Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Crochet Vest with Silk and Beads

I've been crocheting straight through the holidays! This fancy vest is the laciest of my December projects. At right is a temporary experiment in wearing it backwards, as a tunic. I really like the neckline of it.

I see "Alezannah" when I look at this lacy beaded red silk, maybe because both of my grandmothers have been on my mind a lot this month. The mysterious* name Alezannah is a women's name used over many generations on my mother's side of the family. Sometimes it was spelled Alzanah or Alzannah. A lovely riff on the name is my maternal grandmother's: her name LeeAnna was intended to be an updated version.

Here's LeeAnna holding me when I was almost six months old.
My sister and I called her Mamie and my grandfather Papa. I loved using these names, which are somewhat mysterious** also. I would like to be called Mamie too if I become a grandmother.

My husband went to a local yarn shop and picked out some fabulous yarns and this is one of them! He couldn't wait until Christmas to give me Tilli Tomas Beaded Plie. I knew I wanted to wear it around my shoulders somehow to a holiday party, so I Vashti'd up a stitch pattern that I've always wanted to use with the right yarn.
At left is a cellphone photo taken at the party two nights ago. That's my friend Colette, who coincidentally planned to wear the same yarn to the same party. (She used the Frostyflakes pattern.)

I tried on Alezannah every which way before I created the sleeves. So, in this photo at right (another grainy cellphone shot) I tried it as an asymmetrical wrap. I get great design ideas this way, for example the v-neck top in the first photo. Same thing happened with the Waterlily Layer when I discovered it can be worn upside down and backwards!

*The Alezannahs in my family tree were of English and German descent, as far as I know. The name fascinates me and I've never found it in name books. It seems like an unusually exotic name for generations of rural midwestern ladies. If you know anything about this name, please let me know!

**I'm told these are French names for grandparents; not typical for Ohio LOL. Perhaps the French ancestry on my maternal father's side is more than a sliver? I haven't met anyone else who uses these names for their grandparents (not that the subject comes up with everyone I meet).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Orbit Cowl....Wimple....Yoke....Snood

Orbit's Futuristic Temperament
Name on Birth Certificate: Orbit Cowl (downloadable crochet pattern). Her Mom was planning to name her after a medieval ancestor wimple, like Genevieve or Alethea (see below); but then Orbit seemed too futuristic for that.

Birthdate: October 28, 2010. How could Orbit have known that Florida would soon be hit with record freezing temperatures?

Takes After: the military branch of the family--what with all the snug head and neck armor, and the crochet stitches that look like chain mail. Crochet ribbing consorts with this clan.
Stitches look good inside out too

To those who know her best, Orbit is like a medieval cyborg. She knows her Wimple roots, and has ancestors who fought alongside Joan of Arc and who protected Eleanor of Aquitaine--but she is a 21st century global citizen.

Orbit's crochet pattern is written so that each crocheter can choose the dimensions of their cowl--and change his/her mind partway through. In cyborg fashion, her cellular matter is fluidly recombinable, much like digital media.

In medieval times, Orbit's predecessors were swift 'n mighty on foot or horseback. Nowadays she dreams of galactic travel. It's an orbiting spiral: a no-fuss easy crochet pattern. I purposely designed it to have zero speed bumps. Crocheting an Orbit cowl propels one into the peak aerodynamic speed of zero resistance crocheting. NO seaming. NO joining at the end of any rounds. NO turning.
Orbit as Yoked Wimple

This makes her mother proud: Orbit is stretchy and readily morphs while you wear it. If the moment requires a hood or 'snood,' Orbit's on task. If a relaxed cowl collar or yoke is better, Orbit stands ready. Need to cover a ponytail and big coat collar? No problem.

Proud Mom's Scrapbook

1. Orbit's birth was announced publicly over at the New Crochet Cowl Scarves blog.

2. Orbit's downloadable PDF crochet pattern is now available at my DesigningVashti online shop and in my Ravelry pattern store. Orbit has her own online photo album. Some images are viewable in several sizes, even if you don't own the pattern.

2. For Orbit's one-month birthday she got a drawstring to weave through the top edge of the neck opening. It's another weapon she uses to defend heads and necks from icy enemy winds. (I'll add a public photo of it to her photo album at some point.)
Bulky Bro, inside out

Bulky Bro
3. Orbit has a little brother called Bulky Bro. He's stocky and beefy where she's limber and lithe, but you can still tell they're related. He was made with a small amount of super bulky yarn and an 11.5 mm crochet hook. (Same pattern, fewer foundation stitches to begin, and fewer rounds.)

4. Orbit likes to socialize in Flickr's Crochet Cowls group, Scarflettes group, and in Ravelry's Cowls group. She also plays in the slideshow (upper right column) of the New Crochet Cowl Scarves blog.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Doris Chan's Crochet Lace Innovations

Crochet Lace Innovations by Doris Chan 2010.

Shiver Me Timbers!
Crochet Lace Innovations is simply gorgeous--the photostyling, the layout, the production values. Potter Craft (publisher) pulled out all the stops on this one! Each page showcases the sophistication and elegance of Doris' crochet designs with lovely lyrical typefaces, chic photography, and refined color palette. This means I pick it up just to leaf through it for a hit of pure beauty. I get a delicious shiver, and then it happens again:

I take the long-range point of view about crochet's past and future, and I've got a thing about crocheted fashion. After the 1970's crochet somehow went from uber-trendy to fashionless--even anti-fashionable--in American popular culture! This isn't true in many other countries. It also isn't true in haute couture or in Hollywood. Yet even today, there's a big market in the USA for crochet patterns of non-fashion projects. For example, crochet designs for baby items and for home decor are in constant high demand; whereas crocheting modern fashion statements is low on the list. For some weird reason it's the opposite for knitting patterns. I like all crochet, I just don't know why there aren't more fashion crocheters in this country.

Crochet Lace Innovations doesn't just suggest some general wearable crochet style. It confidently, triumphantly presents crochet in the larger modern fashion context with a specific sense of style--and this gives me delicious shivers as a crocheter.

Shivers aside, I consider Crochet Lace Innovations to be an important contribution to crochet. It's not just daydream material, or a succinct answer to crochet's critics. It's also a friendly reference. It's one of those rare books that is as strong on clear, basic instructions of new techniques as on fashion context. I've seen knit pattern books that are so focused on conveying a fashion viewpoint that the hands-on how-to teaching side of pattern publishing is shortchanged. For me, those books are great as inspirational gallery-like coffee table books, but might not clarify new techniques.

Some crocheters seem to assume that Doris' crochet patterns must be challenging because they're beautiful. I hope people don't assume this about the patterns in Crochet Lace Innovations. Each crochet technique--Broomstick, Hairpin, Tunisian--has step by step tutorials, expert diagrams, and tips for success, all in a warm conversational tone. There's also a separate chapter just on the basics of garment construction. 

You can sign up here if you'd like to receive alerts from Potter Craft about any forthcoming books by Doris Chan. See more information on her first book, Amazing Crochet Lace, here; and Doris' book #2, Everyday Crochet, here.

I have to say one more thing. I felt beautiful when I wore three of the garments in this book: the Bozena Dress (p. 96) at a CGOA/Crochet Guild of America conference, a hemp yarn version of Rohise Skirt (p. 41), and a platinum-colored satin Inara Scarf (p. 21) at a TNNA/National NeedleArts trade show.