Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina

The Good
This book was a gift from my awesome friend Sooz. Love the cover! This book is a gorgeous intersection of math, art, nature, history, and crochet. It is really informative and fascinating. There are many pictures littered throughout the book. Math enthusiasts will especially enjoy the detailed explanations of advanced concepts and their real world presence/applications. I knew that hyperbolic crochet was present in lettuce and sea life, but there my knowledge ended. I'm so glad I now have this book to reference with its many examples. If you're looking for a wonderfully nerdy crochet read you've found it in this book.

The Bad
Because it is a bit elevated in its language and subject matter, the book and the projects may not be accessible to everyone. Hyperbolic crochet is fairly simple in practice. In fact, it's a great beginner's project! The way the projects are presented in this book is very unlike most standard written crochet patterns. It may have been helpful to include a few simple written patterns for those overwhelmed by the math.

The Verdict
On a scale of yes to no, this book is a yes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Yarn, Glorious Yarn!

I have some truly amazing fiber friends that I've made at my two weekly knit/crochet gatherings. I love that fiber arts brings people together who may not have met otherwise. Today I want to talk to you about my friend Toni, her talents, and her amazingly kind and generous heart.

Here is beautiful Toni standing by several of her adorable knitted bears. Toni is an accomplished knitter and an avid collector of yarn. She's also a wonderful friend who I have a lot in common with.

 Look at her well-stocked fiber library! Toni can both knit and crochet but generally prefers knitting, especially socks. In this picture you can see her knitted clowns, juggling balls, and lizards. 

She really is serious about her sock knitting. She's put years of work into perfecting her techniques, and as you can see the results are well worth it.

Just look at this cute stack of foot outlines! What lucky family members she has.

Here is the great view from the apartment that Toni lives in with her husband and two dogs.

Toni isn't just a yarn collector, she's a yarn connoisseur. She has excellent taste and buys only beautiful, special yarn.

This past Thursday I was invited to Toni's home for a special reason... she wanted me to help her de-stash! She felt like she had reached STABLE (stash above and beyond life expectancy) so she wanted to share the love with me and support my design career. She let me pick from each box! I know right?! It's like the clouds opened up and the yarn gods rained their joy upon me. I still feel like I can't possibly deserve such kindness. Thank you so very much, Toni! The yarn will be well used. Just take a look at this...

Wow. WOW! Look at all of this gorgeous yarn! Doesn't it just make you want to cry? The design gears are already turning in my brain as I think about what patterns to write with my new wealth of materials. I may also review the yarns for you as I use them.

Thank you times a billion, Toni! And yes, one day I will pay it forward. Yay, yarn!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Remix Friday: Tiramisu Scarf

A great feature of crochet is it's adaptability. With a little know-how and some creativity you can borrow elements from different projects and bring them together in a new way. You can take a stitch pattern and run with it in the way that you see fit. You can take a larger project and turn into a smaller one, which is just what today's Remix is all about. Alice saw a pattern she liked and tailored it to her own needs.

The Crocheter
Hi! My name is Alice, I'm a cognitive neuroscientist with a creative bent. My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was very small, and I learned to knit early in grad school, and picked up weaving to de-stress during my dissertation. I love alpacas and alpaca fiber. My very favorite yarn to both dye and craft with is a 70% alpaca / 30% silk blend from Henry's Attic, and it's just heavenly.

The Original Pattern
Tiramisu Baby Blanket by Alicia Paulson

The Story 
It started as a baby blanket for a graduate student friend who was expecting. The Tiramisu pattern is just gorgeous, so I figured I'd work up the bulk of the blanket in it, and then add some cute granny squares around the edges. Baby blankets are best with very fine holes, so baby doesn't get fingers or toes stuck in it, so I used a small hook and worked pretty densely. However, I usually make light and fluffy scarves in big lacy patterns, or cowls in bulky yarn, so a dense baby blanket, in worsted, all in the same stitch... I was SO bored about 5 inches in. Sadly, a 5" x 30" strip of dense crochet is not useful for much.

The Remix
I had recently learned that you can block acrylic by steaming it. It's not quite like blocking wool, because acrylic-blocking involves a wee bit of melting, so it's permanent. I pinned out the 5" of blanket as far as it would go, steamed, pinned again, steamed, and it expanded by quite a bit. The stitch looked very different as a lace, and made a perfect scarf.

Crochet is...  relaxing, colorful, creative

Such a cute scarf and what a great way to reinvent a project to make it work for you. Bravo, Alice! You can find some neat yarn that she hand-dyes in her Etsy shop. Thank you for joining us today, Alice!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Netflix Crochet Sightings

I've got some more sightings for you! Somehow I wonder how I haven't already watched every darn thing on Netflix ;)

Here's a light blue crochet handbag on Blue Valentine.

This dude was comforted by a crochet chevron blanket on Eureka.

A chipper lady wearing a crochet hat knocked on the door on Hemlock Grove Season 2. That show can be really intense but I like dark things sometimes.

Here's a cute and colorful crochet top on Odd Thomas.

There's a crochet blanket on the back of the couch on Short Term 12, a sad but also interesting movie.

What's this granny square doing draped over a window on The Brass Teapot?

What a sweet crochet hat on the head of a girl on Vanishing on 7th Street. That movie was almost too scary for me. 

There you have it, that's everything I've been saving up. More Netflix sightings to come in the future.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Holiday Crochet Tips

Can you believe we are already well into October? It's nuts to me. Time is passing so very quickly! If you've got some holiday crochet planned, this means that you are probably thinking about your projects. Perhaps you've already started them! Gifting handmade crochet items to your loved ones can be a great experience. However, it can also become a bit of a burden. Here are some humble points to consider as you make decisions about crochet holiday gifts. Let's make sure that your time and effort are well-spent and well-appreciated!

Consider your recipients.
It's important that your recipients enjoy their gifts... and it's also important that you enjoy giving them! Don't hand-make crochet items for folks who may not necessarily appreciate them or you will both be disappointed. I recommend selecting a smaller number of VIP giftees to make crochet gifts for. Also, be sure to make items that the recipients will use in colors that they enjoy.

Consider your schedule.
If you're just making your significant other a blanket and you're not crocheting any other gifts this year, it stands to reason that you could probably finish in a few months. However, if you've decided to make ornaments for all of your coworkers, and also a hat for your brother, and oh maybe a cardigan for your sister... I sure hope your days are wide open! Think about cutting back on the size or number of your projects if you start to get overwhelmed.

Consider your wrist.
The health of your hands and wrists is important. Crocheting an excessive amount in a short period of time can lead to all kinds of unpleasant health problems, some of them doing lasting damage! Be sure to take frequent breaks and don't try to cram all of your holiday crocheting into a week.

Consider yourself.
Do you often make crochet gifts for others? Have all of your friends and family already received a crochet gift from you in the past? This year, think about crocheting for yourself instead! Buy a gorgeous yarn that's a bit pricier than you would usually allow and whip up a lovely item just for you.

Do you have any special holiday crochet tips or traditions? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Remix Friday: Walking After Midnight Dress

Some folks are so creatively amazing that it boggles the mind. It seems like they have a special gift for looking at the world and seeing latent possibilities everywhere. Have you ever met a person like that? Today's Remix was hooked up by a woman whose creativity shines so brightly that it has recently been praised by ABC, Buzzfeed, and The Huffington Post. She's a fellow Seattle-ite and I'm so happy to share more of her creativity with you today! Let's take a moment today to learn about her and look at the alterations she made to an existing pattern.

The Crocheter
My name is Chi Krneta and I am an architect by day.  The design and graphics experience I have as an architect applies beautifully to other hobbies that I enjoy such as photography, apparel design, jewelry design, and crocheting.  I first learned how to crochet from my grandmother when I was 7 but haven't made much until the past few years.  I'm usually thinking of ways to make something function better and be more beautiful just like what I do at work when designing a building.

The Original Pattern
I was browsing Ravelry and saw Doris Chan's beautiful "Walking after Midnight" crocheted skirt.  I wanted to give it a try.

The Story
The dress originally was a skirt just like the "Walking After Midnight" skirt except it didn't turn out quite as nicely as Doris Chan's skirt because I'm terrible at following directions (I actually don't know how to read written crochet directions and rely only on photographs and diagrams).  I wore it for a while as a skirt and decided it was longer than I had liked for a skirt so I turned it into a dress by adding a top to it.

The Remix
I did not sew a lining to the dress because I wanted to make it flexible and to be able to wear it for different occasions with different things underneath.  I took a series of photos of myself to document and diagram how the dress could be worn for each season.  I love the flexibility of lacy crocheted garments that could be mixed and layered depending on weather and occasion.

Crochet is... beautiful, innovative, versatile

I use my Flickr album to document my design endeavors.

So pretty. How cool that she even styled the finished object! Check out her other projects too, they're amazing of course. Thank you so much for joining us today, Chi. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Clearing Up Misconceptions About Crochet

When you have such a strong love for your craft it can be fairly irritating when outsiders cling to misconceptions about it. The outsider may be a stranger, a friend, or even a family member. Whether they are simply ignorant, mostly well-meaning, a little jealous, or unfortunately judgmental, some folks have a hard time understanding crochet and the reasons we love it.

What's a crocheter to do when confronted with a difficult social situation? I'm going to take you through a few imaginary conversations that encourage patient, kind, and friendly responses towards those who may need a bit of educating. Believing that others have the best of intentions rather than the worst will help you to be calm and understanding. Note that each common conversation starts out fairly innocuous but may become a bit more rude or assuming as it goes along. Yes, I have had each of these conversations at one time or another :) The non-crocheter's words are italicized.

Scenario 1: "What are you knitting?"
Oh, that's cool. What are you knitting?

Thank you! I'm crocheting a baby blanket for my friend who is expecting.

How long does it take you to knit something like that?

Actually, I'm crocheting the blanket, not knitting it. They are similar, but not the same. It can take quite a while, but I really enjoy it.

Whatever. Knitting, crocheting -- they're the same anyway. It doesn't matter.

Let me show you my hook. In crochet, we use one hook for our work. Knitters use two needles. It seems like you're interested in fiber arts. Have you ever considered learning to crochet or knit yourself? It's a lot of fun!

Scenario 2: "That looks so hard!"
Wow, are you making a hat? That looks so hard.

Yes, I'm crocheting a hat, thanks for noticing! It takes some practice, but it's not especially hard.

I don't know... I could NEVER do that. I'm so bad at making things. 

You'd be surprised! Crochet is pretty accessible and there are awesome YouTube Channels, blogs, and books to help you learn if you're interested. You could even take a class from a local yarn store or craft store. 

Okay, but it probably takes way too much time. I just don't have that kind of time to waste.

I love spending my free time crocheting. It is relaxing and I love making pretty things. Some crochet projects take a lot of time but others are pretty fast!

It still seems like a waste of time to me. Why don't you just buy things in a store instead?

An object feels more special to me when I make it myself rather than buying it. I enjoy the time I spend making special handmade items, so it isn't a waste of time for me. If you'd like to see why I love crochet so much, I could teach you how. 

Still, I just don't have the patience for that.

I can understand that. I like the meditative qualities of crochet. It helps to me improve my patience over time, and I think that's a good thing. 

Scenario 3: "Crochet is for grandmas."
Don't only grandmas crochet? Why are you crocheting when you're so young/a man?

Crochet is for everyone! It's a really fun, creative, and relaxing hobby that anyone can try. Even children can learn to crochet. Besides, who doesn't love grandmas?

I've never seen a young person/man crocheting. All you can make is granny squares and doilies anyway.

Well, granny squares and doilies are pretty darn cool. Have you seen some of the newer stuff? You can make almost anything in crochet. Clothes, blankets, iPad cases, public art... even video game characters! Really anything you can imagine. 

That might be true but men just can't crochet. It's not manly.

I'm not sure what you mean by manly, but men certainly can and do crochet. Just like in sculpting or carpentry, many men enjoy the opportunity to make something with their hands. There are even several high-profile male crocheters like Drew Emborsky and Michael Sellick.

Scenario 4: "You should learn to knit instead."
Are you crocheting? You should learn to knit instead.

I may learn to knit sometime/I also know how to knit but I am enjoying myself crocheting right now.

Crochet is just so wasteful though. It uses like three times the amount of yarn as knitting.

Actually crochet uses about a third more yarn than knitting on average, which is a bit more but not a huge amount. Some lacy crochet patterns even use less yarn than knitting. It all depends.

Hm. Well crochet is just so scratchy and stiff. And you have to use such thick yarn! You can't use knitting yarn to crochet.

Some crochet might be stiff, but it definitely doesn't have to be. You can use any yarn to crochet. Have you ever felt alpaca yarn? It's so soft! There are some yarns that are easier to crochet with and there are some yarns that are easier to knit with, but you can crochet or knit with any yarn if you have the right hook or needles. Crochet hooks can go all the way down to .4mm!

I just think that knitting is better than crochet.

You're welcome to have your own opinion. In my opinion, crochet and knitting are both wonderful hobbies. They each have strengths and weaknesses and they are each worth learning and doing.

Have you ever found yourself having one of these conversations? How did you react? Let us know in the comments.