Friday, August 24, 2007

Dating Linen

Yes, "dating" as in "I've been going on a lot of dates with linen."

For years I've bought a ball or ten of every linen yarn I find, especially if it's 100% linen. I've always planned to blog about crocheting with each of them. The first two photos show the tip o' the iceberg of my stash of 100% linen yarns (1) and threads (2). The 3rd photo shows some blends containing a high amount of linen.
I had a crush on linen long before we started dating about a list?

Linen, How Do I Love Thee?
Thou art 1) an amazing fiber resulting from
2) putting a special plant (flax) through a
3) remarkable process.
4) Crocheting thee is a unique experience and
5) creates an heirloom-quality piece. Truly heirloom! Linen is so durable that it beautifies with age and handling. Machine washing and drying improves its softness and sheen.

6) How wondrously ancient thou art, bringing to my crochet an authentic, timeless, organic, and sometimes earthy look and feel. Even in this 21st century I feel a connection with the earliest fiberfolk thanks to linen. Its personality is detectable even when boldly color-saturated, blended, or has fancy finishes.

7) Linen and crochet are soulmates. The stunning virtuosic heights to which crochet stitches can climb are augmented by linen, and linen's exceptional qualities are showcased by crochet. They see eye to eye and they're capable of the same scale of exquisiteness. These two are distinguished peers and best friends.

It's the ultimate love story: two lovers are separated by a powerful upstart competitor (cotton) through a twist of fate (the cotton gin). Linen languishes for over a century, awaiting the return of its true love Crochet to its strong yet lithe, warm yet breathably cool embrace.

Rose-tinted glasses off: not all linen yarns show the above listed traits. Also, even top quality linen is not easy to get to know! Cottons and acrylics have come to dominate a crocheter's experience, and now that linen is marketed as a luxury fiber in competition with silk and cashmere, linen is often the odd man out. So I plan to blog about my experiences with different linen yarns.

If cotton hadn't come to dominate the plant fiber scene, I'm sure linen wouldn't seem like such a tall, dark, mysterious stranger. (Well, it will always be very tall--try comparing the staple lengths of linen vs. cotton!) After a long cotton detour, getting reacquainted with linen takes time and commitment. Or blogging?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Color Fun for Designing & Stashbusting

I own more than one book about color and this one is my favorite. It's an inspiration recharge for me because the subjective effects of the color schemes are included. As I flip through it, some schemes grab me and put me in a mood, which then unlocks a cascade of designs.
The book seems to be geared toward interior decorating, so of course it would be wonderful for those who design home decor, but it works for me for fashion too. The newish home decor magazine, Domino, tends to tie in fashion and accessory trends.

Flipping through this book is a fun way to use up your yarn stash with updated color combinations. If you have 2 colors in your stash and you find an inspiring color scheme using them, then just bring the yarn and book with you to shop for a few balls of these colors, an you've got yourself a very stylish project (afghan or whatever).

Keeping a folder of multicolor stitch patterns near this book would result in some fresh, exciting swatches!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Designing Lingerie

I fantasize about designing crocheted lingerie so I've started reading about that fashion sector. Three trends I've noticed so far (though I'm still learning about the territory) are:

-standards for how bras are supposed to fit are being overhauled to the point that a consumer education campaign is necessary

-more attention is going to the designers and design possibilities of lingerie

-In the larger fashion world, lingerie colors, styles, construction, and detailing are being applied to outerwear as the latest development in a longterm trend of reconceiving traditional lingerie as part of outerwear layering.

As a kid I wondered what the meaningful difference was between a bikini and a bra & panties set. Probably every girl wonders that at some point. Often, Madonna's Gaultier corsets are cited as the send-off for this last trend, but to me, once bikinis became accepted beachwear, the writing was on the wall.

My favorite lingerie blogger: Danae Shell of Knickers. Knickers has some great articles; see for example, "How to Become a Lingerie Designer" and "Top 5 Bra-Sizing Myths".

Of the bikini retrospectives I've scanned so far, I like Slate's; I saw another good one last year at a fashion site but can't find the link now.

A "Salon international de la lingerie" is held yearly in Paris. There's also an American lingerie show held in NYC and Las Vegas but I'd love to attend the Paris expo!

Today's story at Fashion Wire Daily rounds out this blog-worthy list of cool links to share with you:
"It's What's on the Inside that Counts Lingerie Awards"

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pesky Irregularities in Handknits?

Check out the knitting machine that expects to usher in a paradigm shift in the way knitwear is mass produced: it's called "Complete Garment Knitting". Shima Seiki calls it Wholegarment:

A whole 3D sweater can be made at once by the machine--no seams, no waste from from cutting pieces, and no
inconvenient irregularities hand-worked into the garment. A sweater could also be made only on an on-demand basis.

As a crocheter I read this and think, "Huh--so the marketing edge for this company is: all the benefits of a handknit with none of the perceived drawbacks." (Handknitters can already create on-demand 3D garments with no seams and no cutting.)

You might wonder why this topic is on a crochet designer's blog. Crocheted fashions can be mass-produced at times, but never machine-made like mass-produced knits are. Well, at bare minimum, I've always been fascinated by how two manufacturing markets within the fashion industry compete: the Knits vs. the Wovens. ("Knits" here meaning the mass-produced, machine-made kind.)

We yarnies, even those of us who don't knit, are impacted anyway. For example, I've seen hand knitters evaluate their knitting using a machine-knitted standard of regularity, especially when it comes to stockinette and maybe garter, I guess where "irregularities" are easiest to spot; even the term "irregularities" seems imported from a machine-knitting aesthetic.

You know what? Crocheters just don't do that. This is a luxury that I think many of us crocheters take for granted. Good crocheters do aim for a consistent gauge, but are far less likely to have a perfectionistic goal for their stitching. After all, crocheters don't have machine-made stitches with which to compare their handmade stitches.

But what if they did? I look to knitters for clues to how machine automation affects the handmade experience.
This is a significant, experiential difference between handknitting and crocheting.

It's good to keep an eye on the Knitwear industry's innovations, sometimes for design ideas, sometimes for a view of the future of knitwear, sometimes just for a fashion industry perspective on knits (and by extension, crochet at times).

What about "Gaugeless Knitting"? The benefit of having a machine with this capability is that it "helps the knitting industry to not only free itself from the standard notion of knitwear being mainly for the Autumn and Winter seasons, but to shed seasonal perceptions toward knitwear period, so that more collections can be made throughout the year and consequently attain a larger share of the textile market."
(Please note: italicizing throughout this blog post is mine)

As a crocheter, I easily forget to what degree knitwear is tied to certain seasons because crochet isn't, except when uneducated people conflate it with knitting. In fact, if you had to tie crochet to any season, a case for summer could easily be made.

Here's another way for knits to compete against the wovens:
Thanks to WHOLEGARMENT® technology, the term "knitwear" is no longer reserved for thick and bulky, clumsy sweaters reserved for casual occasions. New materials, especially fancy yarns combined with fine gauge capability and new knitting techniques result in a variety of fresh new items which at first glance seem like wovens."

In the fashion world the knitwear industry apparently labors under the same stereotype that crochet does in the yarn industry: does the criticism of "thick and bulky, clumsy sweaters" sound familiar?! Too funny!

Here's one more, special to designers: "
Unlike conventionally knitted sweaters whose seams tend to break up the continuity of the garment design, the seamless process allows patterns and designs to remain uninterrupted across the entire garment-- front-to-back, over-the-shoulder and down-the-sleeves. And it looks much nicer, too. Also without seams there is the opportunity to create single-knit garments which feature truly functional reversibility without the added weight and bulk of double-knits."

Maybe this is a breakthrough in knitting, I don't know; for machine knitting anyway. In crochet, many stitch patterns are already reversible, as well as seam-free. Maybe that's why so many crochet designs in magazines are photographed inside out!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Crochet Content Alert!

Check out the summer issue of Spin-Off magazine for an article about using a tie-dye technique to solar-dye a spiderweb stitch scarf! It's space-dyed crochet that gives the optical illusion of joined motifs worked in rounds with color changes, granny square style (whereas this stitch pattern is worked horizontally in rows). Starts on p. 58. See Jeannine Bakriges' blog for the story behind the article. The undyed image is from Interweave's site showing the classic stitch pattern pre-dyed. The other image is from Jeannine's blog. Very cool!

Fiberarts magazine, summer issue, also has some crochet-specific content: see the article on science and art where Daina Taimina's hyperbolic geometry models are featured.

With their fiber focus, both magazines always have something to offer crocheters in general, but when they get crochet-specific I want every crocheter to know about it!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Garment Designer software--Use the Grid Settings!

I've been experimenting with Cochenille's Garment Designer software and I like it. So far it only enhances my natural way of planning a design. It doesn't bog me down or leave me doing most of the work after all.

This isn't the best photo but I don't have any designs published yet for which I can share better examples.

It all hinges for me on how I use the grid option (In the Display menu select "Grid settings" then input the exact measurements per stitch and per row based on your gauge swatch; use all decimal places). I don't think many people know what they can do with this, judging from conversations I've had. Thanks to the grid printouts customized to my stitch & row gauge, I just settle into my comfy chair with an espresso and shift into Contract Crocheter for Self mode. To write up the pattern in different sizes, I print these maps for each standard size and "merely" translate the map into text. What a load off.

Here's a closeup of the grid that is scaled exactly to the gauge of my stitch pattern repeat. This is not the most straightforward example (sorry!) but figure 1 box = 1 stitch with the height of two different rows averaged together. This is why I've drawn the purple lines for myself: the narrow purple strip is a vertical row of short sts, the wider purple strip is a row of taller sts. (Sure wish I could show you my gauge swatch. Should I have waited on blogging about this until better examples are published?!)

I haven't tried every stitch pattern under the sun yet, but so far I've found a way to create grids for any stitch pattern in grid-like rows (even those that don't seem like such). I don't know yet if I could come up with a way to do diagonal mesh-based st pats. In other words, I could do a grid for big ol' fans that stack in columns, but I don't know yet about fans that are offset and stack in alternating rows (i.e. the classic shell st pat).

I can do some motif-based constructions with this grid method but probably not all; and I might find a way to do ripple pats. These aside, so far I've done:
-rows of different heights alternating (pictured)
-pretty wide range of stitch repeat sizes
-a design with an exaggerated edging that would have been painful without this software.
Side-to-side construction (pictured) is easy-peasy.

Not sure how I'd do *cough*dorischan*cough* seamless-top-down-in-the-round!