Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Tale of Two Japanese Crochet Hooks!



Recently I was at Daiso, which is always so much fun! There is nothing like aisles and aisles of interesting things that you have never seen before, almost all priced at $1.50! I read that they produce 1000 new items a month, and every time I go there I find some little treasure.

This time I found their section of crochet hooks and knitting needles. I was intrigued by their ergonomic crochet hooks. I am a huge fan of Tulip Etimo hooks, and use them almost exclusively, but since these hooks are available locally, I thought I would give them a try!

They have a large selection of ergonomic and acrylic crochet hooks as well as bamboo knitting needles.

The first thing I compared when I saw the two hooks side by side was the head of the hook. The hook on the left is from Daiso, and the hook on the right is from Tulip. You can see that the Daiso hook is rounded at the top and has a less defined throat. 

The Daiso hook also isn't as smooth as the Etimo, and has less of the hook of the hook exposed. 


They both have silicone handles, but again I found the Etimo to be smoother.

The shape of the Daiso handle is triangular, which is quite different from the Etimo hook that has a relatively flat top and rounded back.

I didn't realize it until I tried the Daiso hook, but the Etimo handle is much more universal due to its shape.

The Daiso hook is really only comfortable if you hold it like a pencil, as illustrated on the package:


I hold my hook two different ways, but not exactly this way, so it would take me some time to get used to it.

I really like the large flat thumb rest on top of the Daiso hook, and think it might be nice if the Etimo's was a little more like it.

Overall, the best thing about the Daiso hook is its price: $1.50 in the US and about $1.95 in Kuwait, vs. $10.63 for the Etimo. I believe the old addage "you get what you pay for" applies here. I think I would be able to recommend the Daiso hook more highly, if I held my hook the way they intended you to.

This test really highlights the importance of design!

If use the pencil hold and have a Daiso near you, give these hooks a try to see how you like them!





Sunday, January 29, 2017

Weaving to Beautify a Community Garden!


Yesterday was a really fun day! In an effort to get people interested in working with their hands, Tammy Asad of TS Daily Treasures, my husband Emad of eWood_q8,  Maryam Al Nusif of Mimikuwait, and I organized an afternooon of weaving with recycled materials, yarn crafts, and woodworking! Maryam who is known as Mimi, started a local community garden in the Salmiya area of Kuwait that hosts free weekly gardening sessions, workshops, and an artisanal food and craft market. We decided to make one of the trees into a double sided loom to weave into. We even left a little stash of yarn in the tree, so anyone visiting the garden can weave while they are there.

 We had the idea to have an afternoon of weaving to teach people about the craft, and to beautify the garden at the same time! Tammy collected wooden pallets and for the month leading up to the event, we all collected plastic strapping that is used to secure boxes and bricks for transport, and is often found on trash heaps in Kuwait. We thought this would be the perfect material to use, because it is practically indestructible. It will stand up to Kuwait's high summer temperatures, and it is easy to clean. I was just hoping that it would look great woven into the pallets. Thanks to the wonderful work of the upcycled!

Tammy prepared little weaving kits that were warped and ready to weave, so people could weave while they were there or take them home. People were even walking around and weaving! My daughter Sara and I prepared popsicle sticks and yarn to make godseyes to hang in the trees. All the visitors were fast learners and all of our yarn was transformed in to little works of yarn art! It was a great way to show people that you can make something wonderful with very basic supplies!



The garden had some tires that had been painted and donated, so we decided to try our hand at making some seats for the garden. Simple, effective, and festive!


Emad set up a little workshop at the garden and began building an entrance arbor for the garden. We will go back this week to finish it! It will be fun to see if our tree weaving has been added to by any anonymous guest weavers!



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gearing Up for a Freeform Crochet Workshop!



I am very excited to be preparing for an upcoming workshop that I will be teaching the members of the Kuwait Textile Arts Association!

It will span over 2 sessions of 2 hours each. I have a lot of activities planned, so I hope we can fit it all in!

Freeform Crochet is what first got me interested in learning how to crochet, and the International Freeform Guild got me started!

The idea of crocheting without a pattern is so thrilling to me. I love just seeing where the yarn takes me, creating interesting textures, and adding embroidery embellishment. The above photo is a close up of a handbag I made for the Crochet Guild of America's annual design competition. It is such fun to incorporate many different types of fibers, beads and found objects into crochet work!

I will report back after the first workshop on February 1st with some photos from the workshop. I hope many of the crocheters will fall in love with freeform as I have!

Some stitches to be learned in the workshop!

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year's Resolution #1, Check!


The first thing on my list of things to do in 2017 is to join the Surface Design Association! I recently discovered its existence and the discovery was well timed as I found out that their bi-annual conference will be in Portland, Oregon this summer. I am thrilled that I can attend since I will be vacationing there!

They have many interesting opportunities to exhibit your work and they provide a platform for the exchange of ideas, methods, and materials pertaining to the fiber arts. Since I like to mix techniques and I have recently been getting more into embroidery and weaving, I thought thad the SDA would be very inspirational! I am looking forward to seeing where this new membership will take me!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Reflecting on 2016 and Hinting on my Stitching Future for 2017!

2016 was a year full of new challenges and experiences, with many highlights! I wore many different work hats last year: designer, project manager, textile collaborator, instructor, liason, and coordinator. All of these jobs have enhanced my creativity and how I work. 

Let me tell you about some of this year's highlights:

I was so excited for my work to be featured on the cover of Interweave Crochet, last fall. My work has appeared in 15 issues of Interweave Crochet over the years, and this was my first cover with them! Magazine work is really such fun. The thrill of seeing your work among the vibrant, glossy pages never gets old!


I got to teach my first workshop for eWoodStory at the Sadu House. We crocheted motifs, then painted them and stitched them into "Olive" shape pendants. I love how each one was so very different and beautiful!


Next month I will be teaching a session Freeform Crochet Workshop for the Kuwait Textile Arts Association at the Sadu House as well.

In addition to working in crochet this year, I also learned more about modern weaving, learned how to weave on a rigid heddle loom, and between me and my daughter, we now have 7 looms in the house!


I also started experimenting with weaving that incorporates my crochet work. This is a piece I have in progress with some of my hand painted crochet:


I can't wait to learn more about weaving and how I can put my own spin on it! I dream of making garments incorporating pieces of my weaving.

While working on the Weaving Stories project, I had the opportunity to be on the radio and television twice! Most recently with my daughter, Sara. We got to talk about our weaving, and I hope we got some of the viewers interested in the fiber arts as well!


I also got to meet so many amazing people through Weaving Stories. Some of the best moments were people discovering the joy of weaving and working with their hands on our specially designed interactive loom that was made by my husband who co-designed it with Professor of Textiles, Lesli Robertson. People who have never tried to weave before, sat down with the intention of weaving for a minute or two, and ended up weaving for an hour! We had tags made so people could attach their name or their thoughts about weaving to the sections that they created. We had to warp the loom three times during the exhibition. The more that was woven on the loom, the more people wanted to weave on it. The colorful yarns and fibers were attracting people like a magnet!

We created 7 new pendant shapes to add to our eWoodStory Modern Stitchable Pendant line, making it a total of 13 shapes in addition to our Mini Masterpiece Frames, for people to stitch their own creations into:


We also added several pendants to our Featured Artists Series, where we ask artists that we love on Instagram, to create special Mini Masterpiece Pendants. It is a way for us to showcase our pendants, and to connect artists to people interested in their work. We have met so many amazing people through this series!
Mini Masterpieces that have been created by the Artists


I have a great feeling about 2017 and have started lining up some fun projects involving the community, as well as some special commissions. I also hope to work on some new techniques that I haven't tried yet like tapestry crochet and macrame. I just want another few hours added to every day to have more time to create! I hope that this next year is happy, healthy, and wonderful for all of you!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Community Crochet- an Undersea Panel for Weaving Stories!



The next chapter in my series about the crochet in the Weaving Stories installation is about the freeform style crochet panel for the Sea themed part of the wall.

When the submissions came in for this part of the wall, most of the artists had chosen to concentrate on pieces relating to water. As the time came near for putting the wall together, I decided I needed a piece inspired by things found under the sea. I really wanted it to be crocheted because I wanted it to be 3 dimensional and there are so many effects you can achieve with the right stitches and yarn! 

I thought that it would be fun to do this panel as a group project, so I invited local crocheters to join me in a crochet morning at the Sadu House. I told them them just to come with their hooks and I gave them the color palette for this section in case they had any yarns in the colors we were going to use. I  also collected yarns from my stash to bring. My yarn exchanges with the International Freeform Crochet group were really beneficial to this project, as I have collected many bits of interesting yarn in beautiful colors over the years! 

Everyone arrived in the morning ready to get to work, and I gave them some patterns and ideas for possible shapes. Some people used patterns and some freeformed their creations. I wasn't too specific as I wanted their creativity to come out and I didn't have a picture in my head of exactly what I wanted it to look like.

I just knew that it would be like putting together a puzzle with no exact solution. I also knew that I  probably wouldn't use all of the pieces, and that I would need a lot to choose from to find the best arrangement. It was exciting not knowing exactly what the finished panel would look like! Some people were skeptical that the pieces would look good sewn together and overlapping, but I persevered. 

We crocheted for 3 hours and were able to produce a nice collection. I didn't feel that it was enough to make a meter long panel, so we got more crocheters together the same week in the evening and some people agreed to work at home and bring the pieces in by the end of the week. 

Written patterns were used by some, and diagrams by others, depending on the way they like to work most. 



The time passed very quickly with periods of silence as they became part of their stitches.

Nawal Al Baker, Afifa Behbehani, and Tammy Asad hard at work!
 As the pieces were completed, we collected them on a table for inspiration. 


Once all of the pieces had been collected, I got my cutting board out and began to lay out the pieces. I had all of the pieces in front of me and just kept arranging and rearranging them until I was happy with the arrangement. I kept them on the board and put some pins in to hold the main pieces together. I stitched everything together with invisible thread first. It was challenging to stitch while everything was on the board, as I had to be careful not to upset the pieces! I took a photo of the arrangement first, just in case the pieces moved for any reason. After the initial stitching with invisible thread, the panel was easier to work with. I was able to stitch on my lap since everything was secured in its place. To make the panel really strong, I stitched the pieces together with coordinating yarns wherever there was any weakness. 


When I had all of the pieces together I took the panel to try in the frame with the panels that we had already received. As with all of the panels, it took us a while to decide the best location for it! We finally decided to put it below the sea shell panel, and after I got home and looked at my photos from the day's work, I realized that it would look even better if I made it wider. Fortunately I had more pieces at home to add, thanks to the hard work of the group! I spent another evening adding pieces to the panel to almost double its width!
Photos by Nawal Al Baker
The panel was carefully woven in, so as not to cover too much of the crochet work.


Voila! The completed Sea Section!
Photo by Tammy Asad

Monday, December 5, 2016

Layered Crochet Motifs!



The next in my series of Weaving Stories Panels, is inspired by Islamic motifs.  I found a crochet motif that looked similar to many motifs that I had come across in my research for the project, so I knew that I wanted to include it in my panel. We required all panels to be 110 cm wide since our standing looms were 1 meter wide on each side, and we needed the extra 10 cm to wrap around the loom for securing.  I was happy to find a coordinating variegated yarn for the background. My first order was to crochet enough motifs to span 1 meter, which I did, and then I blocked them while I worked on the background. My original thought was to stitch the motifs directly onto the background so that the variegated yarn colors would show through. I got to work knitting the background, as I liked the look of this yarn in a garter stitch, and I thought it would be nice to have a combination knit/crochet panel! When I finished knitting the background, I laid the crocheted motifs on top of the knitted background and found that the colors didn't show through as much as I thought they would. I then switched to plan B, which was to create multi-colored striped circles to go underneath the motifs. The solid colors underneath made a bolder statement that I was really happy with! Finally, I stitched the circles to the motifs, then the layered motifs to the knitted panel. I wanted to leave space between the motifs for the warp thread to show. 

Each panel was woven into the standing looms with the design of the panel in mind. Skipping warp threads where we wanted design features to show! So for this panel the warp was only between the motifs, and this was enough to hold the panel in place. I love the layered effect and plan to explore the technique more in the future!