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: )