Friday, November 16, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Relief, Crochet Style

Please help my designer pal Amie Hirtes of Nexstitch help rebuild her Jersey shore communities by donating to the causes she blogged about here and here, and by BUYING HER LOVELY CROCHET PATTERNSAmie publishes first-rate indie crochet patterns, so these patterns are collectibles (as well as easy to use). She's donating 100% of pattern purchases to the Union Beach Memorial School’s Amazon Wishlist until November 30.


Her blog post "Jersey Strong" had me in tears. I know only some of what it's like to see my community ravaged by a hurricane. You feel like a refugee in your own country, and it's easy in weak moments to feel forgotten. Every waking moment goes by so slowly. But what Amie is going through in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is much worse. The images she is posting remind me of the devastation caused by monster hurricane Katrina, and Andrew before that. Andrew landed just south of where I was living at the time in Hollywood, FL and the destructive force I witnessed still haunts me.

Here's a photo from 2007 of Amie and me crocheting at 2 am in the Crochet Lounge, which was sponsored by the Tahki Stacy Charles yarn company during the Chain Link conference in Manchester, NH:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crochet in Reno: The CGOA Conference Sep. 12-16 2012

On the way to Reno from Lake Tahoe
This year I'm going to do a wrap up of last week's Crochet Guild of America's Chain Link conference (a.k.a. "Knit and Crochet Show") as a collection of tweets

I've blogged about several crochet conferences since starting this blog many years ago, so by now it feels like a ritual. It was a special conference and here are some highlights (one per tweet):


  • Highlight of teaching crochet in Reno: a surprise caramel mocha courtesy of new pal Laurinda Reddig!
    • Highlight of teaching Tunisian crochet: 3 BEGINNERS were able to keep up in an ADVANCED skill level class!
    • Another highlight of teaching at Chain Link conference: giving Superfine Jelly Yarn® to my jewelry crochet students
    • ...walking to Walmart in the Nevada sun with Doris Chan to get last minute crochet class supplies
    Doris Chan in her new crochet
    Star Trek dress
    CGOA Crochet Design Booth
    • ...and seeing my pretty logo displayed in the CGOA teachers booth that Doris Chan created.
    • Highlight of the Knit and Crochet Show market: The popular Crochet Liberation Front market booth, and seeing Fearless Leader Laurie after so long.
      • I bought reflective crochet-along filament. Can you say...jewelry?
      At Lake Tahoe with Linda Dean (center),
      Margaret Hubert (right)
    • Highlight of Reno's Grand Sierra Resort: so much free bottled water with electrolytes (especially in classrooms).
      On our way back from Lake Tahoe, had to
      stop for more pics!
    • Tip from Reno resident via Jenny King: Salty food is your friend in Reno -- helps you deal with the altitude and dryness. IT ACTUALLY WORKED for me.
      • ...discussing brands of crochet threads with Kathryn White and Kathie Earle. Yay threadies!
      • ...seeing crochet free former and moderator Jorel again. We bonded in Stitchdiva Jen Hansen's broomstick lace class years ago.
      • ...a fresh ginger martini and Netflix advice with Myra Wood  :)
      • ...comparing with Darla Fanton shades and amounts of the Newton's tencel-linen blend yarn that we both bought
      • ...discussing with Barbara Hynes and Mirtooli how  Jelly Yarn® is trippy bec one can see a stitch's *innards*
      • ...meeting crochet free formers Fermin and Mirtooli and getting swept along into the grand free form group dinner.
        Free formers rocked the fashion show banquet
      • ...coming home with a special copy of Laurinda Reddig's new Rowan's Learn to Crochet Sampler Afghan book.
      • ...seeing GoCrochet Ellen Gormley and her new Bruges lace crochet designs SHINE on the runway. Go Ellen!
      Photo ©Ellen Gormley 2012; L to R: Ellen, Jenny King,
      Vashti, at dance party
      •  I loved the abundant fresh fruit and coffee in the crochet lounge daily! BIG THANKS to Red Heart Yarns and Kathleen Sams.
      If you're in Twitter, an easy way to see what others have tweeted about the conference is to search the hashtag #chainlink2012 or #knitandcrochetshow.


      -:---+---:-

      The June Chain Link conference was held in Manchester, New Hampshire this year. You can see its official photo album here.


      Coming up in 2013, I have the months and cities handy for the summer and fall conferences: Indianapolis, Indiana in July, and Charlotte, North Carolina in early October. I'm already planning to attend the Charlotte conference, and do not know yet if I will also attend the one in Indianapolis.

      Friday, August 10, 2012

      Photographing Beaded Crochet Jewelry

      Bivector Bangle, wide

      I've been floating on a cloud about my beaded slip stitch crochet discoveries. Not only do the little beads settle in to their assigned seats neatly and without fuss, they do so while showing equally on both sides of crochet jewelry. Nary a strand of thread covers them! In person they're like little stained glass candies! (Usually, crocheting with beads causes them to show more on one side of a crochet stitch than the other.)

      And so now to convey my discovery in photos...

      Hmm.
      How to show light through the beads, though?

      How to photograph several bangles at different heights with light shining through them? This is a different challenge from photographing a crochet bathmat on a floor, a shawl on a mannequin, or a toy. (see examples below)

      Better, but I don't want to see only the inside.
      After all the crochet photography I've done since going indie about 3 years ago, it occurred to me to blog about this only now. Last week I created the handout for my Professional Development Day presentation, "From Crochet Design Idea to Professional Proposal." A designer's photography skills are now much more important than when I first started designing professionally eight years ago.

      I had thought it was just me being picky about how my crochet looks in photos vs. in person, yet intimidated by my camera and photography jargon (as if others aren't). I thought I had to accept photography as part of the skill set needed for indie publishing (as if freelance designers for publications don't need it). 
      This is one of 15 similar shots. Not bad. The beads are lit.

      Knowing that Doris has gone through a similar development, I then thought it was just us; but other designers are now blogging about their journey with crochet and knit photography.

      Shocking to me is this new development: some editors seem to think the quality of a designer's photo can make or break the impact of a design submission. This was not the case back when a sketch was the primary visual aid. (I hope that the ability to capture a design feature in a photo never becomes equated with the ability to design! The two skills are radically different.) I'm posting links about this at my website as part of my new crochet class resources archive.
      Thirsty Twists Bathmat: I get a lot
      of compliments on this photo.
      A lucky shot of the
      rare orange Puffle.

      The Bivector Bangles photo shoot reminded me of my earlier travails with the two beaded rows of my Tunisian Petals ring scarf. 




      The Case of the Beaded Tunisian Lace Petals

      Tunisian Petals: nice photo but where are the beads?
      Tunisian Petals is a loop scarf design I released as a Tunisian crochet lace pattern in Spring, 2011. I used beads in only the final two Tunisian Purl rows. The pure cashmere yarn was a delicate shade of petal pink (paler than in the photo above). The only beads that looked right were colorless iridescent size 6/0 seed beads (a.ka. "E-beads"). 
      Oh. I see the beads now. What a terrible photo though!
      (This is after trying to improve with photo editing.)

      My other goal in adding these beads was to distract the eye from a seam there, and it succeeds! So how to convey this design feature in photos?

      The whole effect is exquisite in person. I ended up taking 79 photos in every kind of lighting and arrangement, not believing that what I was seeing in person would not come across in photo after photo. 
      Pink is just a bit intense, beads are finally iridescent.
      Stitches are stringy because I sharpened the photo too much
      when editing it. Sharpening can really bring out the beads
      sometimes but make stitches look "crispy." Too much
      contrast takes all the softness out of cashmere. Mohair too.

      Well, the effect was too subtle for a rookie photographer like me. Basically, when the stitches look their best, or the yarn color, the beads don't, and vice versa. 

      What I've learned since then:
      1. I wouldn't try to make one photo capture everything equally well. 
      2. I'd make better use of my macro lens to try to get a magical close up of the beaded feature. I'd have to let the viewer put the facts together themselves. Perhaps create a montage photo of different views in one.
      3. I'd do an alternate swatch in a yarn of different fiber or plying or sheen. I'd use beads with reflective foil holes for sharper sparkles.
      4. It turns out that photographing beaded crochet clothing is more like photographing crochet jewelry than non-beaded clothing. And, I've learned that these are different photography skill sets.
      Another thing I learned from comparing the Bivector shoot and the Petals shoot is about color. As a photography beginner, I'm better off when I avoid oranges, reds, and some pink yarns, in favor of greens, blues, and neutrals. This is because I often struggle to get really crisp and serene stitch definition in the red spectrum. Red beads sure glow, though! 

      Monday, July 16, 2012

      More About Crochet Kimono and Ruana Shapes

      Kimono and ruana cartoons from my sketchbooks
      I have additional images left over from sending out a Crochet Inspirations newsletter a few days ago (issue #41: Beachy Kimono and Ruana Shapes). Also, some diagrams in the newsletter were too small for some people's browsers, so I've reproduced higher-res images of them here. Just click on one to see it fully enlarged.


      The ease and versatility of kimono and ruana shapes for crochet (as described in the newsletter) is such a rich topic that even the overflow from a newsletter issue is too much for a blog post!


      One big reason is that the way these shapes shift as they drape around the remarkably complex 3D angles of the upper human body is almost alchemical. It took me years of designing, and seeing the same design on different people and in different kinds of yarns, to appreciate how just a slight change in the shape of the neck opening, for example, can create a different garment, or the look of a different decade.


      In the cartoons below, compare the mild variations in front and neck opening shapes. These are only a fraction of the very meaningful variations possible with this shape.


      Add to this that there are several other versatile simple shapes that also underlie many seemingly complex garments. I'm just mentioning this because today's blog topic is a mere taste of the cool stuff to consider when designing crochet clothing.


      Here are images in the newsletter that some people had a hard time seeing clearly enough:
      (See issue #41 for explanations of these two sets of 'cartoons'; and remember that you can click on a photo to make it full size in all its cartoony glory)


      You know what's funny to me? A few newsletter readers here and there have told me that I give away too much information in them. Sometimes I think it's from concern for my business and intellectual property, and I appreciate that, but I always see it as a good thing. GREAT, even. Can you imagine how awful the opposite would be?! (I can, because a few 'newsletters' I get are really just fancy advertising spam. They give nothing.)


      I can only ever fit into a newsletter issue, or a blog post, a smidgeon of all that I actually have on a topic. So to me, I barely give away anything--it just won't all fit! (It means I need to start writing books.)


      Schematics are powerful tools if you know how to use them. It has taken me years--years!--to see everything there is to see in a schematic. For those readers who can get the most from one of the above cartoons, go for it! I'm not giving too much away; you've earned it, and your final design will be different from the ones I "see" when I look at these sketches.


      Not only that, the schematics above are missing measurements. That's when the real work of using a schematic begins, anyway. For crocheters who are new to the powers of a schematic, I offer tips in the newsletter for starting out on your own journey of gaining wisdom about them. For example, use the schematics in the patterns you already own, and experiment with them for your own personal use. Try putting your foundation row along a different edge of the shape and see what you think. If you have store bought kimonos or ruanas, measure them and analyze what you like about them. You will gain so much from this!


      (I know it's faint, sorry.
      It's even less clear if I darken it.)
      OK, that said, take a look at this hastily scribbled ruana schematic: it includes measurements! I drew it on scrap paper years ago when my dear friend was visiting. I remember loving the cut velvet wrap she wore. I knew that if I didn't also measure it, I might miss what gave it the compelling flair that it had.


      Now here's an actionable, valuable schematic! Am I giving away too much? I don't think so...heck, it doesn't even inspire me anymore! Try as I might, I no longer recall what the actual garment looked like. I should have taken a photo or sketched its shape on Kalli while she wore it--whatever it was that made me go to the hurried trouble to measure and sketch it at all.


      See, over the years I've also learned what to include in a sketch to give its inspiration staying power.


      But if this cartoon inspires you, great. I'm glad you got something out of visiting my blog today! If you crochet one, I'd love to see a picture.

      Monday, April 30, 2012

      How a Calligraphy Passion Inspired "Lovepod" Love Knots

      Top half of my first business card
      When I was a teenager some decades ago, I learned how to do calligraphy. The old-fashioned kind appealed to me the most -- gilded ornate first letters and flowery scripts. I learned about fine old parchments and vellums and 'aged' them with tinting. I even tried charring the paper edges.
      Lovepod inspiration


      Lovepod Boa
      I loved calligraphy so much that my mother's friends paid me to "write pretty" on invitations and on framed parchment as gifts. More requests came from their friends of friends, and I soon had the start of a calligraphy business in my little midwestern town.


      When I moved to Seattle in my twenties, I worked first in a flower shop, then at a dessert cafe and catering company where my employers put my calligraphy to new uses.

      1980's promo dessert price list


      When I look back on it now, the spidery lines that I could make with fine pen tips and ink bottles felt a lot like crocheting lace with fine thread. Thinking about where to embellish lace with beads or special stitches is like adding little flourishes on and around formal lettering.

      A big difference between crochet and calligraphy is that I can just rip out a faulty stitch, whereas with calligraphy, I often had to start over completely!

      These love knots have something of a
      botanical look too. Palestrina Lace
      Love Knot Nakshatra Wrap

      The reason my old calligraphy days have been on my mind lately is that I've been bringing together all of my crochet experiments and ideas for my upcoming Love Knot Adventures class
      (Sorry--that class just sold out. But here's the recent newsletter issue I wrote on Love Knots. See the image gallery links in it. Here's another link too, if you're a Ravelry member: I just created a Love Knots-only category of my Ravelry projects, which are the not-yet-published designs.)
      One of my early calligraphy pieces
      The Lovepod Boa is one of the first crochet designs that I was excited to publish myself. It was directly inspired by my favorite method of embellishing my calligraphy, especially the fancy initial letter: I loved adding leafy, budding vines and sprigs, and tinting them. Sometimes I gilded them with a bit of silver or gold, such as the "Irish Lullaby" title at right (the entire poem is embellished like this!).
      Close up of Love Knot network
      Lovepod Boa, 'gilded'
      I remember travelling to another place in my mind while I added these ethereal little sprigs and flowers. When I first crocheted love knots* with fine mohair yarn, the same daydream came over me again. The idea for the Lovepod Boa came from this place. 


      *Here's the usual string of alternate names for this stitch: Lover's Knot, Solomon's Knot, King Solomon's Knot, Knot Stitch, Hail Stone Stitch; in Portuguese ponto segredo). It's used in Turkish Oya crochet too, but I don't know what the stitch is called.

      Friday, March 23, 2012

      Crochet Jewelry Class: Resources

      Tomorrow I teach a class in Sarasota, Florida on crocheting jewelry--a.k.a. "jewellry," "jewerly," "jewellery" and other favorite spellings :-)  
      Love-Latches (convertible crochet jewelry)
      For all of my crochet classes I include a page of resources in the handouts (helpful links, books that I recommend, etc.). However, my jewelry class handout is already several pages long due to so many close-up photos

      The best class handout for jewelry crochet needs to show several close ups of those precious little details and special crochet stitches that make crochet bracelets, necklaces, rings, brooches, and earrings so fun to make and give as gifts. What to do? 
      Irish Pearls

      Today I hit on a great idea: I'm going to post the Crochet Jewelry Class Resources list HERE IN THIS BLOG POST! See below. Cool idea, right? This way they're clickable URLs. Also, crocheters anywhere can refer to it, even if you can't attend the Sarasota crochet class tomorrow. (If you think you can attend, it will be held from 1 - 4 pm on March 24, 2012 at an easy-to-find yarn shop on South Tamiami Trail called A Good Yarn.)


      Crochet Jewelry Class: Resources
      All class content ©Vashti Braha. Resources recommended for a three-hour class held March 24, 2012 at A Good Yarn yarn shop in Sarasota, Florida USA; and taught nationally at the CGOA Chain Link conference in Reno NV Spet. 2012. Please see this blog post also for more crochet jewellery resources I like.



      Crochet Inspirations Newsletter Topics:
      Issue #16 "Flavor-Burst Crochet" (Get jewelry effects with simple stitches) 
      Issue #8 "Crochet's Commutative Property" (Convertible crochet projects) 
      Issue #18 "Deep Crochet Research" (Foundation Stitches)

      Blogged:
      "How to Crochet Spiky Puff Stitches" (as used for Palmetto Cuff pattern; with video)
      "Poem-Lariat for a River Goddess" (Freeform Trailing Vine Lariat design)

      Books I've consulted. The most recently published are listed first with short descriptions of the books I recommend and use the most & why:  Click on a title to go to the book's Amazon page for more information.

      2010. Ann Benson, Tapestry Bead Crochet: Projects and Techniques. Lark Crafts. This is my favorite source for this specific type of bead crochet. Not only is it very inspirational for me, it also is written by someone who is obviously a good teacher. She even created many of the excellent illustrations.     Author's site: beadseast.com


      2009. Pat Harste, Hooked on Jewelry. Sixth and Spring Books. This is my resource for how to use stylish and traditional metal jewelry findings with fiber crochet jewelry designs, and why I might want to. I usually prefer to crochet them, but this author uses them in such an inspiring way. I also love the way the book makes it clear and fun to learn about the jewelry tools and supplies.  Author's Ravelry page.

      2007. Waejong Kim and Anna Pulvermakher, Crochet Jewelry. Interweave Press.  This book combines a creative and exciting array of jewelry designs by several crochet designers. I use it as a resource of other designers' "lab notes" and results crocheting jewelry with eclectic materials. (Scroll halfway down through my other blog post for more on this.)


      Size #20 crochet thread pendant cords;
      some are published in Jewelry With a Hook.
      2007. Terry Taylor, Jewelry With a Hook. Lark. Like the Waejong Kim book above, this book is a wide-ranging compilation of creative jewelry crochet designs and materials. So I use it foremost as a source for "lab notes" (how other designers combined eclectic materials). In addition, I like the "Crochet Basics" section at the back of the book. (I would still value this book the same way even if it didn't include four designs of my own.)

      2006. Carol Ann Ventura, Bead and Felted Tapestry Crochet. Self published, ISBN 978-09721253-2-1. Carol Ventura is the queen of tapestry crochet in crochet circles, and her self-published books are the next best thing to taking her classes at the CGOA conferences. The one I have includes sections specially for left handers, and for working flat vs. in the round. Author's site: tapestrycrochet.com

      2005. Adele Rogers Recklies, Bead Crochet Snakes: History and Technique. This book fascinates me. I had no idea of the history and art of bead crochet ropes as snakes. Beautiful examples. Self published: Reckless Beading Press, ISBN 978-0-9791649-0-3.     Author's site: beadcrochetsnakes.com 

      2004. Bethany Barry, Bead Crochet. Interweave Press. This book used to strike me as odd (like the Neiman book below), but not anymore, now that I understand the differences between beaded jewelry that happens to be crocheted, vs. crochet that is used for jewelry and that may include some beads. In other words, jewellery crocheting lies at an intersection of two industries: the crochet ('handknitting') yarn industry, and that of the beaders and other non-crochet jewelry making hobbies, like wirework/wire-wrapping, micro-macrame, etc. The basic materials, tools, and vocabulary can be very different. It's mroe obvious when you visit a bead shop and then a yarn shop; or the crochet aisle, then the jewelry aisle in a craft store!  Author's site: bethanybarry.com


      2004. Lily Chin, Knit and Crochet with Beads. Interweave Press.  A masterful reference especially for exploring the choices crocheters and knitters have when incorporating beads into several kinds of projects besides jewelry.  Author's  site: lilychinsignaturecollection.com

      2004. Sherri Haab, Designer Style Jewelry. Watson-Guptill. I enjoy having this one on hand for the techniques I hope to try someday, for example, using resin to create pendants and charms, which would be easy to combine with crochet; or updated possibilities with that "ShrinkyDink®" material I LOVED as a kid. So it has a great list of suppliers at the back of the book.

      2004. Mary Libby Neiman, Bead Crochet Basics. Design Originals booklet, ISBN 978-1-5742153-4-2. This slim book is a good reference for me because I'm a newbie when it comes to a particular type of crochet jewelry: "beaded ropes" a.k.a. "tubular bead crochet." The idea is to see all seed beads, no crochet stitches. (Also see Ann Benson's Tapestry Bead Crochet, above.) Like I described Bethany Barry's Bead Crochet book above, this one used to confuse me as a crocheter. Part of the confusion is that both titles use "bead crochet" in a much more limited way than I would with the crocheters I know. Both also seem to be written by and for a general beading/bead shop audience rather than a crocheting audience.   Author's site: d-originals.com

      1997. Lydia F Borin, Beadwrangler’s Hands On Crochet with Beads and Fibers. I was happy when a copy of this book fell into my lap because I'd tried to locate a copy for several years, after learning so much about the topic at the author's site, below! Self published: Lyden Enterprises, ISBN 1-891302-01-9.     Author's site: beadwrangler.com

      Monday, February 20, 2012

      Quick Update: Crochet Ribbing Comparisons & More


      Naturally biases!
      Alternating rows of slip stitch
      and single crochet.
      Hdc in lower third loop;
      simply alternate the colors!
      I'm buffing and polishing this blog a bit. Isn't the new color scheme refreshing? It's as if I spritzed some tangerine-vanilla room spray.

      I'm also trying to figure out how to reproduce my newsletters here. In the meantime I've created a special tab for them (see tabs above this post). Importing the content, especially with the newsletter columns preserved, is surprisingly complicated.

      So: crochet ribbing. I have more photos of ribbed crochet stitches that I didn't have room to include in the latest Crochet Inspirations Newsletter issue (#36)

      Another slanter.
      Half double crochet (hdc; UK: htc
      or htr) rows in different loops.
      Good to know about ribbings that
       bias, no?
      Here's the photo set I've created for them so far. 

      UPDATE: See the follow up newsletter issue #37: "When Stitches Lean."
      Isn't slip stitch ribbing amazing?

      Monday, February 13, 2012

      A Tunisian Crochet Tea Cosy/Tea Cozy with Insulating "Rimples"

      Tea cozies (in the UK: tea cosies) have been my constant companions as 2012 has gotten off to an eventful start! Most recently I've been drinking record amounts of hot tea to help me recover from a severe head cold, as well as to catch my breath between events. 
      Rimply: Ready for Tea Time


      The longer my teapot stays hot, the better. Handmade tea cozies work great! If a crochet cowl or hat feels warm and toasty, you can bet the same crochet stitch and yarn will also work well as a tea cosy. 


      In fact, a crocheted hat or cowl can quickly be turned into a tea cozy. This is what happened to Rimply, one of my Tunisian crochet cowl designs. I've used it more as a tea cozy than as a cowl since I designed it a year ago. Also, I leave it on a silver teapot when I'm not using it, because it also slows tarnishing.
      Same Rimply as a Cowl, but worn upside down.

      Tunisian crochet is not known for being stretchy. In this case, though, the combination of wooly yarn, bigger Tunisian crochet hook, and the unique heat-trapping tunnels ('rimples') all contribute stretch to this solid Tunisian Knit Stitch fabric.


      To turn this cowl into a tea cosy, all I did was crochet two lengths of chain stitches. One serves as a drawstring along the top edge of the cowl to fit it snugly around the top (where much heat would otherwise escape). The other ties together the cowl just under the teapot handle. These simple ties make Rimply nicely adjustable as a tea cozy.
      Another way to style Rimply.
      This one was crocheted in a finer
      purple yarn that has more drape


      In this case, the spout is slender enough and the stitches stretchy enough that I can poke the spout through the stitches. If I were to crochet another one, I'd add an easy buttonhole-type slit for the spout instead.