Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Slip Stitch Crochet Lace Possibilities

Woke up this morning and saw this:
It could only mean that fairyfolk got into my yarn stash while I slept. 

I don't know if they forgot to take this swatch with them, or what. Maybe they're hinting at something. I'm not even sure what the fairies mean it to be, but get this: 

These are slip stitches. I can see why the wee folk favor slip stitch lace--slip stitches being all about small and all. 

I'm seeing a wide shallow triangular wrap. I hope I can figure out how they made slip stitches look like that.

Full moons embolden fairies, and we just had that super-full moon the other day. If I've noticed that moonlight makes my yarn stash glow, surely fairies have too. Seems to make linen yarn magnetic for them too. Luckily they left my beaded silk and glittery mohair alone! (Wouldn't be easy to rip out fairy crochet swatches with those yarns.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Year Full of Crocheted Accessories! Have a Favorite?

Satin Pillows Necklace
Sterling Boutique Handbag
Tunisian Islander
Onefellswoop FlexMitts
Until I learned this month that I'm a finalist for the Crochet Liberation Front's Best Crochet Designer for Accessories award, I didn't realize how many accessories I designed in 2010! 

I've been staying out of trouble, writing up new crochet patterns, learning how my new website works, and how to make downloadable PDF's look the way I want them to--stuff like that.

I'm still a bit stunned: I'm very honored to be nominated and to share the honor with the other designers in this category.  Makes me wonder if I should write a book of accessories to crochet LOL. I guess these patterns can pile up if one keeps designing them, huh. 

Pallas Scarf
Weightless Tunisian
I don't think of them as "accessories" though. Maybe that's why I didn't realize how many I designed in a year. The crochet jewelry designs, especially necklaces & lariats, feel like they're from a different part of my brain than, say, Tunisian shawls and wraps

Remember that cowl fever I caught? Cowls, mobiae, and scarves are their own thing too. So are handbags, and fingerless gloves

Lovepod Boa
Stitchmerge How-to
(And then that Lovepod Boa, see at left--I don't know which part of the brain that one came from. Is it jewelry worn as a scarf, or vice versa?)

The Crochet Liberation Front created the Flamies Awards about three years ago, and the winners are announced on a special episode of Mary Beth Temple's Getting Loopy podcast. ("Flamies" refers to flaming hooks of justice!)
Chainmaille Cowl-Scarves
Frostyflakes Superpattern

Voting for the Annual Flamies Awards begins this week: March 15. I'm very excited because in only three years it has become the "academy awards" for crocheters. 

Aran Rozsanas Superpattern
1380 Cashmere Picots
Do you have a favorite DesigningVashti crochet accessories pattern?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Crochet, Socks, and Karen Whooley

If you're visiting my blog for the first time because you're touring blogs with my friend Karen Whooley, welcome and thanks for stopping by! I chatted with Karen about her new book,  I Can't Believe I'm Crocheting Socks! and you can see some of our conversation below. I love what she says about socks and her school uniform, lace crochet, and what she imagines her Nonna would say about her book.

The #1 reason I wanted to be a part of Karen's blog tour is: Knitters have been having so much fun with gorgeous new sock yarns, comparing the virtues of toe-up vs cuff-down patterns, how to "turn a heel", etc. Making socks that fit is a whole art form. There's not nearly as much information out there for crocheters as for knitters....until lately.

In Progress: Nice fit!
Even though I learned to crochet over thirty years ago, I only recently crocheted my first pair of socks. You can see a view of them finished here

Whose crochet sock pattern did I carefully choose for that first crochet sock experience? KAREN WHOOLEY's. I was hooked! I bought so much sock yarn LOL. Now that Karen has written a whole book on crochet socks, we have everything we need to enjoy crocheting socks in the style and size we please.

Vashti: When I think of you, Karen, I think about how you learned to crochet from your grandmother when you were 7, and how much your love for crochet shows in your commitment to it over the years. I also identify with you a bit, because we both learned to crochet in the 1970's as young girls. I learned from my Mom when I was 9. 

Karen: A lot of my students tell me that I give way too much credit to Nonna for the crocheter I have become.  And I have to agree that yes, I have learned a lot on my own over the last 12 years as a designer and instructor.  
Karen's Nonna. Photo taken in the late 1980's
I lost Nonna in 1992 and sold my first design in 1998.  But, if it wasn’t for Nonna, I probably wouldn’t have learned to crochet to begin with.  I owe my love and passion for crochet to her. And I can honestly say that as I am working, she comes to mind, and a lot of her words spill from my heart when I get frustrated with a design. 

Vashti: Back then, I never imagined I would one day be a professional crochet designer. I knew only a little about patterns and different kinds of projects. I did try many kinds of crochet, but strangely was also completely unaware of many other kinds--such as real crocheted socks....the kind that you wear comfortably in shoes....to school!! 

Imagine wearing real crocheted socks to school in the 1970's! Did you imagine them or try them, Karen? Which of the socks in your book would you like to have crocheted for yourself and wear to school, at what age? In a color, or for a specific outfit? In high school I would have wanted PURPLE. Purple with deep red. I would have worn them with fringed moccasins.

Karen: I never, ever thought I would be a professional designer back then.  My Nonna spoke very broken English, so I learned all my stitches in Italian.  After learning all the basic stitches in Worsted Weight and an H hook, I was given a size 6 steel and bedspread weight cotton and for about 5 years, I did a lot of lace.  I don’t think I ever would have thought of socks until I was in my late teens/early 20s.  But I can tell you I did do a lot of slippers, so maybe if I knew then what I do now, socks would have been on my agenda! 

I think in High School I would have worn the ripple socks just as they were designed.  Blue has always been a favorite color, and I used ripples a lot. But then of course ripples were very popular back then.  When I first learned to crochet I think I may have made the Lace socks, but in PINK!  I was such a pink girl.  I might have made the Tube Socks in Navy, Hunter Green and/or White because I went to Catholic School and wore only knee socks in those colors with my uniform!

Vashti: I find that often, while I design something, I'm picturing the crocheter I was. Sometimes I have a sense of contrast with the crochet I started with and crochet as I know it now. (Other times I have trouble remembering what I knew or experienced about crochet back then; for example, I recall no specific opinion of hdc, whereas now I think it's a distinctly cool stitch!) Sometimes I'm still amazed that I get to design crochet professionally, and the "I" that is amazed is my young crochet self. I love crochet as much as ever and am honored to add to the designs.

Karen: Many times I do think back at what I used to do. For example, since Nonna couldn’t read an English pattern, she taught me to “read” a picture.   Until I was in my early teens, I couldn’t read a pattern very well, but boy I could copy an item from a picture. I am self-taught in reading patterns. Now I am almost fanatical about being sure my patterns read right for the crocheters who may purchase them.  A lot of times I think back to when I couldn’t read a pattern, and I think that is why.  I was determined to make my projects look exactly like the one pictured, and by gosh, I want my fans to be able to do the same. 

Like you, I am amazed I get to design professionally!  My Nonna told me that she had given me a skill, and that I needed to do something with it.  Mom tells me she meant crocheting items for the family or for charity. But I know she would be proud of what I am doing now. I am doing a lot of techniques I am sure she may have seen, but I don’t know that she had ever done. (I wish now that the younger crocheter in me would have asked!) But I think the part that amazes me the most is that as much as I got tired of lace back in the day, I have come full circle, and I am bringing more and more lace into my work, and into my classes that I teach. Of course, now it is with more lace yarns and larger hooks than with size 6 steels and cotton! And the even more amazing part?  I LOVE IT! The inner young crocheter still is not quite sure about that every time I decide to go for lace.

Vashti: Something I wonder, how does it feel to you to look at your new sock book through the eyes of your inner young crocheter? Which socks do you think your younger crochet self would like the most or want to make first, and for whom? What step in the sock crocheting do you think your young crochet self would be most hooked on? What do you think your grandmother would say?

Karen: Looking at my book as my inner young crocheter, I would have to say, “WOW, did I really do that?”  I always experimented with ideas, and my stuffed animals and my younger sister were the not always willing recipients of the end results.  From a young age I have always been a perfectionist in my work.  And I can’t tell you how many items were ripped out time and again because of that.  So my inner child looks at this book and really is amazed I could do what I did, and have it turn out even better than I had planned. 

My younger self would have made the two learning patterns first.  I know that because of the perfectionist in me would want to learn the ins and outs first. And after that, I would have made any of them, but I would have made them uniquely my own by changing something.  I don’t know what exactly, but as I would crochet them, something would change!  I know I would have been hooked on toe up socks.  To this day, sewing seams is not my favorite thing to do, so the toe-up method would be my favorite even then.

What would Nonna say?  I wish she was here to actually tell me, but, I think she would say, Caterina, Hai fatto un lavoro meraviglioso. Il tuo lavoro è pulito e raffinato. Dovreste essere orgogliosi. Ora vediamo cosa si può fare il record.”  (Karen, You did a wonderful job.  Your work is neat and fine. You should be proud. Now lets see what you can do to top that.)

That's Karen with both of her grandparents. Karen writes, "It was taken in 1990, 2 years before I lost her. She is holding the basket she decorated for my wedding favors. It is the same basket used for my mom’s wedding in 1963 just different lace. Nonna was big on all sorts of crafts from Crochet and embroidery to having the skills to be professional seamstress."

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Update on Slip Stitch Crochet Sweater Design

Would you like a sneak peek? Well, I'm the publisher, so we don't have to sneak around anymore*, right? I should call it a preview. This "Eva Shrug" crochet sweater pattern is so close to becoming a proper downloadable PDF.

*still breaking that old habit from freelancing days, when a designer had to be careful what s/he said about a design, months before someone else did the big reveal!

You're looking at the final draft of the cover page. I'll probably make that 3rd photo a bit smaller and make room for more text.

What do you think? I'm excited about the Eva Shrug because this big experiment worked out! I wanted to make a sweater by starting with the ribbing and then filling in the rest. That's like crocheting the edging, then filling in the middle to make it 3-D. Or it's like drawing something and then coloring it in.

Turns out this new experience is fun and it works and it's easy. Not to mention that this is one shrug that stays on my shoulders without binding anywhere.

Something else happened too. I'm more deeply hooked on this slip stitch ribbing than ever. It takes me by surprise because I didn't like wearing the knitted ribbed tops of the 1980's! I always wanted to cut off the ribbing. This crochet ribbing is different. It feels luxurious to make and wear, and cozies up to you without being annoying.
Isn't it beautiful when combined with other crochet stitches?

I want to design some summery things next, and am actually considering ways to use slip stitch ribbing in summery ways. That's how hooked I am. I don't know yet how plant fiber yarns like cotton, linen, or bamboo will work for this ribbing. I might look into those cotton yarns that have some lycra content. We'll see.

One thing I've noticed as I swatch this ribbing with a range of crochet hook sizes: there comes a point when my hands sigh blissfully and melt into the fabric. That's when I know the crochet hook is large enough. Until that happens, the slip stitches can feel unremarkable, like generic machine-knitted ribbing, or even feel a bit tough. Trying larger crochet hooks is important because slip stitches are passionately responsive little creatures. Each pairing of hook size and fiber blend is unique. I can't rely on traditional yarn weight and hook or knitting needle size guidelines.

Another thing I've noticed about this slip stitch crochet is that I need a good number of rows before I can see and feel the ribbing accurately. I need at least 6" of stitches x 6" of rows to judge the optimum crochet hook size.

I titled this post an "update" because this design was first mentioned in "Slip Stitch for Style" (issue #9 of my newsletter): Vashti's Crochet Inspirations . You can subscribe here if you haven't already (it's emailed every other Thursday.) It's an easy way to be alerted when I add new crochet patterns to my site.