Thursday, July 29, 2010

A New Look for the Blossom Necklace

I love to add small details to my crochet work, and there are endless ways to change the look of a design through embellishment.  I think that the Blossom Necklace is really fun to crochet, and it can be made in an afternoon and worn out in the evening!  For this version of the necklace, I opted to use seed beads and sequins on the blossoms, sewn on with invisible thread.  Then, I used the blossom yarn to sew a running stitch along the vine to add a little pizzazz.

I am happy to report, that this pattern has been downloaded over 1600 times via Ravelry.  If any of you have made the necklace, I would love to see your version!  If I get enough responses I could post a gallery of the photos here on my blog.  You can email photos to me at:  I will look forward to hearing from you dear readers!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How Things Have Changed- A Crochet Contest from 1950

It is no secret that I love vintage crochet magazines, and when looking through one of my latest aquisitions, I found a call for entries for a National Crochet contest in 1950.  They had photos of previous winners work, and a photo of the entries on display from 1949.  I would have included that one in this post, but it was really difficult to see what was in the picture.  From what I could gather, it was all flat pieces, i.e., bedspreads, table clothes, shawls, etc., done in delicate thread motifs.  If you have a look at Doris Chan's photos of the entries from this year's CGOA Design Competition, you will see that things have changed in so many ways.  Most of the pieces were done in yarn, there were many different types of garments and objects, and there were also mixed media pieces.  I would love for the judges from the contest of 1950 to see this years exhibit at Chain Link.   With the exception of the lace and thread pieces, they might not recognize the craft as crochet!

The prizes in 1950 were very generous yet unfair; $500 for the best woman's entry, and $100 for the best Man's.  I wonder if the men felt slighted?  The photo of the man below is intriguing.  He looks so proud holding his trophy.  I am so pleased to discover how crochet competitions have evolved over the years.  It is a wonderful thing to create an amazing crochet piece, whether it is the year 1948 or 2010.  

Winning Entry From the Previous Year (1949)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Crochet Kitty Cat Chic!

Recently my niece received a kitten as a gift.  She was so excited, and rushed out to buy all the cat supplies she could find.  She told me that she was unable to find a collar for him, and wanted something special.  I was remembering a ritzy pet accessories store I visited in New York a few years back, and wished that we had one here Kuwait.  Then it hit me, I love to crochet jewelry, so this is right up my alley!  I wished it was a female kitten so I could really go over the top.  I tried to restrain myself with the embellishment, but I just couldn't resist the urge to use some metallic yarn!  I had to guess the size, as I wanted it to be a surprise.  I used velcro as a closure so it would be somewhat adjustable, and crossed my fingers.  To my relief and delight, it was a perfect fit!  I tried to take some photos of him in it, but kittens are so playful, he was really a moving target.  Here are a few of the best shots, so you can get an idea of how he looked in it.  I think I like this one better than the collars I saw in New York!


Monday, July 12, 2010

CGOA 2010 Grand Prize Winner: The "Kyoto Coat"

I am still blown away by the results of the design contest.  I am calling this the "little coat that could"!  It turns out that good things can, and do come in small packages!  I really love small details and creating a baby coat gave me the opportunity to showcase them.  I also love mixed media, and this is the first time I experimented with combining fabric and crochet in the same garment.  

In case you would like to hear about how I designed this garment, I am giving a detailed account of my process, here.  My longest blog post yet, should you choose to read on further!

When I heard the announcement for the contest, I immediately began brainstorming as to what to design.  I really love doing childrenswear, and the "Small Wonders" category was new to the CGOA Design Competition.  So, I decided to come up with a baby design.  My daughter used to have a little Kimono jacket that I loved and was my favorite thing to dress her in. I thought a kimono would give me many options for embellishment.  

I then began looking for inspiration.  I was inspired by a Japanese fabric print that gave me the idea to make ruffles coming from underneath that would mimick petticoats.  I then found a beautiful stitch pattern that was lacy and had scallops  and open areas for the ruffles to come through.  

I went to buy yarn without any color scheme in mind.  There isn't a huge selection of yarn in Kuwait, so I knew I would have to make it work with whatever I could find.  First, I found the variegated pink to brown yarn.  It was a chunky weight, but I really liked the color tones in it and I was able to find some solid colors that matched.  I was planning to work in a freeform style, so I bought many different types of yarn. I just wanted to play with the yarn and see what direction that took me.  I have found that what I think will be the best combination in the store, is often not what I end up using.  I try to work with what I buy originally, and not go back for more yarn.  Limiting myself can create design problems, but the solution to the problem is often the bright spot in the creation.  

When I got the yarn home, I felt a little overwhelmed to map out the whole design.  I just wanted to concentrate on one small area at a time.  I began with the front and back lacy panels.  Then, I set to work on the ruffles.  These ruffles took weeks to complete!  The main reason was because I wanted them to be in the variegated yarn.  The variegated yarn was 12 strands.  I only needed one strand to make the ruffles the right weight and scale.  So, that meant separating the one strand from the 12.  It was wool and the strands were slightly felted together.  I spent hours and hours separating them.  They broke many times, and I had to make several small balls.   I started to wonder if it was going to be worth all the time I was putting in.  As I was crocheting the ruffles, I really liked what I saw, so that kept me going.   I crocheted many more ruffles than you see in the finished garment.  I was so deep in the ruffles that I didn't stand back and notice that there were far too many, and they were loosing their impact.  It was sad to rip out several hours of ruffle creation.  Espescially after all the time it took just to prepare the yarn.  It looked much better when I was finished though, so that made me feel better!  

After that, I decided to work on some of the solid color pieces and was able to use the yarn as it came in the skein, so it was more relaxing.  I could see it coming together, as I had the bodice and lower fronts and back complete.  It was now time to tackle the middle sash.  I had been looking forward to this, since it was to be the focal point of the coat.  I tried mixing colors and stitch patterns and nothing was working.  It was just too much with the ruffles I had already created.  Again, I was wondering if I was going down the wrong path or if it was worth all of the time I was putting into it.  Then, a light bulb went off.  I could make the sash from fabric!  It could still include crochet, if I made it in the crazy quilt style.  

I hopped in the car to go to the fabric souk.  A wonderful place in kuwait with rows and rows of fabric and notions shops.  I took the ruffle and lace portion of the coat with me to find coordinating fabrics.   I first found some high quality cotton men's shirting fabrics, and then decided to go into all of the men's tailoring fabric stores to find more.  I found several and then decided I needed something floral.  I went into the shops with the ladies dress fabrics and found a floral fabric that perfectly matched the stripes in the ruffles, so I was extremely happy.  I decided that I had enough fabrics, and I went home and started cutting random shapes out of a paper pattern I made for the sash.  I fused each section of them to one piece of fabric backing, then I set to work framing each little piece with crocheted chains.  When I was finished with that, I embroidered a buttonhole stitch around the whole sash, so I could crochet an edging around it.  I was so pleased with the finished sash.  I laid all of the completed coat sections out to see how it looked together.  Something wasn't right.   The scale of the belt was too large.  All of the crazy quilt pieces needed to be smaller.  I made the difficult decision to make another sash.   It was easier the second time and it looked so much better!  

Next it was time to decide on the sleeves.  I thought the sleeves would be nice with small multi colored stripes.  I set to work swatching to find the best color and stitch combination.  When I did, I made up a sample sleeve and laid out all of the coat pieces again.  To my dismay, the sleeve was way too busy and took the focus from the lovely sash, so I decided to make plain sleeves, with detail at the bottom of the sleeve instead.  This brought the focus back to the sash.

Next, I worked on the neckline.  I made some crazy quilt panels for it, but again, it was too busy, so I decided on solid fabric panels.  I wanted to have some ruffles at the neckline, so I pulled out my teeny tiny hook and 1 strand of yarn again and crocheted them along each bodice front.  I didn't like the way they were laying, so I played with them and stitched them down.  This became one of my favorite parts of the coat!  Definitely turning a negative into a positive!  

Finally, it was time to sew it all together and put in a fabric lining.  My next challenge was the snaps inside the coat.  I was thinking of crocheting covers for them, but in the end, I decided to cover them with fabric.  I used one of the crazy quilt fabrics, and they became camouflaged within the sash.  Perfect, as I wanted the judges to look at the crochet in the garment and I thought shiny metal snaps would be a distraction.

The moral of this story, if you have stuck with me this long, is that not all successes are planned or work out the way you imagined, and you should never give up!  I thought of giving up on this project a dozen times.  Thank goodness I didn't, because it was so amazing to see all of the separate parts of the design come together.  I will be floating on a cloud for a very long time because of this victory! Thank you to the judges Edie Eckman, Jean LeinhauserBobbie Matelato Doris Chan for organizing the competition, and to Coats and Clark for donating the generous prize!  

Here is Doris Chan's blog post about the competition, including photos of all of the amazing winning entries.  Be sure to have a look at my mentor Margaret Hubert's, beautiful "Fantasy in Purple and Lime" sweater with freeform crochet embellishments that won 2nd prize in the Daywear Category!




SASH (front)

                                      SASH (back) 

                                     LOWER FRONTS


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Friday, July 9, 2010

CGOA 2010 Design Competition...Good News!

 Yesterday, I got some amazing news!  The winners of the design competition were announced at the annual Chain Link conference, and both my entries won prizes!  My "Kyoto Coat", a baby jacket, won the Grand Prize and my "Jewels of the Sea" necklace won 1st prize in the Accessories category.  I am beyond thrilled!  I really wish I could have been at the conference, for the award ceremony and to share in the fun.  Congratulations to all of the winners!  Here is a complete list of the winners with descriptions of their entries.

I am excited that I can now show photos of my entries!  Here is the necklace, and I am in the process of gathering photos of the baby jacket.  I will post those soon.

The idea for the necklace was inspired by shells I found on the beach in Kuwait.  I like to include found objects in my freeform crochet, and I loved the colors in these shells.  They formed the basis for my yarn selection.  I made several scrumbles with a beach theme in mind.  Then, by the process of trial and error, pinned them to a form until I had an arrangement I was happy with.  I used a little more than half of the scrumbles I made.  I like to have a large pool to choose from.  I think I get a better result when I am not forced to use everything I make.  I have a large bag of unused scrumbles, which is actually very useful for adding to other projects or for making a quick gift of a brooch or a greeting card.  I also like to include wool felt pieces in my work to break up the crochet, so I embroidered a few pieces and added them to my freeform puzzle.  I carefully stitched them all together and then, there it was, a lovely souvenir of my day at the beach!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Surface Crochet!

I was introduced to this wonderful technique, when I was first exploring the possibilities of freeform crochet.  I found that after assembling my scrumbles, I could add some definition and more color in areas that were lacking.  One of the many things I love about crochet, is that you can put your hook anywhere in the work and start stitching.  The possibilities are endless!  I often use this technique in my crochet designs.  You will find it in the recently published "Fanfare Cowl" design.  I think this eye-catching detail really makes the cowl something special.  It requires some patience, until you get the hang of holding the yarn underneath the work, but I believe the results are well worth your time!  Above, are close up photos from the freeform pillow I made for last year's CGOA design competition.  I used surface crochet in many areas on the top of this pillow, and it was this project that helped me realize the power of this technique.

Surface crochet is worked in the following manner:  insert your hook anywhere in your crocheted or knitted fabric and hold the working yarn underneath the fabric, wrap the yarn around your hook and pull up loop to top of fabric, then pull this loop through the loop that was already on the hook, insert hook again wherever you want to go next and repeat the process.  Try to keep the stitches loose, so they don't pucker the base fabric.  You can use a larger hook or make a chain stitch between stitches, if you are having trouble with tension

In case the idea of surface crochet is new to you, here is a great photo tutorial.  You can practice on a swatch you may have lying around, as it is extremely easy to rip out.  It is like doodling or embroidery with a hook and yarn!  I have a design being published in the next Interweave Crochet Accessories issue that utilizes this technique. So, if you learn how now, you will be ready when the magazine comes out in the fall!

Surface Crochet on Fanfare Cowl