Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cirque Du Crochet Bean Bag Patterns!

I am thrilled to be able to reveal a really fun set of new patterns, that are offered as a free download in the Spring Issue of Tangled magazine!  There is just something about a bean bag, that makes it more fun than a ball to toss around.  When making the prototypes for these bags, I had a few lying around and no one seemed to be able to walk past without playing with one of them!  They are great for kids because they can't roll away, and are relatively harmless to play with inside the house.  It is a nice portable project to work on when you are on the go, since you make them one circle at a time.  Thanks to Berroco yarn company, who generously offered yarn support for this project, I was able to use their lovely Comfort DK yarn.  This was the perfect yarn because it is nice and soft, and comes in great circus-like colors!

I have always been inspired by the circus!  I found the wallpaper border pictured below, at a Laura Ashley store about 16 years ago.  I loved it so much that I bought a few rolls, thinking that I would hopefully be able to use it in my child's room one day.

Inspirational Wallpaper

At that time, I was working for an embroidery company as a designer/ digitizer.  There was an annual design contest sponsored by an embroidery magazine, and I got the idea to make a circus themed dress, using the wallpaper as my inspiration.  I ended up winning first prize in the childrenswear category!

Embroidered Circus Dress

Close-up of Pocket Embroidery
Close-up of Pocket Embroidery

Close-up of Embroidery at Hemline

I am happy to report that my daughter now has the wallpaper in her circus themed room, and is just about the right size to fit into the dress!

With all this circus inspiration around me, I just knew that these bean bags needed to be modeled after the circus balls in the wallpaper!  My next project will be to get my dear woodworking husband to make a toss game, something like the one pictured below.  For now, my daughter is happy tossing her bean bags into various boxes and baskets we have around the house . I also think they would make a fun gift.  I have dreams of making a set for each of the children in my daughter's kindergarten class, I just need a few more hours in the day!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Crochet + a Sale Find= a Fun Little Purse!

While on a visit to my grandmother's house one summer, I wandered into a department store that was closing down.  They were practically giving things away.  I spotted 2 straw "chip and dip" baskets.  I was excited because I had been looking for woven straw in the same width strips, to make a handbag like one I had seen in a magazine.  

My idea was to rip out the stitching, so I would have one long strip.  I took it home and ripped out the outer chip portion and was left with the little dip bowl in the center.  I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but for some reason I kept it intact.  It moved with me to Atlanta, and then Kuwait.  Fast forward about 15 years later.  I needed to make a purse to match a party dress of my daughter's.  I decided to use the dip bowl basket as the base for a purse.  I made little felt appliques by tracing the shapes of the flowers that were printed on the dress, to use as a pattern.  I cut them out of felt and then embellished them with embroidery, sequins, and beads.  I stitched them onto the basket before creating the top of the bag, so it would be easier to hold onto and see what I was doing.  Next, I made a buttonhole stitch around the top edge of the basket.  I was then free to crochet around the top of the basket.  I made the handle out of two layers of felt to complement the flower appliques.  I happened to have a little multicolored novelty yarn from a yarn exchange, which added the finishing touch to the handle and the top edge of the bag.

So the moral of the story is, sometimes you buy something with one project in mind, and it turns out it is better suited for another!  By the way, I still have the roll of woven straw from the chip portion of the basket.  It never became the magazine purse.  It is still waiting to find out its fate!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Finally...A Chance to Try My Hairpin Lace Loom!

I purchased this beautiful handmade loom from Stitch Diva Studios a while back, and recently had a little time to try it out.  I had been admiring hairpin lace for a long time, and decided one day that I had better get a loom.  My search ended when I came across this unique loom that Stitch Diva helped to develop.  The first thing that grabbed my attention, was that it was handmade in Oregon!  Since I am from Oregon, I love the idea of supporting a local craftsperson.  I also thought it was wonderful that Jenkins Woodworking, is a husband and wife team.  Everything about this just seemed right!  

Since I didn't know exactly what kind of projects I would be making with the loom, I liked the fact that this loom has a wide range of adjustments.  The prong spacing can be configured from 1/2" to 6 1/8", and you can also use US #2/ 2.75mm knitting needles as additional guides if needed.

Ed Jenkins makes each loom as it is ordered.  Somehow that made me feel special!  When I received it, there was a lovely handwritten note with it that said "May the work of your hands bring joy".  I will remember that every time I use the loom, and I hope that some beautiful projects will be made on it!

When I sat down to try making hairpin lace for the first time, I referred to tutorials on Stitch Diva's website as well as a video by Teresa Richardson, who explains it so well!  It is fairly easy, I just wish you didn't have to turn the loom every time you make a stitch.  It feels a little awkward at first, but don't let that deter you.  Once you get the hang of it, it goes quite quickly!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wonderful Wrought Iron Crochet!

When taking a break from crocheting, I like to look through my vintage crochet magazines and books for inspiration.  Last night, I came across some Wrought Iron Crochet patterns that really intrigued me.  I still can't take my eyes off the rooster pictured above, because the detail and texture is incredible!  I think that many of the Wrought Iron pieces look quite modern, and could be relevant today, with some up-to-date photo styling.

I tried to find some more information on this type of crochet, and didn't come up with a whole lot.  I am wondering if its popularity was short lived, despite what the article in my magazine states; "The fashion for Wrought Iron has been sweeping the country and predictions are that it is here to stay".  Many if not all the patterns for this type of crochet, were designed by Esther Parnell Hewlett, who worked for the Lily Mills company in the 1940's and 50's.  The pieces were designed to be crocheted with Lily's "Double Quick" Mercerized crochet cotton, because of its "bulky texture".

The "double post stitch", pictured below, gives the wrought iron pieces their distinct definition.

Beautiful butterflies and amazing structural candlestick holders

Striking "King and Queen" wall hangings

 A card table set.  I love the "cookie bench"!
I adore so much about these pieces; their simple lines, whimsical themes and bold use of black.  If you are interested in finding some vintage Wrought Iron Crochet patterns, look for the Lily Design book No. 74, published in 1954, or the 8th edition of "Smart Crochet" magazine.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Meow...A Girl's Kitty Cat Felt & Crochet Necklace!

My daughter asked me to make her a necklace to match a new party dress we had just bought.  She was really into cats at the time and had befriended a very sweet stray black kitten, whom she called "Blackie".  He used to wait for her every day on our doorstep.  She wanted the necklace to have a kitten just like him on the necklace.

So, the challenge was set!  I decided to make the cat out of felt, as I thought it would be easier to get the detailed shape I wanted.  I also wanted the embroidered details to stand out on top of the fabric.  The other thing I knew I wanted to incorporate was a yarn ball.  I cut a circle out of heavy card stock and wrapped the yarn around it to look like a ball of yarn. Then, I played around with crocheted chains until I was happy with the way it looped and curved around.  I stitched them all together, and "Blackie" was ready for the party!

If you would like to see photos of the purse that I crocheted to match the dress, I did a previous post about it here.

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