Sunday, May 29, 2016

Are you a rider, yanker or lifter?

I've been getting a little obsessed about gauge recently. One of my students wants to make crochet socks and we told each other we'd make gauge swatches in advance of the next workshop. I don't swatch very much apart from when the size matters but I know I should really do it more often. Swatching is a sensible thing to do to make sure you don't run out of yarn too. And designers make gauge swatches to find out if the yarn suits their pattern. I do always ask my students to swatch though. It IS good practice. They shouldn't be reckless just because I am!

My quick 10 stitch 5 rows single crochet swatches
trying out riding, yanking and lifting.

Changing gauge to accommodate differences in width is simple - just go up or down a hook size. But what about height? In making the gauge swatch for my socks my 23 rows are only 8 cms tall (it's a British pattern) instead of the 10 cms the pattern designer has given for the swatch height.

So I've been hunting around online on see if there is a fix. I have a sneaking suspicion that my stitches have always been too short historically. But usually this doesn't matter because the pattern says work pattern rows until the item measures however many inches.

A post by Marty Miller on her Crochet Doctor blog: What else affects gauge gave me some ideas on what I should try. Marty is a crochet designer, author, tech editor, and teacher - both locally and nationally. She is also a Craftsy instructor with a rather exciting looking class on Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches.

Marty gives a lot of helpful advice here and I found out that yanking my yarn to tighten the loop on the hook or letting my hook rest on the top of the stitch below could be my issue, causing my stitches to be too short. I should lift my hook up, above the stitch below, to give the yarn some "breathing space" and keep my hook almost parallel to the top of the stitch below.  I tried it and it worked! Yay.

I just realized that I have made a pattern by Marty Miller recently. It was in the latest edition of Interweave Crochet Spring 2016 (the 10th birthday collector's edition no less) and I made it as a sample for the yarn store where I work. It turned out really really well. Check it out on Ravelry: The Rufflier Scarf. Here is my version.

And then I found a fascinating video tutorial by crochet designer Deja Jetmir on her Crochet Ever After blog with further information. Deja has over 400 tutorials on youtube - a fantastic learning resource.

 Deja describes "the Golden Loop Method" of altering gauge height: Fixing gauge when height is incorrect aka Golden Loop Method. The golden loop is the first one that you pull up and how you deal with this first loop makes a big difference to the height of your stitch. Watch it to find out if you're a rider, a yanker or a lifter!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

New podcast review - The Crochet Circle

I just discovered episode three of a brand new podcast (late to the launch again but better late than never!) and I am absolutely smitten. It's "The Crochet Circle Podcast" and it's British, like me, and focuses on crochet with a little bit of knitting on the side - which describes my crafting preferences perfectly.

I smile to myself while listening to how giddy and happy the two hosts are - Lynne Rowe and Fay Dashper-Hughes.  Lynne is a crochet and knitting designer, teacher, pattern checker and copy editor and has even published her own craft books. Fay is a new but extremely enthusiastic crocheter and knitter and has just set up her own company selling carefully sourced products for crochet and knitting.

I had a bit of a binge listening session at the weekend to catch up. They already feel like two dear friends to me and I just want to chip in with my own little anecdote and add to the conversation. So I've joined their new Ravelry group The Crochet Circle Podcast so that I can do exactly this. I'm not on Ravelry as much as I should. It's like a rabbit warren, it draws me in and then I wonder where all that time went....

Their yarn stashes are fabulously named the "Yarn Palace" and the "Wool Nest". Fay likes to shop but Lynne is frugal like myself. Fay is a bad influence on Lynne. Listening to Fay is starting to influence my shopping habits too!   

Both ladies by pure coincidence come from a waste management background and one aim of the podcast is to promote sustainable crochet practices of Reduce Reuse Recycle. Yay! I'm a huge fan of sustainability too.

The kind of things you're going to hear on the Crochet Circle Podcast are: interviews with British yarn industry folk and crochet and knitting groups, tips and tricks to improve and simplify crochet and reviews of crochet magazines and books and yarn.  They have a Crochet Yay and Crochet Nay section which is particularly hilarious and there is a WIP wall where they list out their works in progress for all to hear.

Fay kindly provided me with the images for this blog post. I mainly use my own images as you know. Thank you very much Fay!

Here's the link to the podcast. Have a little listen and if you like what you hear why not join the Ravelry group too? I'll catch up with you there!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Book Review: Crochet Master Class

I sold one of my personal crochet books to one of my workshop student this week and feeling a little bereft - my crochet books are like dear friends - decided to treat myself to a replacement. My local Barnes and Noble bookstore has a wonderful selection of crochet books and being rather particular and not a big shopper I find I need to have a good look before I buy.  

Advanced crochet techniques: Tunisian crochet, Hairpin lace,
Filet crochet and Double-ended crochet clockwise from top left

The book that stood out on the shelf was Crochet Master Class by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss published in 2010 by Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony. It features eighteen crochet techniques each taught by an innovative master crocheter. These super talented master teachers have found new ways to use their hooks or resurrected old techniques. These are the celebrities who keep our craft alive and truly inspire me! I linked the names to their Ravelry profiles where I was able to find them.

We read the story of how each master started out. This is particularly fascinating to me because a creative career is never straightforward as you probably know! Each master then provides instruction on how to do the technique and then includes a project which was written specially for this book. The pattern is helpfully rated by the skill level needed from beginner to experienced so that you can pick one that is suitable for your skill level. The projects are simply inspiring. I am finding it difficult knowing which one to start with.

I am familiar with some of techniques thanks to the second Craft Yarn Council teaching certificate I took. I made swatches of Tunisian crochet (Julia Bryant), Hairpin lace (Jennifer Hansen), Double-ended crochet (Darla J. Fenton) and Filet crochet (Harmut Hass) as part of the course. My samples are above clockwise from top left. I just realized after taking this photo that I also made a Tapestry crochet (Carol Ventura) swatch - it's called Fair Isle crochet too.

A student asked me to teach her Bead crochet (Lydia Borin) so I had to teach myself first! I loved it. And I have a little experience in making the crochet cables that are involved in Aran crochet (Jane Snedden Peever) too. Such fun!

The other techniques in the book are brand new to me and I can't wait to try them out:
  • Woven crochet (Jenny King)
  • Entrelac crochet (Joyce Wyatt)
  • Fashion crochet (Margaret Hubert)
  • Tassels (Nancy Nehring
  • Bullion stitch (Bonnie Pierce)
  • Overlay crochet (Melody MacDuffee)
  • Bruges crochet (Tatyana Mirer)
  • Painted crochet (Ferosa Harold)
  • Free-form crochet (Prudence Mapstone)
  • Irish crochet (Maire Treanor)
  • Wire crochet (Nancie Wiseman)
This book would be ideal for anyone who like me has a good grasp of all the basics and wants to challenge themselves with a new technique. There is nothing like a bit skill-building in the craft you love. The book also contains a refresher course in crochet in the back pages so if you were a little rusty but keen you could have a go at that and then pick one of the techniques with a beginner rated accompanying project. Yay! Everyone is happy :)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

I've fallen for Noro

I am a recent convert to Noro yarn. I took it to the beach at Galveston State Park with me. If you look very closely you'll see my hubby and two kids out there in the surf.


The yarn store where I work has a wall of Noro yarn from Japan. I had stayed away from it until very recently with three main objections:
  1. It feels itchy to me. People tell me "it softens up when you work with it" but I have refused to believe them.
  2. It's pricey and I just can't help being the thrifty Brit. I don't really enjoy spending money.
  3. In my mind it's mainly self-striping yarn and historically I just haven't had good experiences with finding a pattern I like which suits multi colored yarn.

I have a brand new way of building my stash after reading a super article on the Crochet Unites website building a yarn stash on a budget. I go for the bulk buy - purchasing large quantities of just one type of yarn in the same color when on sale. In the past, I have often been one skein short of completing my pattern. How frustrating! 

And last month I found soft Noro yarn Shiraito containing cashmere in large quantities on sale totally overcoming the above objections #1 and #2. I bought all 11 skeins in the same dye lot. I picked two very simple patterns that would work with the stripes. I AM getting better at picking patterns. I found a moss stitch scarf pattern in one of my all time favorite books The Gentle Art of Knitting by Jane Brocket and have just finished a quick and easy traditional granny square crochet blanket. I don't need a pattern for the latter I can practically hook it in my sleep.

I am really loving working with Noro yarn. The colorful stripes are gorgeous. There is aqua and turquoise in there, two colors I am always drawn to. It's extremely soft to work with. I have learned to deal with the thick and thin bits which can split by being very gentle with the yarn. A fellow knitter and Noro lover told me "Don't pull!" I am enjoying the experience immensely and I am a total Noro yarn convert! Yay!

And I just discovered one my Twitter buddies the super talented knitwear designer, tech editor and blogger Kephren Pritchett has a design in the most recent edition of the latest Noro magazine. It's gorgeous!! And it isn't even in self-striping yarn. Check out her Leaf Lace Shrug on Ravelry. Beautiful!!
I predict I will be looking out for more Noro very soon.....

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Knit or Crochet Texan [Part 3 of 3]

Well this is the third and final part of my little series on Knit or Crochet Texan. I am sure I will repeat it as I discover more yarntastic local folk. Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2 just in case you are playing catchup.

Local new Podcast: the wonderful Vickie Howell, author, designer, instructor, and broadcast personality in the craft world launched her Craft-ish Podcast last month. She lives in Austin, Texas which is just up the road from me. You must have come across her before. She has a really funky hair cut and I sometimes manage to catch her live Facebook stream Ask me Monday. Her podcast is really worth checking out. I have listened to the one with Clara Parkes several times. It is marvelous. Vickie kindly provided the image for me above.

Local farm: Independence Farmstead Fibers
I have slightly irrational and probably unrealistic dreams of living in the countryside permanently and owning a fiber producing farm. Independence Farmstead Fibers is a mill on a farm. How great is that? Doesn't the description on the about page just make you want to move to a farm right now? Or maybe that's just me? I long for a day trip to this place...

We are an artisan fiber mill located in the historic village of Independence- in the heart of boots and bluebonnets, right outside of Brenham, Texas. We are Paul and Dawn Brown, and along with the mill, we reside on the farm with our herd of angora and pygora goats....numerous barn cats, a few chickens, and some wonderful dogs. Our desire with the mill is to provide processing for the small independent fiber producer and fiber enthusiast, increasing value to the animals that give us fleece year after year. Of interest are those special breed specific fibers with a known "pasture of origin". There is certainly something added to the fiber experience, when you become aware of what animal the fleece belongs to, and where it's home is located.

Local blogger and podcaster: Suburban Stitcher
Dianne has been blogging for 10 years and podcasting for 3 years. I have just discovered her after finding her on a list of exhibitors at last year's Houston Fiber Fest. I am very fond of my podcasts and I really don't know how I managed to complete any household chores prior to having a podcast on the go! Hurrah for another crafty podcast.

Hope you enjoyed this little series. I have just figured out how to add an email sign up on my blog. Yay! So if you want to get my weekly post delivered in your in-box just go ahead and pop your email in the box top right! Have a wonderful week :)