A Different Sheep- Blue Faced- and the Yarn

It is becoming a bit more common to find the breed of the sheep listed as the fiber content of yarns, but without some knowledge of the breed it can make it difficult to assess what to expect from the yarn, it can actually make it difficult to assess the yarn itself, as often you may not even realize that it is a wool breed.

Blue Faced Luster or Bluefaced Leicester is an English Sheep breed, and the Leicester (sometimes seen as Luster, especially in the American market) is actually a reference to a geographic location of this long fleece breed. The staple, the actual individual “hair” of the fleece, is long; anywhere from 5-18” (13-46cm), so this means that the yarn can hold together even with less “twist” then some other wool. Essentially what this means is that because the fiber is longer it does not need to be twisted as often to catch hold of other fibers, as a result they may not hold as much air being less warm as some shorter stapled fibers…but not by much as the fiber also has a fine crimp.

Bluefaced Leicester yarn www.lindadeancrochet.com

West Yorkshire Spinners Bluefaced Leicester Aran Prints yarn. (color pheasant)

Wool fibers can retain heat due to air pockets. Like insulation the more “pockets” that can trap air the more it can trap heat. So when a staple is twisted with other staples the spaces between cause pockets of air. The crimp of a fiber, is how much “wave” it has. It is a zig zag effect, and the more crimp the more the fiber can create air pockets and retain heat.

The staple also has a fine micron count, this results in a soft yarn. The micron count in the diameter of an individual strand of fiber. The easiest way to think of a comparison in micron count is to think of the hair of a small child and a grown adult. The child’s hair is noticeably softer then the adults, this is because its micron count is smaller, it is thinner, then the adult.

So with Bluefaced Leicester having all these qualities you can expect that the yarn will have a softness and billowiness to it, as I discovered in West Yorkshire Spinners Bluefaced Leicester Aran Prints. This yarn is true to the nature of the breed. It has a soft yet durable ply that results in a well-defined yarn that gives good stitch definition. This particular yarn has a very versatile quality and can easily create an accessory such as a scarf or hat, item for home décor or a light sweater. I think that this can easily be a go to wool yarn, which fits the build for many projects.

There is some subtle qualities of various wools, and the subtle differences in this one is not something that you will regret.

Working the Opposite for Nice Edges

ScannedImageSometimes all the difference in a handmade piece is the finishing. One of my favorite ways to finish a piece is with edging, and one I really like is the reverse single crochet, sometimes known as the “crab stitch”.

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The Reverse Single Crochet Stitch

Crochet names, like “crab stitch” does not often tell you anything about the stitch, but at least “Reverse Single Crochet” gives you an idea…and it is pretty accurate. Essentially you are working a single crochet in the reverse direction.

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Insert your hook in the next stitch, from front to back, but in the Opposite direction from what you usually work.

You work the single crochet in the same manner, inserting your hook into the next stitch, yarn over, pull through a loop, yarn over and pull through two loops, but the difference is that instead of working in the normal direction of your crochet rows it is worked in the opposite stitches. So if you are right handed you will be working in the stitches located to the right of your work, and if you are left handed you will be working in the stitches to the left. This is in the opposite direction than you usually work.

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After yarning over and pulling through a loop, yarn over again and pull through 2 loops

The most common error made when working this stitch is reversing the processes even further by inserting the hook from the wrong side of the fabric, this actually creates a single crochet stitch, but it is just a single crochet, just as if you had turned the work. So always insert the hook from the front of the fabric and complete the stitch.

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Relax your tension, and pull up your loops a little taller than usual.

Starting this stitch can feel very awkward, and the first couple of stitches may look a little odd, but after you work a few you will start to see a stich that looks almost like a rope. It is this twisted effect of the stitch that really allows it to be used only as an edging.

Not only do I use this stitch as an edging, I occasionally use it as a joining stitch. I place the fabrics I am joining together wrong side together and work this stitch through both fabrics. It creates a raised rope at the edges of the fabrics. I find that this creates a nice textural effect as well as visual interest.

There is one tip I can offer to working this stitch, relax with your tension and pull up your loop a little higher than usual, this makes it a little easier to work in this different direction.

Arya Ebruil Yarn Has Some Definite Possibilities

ScannedImageYarns with only a single twist can create a unique stitch that is well defined and full, but there can be some draw backs. I experienced these with a new yarn, Nako Arya Ebruil.

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Nako Arya Ebruil yarn

The yarn has beautiful colorways, with long gradient color, so long that it maybe that only the beginning and end use of the skein will share the same tones. It is lovely lace to superfine weight yarn comprised of 80% Acrylic, 10% wool, and 10% Alpaca, so it is not only durable, but has a little extra warmth. The feel is quite soft, and the single strand has a nice twist.

So what is a single strand? Well yarn is usually made up of multiple strands of twisted fiber that are plied together, meaning they twisted together in the opposite direction than they were originally created, it is this tension that creates a study yarn. A single simply means that it is only one, being the initial twist of the fiber, there is no plying with others to create a tension. This does cause some definite positives as it creates a nicely defined stitch, and can easily highlight various stitch work, but there is a drawback, it tends to pill, and is not a yarn that you want to rip back often as it usually snags on itself. This is due to the fact that the individual fibers are not as securely “locked” into the yarn structure and can break free of the twist. All of these characteristics are present in this yarn.

That being said, it still has a nice drape and feel that encourage me to put it to use. I can see where this yarn would lend itself very nicely to a wrap of shawl, possibly even a garment (I would suggest sleeveless, to avoid underarm pilling).

A Throw of Garden Tendrils, the Ivy on the Fence

ScannedImageThere is something about taking a simple skill, like making a crochet chain, and using it in a way that you hadn’t conceived of in the past to make you smile. That is how I feel about my latest design Tendrils Throw, in the Summer 2016 issue of Love of Crochet magazine.

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Tendril Throw Photo courtesy of Love of Crochet/ Julia Vandenoever

The throw is worked with large open, airy, and join-as-you-go motifs, which look delicate, but really hold its structure together quite well.

This motif was a resulting of playing. It was a while back, but I was working with chain loops, and I was experimenting with the effect that was made by twisting these loops to work the stitches. It might not seem like this simple concept should actually do much, and if it is worked without subsequent rounds it can just make things feel, well twisted. However it creates neat negative spaces, and actually makes the open work feel a little heartier without adding bulk.

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Tendrils Throw Photo courtesy of Love of Crochet/ Julia Vandenoever

Overall the inspiration was taken from ivy that was climbing on a wrought-iron fence, I think that the shells and picots that make up the solid spaces of this resemble leaves, while the chain loops form the iron work of support.

The pattern creates a throw that is large enough to cover a twin size bed, and if placed over a solid bed cover can be reminiscent of the heritage thread bedspreads, it can also add a bit of whimsy and feminine touch to a garden space.

I like how it ultimately came together, I hope you enjoy it too.

A Dragonfly for Change in the New Year

ScannedImageBeing the end of the year, I usually find it as a time of reflection. This year is no different, however as I was taking a count of the number of designs I created in 2015 I realize I have been busy…and I am not done yet. In 2015 I completed 32 designs (you can see some of them here), some for magazines, some for yarn companies, and some for my personal pattern store, but I want to add one more.

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Dragonfly Shawl

I am happy to release my latest pattern, available in my pattern stores on-line, The Dragonfly Shawl. So, I gave it the name of Dragonfly, as to me I see the edge panels as rows of dragonflies flying outward. Now I have not always thought of this little ancient insect, but since my wedding, several years ago, it has become a bit a totem representing that day for me.

I had an outdoor wedding, having the ceremony next to a pond in an apple orchard, and as I walked down the aisle I was surrounded by dragonflies. They beautifully danced me down the lawn to my husband. At the time I had guest comment on the dragonflies as bringing luck and magic to my life, yet looking up a simple search I see that many believe the dragonfly means change. What a great symbol for a new chapter in my life, as well as a New Year, so I feel it is fitting for this new design.

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My wedding

This shawl was worked with only one skein of Blue Heron Cotton Rayon Twist Lace Yarn in the color of Bluegrass, and I actually had some left over. I love when a design works up this way, as it means that there is no extra ends to work in, no joining to worry about, I can just begin and finish in one complete clean piece. It is worked from the center of the top edge outward, ending with an airy scallop fans. The size is very generous, and the drape is fabulous.

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Dragonfly Shawl

If you are so inclined, please check out the pattern, or pass it along to friend (you can find it on Ravelry & Craftsy), and I will keep busy throughout 2016 creating more…now 33 complete means I was working up a new design every 11 days, and amazingly I did not feel that busy…guess I have room to complete even more next year.