How To Impress the Judge & Get the Blue Ribbon

I have recently been asked to consider being a judge for fiber arts at a county fair in a community nearby. This would entail giving all entries within divisions and categories placement of at least first through third, and highlighting the best in shows. I am not sure how this offer might play out and if I will actually participate or not, but it did get me thinking. It is nearing the season of fairs and country competitions, and there are a couple of things that help a piece really stand out and become the grand prize.

The biggest thing that sets one knit or crocheted item apart for the rest is the finish work. Each piece obviously has had hours of work placed in creating the stitches and putting the colors together; so the pieces that demonstrate the extra time worked in weaving in ends, in blocking, in finishing and edge creating take the edge.

A judge should leave personal opinions aside, the colors you choose or the pattern you decide upon should not be a determining factor. The judging should be comprised of the skill and execution of your work itself. That is why these final touches makes such a difference.

Another factor that curries favor in judging is taking the skill to another level. This could be adding bead work to your shawl, or adding buttons to your wrap. Taking a little extra to ensure that all your fine craft work does not just blend in, but stands out. Sometimes this is created in the yarn selection for your project. In just a simple shawl yarn choice can make a great difference, such as in the drape. A yarn with a lot of spring or bounce, such as a merino, will drape differently than a yarn that has no memory, like a silk or an alpaca. This can create a shawl that has a stand out personality, and possibly make it a winner.

Ultimately, I advise anyone and everyone to enter some type of competition if you ultimately want to improve your work. The best judges often provide feedback on your work, constructive criticism. If your competition allows for judging that is open to the public, attend. This is a tremendous opportunity to gain extra insight in your work and learn how you can take your work to the next level. Even hearing commentary on the work of others will help in the growth of knowledge of your own work.

Taking the Hat to a Whole New Level

I am not much of an interior decorator. After I have chosen a paint for the walls, it will be that color forever; the furniture has found its placement, it will not move again; why change what took me forever to decide on? I guess this is either I a sign that I am completely set in my ways or too lazy to rework it, either way I am faced with times that I need a bit of different look. It is times like this that I find crochet beanies to be helpful.

I crochet many beanies throughout the year, many are given to various charities, so I have access to several colors and many textures to change the look and feel of my home décor on a very subtle way. The hats get used as pant cozies.

My “beanie” plant cozy

When I was younger I swore I would never create a cozy, after all I don’t mind looking at my toaster or my toilet paper rolls, but somehow I have managed to bring some of it to life in this small way. I have found that really a beanie type hat is essentially a basket turned up side town, so it easily fits the ceramic pots my house plants rest in.

I stumbled upon this out of necessity. I found that my pots were scratching my tables, being pottery the bottoms were always a bit rough and my furniture’s finish always seemed a bit soft, the pairing is not ideal. This means that I need something under my pots, perhaps a doily, a table runner, a coaster…yes, these all get utilized too. But for a little different affect, a hat. By placing a beaning over the pot I get to change to color and texture of the pot as well as saving my table surface. SO this is my subtle little visual difference in the house. It would be like putting new pillows on the couch, it gives a little new life.

As a side note, I can easily wear the hats again after a wash, so in a sense they just sever double duty now…so far, I don’t think anyone has noticed.

A Subtle Pattern Hit, the Subtle Diamonds Throw

There are times that I undertake a project and later wonder what I was thinking. Sometimes this is because I have bitten off more than I can chew, maybe I hadn’t thought my plan through enough, or maybe my timetable really will not allow for what I think it would. Yet with some perseverance it all comes out in the end. So when I took on the challenge of the Subtle Diamonds Throw I should have already been aware of my own pitfalls, but I jumped in anyway.

The challenge of Subtle Diamonds was really of my own creating, as it was designed as a challenge, could I create an afghan from a few skeins of hand dyed yarns. Some may think this really isn’t a challenge, yarn is yarn, and you are making a blanket…that seems pretty straight forward. However using hand dyed yarns can create a bit more thought in the designing.

Subtle Diamonds Throw Photo courtesy Ancient Arts Yarn

Some may not realize it but one of the thoughts that goes into a design for a pattern is if it would be cost prohibitive. By this I mean, if I designed a pattern that took 25 skeins of a $10 per skein yarn, would anyone realistically spend $250 in materials to make it? Probably not, especially if it was something pretty basic. This thought comes into play not only with the designer but with publishers and yarn manufactures. So working with hand dyed keeps this price pointing in your mind to find the most cost effective way to create.

So with Subtle Diamonds I was limited on the amount of yarn, using only 2 skeins of each color this throw can easily be made into a 48”x48” (122x122cm) throw, adding 1 more skein of 2 colors and it can become a 54”x48” (137x122cm). Then I wanted to ensure that the fabric was appropriate and would keep you warm, as well as the stitch pattern being interesting. Utilizing post stitches a staggered diamond pattern is created while helping the colors visually blend and harmonize together. This design as a result took a bit more planning and I am pretty happy with the way it finally came out.

Subtle Diamonds Throw Photo courtesy Ancient Arts Yarn

I teamed up with Ancient Arts Yarn to bring this design to you, they loved the idea of the challenge and added a bit of a twist to the process by requesting that the design have a modern, contemporary feel. I will in no way claim to be an expert in meeting, understanding, or designing to specific “type” or “style”, but apparently I came close since they liked it.

This challenge did help me grow as a designer, as all challenges do in general. It sharpens your senses and helps you to focus.

At Long Last Interrupted! – Knit it! Crochet it!

People can be a bit surprised at how long it can take for a design to become a pattern, even when you are self-publishing. In some cases it can take up to a year; there is the design process that has you working out all the bugs, then writing the pattern and stitching the item (or maybe you stitch it first then write up the pattern), then you send it for review with a Technical editor to make sure that everything makes sense and can be understood (not everyone does this step, but it definitively makes a difference). Then it is into the world of photography, and lay out…then it is ready to upload and announce its introduction into the world. Did I mention that this happens while you are juggling any other contracts you may have in place? Or juggle the needs of your family? Or still attempting to create new ideas? Yes, it can take time.

Interrupted Shawl, knit version wwww.lindadeancrochet.com

Knit version of Interrupted

That is a bit of the history of Interrupted. The name may be a bit foretelling in its journey to being born into the world.  This design is another of my “Two in One”, meaning you get both a knit and a crochet version in the same pattern almost like a little bit of “something for everyone”. It actually got its name from the drop stitches that break the solid fabric pattern to create an airy feel. Both patterns are worked from the small point of a triangle outward, this makes for a great pattern that you can just use along with your yarn and end it when you think the size if correct for you.

Interrupted Shawl, crochet version www.lindadeancrochet.com

Crochet version of Interrupted

The solid fabric has a bit of texture, and that is the first thing people comment about them. The texture looks much more difficult than it is to execute, but when paired with dropped stitches it has a contrast that really highlights the textural differences. Check this design out for your self at either Craftsy or Ravelry.

Once again this design is pair with a Lickin Flames shawl pin, and Lisa Souza Yarn (Baby Alpaca Silk Petite…1 skein)…I love coming up with these one skein projects, and working with these two companies is always a joy. It really helps that they are such nice people, if you haven’t checked out their work, I really recommend it.

Crocheting the Mark

The other day I was going through an old box and I stumbled across some “early to me” crochet. I recall, about the time I was learning to crochet at age 10, at school I received a crocheted bookmark. My teacher had a friend who crocheted and she had created a bookmark with a “curly q”. My teacher gave them as prizes to students that had met her reading goal, I cannot recall exactly what the goal was but I remember the prize.

Curly Q bookmark in use

I remember being in awe of how it was made. Being a new crocheter I had no idea how the twists were created. I used that bookmark for years, and several years later, after becoming more proficient in crochet, figuring out how it was made. I have since recreated this bookmark for teachers of my children. They have used them in much the same way as my teacher years ago, meeting a goal and getting a reward.

I am sharing this stitch pattern for this bookmark in the hopes that you might make a few and share them with teachers or your local library, helping sharing the gift of reading. I know that many think that all books are going digital, but there is something about holding a book and moving your bookmark through the pages that has a gratification that can’t be completely explained.

More of the Curly Q bookmark in use

This is a really loose pattern, I don’t know if I should even all it a pattern, I am basically sharing how I create mine, and none of the stitch counts are really important. The gauge does not matter, it doesn’t matter what yarn or hook your use. To begin you chain anywhere between 6 and 8, slip stitching to the first chain to create a ring. I then chain 1 and place about 12 single crochets in the ring, slip stitch to the beginning single crochet. Now create a chain of about 18” to 24”, then double crochet in the 4th chain from the hook, add 2 more double crochets to the same stitch as the last, work 3 double crochets in each of the next several chains, working until you feel the “curl” you are making is long enough. Finish off, and weave in all ends.

That is all there is to it. The chain section lays in between the pages while the “curly q” can slip through the ring to secure around the book binding. This is a simple scrap project, and one I find fun and fast.