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.