Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review of Simple Crocheting by Erika Knight

Last year my children treated me to a shopping spree in Half Price Books for Mother's Day. I cleared out almost the whole crochet shelf. One of the titles that I selected on sight was "Simple Crocheting" by Erica Knight, bought because I'd seen a copy at the yarn store where I work. The books there are carefully curated and there aren't many on crochet so I knew it had to be worth buying.

This year I heard Fay and Lynne from the Crochet Circle podcast interview Erika Knight, their "icon", followed by Vickie Howell interviewing Erika for her Craft-ish series and realized just how famous and talented Erika is. It was time to have a look at that book that was sitting on my bookshelf still unopened. I hadn't even realized Erika was British like me!

The book, written for complete beginners, has three main sections: Materials and Techniques, Stitch Library and Project Workshops. There is a fantastic personal narrative running through the book giving advice and tips from Erika herself. I particularly like the pages on controlling the yarn in the technique section by the Index Finger or Middle Finger method and the note on tensioning the tail. I will use this information for my students.

The choice of stitches to put in the stitch library is pure genius. I own a number of stitch dictionary books containing hundreds of possible stitch patterns to choose from but Erika has picked her favorites (and they are fantastic) and then given examples of the types of yarn and projects that suits the specific stitch pattern.

There are twenty wonderful projects in the final section varying in difficulty. The color choices for the projects are fantastic. I'm sure everyone would find several projects that they would like to make. I made a modified version of the fingerless mittens for my sister in law as a Christmas gift in festive red.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Review of Yarn the Movie

I hadn't expected to be able to watch this film at a local movie theater but yay, Yarn the Movie came to Houston TX this week as part of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. A friend of mine shared details of the upcoming film to my Facebook page. I would have completely missed it!

This documentary, made by Montreal-based Icelandic director Una Lorenzen interweaves the stories of four inspiring artists who work with yarn. The film is as visually gorgeous as I'd expected. It starts off in the best way possible with Icelandic lopapeysa sheep (I love sheep, don't you?) and then moves from Iceland to many different locations worldwide showing examples of the four artists' fantastic work. I was already familiar with two of the featured artists: Brooklyn-based Polish crochet graffiti artist Olek's and Japanese artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam who makes amazing giant crochet playgrounds. The film also features the charistmatic Icelandic graffiti artist Tinna Thorudottir Thorvaldar and Tilde Björfors, the founder of the Swedish circus company Cirkus Cikör. The best part of the film was listening to these amazing women talk about what yarn meant to them. There was too much to digest in just one viewing so I'll be putting the digital pre-order on my Christmas wish list.

There was a discussion afterwards with Mary Goldsby, founder of Urban Yarnage, a Houston-based group of knitters and crocheters who design and develop fiber street art projects. The audience, having just watched the film, were eager to hear how they would go about yarn bombing Houston. Last year I was lucky enough to see their Buffalo Bayou project created in celebration of International Yarn Bomb day June 11th 2016. Gorgeous!

I'd love to know in the comments below if you've seen the film and what you thought!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Making Christmas is underway

I'm underway with gift-making for my handmade Christmas. Living in Texas with family members in England, Scotland and France I need to get a wriggle on. I fell in love with overlay crochet technique and my staple gift this year is the Starry Dream Hanging Ornament by Tatsiana of Lilla Bjorn Crochet. I have been making these in large quantities using cotton yarn from my stash.

I love this pattern and the photo doesn't do the star justice. The overlay crochet technique makes these stars three dimensional.  After crocheting two identical stars, I join them together with single crochet in the back loop. The yarn ends are on the wrong side and I don't trim them but leave them long to give the stars a little padding. And I have a guilty admission to make - I am knotting the yarn ends together and leaving the tiny knots on the wrong side too. I tell my students to never leave knots but they can't be seen and it's making the colorwork so fast and easy. Perhaps that's why I am so addicted to making them! Here are my stars in a more traditionally festive colorway.

I'd love to know how your handmade Christmas making is coming on. Have you made a start? Do you have a go-to pattern? Let me know!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Lining my peacock tail bag

I have finally lined my peacock tail bag! Hurray! I put it off for several weeks after the CAL ended making up ridiculous excuses because I'm not as passionate about sewing as I am about crocheting. I have made so many crochet and knitted bags over the years and I just don't use them as much as I should because they are not fully functioning bags without a lining. It wasn't going to happen this time. Of course, I ambitiously decided to insert a zipper making the exercise even more daunting and leading to further delay. 

The lining is leftover Kaffe Fasset material purchased five years ago from quilting shop Poppy Patchwork in my old neighborhood of Westbury on Trym in Bristol. I bought this glorious fabric to line a knitted Debbie Bliss cable bag that I made in 2011 Fiddly Fushia Bag. This was the last and only other time I have lined a bag!

I told my Friday workshop students that I was going to line the bag making up a whole host of excuses for the delay and they teasingly told me "challenge yourself" - a phrase that I am very fond of saying to them! My sweet crochet friend Jodie who writes the wonderful Lupey Loops blog also encouraged me. I do find telling fellow crafters about my plans stops me from procrastinating quite as much! 

I started with the peacock tail bag cal lining tutorial from Lilla Bjorn Crochet for a general idea and then visited my local sewing studio Thimblefingers to buy my interface and zipper so that I could get a few more tips on how exactly I was going to go about making the liner with the zipper. The best tip from the extremely helpful owner was where exactly I should attach my liner. I had envisaged sewing it an inch or so below the opening but I was told that the seam would be more robust if I chose the existing natural seam between the colorful rounds and the band around the top. My lining isn't perfect but I am very pleased. I know that I will take my bag out far more now that it has a zippered lining. I even added a cellphone-sized inside pocket. Go me!

I found two helpful online tutorials for adding zippered linings to crochet bags if you're feeling inspired to have a go. Fab crochet designer and blogger Stephanie of All About Ami has a tutorial for a lining with a zipper and a circular base: Crochet Zipper Pouch. Stephanie gave a link to a second helpful photo tutorial from super crochet designer Jesseyz of Chocolate Mints in a Jar Zippered Lining Tutorial.

Well now that I've achieved this I'm feeling confident enough to make a project bag or two. I'm going to use this super cute project bag tutorial from the talented Sam, crochet designer, blogger and podcaster from Betsy Makes.

If you'd like to tell me about your experiences with lining a bag, please do let me know in the comments below. Anyway, do have a wonderful week y'all.