Tuesday, September 18, 2007

'70's Crochet Book Review Update

Welcome Interweave Crochet readers! If you are looking for my reviews of '70's crochet books, just click on "70's Crochet Read-Along" in the right hand column of this blog (it's the 3rd clickable link down from the top).
I have one more crochet conference to attend this year and then I can get back to reviewing '70's crochet books. In the meantime I've read a few 21st century books on yarn and color: The Yarn Book by Penny Walsh (read an excerpt here), and Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. (You can read an interview with the author here.)

You can also read CPer JD Wolfe's reviews of some '70's crochet books here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Update: Yarn of the Month Clubs; Brush Strokes Stitch

Exhibit A: two nubby coffee cozies using sample skeins from two yarn-of-the-month clubs. The mossy green one on the left is made with 3 full samples I received from Sara Lucas' Yarn of the Month Club (for more info please see my Sept. 5 entry.) The other one is made with 3 full elann.com samples. The stitch pattern is a version of the "Granule Stitch" and the 2nd photo shows the inside.

I wanted to find out:
1) How far do these cute little samples get me, anyway? They are intended for knitted swatches. I purposely chose a crochet stitch pattern with a moderate amount of texture, which takes more yarn than Tunisian or some more basic stitches.

2) How does the yardage compare between Elann's and YOTM clubs? I chose samples with similar yarn weights and fiber content. As you can see, all samples seem to have the same yardage.

3) What can I make with these samples besides motifs for a future scrapghan, shapes for applique, or scrumbling? I discovered that while making the coffee cozies, I learned a lot about not just the yarns but also the stitch pattern as I worked it up in different kinds of yarns.

The biggest difference is that Elann's shipments of samples are color-coordinated so I didn't sift through my samples to find 3 to combine; whereas I went through all of my YOTM samples before I found 3 that I'd want to put together.

Regarding the Brush Strokes stitch pattern that I posted about on Sept. 9, here's a photo of the swatch turned into a notebook cover that I describe at the end. I get nervous adding a 4th photo to a blog entry (the Sept. 9th entry has 3); when I exceeded 3 photos in the past, Blogger got glitchy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Unusual 100% Linen Yarn, Explored

Update: photo of red swatch shows the same yarn worked as tightly as possible. Feels like a soft basket and I think it would hold up very well.

I've finally gotten around to doing a few serious swatches of elann.com's Linus . It's 100% linen, made in Italy, hand wash and dry flat. All linen yarns are distinctive and this one is particularly so.

I've come to expect a papery feeling from linen yarns, like crocheting softened slivers of corn husks (in a good way). But Linus doesn't have this papery feeling at all. It's hardly twisted and feels to me like I'm crocheting a hank of supple glossy hair! Very intriguing. Reminds me of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale in which flax (i.e. linen) is spun into gold. I can see how someone could be described as "flaxen-haired".

When people pick up these swatches they're intrigued and keep touching them, examining them in different kinds of light, etc. Out of the corner of my eye the stitches look kind of like raffia or rayon straw but it feels soft and drapes stylishly. It's an uncommon mix of qualities.

I love this yarn in Tunisian crochet and these photos just don't show how beautiful it is! Now I know why people complain about photographing black. The yarn and stitch took an instant liking to each other. I didn't like it as much in regular crochet until I went down to a tight gauge with a 4mm hook [red swatch photo to go here].

It sheds a tiny bit as you work it--like a bit of field dust or something. I didn't even notice it until one night I crocheted the black yarn over a white pillow. The label says to hand wash and dry flat so I machine washed and dried the black swatch just to see why I shouldn't (after all, linen is famous for improving with some machine washing and drying). This yarn shed quite a bit and did release some color. Machine drying made the surface fuzzy, so I'm thinking this yarn is made from the "tow" instead of the "line" fibers of the plant. (I'll blog about that.) Definitely do what the label says! This is not a yarn for kitchen accessories.

Like almost all linen yarns I own, Linus gives an authentic organic or earthy look and feel, even though there are no natural-colored fibery nubbies like linen content brings to a yarn sometimes. This is what I love about linen--it's an extremely ancient fiber and it shows in a 21st century yarn, even when it's boldly color-saturated or has a polished finish. The colors of Linus seem particularly saturated and the black looks lacquered! I would use it for a strikingly stylish wrap that won't need washing often, such as a ruana or cape. You can see the excellent drape in the last photo.

This post is part of a blogging mini-series I'm doing about my linen yarn stash. To see related posts, click on "Fiber Talk" in the right-hand column.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

'Quest for Bling' Purse: Visual Aids

This bag is one of my personal favorites and appears in 100 Purses to Knit and Crochet ed. by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss. It's been one big trip of fun from the swatching to the finishing to the wearing! I even lined it with silk. I've always wanted to use the "Brush Strokes" stitch pattern, the lucite handles, the flat-backed rhinestones, and the small piece of silk I had stored away and it's all in this one design. In the second photo you can see the piece before seaming and adding handles.
There's a discussion going on right now on the CGOA members' yahoo group about this very stitch pattern (a.k.a. "Woven Shells" in Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Crochet p.170; also in the Harmony Guides vol.6). The "brush strokes" come out shiny and padded in this yarn and the rhinestones nestle nicely among them.
Over on Crochet Partners they're talking about yarns that we miss; I miss this yarn, Berroco Quest. Yeah, it's a weird one and yeah, I have a thing for weird yarns, but especially this one because it shows off crochet stitches so beautifully. I think of this as more of a crocheter's yarn than knitter's yarn. You just never know 'til you swatch. It also has incredible drape. I wrote a thorough rave of this yarn back when CGOA members' started doing yarn reviews for the guild newsletters.
For the Helping Hands Silent Auction I had a hard time deciding whether to offer this bag or this one. I ended up wearing this one to the auction instead. If the model in the 3rd photo looks familiar, it's because I blogged about this special crocheter earlier.
A few months back the International Freeform Crochet group discussed how to recharge or get past a crochet slump and I described going through my swatch pile to find a swatch that I could quickly turn into a small usable gift to myself. I chose the original swatch I did for this bag and it was the right size to cover a smallish notebook; I just glued it to the notebook and crocheted a shoulder strap right onto it and now I wear it to every conference for keeping notes. It makes me insanely happy.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Yarn Clubs

Yarn clubs are great, especially if you have Yarn ADD. I belong to three: Elann.com's Sample Club, Sara Lucas' Yarn of the Month Club, and Laurie Wheeler's Freeform Crochet Club. Would you believe there's no overlap among them?

Elann gives 4 or 5 good-sized, color-coordinated samples of in-house and discontinued higher-end yarns that will be going on sale for that month. I don't know what it is, they're like candy to me! I've been a member for about 3 years. Color snips are also included, and I rely on them more than I expected to. I appreciate the color-coordinated samples for scrumbling and combining swatches. For designing, I can't use the discontinued yarns but Elann's own yarn line is growing. I plan to point out the merits of 3 of their yarns in the near future.

The Yarn of the Month Club is fantastic for designing because all yarns are current. I've referred to these samples often when swatching up design proposals. Often I'll see a new yarn announced and wonder when it's ever going to show up at my local yarn shop, and then a sample of it shows up in the YOTM mailing. Every month 4 samples and a free pattern arrive (they're almost all for knitters though) plus every other month a truly informative newsletter, Knit Dish, is included. I've been a member for about 2 years. You can hear a short interview with Sara Lucas at Craftsanity.

The Freeform Crochet Club is new to me: I've only received the first month's installment and have not yet been able to log in successfully to read the newsletter. Laurie Wheeler is not only a hand spinner, she creates yarns with crocheters specially in mind. So how can I not join? When I opened the package, I smelled the lanolin before I even saw the yarns! A handy dandy laminated info sheet was included. I'm looking forward to finally meeting Laurie at the Oakland CGOA conference this month. I hope to get her talking about yarn twist.