Cotton Classic- a Little Different than “Traditional”

Some yarns always inspire me, some always tell me what they want to be, others, well maybe not so much. Cotton Classic by Tahki Stacy Charles is one of the former, it can always find a design in my mind.

Cotton Classic is 100& Mercerised Cotton and this sometimes causes people to pause. The term cotton is generally understood, it had a great marketing campaign throughout the 1980’s about how it is a naturally grown product that lets the fabric breath. Cotton also is stronger when wet, has limited stretch, and many think of it shrinking when first washed. This first wash shrinking, is not like felting of wool, this is essentially because cotton, being a short in length fiber, has more “twist” worked into the yarn in order to hold the fibers together (if a strand is long it does not need to be twisted together as much to hold, while something short needs to have more twists to ensure the hold) this puts a lot of tension on the fiber. When the yarn (of cotton shirt) finally gets fully submerged in water it actually allows the fiber to relax, this allows it to release the tension, and this caused the fiber to contract. So cotton will only shrink in the first washing whereas wool will continue to shrink with washings.

Cotton Classic by Tahki www.lindadeancrochet.com

Cotton Classic by Tahki Stacey Charles

The term that confounds many is Mercerised. Mercerised is a process that removes the slight halo effect that can accompany a cotton fiber, this is essentially the tiny ends of the fiber protruding from the yarn. To Mercerise the yarn, or thread is brought over an open flame to burn off the fibers. This creates a yarn that has a nice smooth finish that has great stitch definition. Another side effect of this process is that it does not allow the cotton to absorb water as is normally considered. Thus Mercerised Cotton is not recommended for dish clothes, where regular cotton will work wonderfully.

I find Cotton Classic is wonderful for warm weather projects, dressy scarves, home décor items, a great market bag. I even love it for tank tops and cover ups. This yarn has a wide arrange of colors available, and it shows of lace work stitches and textural stitches fabulously. It comes in small hanks of 1.75oz/50g with 108 yds/100m. It is a light weight and has nice drape on larger hooks.

Consider it for your next summer weather project, and don’t worry about this cotton reminding you of a dish rag.

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.

Changing a “Go-To” for a New Addition- Lion Brand Baby Soft

I haven’t had reason to use any baby yarns in a while, but we are expecting a new addition in our extended family and I was inspired to create a baby blanket as a gift. I have made numerous baby blankets over the years, to many really to count. I usually have one “go-to” pattern that I use, when I think about the first time I worked the pattern, I realize that baby should be well over 20 years old now.

When I work this pattern I usually have a “go-to” baby yarn that I always use, Bernat Baby Coordinates, this isn’t so much because I love this one over all others, as much as some others have left me wanting. I always look for a yarn that is low maintenance for the parent, so that usually means a good acrylic. I like something soft, and not to thin or fine. I don’t like to feeling like I am working with a thread. I also want a yarn that is smooth in texture and doesn’t pill.

Baby Soft by Lion Brand

For this latest blanket I decided to try something other than my “go-to” and I found that Lion Brand Baby Soft was an excellent choice. It is actually only 60% acrylic with 40% nylon, the nylon giving it extra strength, so it is still a low maintenance yarn that the parents can easily throw in the washing machine and not worry about how it is going to come out. There was a nice selection of colors (I used Circus Print), as I get tired of the same simple pastels. It is a light weight yarn, but does not feel to “thin”, it has a bit of loft to it. The yardage is fairly generous at 367yd/335m for a 4oz skein. I found that I could make a decent size blanket with just 3 skeins, but decided to make a larger option with 4.

Baby Soft was pleasant to work with, and even when I had to rip back mistakes it flowed easily, and did not pill or snag with other fibers. I might have to add this yarn to a new “go-to” listing.

Love Me Some Cashmere- A Luxury Yarn

Cashmere has been a term that signifies luxury for a long time. I remember watching some 1980’s movies where the character wearing the fuzzy cashmere sweater was the rich either miss understood teen or self-centered antagonist. I always see it in my mind with the big hair of the decade, and thus have felt that it was a wealthy fiber well out of my realm.

Learning more about yarn and fibers I have found cashmere a bit of a misnomer, it is a fiber from the underbelly of a goat. What makes cashmere, well cashmere, is the micron count of the fiber has to be 19 or finer, with less than 3 percent by weight of fibers exceeding 30 microns. Basically it is very thin in diameter. The length of the fiber also must be at least 1.25 inches (3 centimeters) and meet a specific crimp structure (have a certain wavy pattern).

Lisa Souza Dyeworks Cashmere Sport

Some of qualities of this fiber are readily seen in Lisa Souza’s Cashmere Sport yarn. Cashmere holds its shape well yet is springy. It is very light weight, with a lovely drape, and is incredibly warm. One of the most noticeable feature is that light does not reflect from this yarn, it appears more like a velvet and absorbs the light. This may be one of the factors that gives it a luxury quality.

As the fibers are so fine it is extremely soft. This is definitely a yarn that I want to snuggle with. The Sport weight skein provided from Lisa Souza Dyeworks is available in a 2oz/200yrd put up, just enough for a set of fingerless mitts, a hat, or a scarf. (I have a free pattern featuring this yarn in a Tam here). This yarn has a soft stitch definition and thus any really heavily textured stitches might have a soft edge then you may be have with. It can easily support a lace design, and does not demand too much attention to itself, allowing your handwork to shine.

I still consider this fiber a bit of a luxury, even if you can find some wools with a finer quality fiber, and thus being softer then cashmere, cashmere has a certain halo about it that when added to the light absorption, just has a look and feel of something that is unlike anything else.

Knit It! Crochet It! The Dialog Shawl

Creating a design that is both knit and crochet has its own set of challenges, one mainly being that I am not an expert knitter. However I have created a design with the help of a couple of friends that I think is pretty impressive.

Dialog Crochet Shawl by Linda Dean www.lindadeancrochet.com

Dialog Shawl, Crochet version

The Dialog Shawl is created with short rows with alternating panels of a solid and lace fabric. It is a fun pattern to work up as it uses basic stitches but still keeps you mentally engaged, but not so much as to cause stress. The only difference between the knit and crochet version is that the panels of the crochet version are bigger and thus there are only 4 triangles instead of the 6 that are found in the knit version.

I love that this is a one skein project. It is featured in Baby Alpaca Silk Petite Yarn from Lisa Souza Dyeworks, and I definitely draw to the color of Peacock, but I think this design can easily worked up in various colors, and may look distinctly different and fabulous in a variegated yarn. This yarn is really awesome, and I have used it for several projects over the years. It is a light/fine weight yarn that has a beautiful hand and is a pleasure to work. I also feature a shawl pin with this design, it was after all part of the inspiration for the design, and it is actually a Shawl Button from Lickin Flames. Each Shawl Button is handmade, beautiful, and completely unique. The one that inspired me was a Raku button in Bronze with a shiny black accent.

Dialog Knit Shawl by Linda Dean wwww.lindadeancrochet.com

Dialog Shawl, Knit version

I cannot say that I have ever been particularly inspired to create a design from a pin or button before, usually I attempt to create a design that can be worn independently of such items. However, recently I have come to see how this piece of art can really had to the overall effect of my crochet (or in part of this design, knit). It is like a subtle accent point that helps add to the overall effect, bringing everything to a new level.

Overall I am completely thrilled with this design, and I hope you enjoy it too. As is the case with all of my knit/crochet designs one pattern contains both versions, so if you are bi-stitchual you can work both versions, and if you prefer one craft over the other you have it right before you.