Changes that Lead to Opportunities

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Shards Tunisian Shawl

ScannedImageI may have mentioned that my local yarn store, Lofty Lou’s recently sold to a new ownership group; a group of 26 ladies that loved the store and wanted to ensure that it did not close. This change in ownership has given me many opportunities to see the industry from different points of view. I have been teaching various individuals how to crochet as well as various aspects of yarn, all while observing the challenges that running this small store take on.

One of the interesting opportunities has been the need for the store to have crochet samples. They wanted to feature my designs, but I had no patterns in the particular yarn they had in store. Fortunate for me that they wanted a new design worked up in Mountain Color Yarn, so I was eager to undertake a new challenge; what could I create with only two skeins of Crazyfoot?

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Shards Tunisian Shawl

So after some playing the Shards Tunisian Shawl was born. It utilizes Tunisian stitches with short rows for an effect that is stunning. The varying of the stitch types in the sets of short rows allows the color way to offer a completely different appearance, almost like it is dancing. I had the unique opportunity to meet the dyers, and found that one had a connection to my little home town; her son owned a restaurant on Main Street, and made the travels from Montana to Northern California to visit her new grandbaby. So in a sense I feel this yarn has a local connection, and I always like to support local.

I have released this pattern for sale on line (Ravelry & Craftsy), while the sample adorns the store and brings attention to the beauty of the yarn. If you feel inclined check it out. I am very pleased with its results…if only the photographs truly captured the personality it has, you could fully appreciate its wow factor.

Swirling in Tunisian Crochet- Some thoughts

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Tunisian Swirl Skirt Photo Courtesy of Annie’s

ScannedImageI have to admit, it is a little overwhelming, in a good way, that I have so many designs out in magazines at the same time. The latest designs out are in the Summer 2015 issue of Crochet! Magazine, and I would like to share some of my thought process of the Tunisian Swirl Skirt with you.

There is actually a lot going on in this skirt. I found myself putting some unusual concepts together for what I feel are nice results. The skirt is worked in Tunisian crochet, utilizing the Full stitch ( I discuss how I work the stitch here). This stitch is worked between the vertical bars, and when worked in flat fabric it has to be staggered in the rows. However in this skirt it is worked in the round.

Working Tunisian in the round has its own unique process, and after playing round with several different options on how to accomplish this, I utilized the Tunisian Loop Return Pass technique, that I discovered from Jennifer Hansen, the Stitch Diva (check out her demonstration here). It offers a join that does not create any open gapping, when worked in Tunisian Simple Stitch it becomes almost invisible, worked in the Tunisian Full Stitch, as in this skirt, you can find the join point, however it is much less obvious then other methods.

Another non-everyday technique that I utilized is the Clone Knot. I learned about Clone Knots from Kathy Earle at a Chain Link Conference (the Knit & Crochet Show), and use them in the lace insert panels that help create the swirl. I like how this stitch is created, I find it fun, but it also offers a nice texture, and allows an open kind of drape to a lace fabric. (I demonstrated how to complete this stitch here).

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My local newsstand this week, 4 issues that you can find my designs in right now…Spring 2015 Interweave Crochet, Summer 2015 Crochet! Magazine, April 2015 Crochet World, Special Issue Crochet Magazine Quick & Easy Accessories

Some of the other thoughts that went into this skirt may not be as obvious. For one, I do not want a skirt to show my under garments, so I seek out a stitch and hook size that will create a fabric that will allow for modesty, the Tunisian Full Stitch fit this build. With is modesty in mind, I also ensured that the lace panels did not climb into areas that I would like to keep modest as well. So you really should not have to wear an underskirt with this design.

Another thought that went into this design was how to you get a fitted waist. Part of this is created by working top down, and increasing for the hips, as well as allowing for a drawstring closure, so you can have a more custom experience with the fit.

If you wanted to change this skirt up and make it a little more or less lacier or have more or less of a swirl. This can be accomplished by adjusting the width of the solid panels the wider the panels the less lace, the more slender the more lace. Just ensure that the number of stitches in the round before the panels is divisible by the number of panels that you want to ensure that they come out even.

I had fun putting this skirt together and growing in my understanding of crochet while doing it. I hope that you enjoy it as well.

Crochet -Creating Opportunities and Communities

ScannedImageI enjoy March. How can you not, it is a month long celebration of crochet! This is the third year that Crochetville has put this fabulous blog tour together, highlighting a least 2 different crochet designers each day (if you missed any make sure and spend some time catching up with them from the interviews at Crochetville) and Thank you Amy & Donna for once again putting this together.

halosofhopeFor me I always realize something about the world through crochet, and one of the reoccurring themes is community. This blog tour also brings attention to great service organizations, like Halos of Hope, that use crochet items to better society. Crochetville is taking up a collection for Halos of Hope, please consider contributing.

Crochetville_Designer_Blog_Tour_Promo-e1427303900438Community can be large like the Crochet Guild of America, many crocheters from around the world coming together in one organization, or small like your own local guild (mine is the Hangtown Fibers Guild, you can find one near you here), or crochet group, or coffee chat. But community can be quite unique and sometime taken for granted. So I wanted to share the store of how my Empress Wide Scarf (my free pattern as a gift to you for National Crochet Month), came into being. It is an interesting network that was connected and brought together by crochet.

IMG_6799.1My rural life has me in an area that is great for growing wine grapes, I should preface this by informing you that I have very little knowledge of wine; I know there is red & white, but much more than that and I am lost. With that said I believe the majority of the wine varieties in my area are more reminiscent of Italy then France as it is a region with a Tuscany climate, as a result there are many award winning wineries nearby. So my children go to school with, and are friends with, the children of winery owners and workers. One day I was approached by the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, she has admired my crochet work and was hoping I could create something for her daughter’s birthday. She had some rough idea that she might like a scarf or something that she could wrap around her head in a dramatic fashion like a Hepburn. She would love it to have the feel of a particular shawl I wear often (the Five Peaks Shawl by Vashti Braha), created in a fingering weight hand painted bamboo.

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Empress Wide Scarf – Free Pattern (click link below)

Now this mother knows about as much about crochet and yarn as I know about wine. I know that I cannot find a comparable yarn in the local box store; my local yarn store did not even carry such a fiber, so I began playing with various fibers to see if I could get a similar feel and drape. Then I happened to run into a fiber friend, she is an independent dyer that I have done some other crochet designs for in the past. I did not think to use her yarn at first, but after looking over the stock I found something that would fit perfectly. As it happens the dyer, Lisa Souza, loves that wine that the mother creates, Holly’s Hill Vineyards, so trades were able to be arranged so that everyone benefited. As a result I have been able to take this birthday present and share it with you.

My larger take away from this is how small the world can really be. By not hiding my work, I was able to bring others together in a completely different way, and I am reminded that I have a skill that I can share. Crochet can create a community that may not have been created otherwise, as it creates “ice breaker” opportunities; people are brought to fond memories when they see the fiber arts. (I discussed this more in the blog post Thankful Crochet…Not What You Might Expect)

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Empress Scarf- Free Pattern (click link below)

So the Empress Wide Scarf is created using Tunisian Simple Stitch, but what makes this pattern stand out is that it changes color on the Forward & Return Pass. The effects are very nice. So that the colors do not get too muted together in the Tunisian work, it is edged with standard crochet in defining bands of color.

Visit my Ravelry Store and download your pattern for FREE. If you are so inclined, please feel free to use coupon code “natcromo15” to receive a 15% discount on any order of at least two patterns until April 15, 2015.

I hope you make your own communities, as often as possible.

Tunisian Full Stitch….How I Found It for Myself

ScannedImageMany years ago I taught myself to crochet, I remember seeing the “Afghan Stitch” in the book I was using, but I was never interested in doing cross stitch embroidery, so I never looked at it too long. Then several years later I was taking a free form class and the teacher mentioned using some Tunisian Simple Stitch in the piece for fun.

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Tunisian Full Stitch

Well what I remembered of the stitch, insert you hook, pull up a loop, repeat, and then work them all off, so I proceeded to do just that. What I was not paying attention to was working behind the vertical bar; instead I worked between the vertical bars, you know that space that somewhat reminds me of chain space, and pulled a loop up. Later I realized my error, but I was sure that I was just doing a different stitch, however when I began looking around for the name, I couldn’t quite find it.

I searched on-line and through various books, and found some different names for it. Some called it “net stitch”, others “Basic Stitch”, and as Tunisian Crochet is becoming more mainstream and the terms more universal I have finally found it; the “Tunisian Full Stitch”.

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Working in the space Immediately next to the current loop on the hook

As I stated earlier there the stitch is worked between the vertical bars, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Since the stitch staggers on either side of the stitches below, you need to make adjustments at one side or the other of the fabric, or you will be making a piece that is not square. To make this adjustment on the beginning of one row you work a stitch immediately in front of the loop already on your hook, and end that row pulling up a loop in the last space between vertical bars. Then work the usual Return Pass (Chain 1, *YO, pull through 2 loops; rep from * across, until 1 loop remains). On the next row, you skip the space immediately next to the loop on the hook, and work in the rest of the spaces between vertical bars to the end of the row, insert hook in the chain-1 of the Return Pass below, YO and pull up a loop, then work the Return Pass again. Alternate these rows throughout the fabric. You will notice that the side that the Return Pass is begun, the edge will not be perfectly straight and this is normal, as you are adjusting a stitch to the last stitches every other row.

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Working the last stitch in the last space between vertical bars. This is the row ending to working the first loop in the space immediately next to the hook.

I personally really like this Tunisian Stitch, I am not sure if it is because it is the stitch I stumbled upon early on, or if it is because it does not give you a set straight line appearance but pulls the eye diagonally instead. The fabric does have a lot of stretch with this stitch and I find that useful in many designs, not to mention it is a fairly forgiving technique.

A Month of Crochet- A Focus on Color

ScannedImageWow, a whole month focused on crochet! It has been fun following all the blogs featured on the Crochetville blog tour, and thank you Amy & Donna for all your hard work in pulling this together.National Crochet Month 2014

 

This year the blog tour is featuring the charitable organization of Halos of Hope. Please consider making a hat for the cause or make a financial contribution to this organization that helps many with cancer. Find more information at Halos of Hope. Halos of Hope

 

So spring is in the air, it always brings about the thoughts of color for me, which is always an inspiration. Granted I have not been living in a world of winter white, but seeing all the flowers open up and the trees beginning to bloom looks like a painters palette to me. So I grab some yarn and begin to play, but not all yarns are created equal.

 

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Notice the difference between the lines of color in the bottom of the swatch, double crochet clusters, and the band toward the top worked as single crochet. Different stitches, different color pooling.

Lately I have pulled toward variegated yarns, ones that have a mixture and change of color within the skein. However the length of each color run can make a real difference in how my finished fabric looks, so I have to take it into consideration.  I pulled some variegated yarn off the shelf the other day, with the inspiration of spring, but found that my fabric just looked like a bunch of speckled dots, and there was no “color pooling” that happens when colors stack up upon themselves.

 

Why did my work look like little specks? The stitches I was using. Most yarns are not created with crocheters as the primary user in mind, so as a result the color repeats are usually shorter then would best highlight the art of crochet stitches. Often each stitch will include more than one color resulting in speckling. However, with a little playing, stitches can be found that act a little differently. A good example of this is Tunisian crochet, that gives pooling more like that of knitting, but even changing from double crochet to single crochet can create a difference in the appearance of the fabric, and one that might be more what I am looking for.

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Left and Right same yarn, different stitch. Left in Tunisian, Right in single crochet cluster.

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I was playing with some hanks (the twisted up rounds of yarn that need to be unwound into a ball for easier using), that were dyed by an Independent dyer , these are businesses that are usually small in size and create beautifully colored yarns in small batches, some even painted by hand. I found the color runs of each hank to have been about a foot long, and created just a couple of stitches in each color. I asked the dyer about this, and was enlightened to learn about the process she used. She explained that to create longer color runs she would have to have a way to work with the hank either in a much longer format, or have it unwound then rewound into the hanks standard size, to be dyed/painted. Both approaches are more labor intensive and cost prohibitive. Since the yarn is so beautiful though, I think I can find a stitch that will work in complimenting it.

 

Basically, if you find a yarn that you love, be mindful that it may not be the best match for every pattern you find. So do a little of that dreaded word….swatching, and see how the color comes together. It really can help you find some beauty. Your crochet is your therapy, your art, your history, so help your vision come to life, use the yarns you love and work the patterns you enjoy. Do not be limited by want the photo shows or the materials listed, make each crochet moment your own.

 

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Free Garden Flower Head Band

Now if you have any scarps left give my newest free pattern a try! It is a head band, which has an attached flower (worked as you go, no sewing!), so check it out Garden Flower Head Band, and find my self-published designs at Crochetville, Ravelry and Craftsy.