Friday, May 25, 2007

I've Been Tagged! With a Meeeeme

It's like a blogrite of blogpassage (it's my first time) and isn't "meme" a cool word? So let's see, the tagger says I should post the rules, which are:
"Each person tagged gives seven random facts about themselves. Those tagged need to write in their blogs seven facts, as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag seven others and list their names on your blog. You have to leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and need to read your blog."

OK: Seven Random Facts About Me:

1. In 5th grade I learned how to sing the names of all 50 states, in strict alphabetical order, and I can still do it. It's permanently etched in my brain. If I ever must recite something to stay alive or avoid a coma, this would be it.

2. I just learned that one of my ancestors, an aunt, was hanged as a witch in Salem. That's pretty random, right?

3. I can spell 99% of the words in the English language correctly. I wish I had grown up in a time and place where I could have competed in Spelling Bees. Since this is a list of facts, and 99% is kind of a ballpark figure, it might be more like 98%. (This isn't an invitation for spelling or grammar police to add harassing comments on my blog! I don't approve of any language policing. Conversely, I have immense respect for people who COULD correct people and DON'T unless asked. If any spelling-challenged folks are reading this, don't worry, I don't police people's spelling.)

4. I learned how to meditate (Transcendental Meditation) when I was 9, and learned how to crochet sometime before that. I know because when I learned how to meditate I thought, "Hey! This makes me feel the same way that crocheting does!"

5. My first car was a white Firebird. When I drove it fast enough I felt like I was on a 'fine Arab charger' as Mick Jagger would say. I don't really enjoy driving a car unless it feels like a horse.

6. I've been some variation of vegetarian for a total of about half of my life (such as macrobiotic, vegan, raw foodist, ovo-lacto, etc) and currently am not. Even when I'm doing the meat thing, I still eat lotsa veggies and nearly zero red meats.

7. I lived on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera for the 4 hottest months of the year. Then I moved to Maine in time for winter. (I didn't plan it that way.)

And now I get to tag 7 people! How about Bud, Noreen, Angela, Chie, Annette, Robyn, X (I'm waiting to hear if her blog is private).

Friday, May 18, 2007

My Shangri-La

Pictured: the cover of Lark's forthcoming crochet jewelry book, due out Oct. 1'07!
U-betcha I'll be blogging about my included designs because I have supplemental data and it's hard. to hold it. back. Nevertheless I shall remain an example of proper professional comportment.

Swatching up crocheted jewelry designs set me on a path to a secret paradise, my Shangri-La. I feel a list coming on:

The Seven Treasures I Picked Up Along the Road to Shangri-La
  1. Jewelrymaking gives me permission to stop and appreciate the little things. Life slows to a different tempo. I have the same experience when I crochet fine lace.

  2. It frees me to concern myself solely with beauty and charm, icing on the cake, wearable candy. I think some people have the same experience when they crochet doilies (they're jewelry for furniture) but for some reason I don't, maybe because it's home decor instead of personal adornment.

  3. Like felting, it cultivates new ways of seeing familiar stitches--in the case of jewelry, it's because the scale changes (whereas in felting, the material changes). For some kinds of jewelry, crochet stitches and techniques are done on a tiny intricate scale like filigree; other times, they are blown up as if seen through a microscope; and the amount of stitches is often drastically reduced so that each stitch becomes an accent, like a gem or bead. All because a jewelry piece needs to say a lot in a small space.

  4. I look at materials a new way. My ideal is for jewelry to be durable--not show wear or staining, like when I crochet handbags--but be too beautiful to let on that it's also practical, unlike when I make handbags. For both jewelry and handbags, I also want to use the sculptural capability of crochet without any stitches stretching out over time.

  5. Traditional jewelry shows off precious metals and gemstones, but when crocheting, (other than with pure gold or silver wire) you can choose non-precious materials and let the crochet make it special. If I choose the fanciest intricate stitches and superfine thread, I can still finish a piece in an afternoon or so.

  6. The coolest thing is that a piece of jewelry is small enough that a "swatch" is a whole bracelet, or ring, or necklace. So after getting design submissions ready, I had a bunch of new jewelry.

  7. Jewelry experiments make nice gifts!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Feeling the Felt Love

Flushed with felting pleasure and success*, here's a Ten Things I Love About Felting Crochet List:
  1. Hidden facets of a yarn's personality are magically revealed. Everything--the yarn's fiber content, spin, dye, etc.-- matters.
  2. Felting makes simple stitches new again. I've been crocheting for so long that I thought I'd seen simple stitches do everything!
  3. Feels primal and cozy
  4. Also feels northern, so I get nostalgic because I grew up in Ohio & Wisconsin but have spent most of my adult life in the subtropics (love the smell & feel of wet soapy wool!)
  5. Forces me to use a hook that's normally too big for the yarn. Simple stitches look different--I can see their inner architecture better (uh, I'm on record as being kind of obsessed with crochet because of this), and they feel different-- all stretchy and drapey.
  6. Forces (or frees?) me to take a back seat while a process larger and more mysterious than me (in this case, the unpredictably complex alchemy of felting) does its thing. So it can be a kind of spiritual practice/experience.
  7. Spiritual development aside, it requires and often rewards risk-taking, thinking big, and process orientation. At its most dramatic, I take the "known" (my crocheted piece), and even if I like it as is, I must "cut the ties" and let it go into the "unknown" (felt it) and who knows if I'll like it better on the other side of the "abyss". If I do, the ecstasy is addictive. At times I've had to take a deep breath and close my eyes when felting luxury fibers like cashmere and angora!
  8. Sometimes instead of having to "let go" of a crocheted piece I like, it looks yucky on purpose in preparation for felting (stitches and rows look sleazy, weird shape, etc.). Then I felt with abandon because I have nothing to lose! When it comes out all evenly felted, there's that ecstasy again but for a different reason--I felted straw into gold; or the ugly ducking became a swan; or I salvaged and recycled trash into treasure. (Pick one)
  9. My hands change a bit to maintain the loose gauge with bouncy wool yarns. This is a new skill for crocheters who are accustomed to cotton yarns and threads at normal-to-tight gauge because cotton is dramatically less resilient than many wools. It's not a new skill for me but still it takes an adjustment every time I crochet to felt. When would I crochet worsted wools like this otherwise? Yet it's fantastic practice for crocheting lycra-content yarns with a more standard-size hook. (You need to crochet these yarns in such a way that you don't stretch them while working.)
  10. It encourages lots of crocheters to experience crochet in new ways and challenges them to develop new skills that are important for non-felted crochet too.
Do you feel it too? Feel the felt love?
*success in the professional sense--more details on the felted design when published!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Marty's New Crochet Blog!

Today is Marty Miller Day on the Designingvashti planet! Check out her blog here: The focus is swatching and I'm hoping newer crocheters will be inspired by Marty's blog to find out what an art swatching is. For me it was a consciousness shift. I guess it happened sometime when I started designing. For my younger crochetself a swatch didn't used to be an end in itself--swatching was not a process that I enjoyed for its own sake. Instead, it was a means to an end that I had to get through to make something "more" or "real" such as a sweater (a.k.a. the "gauge swatch").

Besides finding one's gauge, a swatch is a content-rich research document. I save them like I save notes to myself. Like poetry fragments. Or like maps to secret gardens.

Here's a pic of Marty and me in the old-style CGOA booth (before it got a facelift by our competent Offinger staff), circa 2005, Oakland Chain Link conference.

We had just finished breakfast and were about to leave for a field trip to the legendary Lacis, hence the sunglasses I have handy.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Found Some Great Crochet on the 'Net

Just a quick post with links I'm loving:

"Twin artists crochet enormous 'reef'": Margaret and Christine Wertheim. Margaret says, "Coral reefs are, as it were, the canaries down the mine for the global warming system."

Kathleen in Hawaii crocheted an amazing array of leis--some based on real flowers associated with specific Hawaiian islands, some imagined (inspired by the yarn). Her blog shows not only her leis but how they were incorporated into a larger May Day library display!

Some of us crochet designers sure would like to see exactly what Bjork is wearing! We know it's crocheted. It brought to mind the crocheted coral reef for at least one person, and for me I thought of some multicolored ruffled tulle stoles I saw in Vogue about 2 years ago. I looked all over the internet this morning and couldn't find an image though. :-(

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

'Swingy Ruffles' Bag: Visual Aids

Here's a published design for which I had the rare foresight to take pics as I went. It's on p. 58 of 100 Purses to Knit and Crochet, ed. by Jean Leinhauser & Rita Weiss (Sterling, 2006). This bag is a stiff-sided trapezoidal box shape smothered with ruffles. I think the finished bag is hard to capture in photos because to me it comes out looking like a big ruffly lump, whereas if you saw it in person, you see how the ruffles move against the stiffened structure. I mean, this bag has corners. I'm thinking now that if I'd tried getting a photo of the inside of the bag, the structure would be really obvious. (I'm still learning how to make a picture speak a thousand words.)
It has a magnetic closure and a silver jewelry-like chain handle that's long enough for over the shoulder, or it can be doubled up to carry as a handbag.