Thursday, January 24, 2008

Crochet Ruts, Blocks, Slumps

Periodically the question comes up in a crochet forum: "What do you do when you find yourself in a crochet slump?" It just came up today in the Crochet Partners Yahoo group. It reminded me of the answer I gave when a similar question came up in the same group back in June '07. I refer back to this post myself occasionally so I thought I'd post it here, with additional tips and links:

- I flip through my favorite stitch dictionaries, like the Harmony Guides. I always see a stitch pattern that I want to try. Sometimes it's one I've tried but this time I try adding beads to some of the stitches, or I change colors where I never have before.

- I take a familiar pattern and try it with a very different material and hook size. For example, Doris Chan says she "exploded doilies" by doing them in drapey yarn and larger hook. Others have taken doily patterns and with 3 strands of Red Heart held together, they made beautiful porch doilies. I made a doily with colored wire and beads once--the pattern is simple but the materials made it look fancy. If there's an afghan square that has beautiful colorwork, I try it with embroidery floss and a small steel hook instead--with floss you can have all the colors of the rainbow for just $1 each or so and it makes a beautiful piece of jewelry, headband, etc.

- I try to crochet "badly" or the wrong way or as if I don't even know how. If I yarn over one way, I try the other way. Or I try going into the "wrong" part of a stitch. You can invent new stitches this way or understand how stitches came to be.

- I make up games like I roll the dice and put that many stitches in the next stitch and roll again. Or do a bobble in that many stitches, etc. Or I try some other "code" like turning someone's birthday into stripes.

- I start a swatch some weird way. Kind of like freeforming. Instead starting with a foundation chain then working rows, maybe I work both sides of the chain but in a "U" shape (not in the round), or maybe a figure-8 of bobbles or something.

- I go through my box of swatches and see if there's one that I can turn into something right away for an instant FO (finished object). Like the time I glued a fancy swatch to the cover of a small spiral notebook: I love everything about it! I love the swatch and yarn so now I get to SEE and USE it; the notepad was old and now it looks like new; the crochet makes the notepad soft to hold; it was easy to add a strap for carrying; and best of all I have an instant FO. Add a tail to a flower and you have an instant luggage identifier. I have found swatches that can become instant coffee cozies or wrist cuffs or short neckscarves or throw pillows with just 1 seam or decorative edge!

- When I go through my swatches, I use them for experimenting with new techniques. I stay focused on that liberating word "experiment". The crochet part is already done, now I can try felting the swatch if it's animal fiber; or I can try embellishing with surface crochet, or cross stitch, or beads, fabric paint, weaving, etc.

- I pick up an unusual material to crochet with, for example, rag or tshirt strips, Jelly Yarn, macrame jute, covered elastic cord, leather lacing, waxed linen cord, and yes, even the aerial roots of strangler fig trees.

- Crocheting something for a child really renews my crochet fun and often gives me new design ideas, especially when I let the child suggest a color scheme or type of toy. (Some of these are/will be on my other blog or my Ravelry page). Yesterday at lunch my son's friend imagined a sweater with 3 sleeves. It would be easy and quick to crochet a tiny version and then see a child's face light up--there's nothing like it. One time my son kept stretching a Jelly Yarn swatch then watching it spring back into a curled up shape, and it gave me this worm idea.
This list is from a designing perspective. Some of the other responses to this topic, by non-designers, are sometimes very different from the above; for example, many people get past a slump by crocheting for a charity, or they go yarn shopping :-)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Oooo, Ruby Slippers!

Yes, it's out! The book is out: Get Hooked Again and it's well done--the expert editing, vivid photography, cute illustrations, everything about it makes it fun. I have one design in it and the way the pattern is laid out, with step-by-step pictures and instructions, is the best way I have ever seen one of my patterns published. This is just one pattern out of many that all look great so congratulations to author Kim Werker and everyone involved.
I still need to make a pair for myself, IN EVERY COLOR: an emerald pair, diamond pair, topaz, sapphire, amethyst....
With this blog entry I've finally embraced my bling nature by creating a tag for bling posts.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Mailorder Catalogs for Design Inspiration

Happy New Year! I have a few newly published designs to blog about but today, a bit about January clean-up for designers: I'm staring at mailorder catalogs that have piled up over the holidays. Before I throw them out, I go through some of them for crochet design inspiration. Below are my favorites.

So much copyright infringement goes on and so many people seem fuzzy about what makes a design original that I feel I must say: I'm in no way encouraging or recommending that people copy designs, nor do I do it myself.

When I say "design inspiration", I mean that:
-- the way someone pairs a particular shade of brown with a shade of blue can spark a creative journey that ends in a design that might not even have anything to do with that brown or that blue or the way they are paired or the object on which they are displayed.

-- the way the border of a garment contrasts with lacy panels is exciting in a general kind of way.

-- the way a traditional crochet stitch pattern is rendered in a nontraditional color or fiber or gauge or wardrobe piece frees me to see familiar crochet a new way.

-- when I imagine something made of metal or glass in crocheted fiber instead, the radical change in style, subtext, and other effects can be startling.

-- the direction of sewn seams, pleats, knitted rows, or contrasting fabric nap sparks ideas for using crochet shortrowing decoratively rather than just for shaping or random free-form.

-- a toy in a catalog, or just a fabric print in a kid's decor item, might remind me of the general principle that a cool toy results from anthropomorphizing anything; and then my own imagination soars.

-- sometimes when I look at a woven rug, I see crocheted motifs that aren't really there, and the motifs would make a great bag or afghan or jacket. Sometimes when I look at leather belts I see crocheted bag straps or headbands, or when I look at metal jewelry I see lace garment edgings or headbands.

Women's fashion catalogs:

anthropologie--the ultimate in sweater art! I know many would agree with me because there's a Ravelry forum devoted to anthropologie knits. (The Ravelry links might not work for you yet if you're not a Raveler but I've provided them because Ravelry will eventually go fully public, and some forums already show up in my Google searches.)
Newport News--many crocheters would agree with me on this one too! This company tracks fashion fads and trends closely so a designer can use it like a trends newsletter--right down to the super-trendy catchphrases (see above photo). Usually lots of real crochet for dessert.

Peruvian Connection--for more ethnic and folkloric looks, textures, & color combos.

For jewelry, bags, other accessories:
Sundance--Rustic, western looks. I've been inspired most by the jewelry and sometimes the bags.
Chicos--Chico's fashions used to have more artistic, artisanal, and/or ethnic flair. I still scan the clothing but now am more likely to be inspired by their belts, and occasionally the jewelry.
Peruvian Connection and anthropologie can also be great for accessories.

For home decor:
Chiasso--My favorite for modernist chic. Also, West Elm.

Pottery Barn--The overall style is generally inspiring. (I guess that could be said of many catalog companies such as J.Crew, Crate and Barrel, Spiegel, etc.)

Home Decorator's Collection--mainly the rugs.

For kitsch, kids, useful items, etc:

Flax Art & Design--Fun, creative, and colorful designs, especially for kids. See also Chiasso.

There must be some good ones missing from this list so please mention them in the comments if you have a favorite. I have other favorites that I visit online rather than receive in the mail; but for a list of those you'd need to take my Trendy Crochet class at the next CGOA Chain Link conference!