Friday, December 31, 2010

The Beseme Scarf is in the Top 30 Designs!

This year has been a wonderful year for me as a designer.  I am so happy to be doing what I love!  I met many of my goals this year, and was so fortunate to work with Berroco Yarn company.  One of my most popular designs for them has been the Beseme scarf.  It is thrilling that several people have made it, and that more are planning to.  I was so excited that Norah Gaughan chose Beseme as one of her top 10 favorite patterns of 2010.  You can see all 30 of the Berroco design team's favorites, here.   It has been a perfect end to the year!   Happy New Year, dear readers, may 2011 be happy, healthy and prosperous for all!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A New Use for Your Crochet Work!

While I was preparing to teach a freeform crochet class, I decided that everything I used in the class would have a crochet theme.  I wanted to have extra hooks and pencils available on the table, so I had the idea to cover a container with crochet.  I didn't have time to crochet a custom cover, so I took the freeform pillow that I designed for a CGOA design contest and made a color copy of the front of the pillow.  Then, I cut a piece to fit the container and glued it on.  It is a great way to decorate with crochet without actually doing any crochet work!  You can enjoy your favorite pieces in a new way.

Photocopied freeform crochet pieces are especially successful, as there are many areas of interest.  I have also made book covers and greeting cards with this method.  The possibilities are endless!  I have an HP all in one printer with a color copier, so luckily I am able to do the copying at home.  I am not sure what Kinkos would think about me bringing in a pillow to photocopy!  Give it a try, have a look at your crochet projects with new eyes!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Love the Chibi!

I am a little late to the Chibi party, but I say better late than never!  The main reason I bought a Chibi is because I always seem to lose my yarn darning needles when I need them most, and I thought it would be great to be able to have them in a nifty case that I can toss in my crochet project bag.  

After I had the chance to use the needles, I was amazed at how smooth the surface of them is.  It reminds me of the first time I used an Etimo crochet hook!  They make light work of weaving in ends and seaming because of the ingenious bent tip.  They are perfectly blunt, so you can avoid splitting your yarn and yet they are sharp enough to find their way through small stitches.

Here is a list I started of useful tools for crochet work.  I will add to it as I find more things I love!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Invisible Fasten Off (one of my favorite crochet techniques)

Lately I have been doing a lot of crocheting in the round, and have been exploring techniques to make the pieces look their best.  I wanted the join of the end to the beginning of the round to be seamless.  The regular method of fastening off  leaves an unsightly bump.

(Example illustrating the bump resulting from a regular fasten off)

After searching and experimenting, I began using the method that I call "the invisible fasten off".

Since I have been using it in several of my patterns lately, namely "Piper's Chain Scarf" and "Genevieve's Belt" from Interweave Crochet Accessories 2010,  I thought it might be helpful to offer a tutorial here.

Step 1:  Complete the last stitch in the round.

Step 2:  Cut the yarn, leaving a 3" tail.  Insert hook into the BACK LOOP ONLY of the first stitch in the round, yo, and pull all the way through as if to fasten off in the usual way.

Step 3:  Insert hook into BOTH LOOPS of the second stitch in the round, yo, and pull all the way through again.

Step 4:  Insert hook into the FRONT LOOP ONLY of the last stitch in the round, yo and pull down through.

Step 5:  Weave in the tail end, and admire your invisible fasten off!
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Mini Masterpiece Rings- a Mixed Media Crochet Experiment!

As I have mentioned before, I love to go to antique shops when I visit America, and it is always more fun when you are on a hunt for something.  On one of my recent trips, I was looking for damaged antique plates that I could break up to make jewelry.  We went to a cute little shop on the Oregon coast, and I found the most beautiful hand painted plate with a floral design.  Now I wish I had taken a photo of the plate before I broke it up, so I could show you!  Anyway, the store owner was first surprised that I was happy that it was damaged, and then horrified that I was going to break it up into pieces!  She almost didn't want to sell it to me.  Thankfully, she was more interested in my $10 than the plate!

It did take a little while for me to sum up the courage to break up the plate, especially since the shop owner was upset about it, but once I had all my yarns and beads assembled, the prospect of making the plate into a collection of rings was very appealing.  So I went ahead and put the plate in a zip lock bag, and broke the plate into pieces with my hammer.  It was fun sifting through them to choose the best pieces.  This was a perfect plate to use as the entire surface was painted, so there was no waste.  

They are true multimedia pieces.  I crocheted "cases" for the broken china pieces and then I embellished them with  embroidery, beads, sequins, French felt appliques and velvet flowers.   I also used novelty yarn bits I had, to crochet small flowers and leaves.  I wanted to create frames to highlight the beautiful painting and make each one into its own picture.

I sold some of them, and have given some as gifts.  I also saved a few, as I love to wear a simple outfit with a unique accessory.  Rings are great for any occasion!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Making a Crochet I-Cord and a Celtic Knot!

I am trying to learn something new every week, and this week I watched a wonderful video tutorial by the generous and talented designer, June Gilbank.  She demonstrates how to make a crocheted i-cord.  This is something that I have never seen anywhere else.  If that is not amazing enough, she shows how to do it if you are left-handed, as well!  It is such a revelation as it is a relatively easy technique, and there are so many uses for this type of cord.

After I had crocheted quite a length of cord without any particular project in mind,  I remembered that I had always wanted to try making the "Celtic Stonework Knot" from Nicky Epstein's amazing "Knitted Embellishments" book.  It takes some concentration to follow the diagram, but the book is very well illustrated which makes it easy to learn how to tie this knot as well as several others that are useful for making frog closures.  

All in all, it was a productive learning day.  Sometimes it is hard to take time out to learn new things, but I am trying to commit to doing so on a regular basis, as it can only make my design work more interesting!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Echelon Hat for Berroco

The Echelon hat is another design I have been waiting for Berroco to release.  I got a happy surprise this morning when it was one of this weeks free KnitBits newsletter patterns!  I had no idea that my patterns were going to be released back to back!  It is my first hat design and it was a lot of fun to create, since there was a lot of engineering involved in the construction.  There are 4 panels that all begin with a granny square.  Then, you work around all 4 sides of the square and make 2 with flat edged tops, and 2 with pointed tops.  When they are stitched together, they create an eye-catching ridged rectangle.  The hat reminds me of a beehive because of the ridges and the honeycomb center.  I orginally called the design the "Nahla" hat, because "Nahla" is the Arabic word for "bee".

The first sample (pictured below) was crocheted in Berroco's Ultra Alpaca yarn.  The color was discontinued shortly after they sent it to me, so they asked me to make another sample in their Vintage yarn.  "Pumpkin" is such a pretty color and perfect for this time of year!

Side of Hat

Close up of Hat Panel

Top of Hat

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beseme Scarf for Berroco

I am so excited that Berroco featured my Beseme Scarf design in their KnitBits newsletter this week, as the new free pattern!   It was lovely to wake up this morning and find it on my Ravelry designer page with several hearts already!  I made this sample in May, and have been patiently waiting for its release, not knowing exactly when it would be.

I love how Berroco described it: "This crochet scarf is a play on scale. Super bulky yarn becomes a flirty lace web; the whole project takes only a few hours to make, but the impact will last all winter long."

When the box of yarns arrived and I saw this bulky yarn, I wasn't sure how I should approach it.  I usually gravitate towards DK weight yarn, so this was a challenge for me.  I was asked to design a scarf, and was determined to make it somewhat delicate.  I put the yarn aside for a few days to mull it over.  The idea for the scarf came to me when I was going through some of my crocheted jewelry samples.  I decided that it would be an interesting experiment to replicate one of the fingering weight necklaces in the chunky "Sundae" yarn.  To my delight, it turned out even better than I had hoped!   

I did have to acquire a larger hook to make the final sample, as it was the first time I had ever had the need for a size 15 hook!  Unfortunately, Tulip doesn't make an Etimo hook that large, so I had to do some research as to which hook to buy.  I finally decided to get a set of Denise Interchangeable hooks, since the size range was so great and I could use the hooks for regular or Tunisian crochet.  I had heard nice things about the Denise set, and I wasn't disappointed when I got them.  It is a very useful thing to have, and the hooks are 100% made in the USA!

Below is a photo I took of the scarf before I sent it off.  It shows you some more detail and another way it could be worn.

End of Scarf Laid Flat

Original Sketch (before actual length was determined)
I was sent 2 colors of "Sundae" yarn, and my original swatch included both colors as well as some embroidered embellishment.  Norah Gaughan, the design director at Berroco, asked me to make it in one color for the final version.  I also changed the construction of the loops for that version.  It does have quite a different look as you can see in the photo below.

"Sundae" is a wonderful yarn to work, with and the names of the colors alone will make you want to buy some!  "Beseme" is a really fun project, and should you decide to make this scarf, I would love to see some photos!

Original Two Color Version

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fanfare Cowl's Made by Crocheters on Ravelry!

I am excited to report that my Fanfare Cowl design that was featured in the UK magazine "Inside Crochet", has now had 100 people favorite it on Ravelry!   Some lovely crocheters who have used the pattern and posted photos of their finished pieces, have graciously allowed me to use their photos and talk about them on my blog.  It is the greatest compliment to a designer when someone is happy with their project, and takes the time to post photos.  Thank you so much ravelers; parkberry, VelvetinaB, hollynorris, and crochetdisco for allowing me to feature your great work here!  It is so interesting to see the Fanfare pattern made up in different colors and yarn types.  I hope I will be seeing more of them on Ravelry in the future!

This version made by parkberry, was made wider to be worn as a waist cincher belt.  I was thrilled to see someone make it into a belt, because I was thinking of making one myself.  She used 2 finer weight yarns together to create a more delicate evening look.  I love the photo she took of the two cones of yarn working together.  They look like friends!

The sccond version was made by VelvetinaB in Louisa Harding Grace Hand Dyed (green), and Silk and Wool (black).

The third version was made by hollynorris in Malabrigo Worsted (lettuce), and Twist  (teal).              

The fourth version was made by crochetdisco in Mirasol Yarn Cotanani, color # 402 (blue/ purple) and #409 (pink).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Combining Leather with Crochet

The inspiration for this purse was actually the leather!  I bought a bag of miscellaneous leather scraps from a market in London.  I had no idea what I was going to make with them, but I knew they had lots of possibilities!  One day I decided that I would like to make a purse with the scraps.  Since all of the pieces were quite small, I decided to crochet the body of the purse and use the leather for the bottom and sides, handles, and closure.

I made a paper pattern for each part of the purse, and then began crocheting scrumbles.  When I had a large number of scrumbles, I began to join them together, laying them on the paper pattern as I worked to create the shape I wanted.  When the front and back were complete, I cut out the leather pieces.  Then, I went to a leather shop and bought a leather punch.   I didn't have a long enough piece of leather to use for the bottom and sides, so I had to make a seam in the center of the bottom.  I punched equally spaced holes along the edges of the bottom and side leather pieces.  Next, I back stitched the pieces together at the center bottom, and then made a single crochet into each hole to create an edging that could be sewn to the front and back of the purse.  As it turns out, I like it even better that way!   For the handles, I cut 2 pieces for each handle and punched holes in the edges.  I then crocheted a cord, that I sandwiched in between the handle pieces and made a single crochet into each hole of both layers at the same time, to enclose the cord.  For the purse closure, I cut 2 identical pieces, punched holes in the edges and around the buttonhole, and single crocheted the outside edges together as I did for the handles and did a back stitch around the buttonhole.

I really liked using leather in this project and I feel that it breaks up the the crochet and allows you to look at the details in the freeform, instead of being lost in it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Another Lost Freeform Crochet Treasure!

This is a necklace I made for a freeform crochet jewelry exchange.  It is a multimedia piece with many interesting elements.  The main yarn I used was a one off skein I bought in London when I was a fashion design student.  It was made by my favorite yarn company at that time, called Scheepjeswol.  I loved it for its subtle changes in color, and saved it for several years before the perfect project came along!  I also used some elastic thread I found at a sporting goods shop in the fishing supplies section.  One of the fun things about freeform, is that nothing is off limits as far as materials go!  At the other end of the  spectrum, I used some fine silk yarn, and chenille for accents.  The 3 main medallions are different, but use the same yarns and are close in shape.

Below is a close-up of the pieces I created by cutting shapes out of leather scraps and then gluing wooden buttons on top that had been decoupaged with images that I found in magazines.  This project combined my love of crochet and collage making!  For the finishing touch, I embellished the necklace with a few iridescent seed beads along the band of the necklace, which gave life to the colors in the yarn.  This was my first multi-media necklace, a necklace that showed me that creativity knows no bounds!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Genevieve's Bracelet (an adaptation of Genevieve's Belt pattern)

                                           Photo by Joe Coca
I was asked by Interweave Crochet to make a swatch to be sent with my "Genevieve's Belt" sample, and it occurred to me that I could make the swatch into a bracelet.  That way it would be two patterns in one!  I wasn't sure if the magazine would include it in the photos, so when I saw it in the preview, I was ecstatic!  They weren't able to include my instructions in the magazine for how to make the belt pattern work for a bracelet, so I thought I would share the details here.
Please note:  you must refer to the instructions for "Genevieve's Belt", found in the Interweave Crochet Accessories 2010 Special Issue, in order to make this bracelet.

Here are the details for the design adaptation:

A shortened strip and one frame motif (2 "rectangle frames" and 1 "top frame") creates this charming bracelet.

1.   Ch 45 and follow instructions for "belt strip", "belt strip border", "belt strip detail".  Then, make 2 "rectangle frames", and 1 "top frame".

2.  Block all pieces and weave in all loose ends.

3.  Assemble frame motif by stitching the 2 "rectangle frames" together and then stitching the "top frame" on top of them.

4.  Weave the strip through the motif as in the belt pattern, and center it on the strip.

5.  Stitch it to the strip at each end with with invisible nylon thread. Then, sew a (1” w x 3/4” h) piece of velcro on the ends of the strip (one on the right side of the strip and one on the wrong side) to use as a closure.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Second Reveal: "Genevieve's Belt"

                                          Photo by Joe Coca
The other design I have in the Interweave Crochet Accessories issue, is "Genevieve's Belt".  This belt is made up of 3 simple components, that when combined, make a real statement.  Belts are something that you can collect and keep in your accessories wardrobe for years.  So it is well worth the time and effort  to crochet one!  I originally named this belt the "Gallery Belt" because I noticed while blocking the pieces, that they looked like little frames that hold fine art masterpieces in a gallery.  I have plans one day, for another version of this belt with different scenes to be embroidered and crocheted in each frame.  I think it could be stunning!

Below are photos of the original belt I submitted to the magazine.  Luckily, I took some close up shots  so you can see the details.  It is also nice to be able to see it in another colorway.  The only thing I changed in the design was the embroidery stitch used in embellishment.  In the magazine I used a "lazy daisy" stitch, sometimes referred to as a "detached chain" stitch, instead of a straight stitch.  I love this  stitch so much, it has almost become my signature!

You can now purchase this pattern individually, as a download from Interweave

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Reveal: "Piper's Chain Scarf"

                             Photo by Joe Coca
I am so happy that I can finally share my designs that have been published in Interweave Crochet's 2010 Accessories Issue!  Today, I am revealing "Piper's Chain Scarf".

First, I just have to say how adorable the model is.  They couldn't have picked a better girl for the job!

The scarf was inspired by the construction paper chains that I used to make when I was in elementary school.  I have fond memories of those days, and as it turns out, crocheting a chain is even more fun!

The chain links are worked in the round and joined together as you go, so there are no seams to sew.  It is a fun, easy project, that is sure make people smile!

I originally submitted a more complex design for a scarf/ neck warmer and the chain was just one element of it.  The editor, Marcy Smith, chose to simplify the design and use only the chain.  I would love to show you a photo of my original design, but I am planning to rework it without the chain to create a new design submission.  This pattern is now available, individually, as a download from Interweave.

My next blog post will be about the other design I have in this issue, "Genevieve's Belt".

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Hairpin Lace...My Next Crochet Adventure!

Hairpin lace is a technique using a crochet hook and a special loom, which consists of two parallel metal rods held at the top and the bottom by removable bars. Originally, a metal U-shaped hairpin was used, from which the name originates.  I read that women used to pull a pin out of their elaborate hairstyles to work with!

I found this excerpt about hairpin lace in one of my vintage "Smart Crochet" magazines: "Katherine of Aragon (1485-1536) is given credit for inventing hairpin lace.  Through the years it has been known by various names- "Kat Stitch", "French or Wire Ground" and "Six Pointed Star Ground".

My interest in hairpin lace was recently sparked when I saw the Lotus Smock pattern by the amazing Stitch Diva Studios.  It is described as a "super fast and easy project".  Wow, it is so gorgeous and takes hairpin lace to a new level of beautiful!

I think hairpin lace has a lot of possibilities and I am inspired to learn the technique and put my own spin on it.  I ordered one of the wonderful handmade wooden looms from Stitch Diva Studios.  I love that they are made by an Oregon couple, Ed and Wanda Jenkins of Jenkins Woodworking.  When you need a tool for the craft, why not treat yourself to something special and support some talented craftspeople in the process!  I can't wait for my next box of goodies from America, so I can get my hands on this loom and dive into the world of hairpin lace crochet!

Stitch Diva Studios also has some great hairpin lace tutorials as well as tips and tricks, on their website if you are interested in learning the technique.  

After I get the chance to use the loom, I will do a review and hopefully have a project to show you, so stay tuned!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

If You Missed the 2010 Chain Link Conference...

The Crochet Guild of America recently posted a video of the fashion show from this year's Chain Link Conference.  I was really happy to be able to see it, since I was unable to attend.  I was also thrilled to see my Kyoto Coat being walked down the runway in the finale of the show.  If you want to read about what happened at the conference and see the video, check out the Chain Link Report.  It just might encourage you to start planning your trip to one or both of the conferences in 2011!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Counting Down to the Release of Interweave Crochet Accessories Issue!

I am so excited about this issue because I have 2 designs in it, and it is my first time to appear in an Interweave publication.  I believe it is to be on newsstands on October 26th, but you can pre-order it here.  It is a special issue so if you are a subscriber, it won't be part of your subscription, but it will include 43 new patterns.  I think that people were worried that the patterns would be a compilation of accessories from previous issues, so this is good news!  I am intrigued by the scarf on the cover and am looking forward to seeing a photo of it laid flat to see all of the details.  As soon as the magazine is out I will post details of my designs; a child's scarf and a women's belt.  I can't wait to see how they were photographed!