Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Crochet Vest with Silk and Beads

I've been crocheting straight through the holidays! This fancy vest is the laciest of my December projects. At right is a temporary experiment in wearing it backwards, as a tunic. I really like the neckline of it.

I see "Alezannah" when I look at this lacy beaded red silk, maybe because both of my grandmothers have been on my mind a lot this month. The mysterious* name Alezannah is a women's name used over many generations on my mother's side of the family. Sometimes it was spelled Alzanah or Alzannah. A lovely riff on the name is my maternal grandmother's: her name LeeAnna was intended to be an updated version.

Here's LeeAnna holding me when I was almost six months old.
My sister and I called her Mamie and my grandfather Papa. I loved using these names, which are somewhat mysterious** also. I would like to be called Mamie too if I become a grandmother.

My husband went to a local yarn shop and picked out some fabulous yarns and this is one of them! He couldn't wait until Christmas to give me Tilli Tomas Beaded Plie. I knew I wanted to wear it around my shoulders somehow to a holiday party, so I Vashti'd up a stitch pattern that I've always wanted to use with the right yarn.
At left is a cellphone photo taken at the party two nights ago. That's my friend Colette, who coincidentally planned to wear the same yarn to the same party. (She used the Frostyflakes pattern.)

I tried on Alezannah every which way before I created the sleeves. So, in this photo at right (another grainy cellphone shot) I tried it as an asymmetrical wrap. I get great design ideas this way, for example the v-neck top in the first photo. Same thing happened with the Waterlily Layer when I discovered it can be worn upside down and backwards!

*The Alezannahs in my family tree were of English and German descent, as far as I know. The name fascinates me and I've never found it in name books. It seems like an unusually exotic name for generations of rural midwestern ladies. If you know anything about this name, please let me know!

**I'm told these are French names for grandparents; not typical for Ohio LOL. Perhaps the French ancestry on my maternal father's side is more than a sliver? I haven't met anyone else who uses these names for their grandparents (not that the subject comes up with everyone I meet).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Orbit Cowl....Wimple....Yoke....Snood

Orbit's Futuristic Temperament
Name on Birth Certificate: Orbit Cowl (downloadable crochet pattern). Her Mom was planning to name her after a medieval ancestor wimple, like Genevieve or Alethea (see below); but then Orbit seemed too futuristic for that.

Birthdate: October 28, 2010. How could Orbit have known that Florida would soon be hit with record freezing temperatures?

Takes After: the military branch of the family--what with all the snug head and neck armor, and the crochet stitches that look like chain mail. Crochet ribbing consorts with this clan.
Stitches look good inside out too

To those who know her best, Orbit is like a medieval cyborg. She knows her Wimple roots, and has ancestors who fought alongside Joan of Arc and who protected Eleanor of Aquitaine--but she is a 21st century global citizen.

Orbit's crochet pattern is written so that each crocheter can choose the dimensions of their cowl--and change his/her mind partway through. In cyborg fashion, her cellular matter is fluidly recombinable, much like digital media.

Orbit's medieval predecessors were swift 'n mighty on foot or horseback. Nowadays she dreams of galactic travel. It's an orbiting spiral: a no-fuss easy crochet pattern. I purposely designed it to have zero speed bumps. Crocheting an Orbit cowl propels one into the peak aerodynamic speed of zero resistance crocheting. NO seaming. NO joining at the end of any rounds. NO turning.
Orbit as Yoked Wimple

This makes her mother proud: Orbit is stretchy and readily morphs while you wear it. If the moment requires a hood or 'snood,' Orbit's on task. If a relaxed cowl collar or yoke is better, Orbit stands ready. Need to cover a ponytail and big coat collar? No problem.

Proud Mom's Scrapbook

1. Orbit's birth was announced publicly over at the New Crochet Cowl Scarves blog.

2. Orbit's downloadable PDF crochet pattern is now available at my DesigningVashti online shop and in my Ravelry pattern store. Orbit has her own online photo album. Some images are viewable in several sizes, even if you don't own the pattern.

2. For Orbit's one-month birthday she got a drawstring to weave through the top edge of the neck opening. It's another weapon she uses to defend heads and necks from icy enemy winds. (I'll add a public photo of it to her photo album at some point.) [2018 Vashti added a band of slip stitch ribbing to her angora version!]
Bulky Bro, inside out

Bulky Bro
3. Orbit has a little brother called Bulky Bro. He's stocky and beefy where she's limber and lithe, but you can still tell they're related. He was made with a small amount of super bulky yarn and an 11.5 mm crochet hook. (Same pattern, fewer foundation stitches to begin, and fewer rounds.) [2014 Vashti made Orbit boot cuffs/spats!]

4. Orbit likes to socialize in Ravelry's Cowls group. She also plays in the slideshow (upper right column) of the New Crochet Cowl Scarves blog.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Doris Chan's Crochet Lace Innovations

Crochet Lace Innovations by Doris Chan 2010.

Shiver Me Timbers!
Crochet Lace Innovations is simply gorgeous--the photostyling, the layout, the production values. Potter Craft (publisher) pulled out all the stops on this one! Each page showcases the sophistication and elegance of Doris' crochet designs with lovely lyrical typefaces, chic photography, and refined color palette. This means I pick it up just to leaf through it for a hit of pure beauty. I get a delicious shiver, and then it happens again:

I take the long-range point of view about crochet's past and future, and I've got a thing about crocheted fashion. After the 1970's crochet somehow went from uber-trendy to fashionless--even anti-fashionable--in American popular culture! This isn't true in many other countries. It also isn't true in haute couture or in Hollywood. Yet even today, there's a big market in the USA for crochet patterns of non-fashion projects. For example, crochet designs for baby items and for home decor are in constant high demand; whereas crocheting modern fashion statements is low on the list. For some weird reason it's the opposite for knitting patterns. I like all crochet, I just don't know why there aren't more fashion crocheters in this country.

Crochet Lace Innovations doesn't just suggest some general wearable crochet style. It confidently, triumphantly presents crochet in the larger modern fashion context with a specific sense of style--and this gives me delicious shivers as a crocheter.

Shivers aside, I consider Crochet Lace Innovations to be an important contribution to crochet. It's not just daydream material, or a succinct answer to crochet's critics. It's also a friendly reference. It's one of those rare books that is as strong on clear, basic instructions of new techniques as on fashion context. I've seen knit pattern books that are so focused on conveying a fashion viewpoint that the hands-on how-to teaching side of pattern publishing is shortchanged. For me, those books are great as inspirational gallery-like coffee table books, but might not clarify new techniques.

Some crocheters seem to assume that Doris' crochet patterns must be challenging because they're beautiful. I hope people don't assume this about the patterns in Crochet Lace Innovations. Each crochet technique--Broomstick, Hairpin, Tunisian--has step by step tutorials, expert diagrams, and tips for success, all in a warm conversational tone. There's also a separate chapter just on the basics of garment construction. 

You can sign up here if you'd like to receive alerts from Potter Craft about any forthcoming books by Doris Chan. See more information on her first book, Amazing Crochet Lace, here; and Doris' book #2, Everyday Crochet, here.

I have to say one more thing. I felt beautiful when I wore three of the garments in this book: the Bozena Dress (p. 96) at a CGOA/Crochet Guild of America conference, a hemp yarn version of Rohise Skirt (p. 41), and a platinum-colored satin Inara Scarf (p. 21) at a TNNA/National NeedleArts trade show.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Where are All the Crochet Cowls?

....And by "cowls" I also mean crochet infinity scarves, eternity scarves, neck gaiters, smoke rings and snoods.* What all of these have in common is that they're warm tubes for the neck, and some can be worn as hoods, or wrapped around the shoulders like capelets, or extended down to warm the chest and back.
** Chainmaille Crochet Cowl IN PROGRESS **

These flattering neckwarmers are plenty practical because they stay wrapped around the neck effortlessly. You can't beat how their luxuriously soft and cozy look frames the face and shoulders, especially if they have a lot of loft or drape. This fashion trend started off big on last year's runways for both sexes and is still going strong.

Slathered Slip Stitches
It's as easy to knit your own cowl as it is to knit the traditional first project, a scarf; so it's easy to understand why cowls are a hot trend among hand knitters.

What about crocheters though? I wonder why it's not such a hot trend to crochet cowls? Crochet is perfect--fast, easy, soft and warm!

I have the brand-new Cowlgirls book of cowl designs by Cathy Carron, which are all knit. It pushed me over the edge (into blogging LOL). It's an inspiring book and I'm eyeing all my yarns and crochet stitches with new cowls, infinity scarves, eternity scarves, gaiters, wimples, smoke rings and "snoods" in mind.

Is it my imagination? Am I missing a 'Crochet the New Cowls!' book or pattern booklet on the market? When patterns for knit cowls are offered, I almost never see crochet options also.** Why not the same sense of excitement about all the crochet cowl design possibilities?
Mr. Stretchy (a Slip Stitch Tube) as "gaiter"

OK, so crochet cowl patterns do exist. I did a search in Ravelry and turned up 290 results. That's a lot! For some perspective, when I searched for knit cowl patterns....2135 results. Wow. Well, crocheters are off to a good start.

Mr. Stretchy as a more relaxed cowl; also works as a hood
I'm tempted to start a blog just for cowl crocheters. Here are a few notables: Check out Robyn Chachula's Tusculum! Amy Houck's superfine yak fiber Cosmopolitan Cowl. And OMG, Danielle Kassner's Cloister Cowl!
My own slip stitch "Mr. Stretchy" is available as a downloadable PDF crochet pattern at my website, and coming soon to my Ravelry Store. The others pictured here (Chainmaille, Slathered, Pallas) are being written. I think Pallas will stay a traditional long scarf with an "infinity scarf" option in the pattern.

(I know that a lot of people probably want a super fast, easy, and free crochet cowl pattern option so try this one or Melissa Mall's or this one.)

Pallas Scarf as an "infinity scarf" experiment
I found a very new Flickr Group for crochet cowls. There's a Ravelry forum "Cowls" that includes crochet, has almost 3700 members, and has very helpful information. For example, someone who has made many cowls recommends a 26-inch or so circumference and minimum of about 18 inches in height if you wish to comfortably have the option of wearing it as a hood.

*It seems that as of last year, "snood," which historically has been a hairnet--like a bag to hold long hair at the back of the head--now also means what I normally would use the term "cowl" or "wimple" for. Do a Google search for "snood" images to see what I mean.

**Funny coincidence, right after I posted this entry, I received the latest Caron Connections newsletter and it features two new crocheted cowls and a knitted one!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Frostyflakes Scarf/Wrap All-Gauge 'Superpattern'

Name on birth certificate: Frostyflakes Scarf/Wrap

100% mulberry silk, DK wt
Birthdate: July 9, 2010. The heat of summer, when anything can happen.

Takes after: Filet crochet and Spiderweb stitch sisters; the eccentric corner-starting, sideways-crochetin' side of the family.

Caron Simply Soft yarn & silver bells
Malabrigo Lace wt (merino)
Quick Scarf of alpaca & silk
Beaded Cashmere
Well now, Frostyflakes is a zesty little firecracker. Her name is a bit unusual (she's not particularly frosty, nor flaky) but that's because she was born with Uranian aspects to her rising sign. She snorts and hums "Don't Fence Me In" loudly if she hears any talk of swatching, stitch gauges, or yarn requirements.

She's been known to say (holler, actually), "Silk and alpaca blend? Let me at it. I DON'T CARE how many yards are in a skein, dang it I don't need to know. Just give me a crochet hook a little bigger than what the label calls for and I'll have a beaut for ya before sundown. Git now."

Scarf-sized: 150 yds sport wt
Watch your yarn stash around her because she'll take anything and whip it up into a gift scarf or wrap (might want to supervise her around bead stashes too). Her style is, get a running start, jump on the horse and ride at full speed (double crochet stitches and chains). She does however indulge in some fancypants tastes when it comes to the horses she'll ride (i.e., yarn).

Frostyflakes was conceived when a particular yarn put a twinkle in her ma's eye. The exact moment was Saturday afternoon in the market of the 2010 CGOA national Chain Link conference, held in Manchester NH. A particularly sunny Melissa Leapman was in the Leilani Arts booth. She held up a glowing skein of pure mulberry silk yarn and said, "Have you seen this? It's wonderful." I said, "I wonder how many I would need to make something?" She showed me her crocheted shawl and said, "This only took ONE skein. That's really all you need." (See first photo.)

Three Beaded Amigos (red=lace wt & seed beads; white=heavy lace wt & glass beads; blue=light worsted wt & silver bells)

The yarn whispered sweet nothings in my ear, like "if you start in one corner and increase steadily until I'm half used up, then you'll know how big your wrap will be and then you can work your will on every last inch of me." And, "I'm so drapey and delicious that simple double crochet stitches will look great. Group them into some dramatic solid sections, surround them with starry open spaces, and our love will live on forever."

The Scrapbook of Frostyflakes
(Like a doting Mom, I'll update this section whenever newsy items occur.)
  • To learn more about the Frostyflakes cornerstart crochet pattern, or to purchase and instantly download it, go to my pattern website here. To do the same in my Ravelry Store, go here. (If you go to my website, you can see lots more patterns--by me, and by Doris Chan, before they appear in Ravelry.)
  • Frostyflakes has a social life over in Ravelry. Even if you don't visit her page to purchase the pattern, look at the tabs across the top and you can see the Frostyflakes projects other Ravelers make, when she pops up as a topic in forums, Ravelers' comments, and yarn ideas.
  • Frostyflakes has her own Flickr set here. Actually she has two. One is public, and one can be accessed only by using a special pass found in her pattern!  

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Celebrating Drew Emborsky, The Crochet Dude (r)

Today's post might normally be a book review (because I get to be part of a blog tour event this month), except that my reaction to Drew's new book Crochet It. Love It. Wear It! goes beyond the usual bounds of book reviewing! So I'm just going to lay it all out there. I get to build on what other bloggers have already said over the past few weeks.
Laurie Wheeler, me, Drew, Portland OR 2008
Drew is a dear friend and is one of the amazing people I've gotten to know while being a part of today's crochet world, and why I feel so lucky to be designing. We would be good friends even if neither of us crocheted, but then how would we have met? (photo was taken when his previous book, Crochet Dude's Designs for Guys, had just come out)

I toasted Drew the day Crochet It. Love It. Wear It! arrived in the mail. I remember when he talked about the process of choosing a book title for it that will pull him forward like a beacon through the long solitary process of hammering out that final book draft. It was once just a great idea and now I hold it in my hands.
As a fellow designer I love to see how Drew explores crochet stitch textures for fashion. It's interesting what he said about this over at Marty's blog stop a few days ago. He gives post stitches a new language and this makes them fresh for me (not an easy feat--I'm one of those "seen it all" crocheters--and there are so many of us....). 
 A perfect example is "Investing": check out how he used the post stitch texture as a fashion fabric. Also in "Hesperas" and the texture-virtuosic "Budapest Nights," both of them getting raves on many other blogs. (Clicking on these links go to Drew's Flickr set where you can enlarge the photos much more.) 

A few bloggers mentioned being a bit nervous about learning post stitches; I hope that newer crocheters will just jump in and use Drew's book as an opportunity to try them. Some crocheters find them to be easier than regular stitches. This is my favorite Drew quote from Stefanie's blog: "I want the crafter's experience to be fun and enjoyable from beginning to end. Let me do the hard part and figure it all out, you just relax with your project and enjoy yourself." 
All right, I'm ready to address the Matter of the "Vashti" Skirt. Drew went and named one of the designs in this book after me. It's not a coincidence, he comes right out and says it, and frankly, it's like getting a spectacular valentine. Especially because it's awfully pretty! It's made of linen, one of my fav fibers! I wear that color a lot! Enough about me except to say that it's awesome to have a design named after you and I can recommend it with no hesitation. None.

One more thing about the skirt though. It's constructed in long strips, and the seams are the airiest laciest part of the design. Isn't that cool? This skirt is full of crocheted seams, people. Who thinks of seams as ethereal? Check out the enchanting thing these seams do at the bottom hem.
If you've read this far, you deserve a secret clue, so today's mystery word is lacy seams.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Weightless Tunisian Crochet Stole

Name on birth certificate: Weightless Tunisian Stole

Birthdate: April 18, 2009

Takes after: 'Wicker stitch' sisters, thread crochet aunts, and lace knitting cousins.

Designers will tell you that when it comes to naming a design, it's really nice when crocheters AND knitters AND everyone else all "get" the name. This is true for Weightless.

Having the right name is a gift bestowed by her fairy godmother. (I had been calling her "Frosted Wicker" because she was conceived in frost-like lace weight mohair right after I created her Tunisian stitch pattern, which is called "Wicker stitch." But then the fairy godmother stepped in.)

Weightless has been having a grand time. Her weightless quality makes her Little Miss Popularity in school, and it disarms and charms those who might normally hold it against her that she's crocheted instead of knitted. She even gets invited to tea parties at yarn shops. This weekend will be her sixth! 

Thanks to another fairy godmother, she 'came out' as a debutante this past July at CGOA's Chain Link conference in Manchester NH. She was written up in Crochetville to critical acclaim.

This second fairy godmother, in the form of a good friend of mine, urged me to enter something in CGOA's 2010 design contest. She cajoled and flitted about my thoughts like Tinkerbell, sprinkling pixie dust all over my crochet projects until I agreed to enter something....and Weightless looks lovely with pixie dust. Good thing I listened because Weightless won Third Prize in the Special Occasion category!

Official CGOA Design Contest Photo
So far it sounds too good to be true, and it is. You should hear what a third fairy godmother did! She gave Weightless a Cinderella-like (or ugly duckling-to-swan-like) destiny by decreeing at birth that her true beauty will be forever invisible unless:
  1. a crocheter heeds the pattern by waving a much larger Tunisian wand than usual over the yarn, AND
  2. by the stroke of midnight, a crocheter must wield the magical Blocking Instrument of Lacy Excellence (spritz with water, spread out all stitches of Stole evenly and leave to dry completely on a flat toweled surface.)
The Scrapbook of Weightless
(Like a doting Mom, I'll update this section whenever newsy items occur.)
  • To learn more about the Weightless Tunisian crochet pattern, or to purchase and instantly download it, go to my pattern website here. To do the same in my Ravelry Store, go here. (If you go to my website, you can see lots more patterns--by me, and by Doris Chan, before they appear in Ravelry.)
  • The glowing review of the Weightless pattern by the founder of Crochetville can be read here.
  • Weightless has her own Crochet-Along! If you'd like to join in, please visit here and see where everyone's at.
  • About Weightless' award: see photo below of her in the contest with her ribbon. My girl is beaming! Thank you for the photo, Donna. This is what was read aloud as Weightless was presented with her prize: "When I think of this stole, I remember the first time I wore it. It was a special night, breezy and cool, and I felt beautiful. The Tunisian stitch pattern is my own combination of eyelet, slip, and twisted Tunisian stitches. I have not found this kind of eyelet lace used anywhere else so I've named it “Wicker Stitch". I like that the return rows settle into enough of a diagonal grain that the fabric acquires more stretch than the usual Tunisian stitch pattern. Yarn is a 75% kid mohair and 25% silk lightweight yarn called Ovation by S.R. Kertzer."
  • Weightless has a social life over in Ravelry. Even if you don't visit her page to purchase the pattern, look at the tabs across the top and you can see the Weightless projects other Ravelers make, when she pops up as a topic in forums, Ravelers' comments, and yarn ideas.
  • Weightless has her own Flickr set here. Actually she has two. One is public, and one can be accessed only by using a special pass found in her pattern!  
  • On Sharon Silverman's Contemporary Crochet Facebook page, Sharon wrote: "Yay, Vashti! She won third prize in the Crochet Guild of American 2010 design competition in the "Special Occasion" category for her Weightless Tunisian Stole--the contest was this summer but the winners' names are published in the current Crochet! mag. Gorgeous work." (September 20, 2010) Thank you, Sharon.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    New Free Crochet Newsletter is Taking Shape

    I didn't expect the newsletter creating process to feel magical. Producing each issue on a regular publishing schedule is my top priority, so I waited to launch it until I knew I was ready for that. I didn't know how exciting and fun it would be! Actually, I'd like it to be weekly but for now I can commit to biweekly, every other Thursday.

    I'm finishing up issue #2 now and it goes out to subscribers tomorrow. I sent out the first issue 13 days ago, so....tomorrow's the big day! If you haven't subscribed yet, you can start receiving it starting with tomorrow's automatically if you subscribe before I send out the next issue (otherwise, I think I can see who subbed after, and can send a link to the archived issue or something):

    Instant subscribe:   (Free, no strings--I don't sell subscriber addresses, etc. My purpose is inspiration, information, and community. I'll provide news of DesigningVashti website happenings in a separate section of the newsletter for those who want to know--especially those who want to be the first to know.) Here's where that short URL goes to so that you know what you're clicking on!:

    It's called Vashti's Crochet Inspirations. This is because I have a grand ol' time every day with my hooks and yarn, and like many crocheters, I mostly keep it to myself. The exception is when I talk with other crochet designers, visit Ravelry, or meet with students at a local yarn shop. Sometimes I listen to what we crocheters discover about crochet and think, "How come I never see this stuff in print?" To me, crochet continues to be a wonderland of nuances, surprises, and new frontiers.  Much of what we think or talk about isn't written for some reason.

    Maybe I just have an unusual way of looking at things. Or, maybe I'm not alone in wanting different ways of looking at crochet that aren't too simplistic. So if you'd like to share in my particular crochet headspace, you're welcome to join us.

    You can see the first issue here: 
    (and here's where that short URL goes to so that you know what you're clicking on: )

    Monday, August 02, 2010

    DesigningVashti Website: Doors are Starting to Open!

    You can actually see most of my website now, as long as you promise to ignore typos and "under construction" notes, and a few links that don't go where they should yet! (If you can't promise that then please don't click yet. I have more polishing to do today & tomorrow.)

    As of yesterday the site has its own cute search box! AND, the links to my patterns work! (See "Crochet Pattern Shop" in the left menu.)

    I don't think I've shown off my pretty logo here yet. My fantasy is to see it on DesigningVashti Swag (project bag, stationery, crochet hook case, my morning coffee mug, & stuff), so I needed to have a logo I could love and I do.

    I'm adding downloadable pattern PDF's to the shop on a daily basis. They are sorted into twelve project categories (it started off as six)! The benefit of this is that when I go on to add hundreds more crochet patterns, the shop pages won't become slow to load or too much to scroll through. Also, I just plain like to see patterns grouped by specific project types. The downside right now is that until I get more loaded, it looks like each project category has only a few patterns. In the For the Beach and the Shawls & Wraps categories, it looks like there's only ONE (The Weightless Tunisian Wrap is downloadable now!), but I've designed way more than that, so I don't like how empty it looks right now!

    The site has its SSL (secure socket layer) Certificate installed, so it's safe for shopping.
    Another thing I'm doing today is setting up a pattern support forum, and choosing the best way to create my new newsletter. (The sign up for the newsletter at the website works great by the way.)

    I hope to add the logo to this blog as part of a gentle facelift! Maybe Blogger templates have gotten easier to customize since I checked about a year ago.

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Weightless Tunisian Stole

    Pattern for this design called "Weightless" is available now! You can see it in my new crochet pattern shop. It requires 2.5 balls of a lightweight mohair-silk blend. I used SR Kertzer's Ovation, which is discontinued, but there are several other similar yarns available. The best known is probably Rowan Kidsilk Haze.

    This Tunisian wrap won Third Prize in CGOA's annual Design Contest. A big thank you to Leisure Arts, sponsor of the cash prize! I'm very proud, and kind of dazed because I didn't start out expecting that I would enter it this year.

    With this blog post I'm trying out a feature in Flickr. I just spotted this photo in the CGOA Flickr Group and I noticed that Flickr offers the option of composing a blog post with photo, and then I can have it posted straight to my blog.

    More soon! Am currently loading more pattern PDF's into the pattern shop of my new website!

    Friday, May 07, 2010

    Fashiony Fearlessness

    I aim to live up to this Fearless Leader Award for High Fashion! Isn't this year's award by Darlisa Riggs a soul-stirring design?

    Behind the scenes here at chez DesigningVashti, I've been whipping up a crochet pattern menu. Some appetizers, some meaty main courses, an odd side dish or two (wouldn't be DesigningVashti otherwise), and some pure confections for dessert. By my next post or two I'll have a new lovely logo to unveil. Also probably a fun surprise by then.
    pictured: "Mesmer"

    So what's the main course and what's the side dish? Funny to think of crochet patterns this way, but it works (I love analogies and metaphors). For me, fashion designs are the main courses of my dream crochet dinner. For other designers and publishers, the meat and potatoes might be, say, afghans and baby layettes, right? I design those too sometimes, but a Fearless Leader Flamie for High Fashion? I feel a calling. Someone tapping my shoulder. A lightning strike, even.

    Renee Barnes just posted an interview with me as part of her online Industry Insider Interviews series. I really enjoyed Renee's range of questions, so if you've ever wondered what strange skills I possess, or what my absolute first design proposals looked like, this interview tells all.  pictured: "Arrowhead"

    For some reason I felt particularly free to spout off about some stuff--to come clean, to speak my truth, to tell it like it is from where I sit. I don't try to be provocative, but you know, just saying what one really thinks can be provocative by nature. If you like this sort of thing, esp. in the interview where I get on a roll about why I'm self-publishing, then you'll also enjoy the interview I did with Mary Beth Temple for her Getting Loopy podcast!

    I suppose I'm feeling freer because I'm not actively seeking freelance work--traditionally in crochet world, freelance designers have had to be models of discretion. (By 'freelance' I mean selling all rights to my crochet patterns to publishers for a lump sum).

    Surely I'm feeling freer because my 4-year term as national guild director ended on Jan. 1, 2010, so I am no longer an officer, representative & emissary of an organization.

    And then there is the 6-year factor. Six years in crochet design: a lot or a little? Depends on who you ask, but it's definitely enough to know what I think about some things!

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    First Crochet Book Review of 2010

    I'm turning over a new leaf (so to speak): among my usual designing life posts I'll be sprinkling in a crochet book review here and there for 2010 (I'm not being compensated for this, not even through Amazon). If you've been visiting this blog for long enough to remember my reviews of '70's crochet books, well, thank you for being here over the years!

    It's been awhile since I reviewed crochet books here and for CGOA. There was quite a flood of new crochet books, many of them by friends of mine. I didn't want to pick and choose among them and leave someone out! Recently,
    Amy O'Neill Houck invited me to join her blog tour with a book review and it feels like a fresh plan for a new year.

    Crochet for Bears to Wear by Amy O'Neill Houck, published by Potter Craft, 2010.

    I use a formula for reviewing crochet books: I pay attention to how I feel as a crocheter paging through it and how much the author's voice is present (especially if s/he's a friend of mine). I read it cover to cover because I've noticed that the initial impact a crochet book has on me can be very different from the longer-term impact. I also like to let readers know the range of crochet skills, yarn weights, fibers, and techniques covered.

    Crochet for Bears to Wear is delightful to flip through. It's lighthearted and whimsical--but of course! it's about crocheting for teddy bears! To see what I'm talking about, check out what Drew said. (He and Robyn appear in the book as guest designers.)

    Well, get this: it turns out that this cute book has impressive scope. Crocheting clothes requires a different skill set than crocheting, say, afghans for example. Amy's book makes it so accessible and charming that I expect readers to acquire valuable new skills without even realizing it.

    Some of these skills are:
    • how to crochet a Fair-Isle style sweater (stranded jaquard in the round)
    • classic ('70's) modular construction a la Judith Copeland
    • how to construct a raglan garment from the top down, seamlessly
    • side-to-side construction (worked in vertical rows)
    • a dress of lacy motifs the easy way: joined as you go
    • with the aid of handy sidebars, how to customize any of the above (Julie's review elaborates on this nicely; and PlanetJune's in-depth post about it is not to be missed!)
    • pleating....patch pockets....armhole shaping....ribbing....
     Amy's voice shines through in her step-by-steps and in references to life in Alaska. I see her designer sensibilities in yarn and stitch combos. Yarns range from fingering to worsted weights found in yarn shops and craft store chains; a nice range of fibers and blends too--wools, cotton, alpaca, bamboo, soy.
      I salute Amy for the work that must have gone into making the building blocks of fashion crochet this clear, simple, and entertaining. It's a valuable contribution to learning different ways to crochet real clothes that fit.

      p.s. I'm with Natalie at Craftzine on how expensive doll clothes can be. My son orbited the Build-A-Bear phenomenon years ago and I wanted to crochet the accessories I saw in the 'Workshops'.
      p.p.s Free pattern from Crochet for Bears to Wear is at the above Craftzine link.

      Monday, March 15, 2010

      Really Happy Crochet Design News!

      Behold two newsy items!
      First, my Tokyo Jacket design (above right, in green) has been nominated for a Flamie Award for Best Crochet Design (for Adults) of 2009! I'm honored and excited to be included in a category of many excellent designs. For more photos of the Tokyo Jacket (and the full free pattern), click here

      Second, the Five Peaks Shawl (above left in plum), is now officially revealed in the Spring 2010 issue of Interweave Crochet magazine. It's my recent experiment in cornerstart Tunisian crochet.
      Check out the bonus views, such as at left. I took lots of my own photos--of the construction process, blocking, and different wearing styles (in different kinds of lighting!). View them in my Flickr album and on its Ravelry design page. I've previously blogged about this design here and here (concerning new Tunisian hook options) and here, but I had to be sneaky about it :-)

      If the Tokyo Jacket looks familiar, it might be because it has appeared in this blog twice before. One post announced the release of the free pattern at, and another offered tips for making good-lookin' tall crochet stitches, which I developed while working on this design.

      Please cast your votes for the Flamies by March 22, 2010 by clicking here; this takes you to a blog post that includes a link to the ballot in survey format. (If I give you the direct ballot link here, I'm told it might not work; it might think you've already voted).

      For the Annual Flamies Awards FAQ, click here.

      Friday, March 05, 2010

      A Be-Ruffled "Craft Fail" in Slip Stitches

      I love the CraftFail site! It has taken oh, 5 years or so for me to get ruthless about this craft fail:

      It's a shrug crocheted in somewhat loose slip stitches. The 3/4-sleeves end with unusual linked and unlinked triple trebles--a swingy ruffled fantasy. In my mind.

      The big reason for the fail is that I used a large crochet hook to make stretchy slip stitches in novelty chenille yarn. I can't think of a bigger invitation for chenille yarn to "worm". Even before the worming began, the stitches stretched unevenly, also thanks to the texture of the yarn. It was especially noticeable on the shoulders (ugh!). To top it off, the angora look turned into a ratty look.
      After wearing once or twice, it looked as if an animal had chewed on it 20 years ago.

      I couldn't face how fast it went downhill because the ruffles were so time-consuming! As a useful design experiment for me at the time, this makes the ruffle the same as a research swatch, but should I save the whole shrug for one ruffle?

      OK yes, there's that whole "turning lemons into lemonade" virtue, and the CraftFail site inspired me to try every which way to make lemonade with this lemon. I tried blocking it, adding black velvet ribbon accents (see photo at right), even going so far as to consider: might this shrug be turned into capri pants? LOL, nooo!

      But I will always have my memory of Marty trying it on one night at the 2005 CGOA conference in Oakland, CA. It looked better on her than on me!

      Monday, February 22, 2010

      More Crochet Pattern Eye Candy

      Can't keep the Whipped Cream Apron to myself anymore, just can't:

      And why not get the full effect of the Lovepod Boa?

      Patterns for both of these (the 'Thirsty Twists' bathmat too) are written and professionally tech edited. My next step is to see that my Ravelry pattern store is in working order, and start uploading some of these patterns.

      All About My Crochet Pattern Line: TONIGHT'S Podcast

      Please tune in with me & my DesigningVashti Crochet Pattern Line tonight at 9:00pm EST for the Getting Loopy podcast episode! Phone in and ask me questions! (646-915-8371) If you can't tune in then, you can listen to the episode any time on your computer, iPod, etc.

      I'll be adding info and links to this blog entry so check back here. 
      For example: I created a new pattern companion blog just now. Still setting it up, has a sample entry now. You can see it here: 
      Also, added a few more pattern photos this afternoon.

      Pictured at top: the magical Lovepods Boa.
      Below it: Thirsty Twists Bathmat.

      (Both are new DesigningVashti crochet patterns. Listen to podcast or check here for details and links for downloading these and other patterns.)