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.

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.

Crisp Has a Bit of Spring

It is always amazing how a different yarn can greatly affect the outcome of a project. I find that this weekly exploration into the qualities of different fibers and yarn has really helped me to understand what can work with various ideas.

Looking for a springy yarn, I find that Crisp by Sugarbush is a fine example. This yarn is made up of 100% extra fine superwash merino. Essentially it is a very fine wool, meaning it is a thin diameter fiber of a wool that is already known to be thin. This “thinness” makes it soft. Then superwash means that the wool has been treated so that it does not felt. Making this s yarn that is of a nice quality and yet has a practical application.

Crisp by Sugarbush Yarns

When playing with the yarn I found that it was quite springy, or having a lot of bounce back. This is great for items that need some stretch, like a hat or gloves, but I don’t think I would enjoy it as much as in things that I want a bit of drape in such as a shawl.

This yarn is four ply, which seems to be worked with a bit of extra twist. This extra twist places the plies close together allowing for its spring back quality but also giving the yarn a nice tubular feel as well. This round nature allows for the parts of any particular stitch to be readily visible, thus giving definition. This yarn will really help any pattern with texture to shine, so pull out the cables, the popcorns the bobbles and such, but consider leaving the lace and open stitch work patterns aside. The spring of the yarn will not allow these open stitches to open as great as they should, making your lace work seem less defined.

The ball is only 1.75 oz/95 yrd (50g/87m) so it does not take you far, one ball may complete a hat, but I would pick up a second ball just to be safe. I think you will be pleased with this yarn, it does not tend to split when being worked and glides through the hand. It does create a soft fabric that is pleasant to the touch.

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.