Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Newly Published Jelly Yarn Projects for Children

I've been looking forward to the release of this fun book. Designing three of the projects was pure pleasure! The Flying Jelly Ring (and tambourine variation) went through multiple incarnations, requiring input from my son, a.k.a. Toy Tester "Bob". He cheerfully tested the glow-in-the-dark colors outside on clear summer evenings, for example. One of the prototypes now hangs off of his bedpost.

I'm proud of the Jellyfish purse because of the method I developed for covering a used CD with crochet, after much trial and error. The rainbow metallic look of a CD surface combined with Jelly Yarn gives the crochet a 21st century look that is irresistible to me! It's also very durable--I use the prototype often and it shows no wear. It was inspired by my son who loves jellyfish; Spongebob has something to do with it. (pictured at right is one of my son's electric jellyfish)

The book is chock-full of step-by-step photos and tips for every project, as I've come to expect from Kathleen Greco's books. In fact, as a designer I felt creatively freed by this because I knew that Kathleen would make sure that young readers could understand and enjoy each pattern from beginning to end.

Kathleen's snow globe project is a must-see!

I'm off to post a bit more on jelly over at my kid blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Triple Crochet vs. the Granule Stitch

I've been having fun experimenting with a new kind of crochet stitch! It has a unique braided look and is easy to make. A few days ago Teresa posted a Youtube link to a video tutorial on "Triple Crochet" in the Crochet Partners forum. This is no ordinary Triple Crochet.
In the first photo, the 4 swatches on the right are my experiments. On the far left is a swatch of some rows of standard dc and tr for comparison. Click on each pic to enlarge.

Part of the fun of having stitch dictionaries and patterns designed by different crocheters is learning new stitches. Some stitches have more than one name, some have no name, and others are so standardized that they always go by the same name and are always made the same way.
The 2nd photo shows the back sides of the same 4 swatches in the first pic above. Note the long single strand along each stitch.

I think it's safe to say that most crocheters for most of crochet history begin what Americans call a triple or treble, and what Brits and Aussies call a double treble, by yarning over the hook twice before placing the hook into the stitch to be worked, and then working the loops off of the hook in twos. Check out the how-to video at Nexstitch for this stitch. Any "learn to crochet" section in books or magazines shows the same standard way and standard name: Triple/Treble (US, often abbrev. "tr") or Double Treble (UK "dtr"). (The UK Treble is equivalent to the US Double.)

The "Triple Crochet" taught in the Youtube video has nothing in common with the standard tr. For example, you begin the stitch with no yarn-overs as if to make a Single Crochet (US sc/UK dc), and one loop is worked off twice, which creates 2 chain stitches, before working off the last two loops at once. Instead, this stitch is similar to the "single crochet picot stitch" that forms the basis of what is called "Granule Stitch" in Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Crochet (p. 139) and in the Harmony Guides vol 6, p. 36. It also appears under the name "Bead Stitch" in the 365 Crochet Stitches a Year Perpetual Calendar for May 22. In all of these cases, however, you make 3 chains, not 2, before working off the final two loops together. (By the way, the same Granule Stitch appears on p. 75 of the reprint of the Harmony Guides ed. by Erika Knight called Basic Crochet Stitches, but the swatch is so wrong!)

The biggest difference is what gives the Granule Stitch its picot or beadlike look. You chain 1 to begin the row and work a sc in the stitch before and after the "sc picot stitch" and this causes the 3-chain sc sts to scrunch over and make cute bulges.
In this 3rd photo you can see my attempt at a Tunisian version--this is the front view. I like it!

The new "Triple Crochet" stitch in the Youtube video stands straight and tall, no bulging. Something that doesn't show up in the video is the strand of yarn running vertically along the length of each stitch. (It reminds me of the lone strand alongside bullion sts.) I've provided photos of both front and back views of my swatches so that you can see what I mean; the strands tend to recede to the back of the stitches.
To keep this strand from limiting the height of this chained stitch you must make the first chain loosely. Watch how loose the tension is in the video while the stitches are made, especially at the foot of each stitch. When you pull the finished stitches up to their full height, that lone strand tugs the "feet" of the stitch tighter.
Photo #4: back view of my Tunisian version of the stitch in which you can see the long strand of each stitch.

I wish to thank Elissa (hope I spelled that right), the person in the video who opened my crochet world to a new kind of stitch!
I'd like to suggest that we call it something else. The "Extended Single Crochet" (esc) is the same except that it has only 1 chain added to the sc before completing it. So by adding 2 chains the way Elissa does it, it would make sense to call this stitch a tall esc, perhaps abbreviated "tesc". The stitch looks braided to me, so for a more poetic name I think of my Tunisian variation as "Tunisian Braid Stitch".

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tunisian Panels: The Marco Jacket

This one's fresh off the hook because I wanted to wear it to the Portland CGOA conference two weeks ago. It's really 4 experiments in one!

1. I used an obscure stash yarn that worked out great for tunisian crochet. It's Austermann Marco Stretch in "Winterberry" (a warm heathered rose). I've never used a bulky wool with a lot of lycra in it for a sweater so I didn't know what kind of drape I could expect, and whether I'd even be able to block it to my measurements. (Not much info on the 'net from users of this yarn, not even in Ravelry.)

2. The yarn is discontinued so I had a finite amount: would 10 skeins be enough for a jacket? To be on the safe side I went with cropped and shaped sleeves, cropped length, and minimal collar and front overlap. The yarn seemed sporty to me so I pictured a zip-front hoodie style, and would add pockets and a hood with leftover yarn. It ended up reminiscent of a boxy Chanel jacket style when I edged it. That's Yvette trying it on backstage after the conference fashion show.

3. The yarn was like felted spaghetti to work with and looked lumpy in every crochet swatch I tried except tunisian simple stitch (tss). The tunisian fabric came out stretchy, smooth, and soft & spongy enough for my kitten! I was not in the mood for long or cabled tunisian hooks, so....panels, right? I haven't seen many sweaters done this way lately. Making the panels was great fun, but how did I want to join them? I decided to make the seams a decorative element, so more swatching! (But check out ARNie's join-as-you-go tutorial) Correction added 9/30: See ARNie's comment on this entry; this link is part of Cindy's Crochet Pages. Great job Cindy! Thank you.

4. The last experiment concerned shaping. I wanted to do it all--tapered set-in sleeves, back neck drop, shoulder slope, waist. I knew it would help streamline the yarn's bouncy bulk, but this amount of shaping and shortrowing in tunisian was new to me. Using a 12mm hook and big yarn made it fun because some shaping was accomplished with merely adding or subtracting a few jumbo stitches.

I'm very pleased with the results, although I wish the yarn blocked better. There's a pic of me wearing it on Margaret's blog--scroll down to the 2nd photo. At the conference people especially liked the contrasting stitch textures, and some thought the seams were cables :-)

I would definitely construct a garment with tunisian panels again. I created a way to make "panel maps" in Garment Designer, which should simplify writing the pattern for many sizes. (Here's a hazy pic of the map I worked from.)

I had about 1 ball's worth of yarn left over. I paid $3.19/ball for this yarn about 4 years ago at, so not bad for a $30 sweater, huh?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Ins and Outs of INTERMESHING

I took Margaret Hubert's class on Intermeshing at the CGOA regional conference held in Portland, Oregon last week. Intermeshing is like crocheting two separate pieces of fabric, usually simple filet (chain 1, double crochet in the next double crochet), but you are interweaving them as you work a row of one piece and then the other, so it's a whole new way of experiencing filet crochet. The possible variations are infinite!

Although I had learned how to do this intriguing technique months ago thanks to Bonnie Pierce's downloads (scroll halfway down) and James Walters' excellent material generously made available via the internet, intermeshing is a type of crochet that is also exciting in a class setting. When I saw that Margaret was offering this class, I knew I had to be there.

I brought enough yarn for two very different swatches: one is that new Glow in the Dark yarn (white) by Bernat paired with a ball of blue discontinued Debbie Bliss yarn; my son loves how brightly the Bernat yarn glows in the dark, so I plan to turn this swatch into a small pillow that doubles as a nightlight. This yarn glows all night long! It glows brighter and less green than my camera captured here.

Margaret's class project was a simple bag and that's what I'll turn my second swatch into, so I brought colors for me: a deep rich red chenille (discontinued Reynolds Paris) paired with charcoal Lion Brand Cotton Ease. (see first photo, above.)

Intermeshing requires a certain kind of focus at first. I find that after awhile I can get into a comfortable rhythm, but until then, the logic of it is tricky for me--especially the beginning and ending of rows. Can you spot all the errors? Keep in mind that the edge is meant to end with a solid vertical bar of blue....

Below is my first swatch from months ago, in size 10 threads, turned into a wrist cuff. I was curious how it would look to pair a variegated thread (Manuela) with a solid neutral color (Cebelia). I wear it often because it goes great with jeans, but as a jewelry design I think it would have more punch if both colors were solid instead of variegated. Photos of it "in action" can be seen here.
I recommend Margaret's class to anyone interested in learning intermeshing. She brought some inspiring samples and her class handout is first-rate. I haven't shown any variations here, but Margaret had an afghan with a combination of intermeshing variations. Check out her blog entries about the class (scroll down to Sept. 16 and Aug. 3).

Update: see also this site about "Double Filet" as intermeshing is called in the UK (thank you, nic):
In the US for 2010, Susan Lowman will be teaching a class on this technique at CGOA's Chain Link conference (July, Manchester NH).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Merits of Owning 10-Skein Bags

Today in the Crochet Partners forum someone wondered what would be a good amount of yarn to buy if one sees it for a good price but one doesn't have a project in mind. What a great question! Below is my reply, with some additional thoughts.
(Pictured: a delicious 10-ball box of Coats Opera #5 thread)

If I can, I'll buy the number of skeins it takes to make a full mill "bag", if I can get the yarn in its original bag. Yarn companies ship most yarns divided neatly into clear bags. Many of the yarns sold in local yarn shops (LYS) come in 10-skein bags. Some yarns carried in craft chains might be shipped in 3-skein bags or 6-skein bags. I've found that if I buy a 10-skein bag at a yarn shop or online, there are lots of benefits:

- If I change my mind down the road about using the yarn, it's very easy to sell a full 10-skein bag (in its original bag) on the internet, even long after it has been discontinued. Occasionally a LYS will take it back for store credit.

- An intact bag of 10 makes a great gift for a yarn lover!
(10-ball bag of Rowan Linen Drape at left; click pic to see the official label on the bag)

- It's easy to figure out in your head the total yards you have: 10 x yards in each ball = a good amount for a sweater (note that depending on the design, there might only be enough yarn for mid-length sleeves.) So, say each ball has 125 yards, you know that a 10-ball bag gives you 1250 yards total. Ten skeins gives me enough to experiment with some and still have enough to make a summer top, shrug, wrap, hat and scarf, tote, throw pillows, multiple gifts, or a matching set of something.

- It comes home in its own storage bag! 10-ball bags stack on each other well and slide under beds perfectly. The balls stay new-looking because they don't tumble around; instead they're packed neatly like sardines in their mill bags. I'm making two sweaters right now, both with stash yarns that I bought in 10-ball bags about 5 years ago. The yarn is so fresh it's like I bought it yesterday!

- The dye lot is automatically the same for each ball.

- It helps the LYS because they're not left with stray skeins of a dye lot. By the way, if you want to special order a yarn from a LYS, ordering 10 balls of it makes it very easy for the shop.

- Given these benefits, if you find 10-ball bags of a discontinued yarn, the closeout price is a true bargain. Consider my latest acquisition: Artful Yarns Fable, $55 for the bag. That's $5.50 per ball of a premium pima cotton & silk blend, all one dye lot, pristine condition; 184yards ea. = 1840 yds total!

Many of these benefits might also be true for the 3-ball and 6-ball bags at chain stores.
The Caron Pizazz at right came in 3-ball bags.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Podcast Tonight! Join Me!

My good friend Mary Beth Temple created the Getting Loopy call-in podcast show a few months ago and has already built up a valuable archive of shows that you can listen to anytime. In my previous post I mentioned how she ramped everything up a notch by podcasting live from the conference!
Tonight, many of the designers who created the Crochet Belts from the Hip book together, including myself, will be on the show tonight getting all loopy about designing.
If you've already downloaded your raw, uncensored copy of the book, you'll know what I mean when I say, "Join us at the designer's table tonight" from 9-10pm while we're live. (If you can't make it, it will be archived and accessible immediately after the show.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This CGOA Conference Broke the Mold!!

Have returned from Manchester NH to report that Chain Link 2008 (a.k.a. Knit and Crochet Show) was like no other conference ever!

pictured: Yvonne Tate (bklynvonne) handing out Ravelry buttons

Here's a list of firsts:
- CGOA's Design Contest was a great success! 115 high caliber entries means oh yes, we'll be doing this again. Thanks to Treva McCain for all of her hard work to make it happen.
- We had a record number of door prizes. For PD Day alone, every attendee (about 145) won at least 1 door prize. PD Day was the best ever so I'll have to blog more about that. (Pictured: Myra Wood and Jennifer Hansen in foreground; behind them, Robyn Chachula, presenters Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss, and at the podium, Jane Schwartz and Drew Emborsky.)

- In addition to creating this year's PD Day, Drew took over the job of emceeing the fashion show from the illustrious Lily Chin this year. (Drew, your Italian bespoke emcee jacket was spectacular.) He did a wonderful job, which freed up Lily to do some fabulous modeling on the runway.

- New 30-minute afternoon fashion show in the Market--therefore Drew's managing and emceeing of it is an automatic first, plus, Tammy Hildebrand agreed to model!

- Another fashion show first is the pre-show training generously provided by ex-model Melanie Mays. Another first I guess is that I didn't enter any of my own designs in the fashion show(s) this time. I modeled other people's, such as Annette Stewart's fun flouncy miniskirt (a contest entry).
- One other fashion show first is the way everyone just cleared out after the show on Saturday night. We didn't even have our usual post-show design lab!
- New CGOA Director Lorraine Lucas is a guild member-at-large, so the hobbyist members who are not in the business of selling yarn or designs now have a representative on the board. I found out that Lorraine is just the person you want to spend hours in a coffeehouse with before getting drenched by torrential rains on the way back to the conference. Wish I had a photo of that.

- Some other first-time attendees besides Lorraine: Carrie Sullivan, Amy Shelton (Crochetville admin), Renee Barnes (CrochetRenee'), Kimberly McAlindin, Jerry Rigdon, Jack Blumenthal, and Jess and Casey of Ravelry. New-to-me at the conference were Kim Guzman, Kristen TenDyke, and Gloria Tracy! New-to-many (but a sweet reunion for me) was Jenny King! In fact, we had the highest number of pre-registered attendees ever.

- We added a Committee Meet & Greet to the Members' Annual Meeting, and many chairpersons instantly found new volunteers for their committee this way.

- The Thursday night Market preview was hoppin'!! I think it was a good move to have Mary Beth Temple doing her live Getting Loopy podcast from the show floor right at the entrance so that no one could miss it. Her daughter "LL" was the perfect assistant. I want to thank the dozens of attendees who were happy to call in to the podcast and talk with MBT for a few minutes. They were less shy than I was! I'm told it made for a record download.

Read about the conference at these blogs:
I especially enjoyed the conference entries at Fire Lizard Studios, which is a blog I haven't seen before.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Our New Designer-Published Book

Before I leave for the big exciting national CGOA conference thatIwouldn'tmissfortheworld I'm proud to officially announce a new kind of crochet pattern book.

NINETEEN designers rode the publishing rapids together and survived the adventure! We've learned what it's like to put together an instant-download e-book as a group, get a website for it, get it reviewed, and choose the topic for our next one. Many of us will meet up again at the conference this week so who knows what will come of that!

We call our group "Straight From Today's Designers", or

For the book I did a "Barbed Wire Belt" in silver Jelly Yarn. I was able to include a story about the design because I'm one of the publishers. Feels good!

Don't miss Tammy Hildebrand's daughter modeling her belt!

JD Wolfe of Craft Gossip reviewed it here and Lime & Violet reviewed it here. So far, these contributors have blogged it: Angela Best of La Vonne's Knot Just Knits, Doris Chan, Robyn Chachula, Noreen Crone Findlay, Lisa Gentry, Pam Gillette of Knotty Generation, Kim Guzman of Kimane Designs, Amie Hirtes of Nexstitch,Margaret Hubert, and Marty Miller.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Color Play! Great Sites for Inspiration

(Below find the promised pic of puppy Rosebud)

At the same time that I've been researching upcoming color trends for the Trendy Crochet class, color came up in the International Freeform yahoo group. This summer I just want to play with colors. I can't name a favorite color because of how they change in combination with others. Below are my favorite links.

Colorcube has lots of color games. My favorite is "Color Scrambles" because I love competing with myself to distinguish subtle shades. See also the articles and screensavers.

Colorjack is great for sophisticated color combinations. Many interesting options.

Fun, fun, color news at the Colour Lovers Blog! Best of all, create COLORED PATTERNS!!

Wellstyled has a color wheel that is so well designed that it seemed simplistic to me at first. Then I looked closer and saw the refinements possible. Nicely designed, concise. I learned what my color combining biases are. uses actual random Flickr images (or others images of your choice) for real-life color schemes. It took me awhile to figure it out. Includes the ability to tag colors and if I understand correctly, the tags are communal.

Check out Lollygirl's Project Spectrum. It's not just for knitters anymore.

Lines and Colors blog has a pretty cool discussion of the color wheel and its development.

I bookmarked this list of color names because I learned such things as, I've had heliotrope (not neon yellow), olivine (not acid olive-green), and puce (not dirty caramel-chartreuse) wrong all my life! And, that I'm probably not the only one confused by "indigo" which sometimes appears as a deep herby edgy teal, and other times as a vivid violet. Check out all of the lavenders. How many people know what "zinnwaldite" looks like? Or Mountbatten pink??

And here's Rosebud, Queen of the Couch, circa 1999 (full name Rosebud Fu Fu Shen). If she could speak: "We both know that I'm not supposed to be on the couch, but I was just about to take a delicious nap, so you could waive that rule just once, right? I won't make a regular practice of it."

Rosebud was the most beautiful dog I ever had and probably the most intelligent. Also the closest thing to a tawny pet lion.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tagged: Time to Face the Music

Doris tagged me so I can run, but I can't hide.

What was I doing 10 years ago?
That was a big year: defended a multidisciplinary thesis on "gender essentialism" so that I could graduate from New College. Succeeded in getting pregnant. Got a puppy, named her Rosebud (nope, not because of the movie). Started paying a mortgage instead of rent. Please check back for a pic of beautiful Rosebud.

Five things on my non-work to do list today:
- Make apptmts for check ups--eye, dental, general physical, blah blah blah.
- Light grocery shopping. Am craving me some fruit and a layer cake.
- Finish cleaning out a closet.
- Get just enough sun.
- Call up a long distance friend.

Snacks I enjoy:
- Cherry pie--I miss my grandmother's made-from-scratch pies. She made her own egg noodles too.
- All nuts except brazilnuts and filberts.
- Chocolate chip cookies from scratch (code for real butter, whole eggs, dark choc)
- DH's hummus

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
- Create huge prestigious juried cash prizes for crochet design, innovation, & development, you know, like scientists have.
- Spend months at a time living abroad.
- Fund the education of girls worldwide; in some cases this has to include feeding and clothing them. Seems to me that educating women nips many socioeconomic & environmental problems in the bud!
- Create a "Stitchbrain"--a digital bank of every crochet stitch pattern in the world, totally cross-ref'd and indexed and searchable by stitch symbol sequences, clickable alternate formats (full text vs abbrevs vs symbols etc), linked to designs featuring them, zoomable & flippable & rotatable, clickable infinite colorwork combinations yes, swatch uploadability from the crocheting citizens of the planet (with gauge and fiber info). It would be beautiful and cheerful and fun and revolutionary.

Places I've lived (in reverse order):
Hollywood FL
Fairfield IA
Seattle WA (my all-time fav place)
Portland ME
Governors Harbor, The Bahamas (I really did move from the Bahamas to Maine. In autumn!)
Cambridge MA
East Troy & Mukwonago WI
Hamilton OH

Jobs I have had:
Buyer/purchaser for a specialty market--fun!!
"Herb Goddess" (the title became quasi-official at a health food store)
Cashier/store clerk
French and Biology tutor at a community college
"Credit Associate" of a department store
Office Manager of a dessert company (ohhhh yes)

People I want to know more about:
I'd love to know what Pam was doing 10 years ago and all that!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

CGOA, Collectible Hooks, and Dee Stanziano!

My blog posts are stumbling over themselves to be written. Now that I have updated my handout for the Trendy Crochet class that I teach every year, I can resume blogging.

An article that I wrote for Yarn Market News (May'08, page 36) about CGOA's commemorative crochet hooks has been reprinted in full here (scroll down to June 16 entry). If you don't know what "HAS" is, the article will fill you in.

It's an honor to see my article on Dee Stanziano's blog! A big thank you to the YMN editor, Karin Strom, for giving permission to reprint it, and a big hug to Dee. (Can you tell from her photo how huggable she is?)You can see the classes she'll be teaching at the CGOA conference here (scroll down to "Stanziano").

This is a great time to thank Dee also for being CGOA's Volunteer Email Correspondent for six years. If anyone had a crochet question, Dee was there to answer! But that's not all. This amazing CGOA member also moderates the Hook Collector's Group forum (this is a special group within CGOA), has a large and happily active CGOA Chapter in Connecticut, is active in a wide variety of crochet forums, and has agreed to lead one of the guild's most important committees. Not only that but her husband and kids are delightful.

If you haven't yet met Dee, attend the conference next month and sign up for one of her classes!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

More TNNA Show Highlights: the PEOPLE

This is the last installment of my TNNA trilogy: photos and a name avalanche!
We have the photogenic Kristin Omdahl who wore her own beautiful designs every day of the show. Here's a great pic of Ellen Gormley (who wore her own stylish designs every day to great effect) and that's Doris Chan between Ellen and me. Doris was ready to celebrate the successful taping of her TV episode and although she couldn't wear the China Doll (see story here), the blue lace top she's wearing will show up magnificently on film.

The last two pics were taken at the fashion show. We have The Crochet Dude (Drew) and the Crochet Insider (Dora) gearing up to cheer for the 1% crochet content; and on the other side of me sat the radiant Diane Moyer, who endured my cheeky mood that night. We roomed together this year and believe me, she awakes every morning with a rosy glow and her hair looks already styled.

Steady yourself for the name avalanche: I had remarkable first-time conversations with these new friends: Sandi Wiseheart, Maggie Pace, and Clara Parkes. I treasure the quality time I got to spend with Ellen, Kristin, Amy O'Neill Houck, and Annie Modesitt, in addition to the usual suspects (Marty Miller, Jane Schwartz, Mary Beth Temple, Doris, Drew, Dora, Diane). Finally got to meet Jess and Casey and Mary-Heather! I've come to count on seeing Stitchdiva groove a conference! Can you believe Prudence Mapstone's biz trip to Columbus overlapped with TNNA for a few hours before her flight back to Oz? I wish I'd been able to get an espresso (or something) with Robyn Chachula, Kim Werker, Nancy Brown, and Karin Strom (to name a few) and don't worry, I did get espressos, but always when none of these folks was nearby. I kept wishing I could see TNNA regulars Margaret Hubert, Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Mary Jane Hall, Kathleen Greco, and Cari Clement but they couldn't make it this time. Should I list more people I loved meeting or wish that I'd met at TNNA? Because I'm afraid I'm leaving someone out. I haven't even mentioned the cool yarn shop owners I met. Nor have I really talked about the published sweaters walking the show in living breathing 3D.
Supposedly TNNA is about yarn, but it's really about the people. And the way they drape yarn all over themselves.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Crochet and TNNA 2008

Let's get down to brass tacks, shall we? You'll find lots of knit-focused blog entries about TNNA-Columbus right now but take a walk with me on the crochet side. My overall hit from this show? Crochet is solidly on the up in knitworld. [I have a dream that someday it will be more accurate to say 'yarnworld' instead] From whence comes such an impression?

Not TNNA's fashion show, which was composed of the same ratio of crochet to knit as the other two years I've attended (oh, about 1% crochet content). What gets shown on the runway is the result of many factors though, so I'll just leave it at that.

Crocheted garments were sprinkled into many show booths, so crochet fairies have been working hard. These garments ranged from magically delicious to practical classics. Some draped more than the knits; some knit sweaters weighed more than the crocheted ones. [There will come a day when I won't feel the need to point this out] One might be tempted to say that this is what causes my "crochet's on the rise" tingles, but not really--there was some great crochet last year. Tinkerbell is a crocheter.

Here's where something truly new is going on: a new attitude among enough knitting attendees to matter, whether they be yarn shop owners or even 'knit establishment' insiders. Knit blinders are off! People are looking at crochet in its own right, not mentally comparing it to knits [and then coming out with a biased verbal gaff]. Crochet designers as a group [not just big names] seem to have earned some credibility somewhere along the line. An open-minded interest is replacing the closed-minded stony-face that crocheters have encountered for years.

I wish I could go into some specifics that reinforce my impressions but I'm sorry I have to be discreet else how will someone be able trust me with secrets in the future? :-)

Crochet's stock is going up. Isn't it great?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Yarn Discoveries at the TNNA Show

This is my first day back from the show, exhausted and happy, so here's a simple list of special yarn discoveries. More on the show tomorrow.

Unusual fiber content:
(yes, the metal, though it doesn't look at all metallic): Zaol BioRope contains "mirawave" which is a silver-content fiber that is supposed to lend the yarn special properties such as being antimicrobial and conducting heat away from the body.

Jadeite (yes, the rock known as jade!) SWTC's "Therapi" is 30% jadeite.

Vicuna, Qiviuk, Guanaco yarns and blends: the yarns were heavenly and so were the first-rate crocheted samples in the booth! (At the website some of the crocheted designs are called "knit".) Here's a hairpin crochet wrap in handspun qiviuk and silk; here's a qiviuk wedding dress.

Milk fiber: Kollage's "Creamy" in icecreamy colors!

Recycled soda bottles? There is a new polar fleece yarn and I can't remember its name nor could I make it to that booth but Marty did and I love the projects she crocheted up already. The yarn looks great crocheted and has all the best qualities of chenille with none of the drawbacks! Hopefully she'll comment here or blog about it herself.

Z-twisted yarns: the yarn is plied with a counterclockwise twist, whereas many yarns (in the US anyway) are s-twisted, which is clockwise. Yeah, I'm the only one I know who actually has a thing for z-twisted yarns. Call me weird, but when I really like the way the yarn makes my stitches look and there's zero splitting, the z-twist is often the reason. (Lefties might prefer s-twist.) When I spot a z-twisted yarn I buy it because I know that even 20 years from now, if it's still in my stash, I'll still enjoy crocheting it.

-Two ShibuiKnits yarns: Highland Wool Alpaca; Merino Alpaca.
-Plymouth's Oceanside Organic.
-Be Sweet's Bamboo. 100% Bamboo yarns usually split on me so I've been anxious to try a z-twisted one. There's also a z-twisted bamboo blend called Spa.
-Two Zaol yarns: the silver-content BioRope (see above) and the lace weight 100% tencel Olive.

After attending previous TNNA shows where designer inquiries were not always welcome (as Stefanie mentioned in her blog today), I didn't even bother asking for samples of the above yarns to swatch with. Now that I've blogged about them I wish I had!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Orphan Works Bill: How it Affects You!

If you don't know what all the hubbub is about, please find out today because time is running out. Like many artists and designers I oppose this bill. Here and here are great sites that explain why. Here's one of five reasons: "Under current law, you receive basic copyright protection even if you don't register your work. Under Orphan Works law, your work could be declared an orphan even if you have registered it." (scroll down to the end of this page for the other 4.)

If you enjoy seeing new crochet patterns and other creative work (whether or not you design them yourself), an easy way to speak out about this bill if you're a U.S. citizen is to do a "click and send" here or here. Non-U.S. citizens can make a difference too.

Artists and designers everywhere thank you.
You can read the text of the bill here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Swatching Storm Front

I've emerged from a high pressure inner-weather system with a report. It's similar to Robyn's latest entry about her designing process. Coincidence? Or does blogging about a Day in the Designing Life lend itself to blogging about the designing process?

I think I identified the sources of the pressure: there are 6 yarns I want to use first with equal passion + I'm making a personal garment but using a professional process (more on this below) + I have a tight time limit if I'm going to wear a new design (or 6?) to TNNA!

The 6 yarns that cast a spell over me: Kollage Yummy in Foggy Dew, Sirdar Baby Bamboo in a heathery metallic lilac (see both in 3rd photo below), Tess Cascade Silk in handdyed pewter, Plymouth Shire Silk in radiant tweedy aqua (both at right), Plymouth Royal Llama Linen in 3 earthy neutrals, and Great Adirondack Sierra (see above) in a painted rainbow. (These are on my Ravelry Stash page.)
I swatched 5 like crazy (the storm part) and noticed something new about that. As I mentioned, it's been 2+ years since I could design a sweater for myself rather than for professional deadlines. The swatching resulted in a number of good designs from a professional standpoint, but none that made me commit to making one now for me. It was weird--I enjoy a good swatching marathon in its own right and I've got a stack of some great swatches now--but for future reference. Huh? I need something now! What's going to close the deal?

Luckily I didn't stop swatching. I picked up the 6th yarn, Baby Bamboo, and magic happened. My fingers and eyes tingled (a personal response to the yarn). I tried a new stitch pattern that captured my imagination (I call it "Waterlily"). After two rows I was hooked personally, not professionally. I guess that after 2-3 years I forgot that there's a difference LOL!

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Day in the Designing Life

I love Robyn's "Day in the Life" idea, so here's mine. Good thing I committed to this particular day because if I'd waited for a "typical" day I would never have blogged one. There is no typical day and that's exactly what I like about designing! So here's how yesterday went:

7:10 a.m. - Today I woke up earlier than the usual 7:40-8:00 range. That meant that I could help Mr. Designingvashti get our 3rd-grader to the bus stop in time. He's excited about Field Day today. My beverage of choice is Yogi Green Tea Goji (I'm exploring the Japanese matcha tea scene). I'll be taking a brisk 45-min. walk so I nibble on mulberries from our tree, which I much prefer over raspberries or blackberries, and inhale deeply from our neighbor's true jasmine bushes OMG. Most other mornings I wake up with a design brainstorm or project that gets me out of bed so then I make a pot of my favorite jasmine green tea with some raw honey, and try to get a walk in later in the day. The jasmine and the frangipani smell different at different times of day :-)
9:30 - OK, back from a brisk preoccupied walk because I realize I'm in an end-of-week pileup. Listing them here might help:

1. Prepare for a crochet jewelry class I'm teaching at my LYS this weekend–I need new handouts and I can never have enough samples. Last night my LYSO said that more people signed up at the last minute, which is exciting!!
2. Write up two patterns for designs that will be in a book–can't talk about them yet.
3. Continue my marathon swatching for designs I have in mind to wear to TNNA in 3 weeks. This is the first time in 3 years that I have the chance to do this; usually I'm too busy working up designs for editors to make something special and new for myself. The last time I did this the Mermaid Shrug, my favorite, happened. Of course I have 5 projects in mind and that's just crazy.
4. Make decisions clustered around the issue of branding, which affects how I'll upload new patterns to Ravelry, how my site map would be laid out, etc.
5. Complete the teacher's gift I designed which will also become a pdf pattern that I'll offer for sale in Ravelry. (I always procrastinate when I have to put a face on something. The face is everything, you know?)

10:30 - Reality check during my mid-morning u-betcha espresso ritual: the class samples and supplies are rounded up. Who knows how long the handouts will take (always longer than I expect). I will carve items 3 & 4 into smaller steps; most of #4 can be tabled for a few days. I don't usually have a class weighing on my mind while having patterns to write. Item 2 must be completed today before Mini-D.vashti comes home from school--I need 100% concentration to write patterns. Item 5 except photography can be done tonight if I don't have a glass of shiraz with dinner :-). It's great that the phone has not been ringing.
3:30 p.m.- Emailed the first pattern complete with three variations just before the school bus comes. It won't be a problem to do the 2nd pattern first thing tomorrow, there are no variations and it's already mostly written. Rounded up all of my jewelry patterns which just makes we want to create more jewelry!
The rest of the day is a blur so this is the gist: spent rest of afternoon making a poster of ways Mini-D.vashti can earn more allowance $. It's a new system I've been working out that involves crocheted allowance tokens {{giggle}}

Spent the whole rest of the evening crocheting new jewelry for the class (sigh. I couldn't help it).

Mulberry season wanes as LYCHEES prepare to take their place. As of today they're starting to turn red. Yay!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Local Design Inspiration: Peacocks

I was writing an entry for my other blog the other day, about peacocks that were born in our backyard. All this time I've felt a guilty pleasure when blogging about the peacocks (even over on my play blog) because they have nothing to do with crochet, toys, or designing! I simply love them and so does my son.

Turns out the peacocks have inspired my designing self for a long time in an indirect way. Most recently the influence shows when I design crochet jewelry such as in this post. Here's a different view of the same "Peacock Fan Stitch" swatch (in peacock blue thread with a test of iridescent beads in peacock colors)!

A few 2007 peacock males born with rich black and cobalt colors captivated my imagination and inspired this piece:

In my ongoing efforts to organize my crochet jewelry stash, I found out that peacock-colored beads, of all sizes and shapes, make up almost half of all beads that I own forheavenssake. My imagination is besotted with peacocks and I didn't even know it.

(Peacock at top of page: adult male at end of mating season--tail feathers are getting ready to fall out. Peacock at right: young male practicing his dance for when he has real tail feathers to show off.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Big Glasses: Hot or Not?

I can't turn down an invitation from Drew, Kim, and Amy to examine a fashion trend. What a fabulous support group! School photos from 1980 and 1981:

I remember grooving on the tinted self-darkening lenses for the ethno-hippie look I was going for in Wisconsin in 1980. I slept with my hair in 16 braids to get that crimp, people. I wore moccasins to school and macramed the sphinx necklace in the pic.

In 1981 I moved to Iowa and apparently chose bigger Big Glasses to complete my fresh, almost sporty look. It feels good to get some closure around this personal fashion issue so here's a Homecoming pic, still 1981:

Yeah. It's a Gunne Sax dress. I knew in my heart that the Big Glasses had reached a dead end for me. Soon after I got my first pair of contacts.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Freeform Shell Subversion

Welcome to all the freeformers who have subscribed to this blog. Thank you Mel for your warm recommendation! Normally I would have blogged before now but whew, a flu came out of nowhere! (All better now.)

In honor of my freeformin' buddies, here's a "shell game" that I've been playing lately. Like many crocheters I start out enjoying shell (or fan) stitch patterns, but after awhile I get a tad rebellious. I think, "5 double crochets all in this stitch? Let's mix it up a bit." I swatched up two stitch patterns: a widely available one (called "Peacock Fan Stitch" in the Harmony Guides) consisting of stacked shells of 13 double trebles (dtr). The other is less common: offset shells of 7 triple trebles (trtr) each separated by a chain stitch (ch).

In the case of the Peacock Fan Stitch, the shells are dramatically solid, and the fact that they stack up in columns helps direct the eye. In the blue swatch I took out some wedges, asymmetrically. Where I removed 4 dtrs I replaced them with 4 chs. There are many things I did not try, such as linked stitches, piggybacks, and more wedges.

In the white swatch, a shell of 7 trtr and 6 chs means I have a total of 13 stitches (sts) to mess with. This pattern starts out more lacy, so the variety of changes don't show up so well. The swatch will serve as a handy shell menu for me though. I tried a variety of linked st combos, and the 3-trtr/10ch shell catches my eye. I wonder how a fabric would look of linked shells mixed with some 2-trtr/11ch shells!

While swatching I noticed the following:
- the asymmetry is more dramatic and effective when there is a bold contrast between open and solid space. The eye needs to be able to organize all of the details that crochet fabric brings to the table.

- the grid gets smudged out the most if the center stitch of a shell or fan is eliminated; in other words, retaining the center stitch of a shell helps everything look regular and balanced. I think of the center stitch of a shell pattern as the Grid Keeper.

- The thinner and smoother the yarn and the larger the shells, the bigger the effect.

Classic stitch patterns are basically grids with symmetry and predictability as part of their charm, but I like to deconstruct them and see crochet also get subtly asymmetrical and random. Surely others have already done this kind of shell subversion and if so I hope someone will leave a comment and let me know. It has been a fun experiment.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Jewelry Design Tips: Bead Organization, Simple Starts

Turns out that I must be able to see my newest and most favorite beads at a glance, just like I need to see my yarn to inspire new ideas. For years I have dutifully sorted beads into little compartments and packets and drawers. Many of my beads remain there, such as seed beads and recycled parts of old jewelry. But when I come home with a batch of fresh bead stash enhancement, I need to see them sparkle in the sun! (Photo taken at sunset, hence the pink cast.)
It's a thick, small cork board that I covered with felt. It's for macrame and so the pins are able to hold the weight of the larger glass beads. I can carry the board around to where I daydream and swatch up designs for them.

While I'm here, how about some tips* for creating your own metal-free crochet jewelry? These ideas come from a post I wrote for a Crochetpartners Yahoo group regarding crochet jewelry for a girl who's allergic to metal.

- I love crocheting my own metal-free jewelry fasteners and findings! Or, sew on a pretty button.

- Kids love Jelly Yarn® for jewelry.

- Take a bookmark pattern that you like and turn it into a bracelet or choker by make it longer, then add a button.

- Some belt patterns could make great bracelets or chokers if you use thread and beads instead of yarn.

- Take a pretty edging pattern and make it long enough for suspending a pendant. I'm often complimented on mine. I used size #20 crochet thread in modern colors.

- Just crochet a chain and feed it through big-holed beads. The craft stores have some exciting new beads and more of them now have big enough holes for crochet. Use thread that is strong and durable, and beads without rough hole edges. (A bead reamer--available at craft stores--will smooth the edges.)

- Take an interesting pattern from a stitch dictionary and do it in tiny thread; sprinkle in some seed beads. Sometimes just the first few rows of a fancy stitch pattern look beautiful as jewelry. Sometimes the opposite is true: many rows with just 1 or 2 or 3 stitch repeats in each row create a special jewelry look.

- Crochet some flowers and slide them onto ribbon. You can do this with any crochet motif, or vintage insertion pattern that is already designed to have a ribbon woven through the middle of it.

- When445t54ee you don't need your crochet jewelry to be metal-free, try any of the above with fine wire (28 gauge or finer) for a special effect and instant style.

Some of my jewelry blog posts:

*These tips are for readers who are making jewelry for private, nonprofessional, noncommercial use. For other uses, please consult current intellectual property laws in your country.