Sunday, November 29, 2015

Back on track with Christmas gift making

I am back on track with the Christmas gifts, customizing reusable canvas tote bags with the cutest crochet creations I can find. I am rather pleased with this sunflower for my son's teacher. My flower is adapted from a Quarter Sunflower Square by Suvi on Ravelry which was itself adapted from another pattern The Crocodile Flower by Joyce Lewis.....

Last month I followed Vicky Howell's advice to "think small, go big" hooking up a flurry of scarfs and cowls in chunky yarn from my stash for family and friends in the UK. Then I got a little off task with other crochet projects and life in general. Getting side-tracked is inevitable so that's why it's best to start your Christmas crafting very early.

Since I cannot resist a challenge I HAD to crochet a cardigan for National Crochet Cardigan Month responding to a call from a new Ravelry group I've joined Crochet on Ravelry which has almost 27,000 members. Wow! I'm not sure why I hadn't noticed the group before. ON a sidenote, I wonder how many fellow yarn lovers have found themselves sucked down the rabbit hole of pleasant Ravelry diversions?

Of course, given my penchant for granny squares, my cardigan choice was the Granny shrug by Kirsty of KooToYoo cleverly constructed from two granny hexagons. Easy, quick and size as you go - my kind of pattern! I didn't even have time to block it before it's first outing. Anyway, time to go. My poinsettia petals are calling me...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

It's all about the joining

My crochet group are off to a great start with the granny squares for our third charity project. I have just finished joining and edging the first baby blanket. Another member of our group has put together a second. I know this because she sent me a photo of her edging this week. It is marvelously elaborate and taken from a Japanese book of granny squares which has no English instructions in it whatsoever. Imagine that - just photos and charts. My edge is single crochet followed by crab stitch (reverse single crochet) and viola here it is pre-blocking.

My theory is that the beauty of the granny square blanket is all about the join. I have chosen a wonderful technique taken from one of my all time favorite books: Connect the Shapes crochet motifs by Edie Eckman. It's a join as you go continuous final round with a flat slip stitch connecting in the adjoining seam and best of all it's incredibly inconspicuous. I enjoy doing it. I never thought I'd say that about joining squares. There is an ever so cute flower in the corner of each join. It's fantastic.

I can date my obsession with granny squares back to two books I received for Christmas a few years ago: Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman and The Granny Square book by Margaret Hubert. I also had a voucher for yarn that year so I remember buying Cascade 220 in a dozen odd non-matching colors and making huge numbers motifs from the books (there are 219 patterns in total). Looking back now I find this behavior slightly insane because the colors don't match and the sizes vary massively and they have been added to my large bag of "random crochet pieces to make into an amazing freeform creation one day." I wonder if anyone else out there has a bag like this?

Anyway I am happy to report that the group are really enjoying the granny squares mainly because they work up so quickly. One thing we are finding is that the size of the granny squares varies massively depending on each individual's tension so we are combatting this to a small extent by changing the hook size up or down. We cannot readily alter stitches or rows with granny squares as we did with the single crochet squares of our first project. So we are sorting our squares into different size piles at the pre-join stage. It's all fun!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My first crochet kit experience: Ficstitches

I'm not sure why I have never ordered a crochet kit before or what prompted me to order this one.  I guess it was the combination of crochet pattern, hand-dyed yarn, handmade accessory AND fictional story that seemed appealing. And I had heard of Laurinda Reddig before, one of the three creatives behind Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kits. She actually made up a totally new crochet technique: Reversible Color Crochet which I find just astounding. Imagine inventing a new technique....!

I didn't actually manage to order part #1 in time or get the limited-issue handcrafted crochet hook but it didn't really matter because I ended up loving #2 Cadha's Celtic Capelet. I was dubious at first about using worsted weight yarn since I prefer lighter-weight accessories but it's just right, cheerful and cute and I am delighted by it. The capelet is worked in one continuous piece from the point of the hood down with an Eternal Knot cable pattern on the back. The knot took me a few attempts to perfect but I did enjoy the challenge.

I can just imagine wearing my red capelet in January in Texas and when I visit family in the UK. The wool, hand-dyed by DragynKnyts Fiber and Dyeworks, is Targhee which is a new one for me. According to the US Targhee Sheep Association, founded in 1951 in Dubois, Idaho these range-raised sheep require minimal human intervention and are hearty enough to withstand the elements while producing high quality wool for market. It's soft enough (I don't like itchy wool) and the semi-tones are just gorgeous. The photo just doesn't do justice to the colorways.

Laurinda's website is  ReCrochetions and the two other fiber friends behind this quarterly kit club are Monica Lowe of Craftwich Creations (handcrafted items for fiber lovers) and fiber fiction writer C. Jane Reid. The book is very well written and a real page-turner. It was just the right length - not long enough to distract from working on the pattern. I'm certainly going to be looking out for future crochet kits from these wonderfully talented crafty ladies.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A peek into Crochet Traditions

One of the perks of working in the yarn store is having first dibs on any freebies. Hunting through a large box of old magazines on their way to recycling, I fished out the second ever (and final I think) edition of "Crochet Traditions", a 148-page special issue from PieceWork magazine from Fall 2012. I love to read about traditional stories, projects and techniques and feel quite passionately that we must preserve them ALL. I can't understand why this was discontinued because it's a fantastic read!

I recognized two crochet industry rockstars among the contributors which is always a good sign when reading a magazine that you're unfamiliar with. Doris Chan and Carol Ventura are widely renown respectively for their lace and tapestry crochet techniques. I've had a little foray into both in recent years.

My Craft Yarn Council master teacher and mentor Barbara Van Elsen, who I'm always talking about, suggested I look into Irish Lace. The first section consists of SEVEN articles all about Irish Lace - what joy! Just look at this exquisite Irish Crochet Butterfly by Nancy Nehring. The tiny size of the hook and size 10 thread are a little daunting but I certainly can appreciate the level of skill involved in undertaking such a project. 

The digital version is available at the Interweave Store. The projects are definitely for the more proficient but I guarantee that even if some of these patterns are beyond your skill level you will definitely enjoy reading about them as I did. This one will stay on my shelf ad infinitum.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Anzula Trunk Show

The Anzula Trunk Show is coming to the yarn store this week. Yay! Last year I made quite a few scrummy purchases but it was near my birthday and I do really like to support indie dyers and my store of course. There are always excuses you can make to facilitate buying yarn. I really like the Anzula website with it's social media savvy links to project inspiration on Pinterest and Ravelry for it's 18 lines of yarn.

I found a super video of the founder of Anzula, Sabrina, describing how everything began. Discovering how craft entrepreneurs start out always fascinates me. I haven't inserted a video into a blog post before but nothing ventured nothing gained ...perhaps it will work for some of you!

Variegated (multicolored) yarn is a huge temptation. It always looks the most visually appealing to me but then I struggle to find a crochet pattern that works well since the lovely stitch definition just gets lost. I was extremely happy with my Esther Shawl by Lana Holden though made from Anzula Dreamy and I think it worked because the pattern was very open.  

However there is hope, I have just found a wonderful blog post by The Verdant Griffin, an independent textile and dyeworks company aptly entitled "What the bleep should I make". The title alone makes me chuckle! The post gives a whole host of suggestions and gorgeous photos for variegated yarn. I am going to try combining it with a solid or semi-solid in a contrasting or matching color. Let's go shopping!