Saturday, December 07, 2013

How My Lotus Yarn Got Its Name

This post is part of a series about an exclusive new yarn I developed with my friend Doris Chan. For more on this series, see this first post. Also see: the newsletter issue (#55) I just sent out about Lotus, and my guest post at Gwen's Royal Ramblings for a crochet-historical context for Lotus yarn.

I've been asked why my first yarn at is called Lotus.
Lotus Engraving from 1877
Here's the scoop! 

It took from May to October 2013 to settle on the name from a list of 20 or so. I looked at how other yarns are named (see my list of five yarn name categories below) and bounced names around with Doris and my husband. Three key factors made "Lotus" stick: very personal symbolism, right-brained/poetic impressions of the flower, and the timing of seeing Doris at the CGOA Chain Link conference in Oct. 2013.
On the CGOA runway Oct. 2013 

Doris crocheted pajamas with Lotus yarn! Yeah! A baby doll top, lace shorts, lace capri pants, a lovely swing top (all of these in Pearly Pearl), and some flared leggings for me in the Grenadine color. She also did a micro-capelet in Peachy Sheen. (see each color in its own color album.) 

Doris imagined all of these things modeled as an ensemble for the CGOA Fashion Show in October--a great idea. The only catch is, the yarn needed a name!

Five days before the fashion show I had to use a limo service to get from the airport to the conference hotel. It was called "Lotus Limo." A rush of childhood associations with the name came back to me, so I toyed with "Lotus" as a yarn name until the fashion show. Doris was OK with it.

I'm basically a midwestern white girl from Wisconsin, raised Catholic until the age of nine; I then spent the rest of my childhood experiencing Eastern spiritual stuff with my Mom in an international meditation community in Iowa. We learned Hindu-style meditation, yoga, and vegetarianism, and fascinating concepts like sattwa, karma, soma, mantras. I learned some Sanskrit (a little Hindi helps too when blending one's own curries).

Back then, this was freakishly weird for most people (and most of my relatives too!). Today I feel safe enough talking about it in this public way. Imagine a place and time when Dannon yogurt was totally new. No one you knew even wanted to try it, yet your Mom was making her own. Imagine never having heard of yoga or karma, or a meal without red meat. Dude: no. yoga. mats. for. sale. anywhere.

The lotus flower is a lofty symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism. It represents sublime ideals of the human spirit. This pristine blossom rises above the water and, symbolically, the "mud of earthly existence." The Buddha and goddesses like Lakshmi are seated on them. When I worked in a health food store, I ordered products from a catalog called Lotus Light. 
Lotus Seed Pod (1877)

Aside from high philosophy, the lotus is just a really cool and slightly oddball flower. Most westerners don't know that you can eat the pleasant tasting roots and seeds. (See my Lotus board in Pinterest for moon cakes and other lovely examples!) The fascinating dried seed pods show up in flower arrangements occasionally.

When I crochet with our Lotus yarn, I feel like it uplifts my experience and the stitches have an inner glow. It takes my crochet to another level. I think of it as "crochet enlightenment." 

So now you know.

Have you ever really paid attention to the name of a yarn? I've noticed yarn names fall into categories.

Waterlily Layer design
1. Some yarns are named simply for their fiber content, weight, and/or dyeing: "Washable Wool," "Alpaca Lace," "Silk Handpaint." 
I thought, "So my yarn could be named a combination of words from this list: Sport, Cotton, Rayon, Z-Twist, Solid (color)..." 

Hmm, not inspiring. When I've designed with a yarn that has this kind of name, I have to keep its label nearby because I have trouble remembering the exact name ("Uh, is this one 'Merino-Something-DK'?").

2. Fancy versions of #1, like "Kid Seta" ("seta" is Italian for silk; "kid" is short for soft mohair); "Micro Chic" (microfiber nylon); "Mulberry" (i.e. silk); "Washable Ewe" (super wash wool). 
I guess I could have named it "Silky Bombax" instead. Or how about "Soft Twisted Plants"?
A Lotus Symbol in
Tunisian Filet Crochet

3. Like #2 but refers to an appealing or distinctive quality (The name Lotus indirectly falls into this category): "Shine" (rayon content); "Homespun" (thick bumpy plies); "Paillettes" (has sequins); "Glisten" (some metallic); "Magnum" (super bulky thick!). 
 could have named Lotus "Shimmer Z-Twist," for example; or how about "Sporty Zee"? "Crochet Drape"? I kept wanting to name it for way it reflects light when crocheted. The very first name I considered was "Pearl." I also wanted to refer to its luxurious drape; "Sari" was another idea (also captures the rich colors and shine).

4. Situations: places, seasons, and hints at its intended uses: "Summer Tweed," "Venezia," "Sausalito," "Weekend," "Sock," "Stork" (baby items). 
Since I expect my yarn to be used for a lot of warmer weather items, I considered names like: "Siesta Key," "Hibiscus," "Spring Break."

5. Colors or dyeing styles: "Degradé" and "Tonos" (mild shifts from lighter to deeper shades of one color); "Kaffe Fassett" (dramatic striping). 
For Lotus, I did consider a reference to its rich hibiscus-like color range, like "Hibiscus," "Blossom," "Bloom," "Bouquet."

Next post in this series: 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Creating the Color Cards for a New Yarn

Scan of official Lotus yarn color card.
You can enlarge it here
This post is part of a series: I'm blogging what it's like to start a yarn company as a crochet designerIt's an adventure with unexpected - ah - twists, and an odd sensation that I'm transgressing industry categories/roles. A new Crochet Inspirations Newsletter issue goes out soon; subscribe to be alerted when I add new posts to this blog series.
If I have color cards made for Lotus, the yarn must be available for purchase soon, right? YES!! In just a day or two! Right NOW!! In the meantime you can see all the colors and test swatches and labeled balls of yarn here. Adding them to Ravelry right now too.

So what's a "color card"? It's a yarn industry thing: an official "B2B" (business to business) fact sheet. Color cards display the available colors of a yarn as accurately as possible. A printed card is traditionally large with actual yarn samples of each color attached. Nowadays, the online equivalent might just be a close up of photographed colors. 

You've probably seen color cards if you have looked up yarns in Ravelry. You might even own some if you have ever:
- Paid for one while ordering yarn from a website or mail-order catalog.
- Been taken seriously enough as a designer by a yarn company. 
- Owned or worked in a yarn shop.

Tassels from the first mock-up of the Lotus color card.
These are actual Lotus colors (four neutral colors are missing).
It's an important reference for yarn shop owners and magazine editors. Color cards may be created by the yarn mill or packager/distributor to help a yarn shop owner order the best colors for her/his shop. A magazine editor can use the same color cards to plan a unified color theme for an issue, and to quote the correct color names and numbers when ordering yarn for the designer. The magazine's technical editor might check yarn facts in the patterns against what the color cards say, before the issue goes to press.

Before creating a short stack of color cards for Lotus, I compared a range of
Exhibit A: Glued Yarn Snips
color cards that have accumulated in my studio over the years. Some yarn companies add "glam copy" (persuasive, even flowery descriptions of the yarn's features). Others provide terse product specs. 

As you can see in "Exhibit A" at right, yarn snips may be glued down to the card. This is very common. Maybe it's the fastest and easiest way to mass produce them. 

Exhibit B: These 6" tassels are the longest of
any examples I have on hand.
Another common type of yarn snip is a tassel (Exhibit B at left). They can be of any length. The ones at left are especially long.  

As a designer I've wished that I could pull out a small length of the yarn to see how smooth and even it really is, and to just chain it to quickly experience crocheting it. I'm trying out a 30-inch length doubled up a few times, as shown in the top left photo above. 

Something that has always bugged me about color cards is if the tassels are long, they look messy and don't work well in a binder. I designed mine to fit in a 3-ring binder so that the yarn snips don't flop around beyond the edge of the binder.

Next in this series: How My Lotus Yarn Got its Name.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

On Becoming a...Yarn Company?

The Starpath Scarf, one of 
several Lotus yarn patterns!
Developing yarns to add to my site is having a powerful affect on me as a crochet designer. This blog has been about the designing journey since 2005, so I thought I’d blog a series of journal-like posts about my yarn-designing adventure here.

Scroll to the end of this post for a clickable list of all posts in this series.

For the first time ever, I can design with a yarn that I already know I love, that I understand intimately, and over which I have complete control. I don't have to worry that someone will suddenly discontinue it. This has happened a lot. Doris and I have talked about this a lot.
Lotus Yarn in "White Blaze"

Freelance designers do not get paid for all the time it takes to get to know a yarn, yet this is one reason that creating design proposals, especially for yarn companies, is so time consuming. (For magazines, this task is delayed until you find out which yarn gets assigned to your design proposal.)
Big ol' cones of rosy Lotus colors

Over the past few months I’ve been developing a new yarn, and I mean new: not offered elsewhere. The first is called Lotus, and it's nearly ready for purchase! It's a z-twisted sport weight blend of cotton and rayon. The yarn labels are currently being printed, and the last of the first fourteen colors is being dyed right now now available!  
My Tunisian Wicker Stitch in "Satin Grey" Lotus

DesigningVashti Lotus Yarn in "Crystal Blue"
I’m going directly to yarn mills with some ideas for yarns that are not already available. I’ve been an avid yarn user (consumer, swatcher, stasher) for years. It's fascinating how fibers, plying, twist, dyeing, etc. add to my love of crochet and pattern designing! I pay attention to differences between yarns, and so by now it's easy for me to envision my own ideal yarns.

Yarn mill folks seem to appreciate that I study yarns and have some ideas to try. This is a great relief to me! I was afraid I’d get blank looks, or “Well, that’ll cost you!” responses. Instead, they seem more relieved and curious.
Brushed Shells in color "Peachy Sheen"

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. 

Today, what brings me to my blog is that I’m in a design slump! Not a crochet slump, just a design slump (it happens every time I return from teaching a lot of classes at a national conference.) 

Being surrounded by my Lotus yarn in rainbow colors makes this slump a fun experience.

(By the way, I never know how the colors are going to show up on different computer screens, so I try different kinds of lighting and add various photos everywhere.)

This year, shipments of my new yarn were arriving from the mill while I was preparing to teach. Now that I'm home from teaching, I feel like a mother with her newborn baby. I spend every day trying out new stitch patterns with different colors of LotusI take photos of Lotus at different angles and times of day. I've dug out early designs for which I used favorite stitch patterns. I'm going through my old books and trying stitches that have always intrigued me. 

It turns out that designing a YARN and making it a reality is like having a baby, in several ways: the months of anticipation, choosing a name, and the "labor." I even had to prepare a new room for its arrival. 

Zenobia Palm Stitch in color "Pearly Pearl"
I love that my early years as a freelance designer have taught me that the best thing I could be doing right now is swatching up different crochet stitches with Lotus! 

Crocheting with a yarn is like getting to know a new person. Each has a distinct temperament, unique strengths & weaknesses, and preferences. The better one knows a yarn, the better a design will work for it. 

As a crochet designer with my own yarn company, I don’t have to go on blind dates with yarns I may never design with again. Lotus is family!


Other posts in this series (in chronological order):

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Crochet Flowers and Hearts Make Great Test Shapes!

Two Hearts, Two Stitches: Back-Loop Slsts & Front-Loop Slsts
Back-loop Slip Stitch Heart & Front Loop Slip Stitch Heart
Update: Slip Stitch Heart pattern at my new blog!
I'm testing shaping methods for my upcoming Slip Stitch Crochet Shapes FX class

A sweet surprise is that heart shapes, roses, and other flowers are especially useful ways to try out shaping methods!

Crochet slip stitches can give different effects to rose petals.
Different Slip Stitches in a Variety of Rose Petal Shapes
Not only are hearts and flowers distinctively shaped, they can also be: 

  • Scaled up or down to the swatch size I prefer,
  • A two-dimensional rendition, or as 3-D sculpted as I wish,
  • Recycled later into appliqués, jewelry, patch pockets, pincushions, coasters, etc.
  • Practice for sleeve cap shaping and other useful applications.

I've also been curious about how different kinds of slip stitches respond to the shaping methods. Below are hearts in four different slip stitch patterns.
Inverse and regular slip stitches in different loops, and different row directions.
Four Kinds of Slip Stitches, Crocheted Diagonally and Vertically

The heart in the lower left corner is the oddest-looking one, and retains a slight curl even after blocking. I'd need to tweak the starting row of this one also. Some of them have a strong natural curl or textural grain. 

This same inverse slip stitch type - which doesn't work so well for heart shapes - is perfect for the special kind of curling that a rose petal does! 

In this blog post I'm using newer photos taken after I sent out the most recent Crochet Inspirations Newsletter issue #53. It includes a free crochet pattern for a simple slip-stitch-strip rose. See photo of wee cashmere roses below!
These rose petals have a natural curve, thanks to slip stitches.
These rose petals have a natural
curve, thanks to slip stitches.

Socks, hats, mittens, and bags as shapes for testing are certainly useful. They're also more time-consuming. So, I start with a heart or a flower swatch that shows promise, and then I try applying the shaping method to a sock heel, or toe, for example.
Miniature Cashmere Roses, just in time for the Fall floral fashion trend.
Miniature Cashmere Roses

Right now I'm looking for the best class projects and swatches for students to experience. After that, I'll be able to turn some of the new designs for socks, hats and mittens into crochet patterns for my site. Flowers designs too.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Spring and Summer Crochet Patterns

Lots going on so I'm popping by to show you:

A. The view of red bananas and jumbo frangipani from the window of my sunny crochet studio:
At left in the background is Frangipani.
Omg it smells like vanilla cream pastry with jasmine candies!

See the stalk of new bananas in the foreground to the right,
just above the giant red banana flower? (That's a banana leaf
in the upper left corner, and a small mango
behind the tip of the banana flower)
Fish Lips Lace in the process of
becoming a pullover shrug. 
Fish Lips: The Scarf

B. Here's a heads up about my new crochet designs coming out in about a week! 

On the indie front, ol' DesigningVashti-Vashti is finalizing the oddly compelling Fish Lips Lace Shrug pattern pdf.

C. I'm also working on a pdf for the peculiarly pleasing Bare Bones Game Scarf Technique. It's subterraneously related to Fish Lips. Update! It became the Crochet to the Color Playbook!

Look at how a hand dyed yarn rises to the Bare Bones challenge, below! It's a custom colorway created by Lorna's Laces for my local yarn shop.
The Bare Bones Game

Ennis Tunisian Filet Shawl
D. Lots of Vashti in the summer issue of Interweave Crochet magazine! I can blog about it now that previews are up.

Magazine copies are officially available on newsstands on June 17, but I think they get mailed out to subscribers before then; also, you can instantly download the digital edition.

Sister Act seamed as a cutaway shrug
First, Ennis: it's a triangular Tunisian filet lace shawl in summery SWTC Bamboo yarn. 

Then, love knots galore! Sister Act is a shawl that easily converts to a bolero-style shrug. I used a vintage love knot pattern for it. See it in lustrous white: earlier Sister Act prototype called "Palestrina Convertible."

-: Electra Wrap :-
Electra Wrap is a gossamer quilt of love knot stars! Yes! I've uploaded some of the photos to Electra's Flickr set so far. Here's Electra Wrap Ravelry page.

The three-piece beaded love knot ensemble of Dragonfly, Seagrapes, and Sambuca Cords have a special purpose. They illustrate three valuable ways to crochet beads into love knots as you go

These three jewelry patterns accompany the love knot article I wrote for the issue: "Beyond the Basics: Crochet Amore." When you see that article, you'll see why I love to teach love knot classes, AND why I love to use love knots when demonstrating all the ways to add beads to any crochet stitches!
The Amores: Dragonfly, SeagrapesSambuca Cords

Want to see a close up of the frangipani flowers? I posted one of my early morning pics in my NEW RAVELRY GROUP. It's in honor of birthday girl cleverbritches, who founded the group just a few weeks ago. I hope you will join and say hello (or Happy Birthday) if you visit.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

About That Rivuline Shawl Tunisian Crochet Stitch Pattern

Rivuline Shawl by Vashti Braha.
I used an H-8 (5 mm) Tunisian crochet hook
with Manos del Uruguay Serena
(sport weight alpaca-cotton blend).

I can finally SPILL the DEETS on the RIVULINE! They concern two main things: a progressively trippy stitch pattern, and the nearly ONE HUNDRED photos I took of it. (The first photo at left is from the book. You should see how different it looks in some of my pre-publication photos below. Also a few of my GAZILLION swatch variations.) 

I received a copy this week of Dora Ohrenstein's latest book, The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored TraditionsThe Rivuline Shawl is a new crochet pattern that I designed for the book.

To me now -- 2 years later! -- the Rivuline Shawl is a tactile record of my mind slowly being blown. That's why I have to show you my own secret pics. 

It turns out that Rivuline came packed with eurekas for my pre-Tunisian-freeforming brain. That swaggy border is 100% Tunisian crochet too. Until Rivuline, I didn't know Tunisian crochet could do that!

I like the stitch texture and color tone quality
of this photo. You can see the birth of Petals
in this early Rivuline swatch!
It started with a stitch pattern idea that grabbed a hold of me back when Dora visited me in December, 2010. Dora's visit turned out to be a big ol' Tunisian crochet PARTY. 

She brought wondrous goodies: a Japanese collection of Tunisian crochet stitch patterns with the best collection of stitch symbols and diagrams I've ever seen; and a big stack of Duplet magazine back issues (half of which have cool Tunisian stuff in them).

Petals Cowl/Ring Scarf:
Cashmere and silk 'offset Rivuline' and a beaded seam.

Witness the "Tunisian and Regular Crochet Visit a Hall of Mirrors!" newsletter issue that welled up a few months later

A Rivuline stitch variation
and alternate yarn test.
That newsletter topic is really about Rivuline, but I couldn't say so. Instead I show Petals, its offset beaded cowl version. A few months later, Rivuline caused one of my all-time favorite designs to happen: the Tunisian Filet Aero.

Part of the reason I took so many photos is that I had trouble objectively evaluating them. 
Looking back, I now know why: the stitch experiment was a groundbreaking experience for me of Tunisian crochet. (At the same time, I was finding out how different fibers in pink tones are affected by any little change in light source and angle.) 
Swatching for early Rivulines in cotton, milk fiber,
silk, mohair, merino,  Icelandic lace wt wool...

Notice how the textures of the stitch pattern looks so different in the photos. So does the yarn color. (I remember this driving me crazy! And the emails to Dora: "Does _ or _ come across in this photo? How about this one?") 

For many more photos, also see the Petals photo album.

I eventually got a hold of a copy of the Japanese book Dora showed me. That inspired issue #10, "Tunisian Crochet: Breaking Out of Ruts" of my Crochet Inspirations Newsletter.

The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein ©2013. Interweave Press.
Book cover of 
The New Tunisian Crochet
By the way, Rivuline may look like traditional rectangular stole construction, design-wise. In reality, the border is a gradual variation of its stitch pattern. This way, a crocheter who's new to this way doing Tunisian crochet has a chance to get used to it before the variations of it begin. 

Another invisible design feature is that the foundation chain is disguised as a Tunisian Purl Stitch row. This was another discovery for me, which I then used for the seam of the Petals loop scarf/cowl, with beads for fun.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Crochet Pattern Companion Blog: What Happened!

Here's a happier topic:
Kisses from young alpacas are buttery-soft. An amazing memory
from October 2012 when I led a crochet retreat in Illinois.
UPDATE: the CPC blog is fixed! Google confirmed that it's clean. It's loading faster too. It was a sidebar widget that affected several blogs. 
Just after New Year's Day 2013, a bad thing happened to a good blog. NOT the blog you're reading right now and NOT my Crochet Inspirations Newsletter. It's one of my other crochet blogs. A skilled malicious person haacked* into the Crochet Pattern Companion blog. 

*Take out the extra "a" in haacked. I'm using this spelling to avoid suggesting to bots that it happened to this blog. It also entertains me how close it is to the Dutch word for crochet, Haak. (Little things like this lift my spirits. So does the photo of sweet alpaca kisses.)
The heck!? This haak got haacked: "Which
Foundation Stitch?" See it in Flickr.

Turns out it's a blessing in disguise for all of us! Mean people don't get to win in my crochet universe. So, new free crochet patterns (more on this below). 

It's possible that this was a random (and skillful) drive-by shooting at a...crochet blog...that's about...nuts 'n bolts stuff. Um, really? Of all blogs? I've got an older crochet blog about crochet for boys (and gamers) that attracts a constant stream of spaam. It's easy to keep that blog clean, though, because the garden-variety attaacks are truly meaningless and sloppy--NOT skillful. 

The crochet tutorial posts at the CPC blog were going viral in Pinterest. Pinterest is a hot site right now for both haakers (see all my crochet pin boards!) and...haackers. Pinterest was sending lots of people to CPC. I heard from them the minute the blog got hijaacked.
See the newsletter issue:
"Favorite Tweaks for Tall Stitch Row Edges"
Photos for this popular CPC blog post: "Try a Linked Stitch
to Close the Gap Between a Turning Chain
and Double Crochet."

Isn't it supposed to be awesome if your blog posts go viral? If they become a target of mean people, I guess it's flattering, but it sure turns the success into a mixed blessing. I can decode a crochet pattern, NOT computer code. It's bewildering. 

I can turn blog posts into lovely free downloadable pattern PDFs, and how-to crochet e-booklets, and store them in safer places. 

While I'm busy converting CPC posts to PDFs, you can visit some Flickr crochet tutorial albums that I used as back ups for some of the blog posts:
You might like the newsletter issue about this tutorial, "Short Row Startle."

Which Foundation Stitch?:

Linked turning chain alternative (for dc etc):