Monday, December 24, 2007

Yarn Club Update: Free Form Crochet Club

Remember when I posted about the 3 yarn-of-the-month clubs I've been enjoying? And then in a later post I compared how far the yarn samples get me from two of those clubs, by working up some coffee cozies?

Well: just in time for Christmas I worked up a Coffee Cozy du Cheer using two samples from the Free Form Crochet Club's handspun yarns. I used a blended yarn with giant red nubbies*, which I then edged with a blended chenille yarn that has giant white nubbies**. I did the chenille in giant picots to amp up the texture theme going on. The reds are so intense that they vibrate!

Since the cheer is just baking off of this thing, I've used it for lots of mochas and I'm happy to report that the yarns are showing zero pilling, abrasion, sagging, fading, etc.

I love what Laurie says about her yarn: "As a crocheter who spins I have learned the secret to creating functional, beautiful works of art that any crocheter can use to then create NEW orginal works of art. That's right BEAUTY GROWS!"
*Spuntastik! Naughty Fine Yarn Crochet Cotton
**Spuntastik! Knaughty Yarn Chenille/Pearl Cotton

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Icy Bling for Warm Climes

Crocheted this up and wore it with a white shirt and white shimmery eyeshadow for my first day of holiday shopping, humming "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" even though it was 82 degrees. Had worn its prototype to the CGOA conference and Deanna vanAssche said, "WILMA FLINTSTONE!!" and so we did a deal and she took it home. Made another, wore it to my son's school, and all the third-grade girls were mesmerized and asked if they were real (I said yes....). Made another with red and green crystal drops, and my neighbor, Kathy, took that one home.

I MISS SNOW! It's HOT here. I'm sorry to complain but it's been summer all year. People here are actually getting heatstroke and heat exhaustion. I have to remind myself to drink enough water. We need the A/C on to be able to sleep at night.

I have some mighty-fine alpacas, merinos, and cashmeres in my yarn stash but am nowhere near able to enjoy crocheting them or wearing them. I keep eyeing the linens and cottons.

Anne blogged the best list I've ever read of what is lovable about snow. I grew up in Wisconsin and her list brought back memories!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

German Crochet Magazines: Hakelmode

The new Diana magazine is on the newsstands in Europe for 2008; the two Lea magazines pictured are from 2004 and 2005. My friends are visiting from Switzerland right now and they were kind enough to bring me these three issues, after much sifting through knitting magazines in yarn shops. One of them was found at the last minute in the Zurich airport!
The yarns used are brands like Austermann, Junghans, Lana Grossa, Lang, Online, Schachenmayr, and Schoeller + Stahl. The Diana issue has 15 women's fashions, about 9 of them crocheted. The average hook size is 5-6mm and the garments look chunky and more casual, bringing to mind American crochet patterns. The poncho in the second photo, for example, is described as youthful and trendy; it calls for a 12mm hook.
The 2004 Lea issue (top photo, far left) has 34 designs, all of them crochet, most also in medium-weight yarns. There's a pullover in tunisian (Tunesischer Hakelei) and two wraps in "schlingenmuster"--it looks like drop stitch rather than loop stitch, so maybe it uses a broomstick? (not pictured)

One of the magazines is mostly stitch patterns with fashion sketches offering ideas for how to use the stitch pattern in one's own design.
I'm happy to add these Lea and Diana magazines to my collection of Sandra and Sabrina issues. If there are any Rebecca issues with more crochet than knit in them, please let me know!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Free Yarn Company E-Newsletters

I subscribe by email to free newsletters published by yarn companies and yesterday I received five. FIVE. Usually they're spread out throughout the month. Hearing from so many yarn companies in one day brings out the blogger in me. In case you aren't aware of these newsletters, I'll list them below in alphabetical order.

Why sub?
-Trendwatching: I keep up with what floats knitters' boats because it's interesting to me when it differs from crocheters; for example, both groups fell for felting, but the next big thing for knitters seems to be lace knitting, whereas I'm not seeing crocheters go whole hog for lace crochet. (More than usual, I mean. It's hard to ever fully separate lace from crochet.)

-To learn about new yarns, patterns, colors, and color combos.

-Many newsletters provide helpful tips that are often as useful to crocheters as to knitters, even if the tip is written only with knitters in mind.

-The suspense of never knowing when some GREAT crochet will show up in the knitcentric newsletters. I'd like to thank the yarn companies that do remember the crocheters and don't make us sigh and whimper and beg and cajole!

The list:
Berroco's KnitBits (every Friday)
Caron Yarn's Caron Connections (daily for 12 days in Dec.)
Classic Elite's CEY Web-Letters (3-4 times a month)
Coats and Clark's Keep in the Loop (monthly)
Garnstudio's Drops Design Newsletter
K1C2's Knit One Crochet Too Newsletter (monthly)
Lion Brand's Lion Brand Newsletter (weekly)

If you know of one that should be on this list, please let me know in the comments, thanks!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pop Tops and Crochet: A Fashion Alliance?

Feast your eyes upon this actual runway design by Ronaldo Fraga for the 2006 Brasilia fashion week!
There's something about pop tops that makes people want to crochet them together, like here and here. A remarkable Brazilian site (in English) offers stylish bags of pop tops crocheted together. The same site offers a poptopflower tutorial here and you've GOT to see these pop top fashions of the '70's!

I'm speechless, almost; I just have to point out that ok yeah, "being green" (in the eco-recycling sense) might be the in thing now, but crocheters have always had an irascible green streak--we crochet plastic bags into coasters, totes, rugs, ropes, hats, welcome mats, outdoor decor, incredible objets d'art, and even indestructible mattresses for the homeless (some with built-in air pockets)! We crochet fabric strips into rugs, video and cassette tape into evening purses and doll clothes, butcher's twine or other reclaimed string into market bags, clothesline into baskets, bottlecaps into trivets (video here), Christmas cards into boxes and ornaments, and used CD's into room dividers (Jen Hansen's), coasters, hotpads, and bottoms for purses and baskets. Crocheters were cool long before the planet got too hot.
Now I'm speechless.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Orlando Needlework Show Wrap-up

Took two excellent classes at the show and realized I didn't blog about them: Lily Chin's Color, Composition, Scale, Stitch and Pattern in 2-Dimensional Design and Darla Fanton's Tunisian Entrelac-to Felt or Not; Part 1-In the Round.
I've never seen this one offered by Lily before, so I had to take it out of curiosity. Within in the first 5 minutes I knew I was in the right class when she asked, "What is the difference between Art and Design?" I spent the rest of the conference mulling over our discussion!

It's funny to me now to type "Tunisian Entrelac in the Round" because before I took Darla's class it sounded exotic and advanced. I had never done any kind of tunisian crochet in the round, let alone entrelac. Yet it was perfectly easy to learn in class and I never once thought, "Holy cow, this tunisian entrelac in the round is crazy stuff". It seems more natural than working flat, actually.

I finished my project in class: a bowl to felt (see above photo). Now that I have it home, though, it's very soft and is the perfect size for my Hat Guru, so I think instead of felting it I'll edge the brim and let it be a hat!

The last bit of news is: YES Floridians! There WILL be another Orlando Needlework Show in September 2008!
UPDATE (Dec. 7): Dates for 2008 are being revised.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Report: Orlando Needlework Show

Marty and I attended the Orlando Needlework Show just before Thanksgiving and I think of it now as the "Conference of Pleasant Surprises".
It marks the first wearing of my silvery-sage wrap design, which is published in Jean and Rita's 100 Crochet Projects as part of a set (it has a matching pencil skirt). I'm happy to report that it was a wonderful companion--it kept me warm, the textured row created flattering diagonal lines of drama, the stretchy yarn caused it to cling to my shoulders, and best of all, my wrap and I basked in compliments. Marty is a witness.
I almost didn't bring the wrap because I didn't know if I'd want to be tugging to keep it on my shoulders all day, but instead I'm now into wraps and shawls. I like how wide this one is because I could wrap it around me 4 different ways. I remember intending it to be 70" wide, but the yarn is so stretchy that it becomes 84" wide, which originally worried me. Now, after wearing it all day, I'm glad.

The CGOA booth in the market was hoppin'! Debby somehow kept up with all the questions and new member app's coming at her right and left! Plus, current CGOA members were treated to a complimentary light-up hook just for visiting the booth. Marty was the perfect person to field questions on teaching children how to crochet.

We wore crochet everywhere and saw little of it. This is, after all, traditionally a scrapbooker's conference, so we weren't surprised; but it was remarkable how many people were there for crochet specifically. It also seemed like these crocheters were not newbies. In fact I talked to a yarn shop owner in north-central Florida who said she has so many advanced crocheters coming into her shop that she doesn't know what to do (she's a knitter herself). I was in a daze when I heard that. I'm noticing something similar at the new yarn shop where I'm teaching--advanced crocheters are coming out of the woodwork.
Who knew Florida is a hooker's hotbed? (sorry, couldn't help that)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CGOA Gets a Meme!

Let's do the first-ever meme for CGOA, inspired by a recent topic that came up in the CGOA-membership yahoo group: "Are you crocheting something that you would not be crocheting if you were not a CGOA Member?" Here are the rules for participating in the CGOA Meme:

1. Begin by including a link to this post and a link to the person who tagged you.
2. Answer the above question (Are you crocheting something that you would not be crocheting if you were not a CGOA Member?), or more broadly this question: "How has your experience of crochet been changed by your CGOA membership?" Give a single one-line answer, or more for extra credit.
3. End by linking to 3 (or 5, for extra credit) other bloggers among whom you'd like to see squirm publicly with this challenging, yet strangely satisfying essay question.

My answer is, since joining CGOA in 2001:
-- I have a gazillion more crocheting friends and by now some of them have become close friends (you know who you are).
-- Without CGOA I most certainly wouldn't have 3 years of crochet designing under my belt by now. Designing would hav remained a fuzzy childhood fantasy indefinitely but CGOA made it a reality so fast and effortlessly that my head was spinning.
-- CGOA exposed me to crochet as art. The yahoo group Crochet Partners introduced me to skill-refining info and to CGOA, but it's CGOA that introduced me to the really big picture: artcrochet.

Now I'll tag 5 blogging guildmems: Marty, Laurie, Kim, Amy, Dee. Narrowing it down to these 5 took me 15 minutes!! But I figure I can predict who y'all will tag so that most everyone's covered.

Friday, November 09, 2007

CGOA Design Contest!

I'm very proud to be able to announce our First Annual Design Contest. It's the real thing--$1000 Grand Prize! Plus First, Second, and Third prizes in 4 different categories. Plus a People's Choice Award. All of the entries will be displayed and winners announced at our national conference held July 23-27 2008 in Manchester, NH. The deadline for entries is June 15, 2008.

The board members of CGOA have been laying the groundwork for it for the past year so I've been waiting a long time to be able to announce it! Being our FIRST ANNUAL design contest, that's code for we're learning a lot as we go with this first one and we have high hopes that it will become a regular thing. So the categories might expand or change next year, or the rules tweaked, you know. We've already been getting helpful feedback. One important rule is that you must be a CGOA member and if you're not, it's easy enough to join.

The designer in me perks up at $1000, how about the designer in you?! (That's a 1934 Grover Cleveland bill pictured above.)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Took the Chaps Out Trick or Treating

The kiddies in their Halloween costumes inspired me. Started with the chaps and built a costume from there. At first I was going western, hence the hat, but the lurid crochet made me think of the iconic crochet-friendly Janice Joplin. (Terrible photo quality, I know) Kept wishing I had a crocheted hippie-fringe vest to match.

Picked up a guitar for a prop and absentmindedly kept humming "I Got You Babe", bringing ANOTHER crochet-friendly icon to mind--CHER!--and then I KNEW who I had to be, I even have a wig of long black hair. I've seen every Sonny & Cher Show episode at least once. I followed Chastity's gestation and birth and early appearances on the show, so I went as pregnant Cher.
She crochets, you know.
One of my neighbors said I belonged on the streets of London.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Electroluminescent Yarn!

Weaving or knitting the yarn in a particular manner, so that more yarn per unit area is achieved, improves the luminance of the EL yarn. (Dr Tilak Dias, Head of the WLIC)
Woo-hoo, crocheters get ready! Who needs light-up hooks when it's the yarn that lights up?
I want to crochet some of this NOW.

Quoted from here:
Dr Tilak Dias, Head of the WLIC, said: "At the moment the EL yarn we have developed is less flexible than conventional yarns. But it is more flexible than current optical fibres that are incorporated within fabrics to provide illumination. EL yarn can be easily incorporated into a knitted or woven fabric and the resultant active illuminating fabric provides illumination when it is powered. The luminance of a single strand of the EL yarn is greater than that of photoluminescent glow yarns, which are currently used in some high visibility applications."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday to me mum, who taught me how to crochet. We bought lots of yarn, pattern books, and beads together when I was growing up, with a wonderful spirit of adventure--we learned all the new techniques we could find: Broomstick lace (aka "Jiffy Lace"), Hairpin, and "Cro-Hook" for example. Mom helped me get the tools and info I needed to learn spinning and weaving too.
Back then we decided on a big joint project: a bedspread of sparkly yellow granny squares with a sparkly white flower in each center. I'm thinking that the yarn was the legendary but discontinued Dazzleaire.
Nowadays we live in different states so we haven't gone yarn-buying together for a long time, but Mom sends me some of her crochet and she's excited for me about mine. (See photo of me mum's crochet.) A few years ago we both were really into crocheting with wire and beads. Then Mom went whole-hog into thread crochet, the finer the thread the better! Also, needle-felting.
If I still had one of the sparkly granny squares I'd post a photo.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rowanberry Pendant

Lark's Jewelry With a Hook, ed. by Terry Taylor, is ON SHELVES and here is my Rowanberry Pendant embellishing the dedication page. (The complete design involves some crocheted "links" and a length of black velvet for a little holiday goth.)

Want a story? Rowan berries, which have a rich pagan past, are here represented by Clones Knots, which themselves have a rich history in Irish crochet.
The cord is Judi & Co.'s Corde' in a deep wine red shade. I've looked for Corde' for years in yarn shops and mail order catalogs and then one day at a CGOA conference I found a reel of red in the Dreamweaver Yarns booth. It is rayon-wrapped cotton and even the most common stitches look uncommon. Picots look like Celtic knots! As I played with it my friend Ananda came to mind, who celebrates the Winter Solstice (aka Midwinter, Yule). Then it just all came together in my mind.
That's the editor with his copy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Crochet Content Alert: Vogue Knitting Magazine

You might think I'm being melodramatic, because Vogue Knitting does include at least a pinch or two* of crochet in each issue; sometimes there is even more if you look closely, because the C-word might be missing from a depiction of crochet that's labeled "knit" instead.

The occurrence of crochet in the Holiday 2007 issue merits a special ALERT though: on page 46+ is an article by Dora Ohrenstein, founding editor of Crochet Insider, spotlighting an obscure CROCHET stitch pattern. Not only does it provide a photo tutorial, it is accompanied by a pattern for a hat and muff set.

Thank you, Vogue Knitting, for some way-cool content-rich crochet! I've been crocheting a very long time, which makes me hard to please, and I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I can never get enough of unusual, inventive, vintage, or otherwise obscure crochet stitches.

And a big thank you to Dora for persisting until she found someone who could crack the mystery stitch, and for including us in the discovery.
*There have occasionally been crochet designs in other issues of VK which do count as more than a "pinch"; designs by Kim Kotary and Jennifer Hansen come to mind.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

New! Jelly Yarn Bottle Tote KIT

My first crochet kit debuts at the Stitches East conference in Baltimore THIS WEEK! It will be available at Booth #314
during the conference and then permanently available at the Jelly Yarns website.

I'm always using water bottle totes here in the subtropics and of all the totes I've used, Jelly Yarn is ideal material. It stretches to fit the widest range of bottle sizes and scrunches down small to fit in my purse. It's strong and indestructible! The transparent colors make me thirsty when the sun shines through!

The kit does not include the beads, buttons, or ribbons that you see in this photo, these are just experimental styles (I took this photo back when I was considering teaching a class in using Jelly Yarn because I consider this pattern to be an easy learning project.) The kit DOES provide 2 patterns--for a smaller tote using fine weight Jelly Yarns (all water bottles under 1 liter) and a larger one using the bulky weight JY.

The larger tote on the far right is clear with gold flecks ("Honey Gold Bulky") and it reminded me of champagne so I dressed it up as a wedding/anniversary champagne/wine tote.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Oakland CGOA Conference: Design "Lab"

It is becoming a tradition among a small group of designers that after the conference fashion show we meet in a convenient place (i.e. the hotel bar) and try on each other's crochet. Yes it's FUN (REALLY fun) and yes it usually draws a crowd, but don't be fooled, it's research.

I described it recently in a comment on jd wolfe's blog:
"At the crochet conferences some of us get together and try on each other’s designs and learn LOTS about the design itself this way. For example three different size Large people could all wear your design differently because one has wide bony shoulders, another is short and rounded, another needs a very different color or texture for it to look good at all on her. Not only that but it’s amazing how differently people stand and move, so if you design something with a lot of drape, it will also look very different from person to person. A lot of the time, one size really does fit many when designers try on each other’s designs, because crochet stretches (despite what knitters say). But one size can look like many different sizes."

Photo #1 L to R: Laurie Wheeler et moi are wearing & flaring Karen Klemp's shawls while Karen sports the "Chain Link Capelet" I designed for the CGOA Pattern Line (pattern purchase benefits the guild). A better view of Laurie's top is at her blog entry--it's her own design featuring real feathers spun into the yarn.

Photo #2 L to R: Myra Wood flauntsMarty Miller's Spiderweb Cardigan while Margaret Fisher exploits the brimming savoir faire of Myra's Wild Fiber Tunic Dress.
Photo#3 L to R: Vashti and Doris Chan opportunistically explore pseudocasual subtexts: V finally gets to try on Doris' tank top (or 'sleeveless vest' if you will) and throws on a belt for the heck of it, while D begins with her own black lace tunic then tops off the look with Marty's flirtatious red cardi; Myra's eclectic ensemble daringly taunts that edge between blue and gray with Vashti's Chain Link Capelet and Doris' denim hemp pineapple skirt over peacock tights; and Marty pulls out all the stops with her SF Bay look in Myra's dress. Marty, in fact, jolted us out of our usual composure earlier that evening by wearing red and looking fabulous in it. And, half of my photos show Myra wearing that skirt--it's a superfun skirt to wear! I SO WISH that the video I took of her twirling and twisting in it was not too dark to post.

Missing this time were "founders" Tammy Hildebrand and Dora Ohrenstein, and "charter" participants Diane Moyer, Lisa Gentry, Victoria Vigyikan. Present this time but missing from photos: Margaret Hubert, Bonnie Pierce and her DH, Mel Gill, Lang Anh, Deanna Van Asshe, more? See more photos at Margaret's blog, Oct4 entry.

I look forward to the after-show as much as the fashion show itself!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Stashbusters Class (CGOA Conference Report)

My class swatch project fits Lambchop! Lambchop says, "You have the best smile."

I was not my usual attendee-self at this conference. It's the first time I've only taken ONE class! I was in Oakland most of all to be able to spend time with my dear friend Kalli. This is the true source of my self-discipline. (Here's a pic of us on a ferry that took us under the Golden Gate bridge.)

I chose Marty Miller's Stashbusters class and looked forward to an afternoon of playing with my stash. I also felt a wee bit o' guilt over my big yarn stash and hoped to make it more manageable. Marty's visual aids whetted my appetite to go stash-diving and she demonstrated a variety of fun ways to create a whole garment as you go, with any kinds of stash.

I'm proud to report that I left the class refreshed and recharged, pleased with my stash and promptly visited the Knit and Crochet Market to buy more yarn :-)
(Pictured: 750 yds. Louet KidLin in Spanish Blue; 864 yds. Malabrigo in Pollen; 1000 yds. Shetland Cobweb 100% Pashmina 1-ply.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I WON SOMETHING! (CGOA Conference Report)

So, dear reader, are you one of those people who says "I'm one of those people who never wins anything"? There must be a lot of us, but now I can't say it anymore because I attended a meeting for CGOA members at the conference and....It's true! I didn't not win!!! I mean, I won! The best thing of all is that everyone won something great at the meeting, so while I won 5 skeins of this luscious, deeply satisfying red alpaca, no one else was prevented from also winning something.

Um, oh yes, some CGOA news. We have a new PR Committee and I'm excited to be getting it set up to running smoothly and happily. Also there is a big new opportunity for members that will be announced any day now--wish I could spill the beans but someone else has that fun honor. (Imagine how easy it must be to spill beans if it became a common saying.)

A big THANK YOU to Berroco. See their great new design in this new yarn and color. Here's a lovely pic of Julia Emily's project in this yarn. Mmmmm, these knitted projects are lovely but what shall I crochet? This is Ravelry-worthy so I'll use it to practice listing my stash.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Oakland CGOA Conference Report: the TOYS

Returned home late at night from the conference to the sweetest note from my son:
I was able to find some toys to gladden a boy's heart this time. (Gladdened Boy has Lambchop eyelashes!) Judging by how popular these items were with adults, I'd say maybe the vendors should include a few more playful gender-neutral items. Many attendees claimed to be shopping for grandchildren--someone mentioned finding an adorable board book about sheep and wool--but others might have been shopping for their own "inner grandchildren" :-) Wish I had a photo of our own CGOA President bonding with Lambchop. :sigh:

The zebra hat from the Pacific Meadows Alpacas booth was truly irresistible, with its black fringe mane and those little single-crocheted ears.... other animal hats were also available there, many of them knit. The alpaca toy in both pics is unbelievably soft.

The booth was right across from the International Free Form Crochet Guild booth, so here we see Myra Wood getting warm and fuzzy with the FF booth on one side and none other than Sri Kalli Rose Ji: remember my Hat Yoga Guru from an earlier series of entries? Can you see why She IS One For Whom Hats Must Be Made? (photo by Margaret Hubert)

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 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'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:'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.

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!