Friday, April 24, 2015

From the Source Friday: Laughing Goat Fiber


The fourth Friday of every month is From the Source Friday! Show your appreciation to these dedicated fiber farmers as they teach you all about where your yarn comes from. Today we will hear all about life alongside goats (and more!) from Laughing Goat Fiber.


Life on the farm...
A typical day on the farm starts early in the morning, with the animals being fed and watered. We generally have anywhere from 60-90 animals, depending on the time of year. In cold months, the animals need grain and hay to stay warm and well-fed. When they are out on pasture, we provide water and a little grain. The animals are fed again in the evening. Daily tasks vary, but might include administering vaccinations, delousing, or trimming hooves.

Our angora goats are generally shorn twice yearly, in the spring and early fall. That gorgeous mohair fiber is “skirted” by hand - debris and dirty/damaged parts of the fleece are picked out - before being delivered to an area mill for processing. Alpacas are shorn once a year, like sheep.  The cashmere goats are combed, and produce only ounces of fiber, in contrast to the pounds that might be yielded by a single angora goat.

We use local and regional mills to process the fiber into one of two forms: roving, and yarn. Some yarn is processed further and made into finished products: gloves, mittens, and socks. The rest of the yarn is measured into skeins. This, and the finished goods, are then dyed by hand using food coloring. Vinegar sets the dye, and a cold rinse and spin in the washing machine finalizes the process. To create variegated yarns, we “paint” the skeins by hand.


A Goat Story
One of our most incredible stories happened last spring: we were eagerly awaiting the birth of a set of multiples from one of our angora mothers, Carli. She delivered a little buckling in the middle of the night (which we heard on the baby monitor). Lisa stayed with her for a while, and felt another baby still in the womb, but was concerned that it had died, as more time passed and labor seemed to stop. Fourteen hours later, while tending to other mothers and kids, we saw Carli deliver what we expected to be the stillborn twin. He was alive! Lisa turned to get a towel to clean him up, and by the time she had turned back around, Carli had delivered a THIRD little boy - ALSO alive! Triplets are exciting enough, but we’ve never had such a miraculous - and weird - delivery. Those little boys were named Floyd, Dr. Teeth, and Animal - for the Muppets’ Electric Mayhem Band, of course. Floyd, the oldest of the three, was also the smallest, and needed to be bottle-fed after a while. He’s now one of our friendliest, cuddliest fellas!

Have a look!






Just look at that little goat in the sweater! So presh! Thank you for the lovely fiber, goats! If you'd like to know about about Laughing Goat Fiber, you can visit their website, Etsy, Facebook, and YouTube. Thanks go out to the folks at Laughing Goat for sharing about their animals!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

300th Post

I can hardly believe it, but today marks Illuminate Crochet's 300th post!


To celebrate, I'm giving away a very special skein of yarn. It's a skein of Socks that Rock in fingering weight from Blue Moon Fibers. The colorway is Sherbet. Look at how exciting it is!





Wanna get in on the giveaway? Simply send an email to illuminatecrochet@gmail.com with the subject "I'm hungry for some Sherbet!" I will randomly select a winner at about 9pm PST on Monday the 27th and announce the winner the following Tuesday morning.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Reach Out Friday: Womensafe


The third Friday of every month is Reach Out Friday! Learn about ways that you can use crochet to help others through special charities and groups. Today's featured charity is Womensafe.


Overview
Womensafe provides shelter, food, and services to women and children who are survivors of domestic violence. They have a secure, modern facility and work to protect and empower those who are vulnerable and scared. Domestic violence is a huge problem affecting our nation with almost 5 million women experiencing violence perpetrated against them by an intimate partner each year. Also, though Womensafe focuses on women and children, I want to remind everyone that men experience domestic violence as well and account for about 15% of all survivors. Anything that can be done to help those affected, whatever their gender, is a step in the right direction. You can donate almost any crocheted item to the shelter and have an impact on someone's life.

Mission Statement
"WomenSafe’s mission is to provide emergency shelter and support services for survivors of domestic violence throughout Northeastern Ohio. WomenSafe responds to the needs of victims experiencing domestic violence and provides education in the community aimed at reducing the incidence of domestic violence and making the community aware of what help is available."

Special Considerations
Crochet blankets, clothes, toys, and baby items would all be well-received. Right now they have a particular need for washcloths which are simple to crochet and are very useful.

Reach Out
Women and children at the shelter are in need of many basic items that can be donated along with your crocheted item, so you might consider donating those things as well. If you're ready to help, you can find more information on their website.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Crochet in Warm Climates

The idea of crochet often conjures images of warm, cozy winter accessories, blankets, and other cuddly items. However, not all crocheters live in cold areas and those who do live in areas with a cold winter may be looking for crochet projects in the spring and summer. What's a warm weather crocheter to do? Here are some ideas for crocheting when it's sunny and bright.


  • Choose garment projects that are suited to warm weather. Bikinis, tank tops, swim coverups, and lacy dresses are all good choices. 
  • Cotton and other breathable fibers will be much more pleasant to work with in warm climates than wool or acrylic.
  • Work up items that aren't meant to be worn like amigurumi, doilies, etc.
  • Don't be afraid to play with bright colors.
  • Select projects with light, airy stitch patterns for lots of movement and airflow.
  • If you'd like to make a blanket, consider making a couch throw or lace coverlet rather than a heavy, full-sized blanket.
  • Choose lace weight and fingering weight projects over heavier yarn weights.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Indie Dye Friday: Huckleberry Knits


The second Friday of every month is Indie-Dye Friday! Feast your eyes on lovely yarn in gorgeous colorways developed by talented independent yarn dyers. Today's featured dyer is Scarlet Tang of Huckleberry Knits. Her beautiful, bold colorways first attracted my attention at Fiber Fusion Northwest. I'm so excited to have her here today to share a bit about her business.


A bit about Scarlet
I live with my husband and son in Bellingham, WA. We're way up in the northwest corner of the state. People often ask if it's near Seattle, but we're actually closer to Vancouver, BC.

One of the great things about Bellingham is that we're on the coast but we're also really close to the mountains, so there's a huge variety of outdoor activities to do.


How long have you been dyeing fiber? How did you get started?
I've been dyeing since 2006. I used to knit and crochet as a kid, but hadn't done very much as an adult. I picked it up again after I had my baby. The first time I saw hand-dyed yarn, I had to have it. Then I found out that I could actually do it myself, so I tried it and got hooked. I had a hobby business knitting pants for cloth-diapered babies, and added my hand-dyed yarn to my online store. It grew to the point where it was all I could think about, so I quit my job in 2011 and have been dyeing full-time since then.

Where do you get the inspiration for your colorways?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. It can be a photograph in a magazine, a lyric from a song, a favorite book or TV show. At this point in my dyeing career, I've done a lot of the colorways that I naturally gravitate towards, so now it's about me exploring the edges of my color sense, looking for new combinations that grab me and making myself go out of my comfort zone. 

What fibers and dyes do you love to work with?
Blue-Faced Leicester (BFL) has been one if my go-to wools for years. As a knitter (I don't crochet much anymore due to tendinitis problems), I really love how it's soft and lustrous, but is still durable and resistant to pilling. 

And as a dyer, I appreciate that the colors on BFL don't shift much during the heat-setting process. Sometimes you don't know exactly what you're going to get until you pull it out of the dyepot, but with BFL, what you see when you apply the dye is what you get after it's bound to the fiber.
And one thing that I've discovered lately is how good Targhee smells when you're dyeing it. Most hot, wet wool smells like nothing special, but Targhee has a really distinctive fragrance, like meadows full of wildflowers. I love it.

I also love silk blends. Though who doesn't? You get the softness and shine of silk, and if you're dyeing spinning fiber, it's much easier to work with a blend than pure silk, which has a tendency to resist being dyed.
 
Behind the scenes...
[For my Rock Candy colorway, first] I soak the yarn (in this case, Willow Blue-Faced Leicester/nylon). Next I dye the brown through yellow colors, and heat-set them for about 20 min, long enough so that the dye won't run. Then I apply the green and blue. With most colorways, I dye all the colors at once, but I've had enough problems over the years with either the red or the orange getting mixed with the green (and turning into mud) that I do a two-step process now. It takes extra time, but has saved me some headaches.




A few colorways...

Rock Candy. I originally wanted to call this M&Ms, but I didn't want to get sued.

 Slate. I love grey. It's such a great neutral--not as stark as black, but still hides most of your dye stains when you start splashing it around. This is my new American Dream Worsted yarn, which is a 100% Targhee that's grown, processed, spun and dyed entirely in the US. Not only is it beautiful and fun to work with, but I'm also really glad that I can support Western farmers and the domestic wool industry by offering it.

Beachcombing. This one was inspired by a trip to the East Coast that we took a couple of years ago. We went to Chincoteague Island, on the way from DC to my parents' house in Massachusetts, and this colorway is all about the beach and the salt marshes and gazing out at the Atlantic.

Such splendid colors! Want to see more of Scarlet's lovely fiber? You can catch up with her on her website, Instagram, Ravelry, and Facebook. Thank you for joining us today, Scarlet. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fresh Air Scarf

Are you enjoying spring? I sure am! It's finally sunny off and on out here in the PNW. There are cherry blossoms and bees and duckies. Yay!

To kick off spring, here's a new pattern. It's my Fresh Air Scarf! Light and airy, it's the perfect project to make and wear on a beautiful, breezy day. Thanks go out to my radiant friend Claire for modeling!





The new pattern is available on both Ravelry and Craftsy.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fiber Arts Friday: Knitting with Sivia Harding


The first Friday of every month is Fiber Arts Friday! Join me as we expand our horizons beyond crochet to focus on other interesting fiber and needle arts. Enjoy the beautiful projects and learn something new along the way. Today we are going to focus on crochet's sister craft, knitting. Knitting "creates multiple loops of yarn, called stitches, in a line (called a row) or circle (called a round). The knitter adds a new stitch to the row/round by pulling a loop of yarn through a loop from the prior row, securing the new stitch, and releasing the stitch from the prior row." The special guest who is here to share her knitting with us is Sivia Harding. CJ, a friend in my fiber group, frequently does test knits for Sivia and I'm always impressed with the designs. I'm so excited to have her here today to introduce us to her work and the craft.

About Sivia
I live in Portland, OR, where I have lived since 2009. Before that, I lived in Vancouver, Canada, where I started my career. I design and teach knitting for a living. I am known most for my work with beaded knits, although I enjoy designing and ever-expanding list of things: lace, cowls, Moebius garments, sweaters, knitted jewelry, and accessories.

I have worked with fiber and art since I could remember. A few notable fiber events from my youth were having fiber pieces shown in the High Museum of Atlanta's gift shop when I was 14, and being chosen to attend the prestigious Governor's Honors summer program in fiber art when I was 16. By adulthood, I was a weaver, spinner, and dabbler in dyeing and other modalities, but only learned how to knit in my mid-forties. Almost immediately I began to design my own lace patterns. Now I am a knitwear designer known mainly for my work with beads and lace. I also design accessories and garments, as well as specializing in Moebius knitting. I love teaching because of the cross-pollination of ideas and enthusiasm that happens in a class setting. I am a warm and open instructor and often feel that I get the better part of the bargain since I learn so much from my students. My design work has been widely published under my own name, in many books and other collections including Jared Flood's Wool People series, and in online magazines such as Twist Collective and Knitty.

How long have you been knitting? How did you get started? 
I learned how to knit in 2000, after having done every other conceivable fiber craft... just not knitting. I learned how to crochet as a small child, then proceeded to weaving, spinning and dyeing, along with some rug hooking, knotting, etc, etc. I started in desperation, having just moved to a new place without any of my art/crafting equipment. I wanted something portable and easy (ha!). It was instant love and once I started designing, instant obsession.

What advice do you have for folks who are interested in knitting?
Go to your local yarn store!! You'll find knowledgeable, warm, wonderful folks who are just waiting to help you get started. Also, there are tons of wonderful YouTube videos available 24/7. Go for it!

Here is some of Sivia's work... 

Harmonia's Rings Moebius cowl in progress. This garment begins as a Moebius and ends in the round.

Harmonia's Rings Moebius Cowl, a cowl that incorporates Moebius with cape-like shoulder shaping.

 Flutter Front Cardigan swatch, combining the front lace panel and the cable yoke motif.

Flutter Front Cardigan, a fall away sweater with overlapping lace panels and swing shaping. The sweater has many unusual features, including the bias shaping of the back, round yoke cable motif, and a cabled gusset at center back.

Jo's Pride lace shawl in progress, testing the bottom-up lace motif and the shaping that will occur in the shawl body.

Jo's Pride Hooded Shawl, a beaded lace hoodie with many interesting shaping details.

Simply lovely! Very creative work. You can check out more of Sivia's work and connect with her on her website, Ravelry, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and knits with us today, Sivia!