, are put off by the strident, demogogic speeches or writing of those with biased agendas. While creative writings may be no less partisan, the delivery may be less harsh, therefore opening some to different view of the situation.

I’ll admit that sometimes I do not want to hear speeches by either candidate for President, nor read the the media’s take on them. Yes, I know I need to keep myself informed, but at the same time, the speeches are so hyperbolic and the media’s coverage so skewed (which way depends upon which station one watches) that they are often hard to stomach. I find myself riled by both sides–more so than ever before. What can we do?

For one, I find I prefer to read than to hear the news. Yes, the print media can still be biased, but it is easier, for me at least, to tone down the rhetoric and compare and contrast among different outlets. And then, I respond–not usually with this blog, but with my own journals, my poetry. I work out first what I think using my creative juices before I commit to a viewpoint fed to me by the mainstream media.

So creativity does matter. Yes, yes it does. Ask Nabokov or Voltaire or Allende or Paz or Fuentes. They risked their lives, their homelands, their way of living because they could not contain their voices. Nor should they. Nor should we. Our creativity is what makes us human. I have said as much in previous posts. Luckily America is not yet a land which imprisons the voices of its conscience or causes them to flee; therefore, we must all take on this responsibility, which is God given, to stand up for the rights of all. Create works that matter. Create works that last. Remember the only villians are the ones who wish to stifle your voices or to marginalize a group of people, and  remember even if that group is not your own, you should still care about them because we are all one, we are all human.

Keep writing, friends. Keep painting. Keep taking photos. Keep singing. Keep crocheting. Keep sculpting. Keep creating. The world needs you more now than ever.


Germinating Seeds


This showed up on my Facebook feed today. Katherine Neville  is so right, and not just for teen writers.  I’ve been derelict in my duties as a blogger lately, I know.  I’ve started several posts,  but abandoned them before clicking “publish.” If they felt trite, banal to me, then how much more so would they seem to you, my readers. I didn’t want to waste your time. Yet,  instead, I fear I did something worse, I neglected you. I’ve kept at my painting and drawing which is always a long term project; crochet, my fall back, easy craft, has been slow going; and my writing has been stop and go.Instead, I’ve feed my brain with light fare-fan fiction, pulp fiction, and blog posts. Let me try to make it up to you.

We all know about the winter blues, and when our mood is affected, so is our creativity. Yet, despite the snow in the air this morning, spring is on its way in. I noted with joy that there was light in the sky both when I left for work this morning and when I came home again this evening. Daylight has been creeping up on us little by little, and today I noticed. Next weekend when Daylight Savings Time rolls around, I may find myself in the dark again on my evening commute, but not for long! I am a teacher, so naturally, summer is my favorite season, but spring also has its advantages, and I am feeling them this year. Even though the temperatures have dropped again, and the winds have been fierce, there is something different about a 30° day in March than in January. Even when March comes in like a lion, we know that soon enough she will lay down with the lambs. That knowledge sustains us till it happens and the bloom is once again on the rose.

What does this meditation on weather have to do with creativity? I believe we all go through seasons in our creative lives as well. Sometimes it seems like the soil is barren; there is nothing growing in our brains, that we have lost our inspiration, yet like the seeds of winter, there is germination quietly happening. So, keep observing; keep jotting down notes; keep starting blog posts. All of a sudden, the light will be there. All of a sudden, the crocuses will be blooming even though you didn’t notice the green shoots poking through the cold ground. Trust in your creative power; it will return to you many fold.

Now I promise to click “publish” this time!

Tales of Christmas Past

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I can finally write about my recent creative projects. I had such fun making gifts this year; the only drawback was not being able to blog about it until after the gifts were given!

My family is large, so we choose Kris Kringles (or as some say, Secret Santas). This year, I got my niece Kelly. A student at Carnegie Mellon, Kelly also likes to knit and crochet. Like me, she is also a big fan of cats, though she doesn’t own one (yet). I thought it would be fun to make her a scoodie–that is a scarf with a hood–with cat ears, so I went online and googled “scarf hat cat crochet pattern.” Jackpot! I found this adorable scoodie pattern: http://www.mooglyblog.com/cuddly-cat-crochet-scoodie/, but I was a little worried as I thought the pattern seemed a little difficult. But for Kelly, I would try it.  Off to the store, and then to the couch to try it out. There were a couple of small missteps, but once I got the picture in my head of how it all fit together, it was actually much easier than I thought it would be! And, it is adorable. Here’s Kelly when she received the gift:20151224_210028

One gift down, I was feeling good! Let’s keep going! I was heading to a handmade Christmas, and it felt good. Last Christmas my cousin’s husband mentioned that he wanted someone to knit him a Dr. Who scarf. Hmmmm…I thought. I can’t knit, but I bet that I could crochet one. I just need a pattern. So, back to Google. Unfortunately, every pattern I found was for knitting–no crochet. How could that be? I hemmed and hawed for a few days before I just decided to go for it. I chose a half-double crochet stitch to give the best approximation of a knit look. I went to doctorwhoscarf.com to research yarn, colors, and the size and order of the stripes.  Now here’s the thing, for anyone who is not terribly familiar with Dr. Who and the famous scarf that Tom Baker wore for seven seasons: there wasn’t just one scarf. There was the original, the stunt double, season 12, season 14, season 15…you get the idea. It was originally made of wool, and it stretched and faded as time went on. In addition, the first scarf was twenty feet long! While the cast loved it, it was too long to be manageable and shortened to about ten feet. Of course, over time it stretched again… So, what is the pattern then? That’s up for quite a bit of conjecture. On doctorwhoscarf.com, however, there is a link to a graphic showing the order of the stripes and how many inches long each should be (they vary). And so, I began. The beginning was great; I felt like I was flying through and really making progress. However, you do have to change colors often, and there are so many colors (7) that it is not practical to take it with you for those moments when you have to wait for something and could stitch a few rows. Before long, I was falling behind, but I felt okay as I wouldn’t see this cousin till the Sunday after Christmas. I had until December 27th, no problem…

I did finish in time–that is I finished putting the tassels on a half an hour before they arrived. Thank goodness for gift bags! There was no time to wrap! I think he likes it:

Craig in Dr Who scarf

It may have been harried at the end, but it was certainly fun making gifts for these special people. I would definitely do it again. Creative gifts come from the heart as well as the hands. Maybe you would like to think about making some Christmas gifts next year too. My best advice is start early!

Multifaceted Creativity


I was in the middle of writing a different post when I went to the Museum of Modern Art yesterday to see the Picasso Sculpture exhibit. It’s effect on me has led me to change direction and muse instead on the idea of being creative in multiple genres.

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I write in various genres: non-fiction (obviously), poetry, and fiction. You also know I crochet, sew, draw, and paint. I love to bake. I used to sing and play both piano and flute, and wish I had time to pick them up again. (Someday!) I often feel pulled in many directions and never feel I have enough time. After asserting in my last post that what it takes to be a writer is to write, I’ve written very little; yet, I have completed one fun crochet project, finished half of another, finished a drawing, and started a painting. So, I have been creative. Sometimes I wonder if I could be more productive if I pared my pastimes down to a select few. But, what would I cut? I cannot give up my writing, nor can painting go. It would be silly to cut crochet as I can do that when watching TV or chatting with friends. Granted, I don’t bake as much as I used to, but that’s probably better for our waistlines, but as Christmas is around the corner, I wouldn’t dream of not baking Christmas cookies no matter how busy I am! I don’t sew as much as I would like, but I am not about to give up my fabric stash. I have a couple of projects in mind that will get going in 2016.

What does this have to do with going to MOMA and Picasso, you may ask? I think most of us think of Picasso as a painter, the father of Cubism. Perhaps, his “Blue Period” comes to mind or his Cubist portraits. However, there is another side to his creativity, and like his painting, it it’s multifaceted. That is his sculpture. He was prolific throughout his life in his sculpture, yet be was never formally trained in it. He began with cardboard and wood but when he decided to make a sculpture of a guitar out of metal and didn’t know how to weld, he sewed the pieces together. Some years later, he decided to work with a welder and learn that craft. He cast in bronze; he carved wood; he assembled pieces out of found objects. Every few years, he changed his sub-genre. And he never stopped painting. He did not abandon one pursuit in following another. He let creativity guide him to new materials, new techniques, new expressions.

I am no Picasso, and I must continue to hold down a job. Granted I love teaching, but it does take more time than those not in education would imagine. Nevertheless, I felt a sense of validation after viewing the exhibit. He continued to expand and try different genres, different materials. Like Picasso, I will not let genre hold me back. The varied creative outlets will not bring me the fame or fortune Picasso enjoyed, but they will do something much more important. These pursuits all feed my soul, and they feed each other and lead to a life well-lived.