Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Focus: Jean Herman

Hello! It's the end of January. Can you even believe it? I must be getting older because I certainly perceive time to be passing more quickly as of late. How was your month? I had a very productive January. I've been writing patterns, winding yarn, tidying up, working up FOs, researching, planning, the works. I hope, nay I know, that February will be just as awesome. Let's roll into this new month in a big, bold way! Jean Herman, we need you! She is today's featured designer and her patterns are a blast. Bold clean lines and true-to-life shaping give her objects a distinct style. Take it away, Jean!

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it? 
My mom taught me how to crochet when I was little and we made granny squares together. And then about six years ago… I ordered a Japanese Amigurumi Book written in Japanese and I taught myself how to crochet beyond granny squares via their charts. They have excellent charts and I just cross-referenced it with a crochet guide book. I crocheted many projects via their books. I became obsessed and purchased many Japanese Amigurumi Books. They are absolutely amazingly creative.

Why do you crochet?
I crochet because it allows me to create cute little projects. I am a huge amigurumi fan. I’m always crocheting amigurumi gifts for friends, co-workers, and family because it gives people a big smile. They are so amazed at how the objects look like they are supposed to and that’s what is great about amigurumi. I also like to create exaggerated sizes of objects for fun.

Crochet Favorites
When I create Amigurumi patterns… my favorite go to crochet hook is just an inexpensive hook with a foamy pencil cushion completely taped down with electrical tape for comfort. I go a little nuts if I can’t find this hook when working out a pattern. I try to put it away in its safe place when not using it… that doesn’t always happen. My favorite yarn to crochet with is Vanna White’s Medium weight yarn. That brand has great colorways and it crochets up great for projects. 

What are you working on right now?
I’m currently crocheting Nellie the Elephant African Flower Crochet Pattern by Heidi Bears. It is very colorful and pieced together with different “granny” shaped pieces. It isn’t amigurumi, but a very happy elephant for my mom’s birthday gift. The pattern is available on Ravelry. 

A few finished objects...
Giant Q-Tip - Why this popped up in my head to create… I have no idea. I just thought it would be funny. Pattern is free on Ravelry. 


Little Ducklings and their Momma - I crocheted these to fill up a shadow box of other cute little items. (pattern in a Japanese amigurumi book…these are available in Japanese Etsy shops.)


Holiday Lights - I created Holiday Lights - not to be politically correct because these are Christmas Lights but I meant for them to be created for any holiday and to decorate with for fun. For ex: crochet red/white/blue for Fourth of July… not just for Christmas. Pattern is free on Ravelry.


I love love LOVE those giant lights. I'm not alone either... they have over 1,000 likes on Ravelry! They are too cute. Also, those giant q-tips are just begging to be used in a battle/pillow fight/joust. Wanna see more by Jean Herman? Her free patterns are available on Ravelry. Thank you for taking some time to share with us today, Jean!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yarn Winder Heaven

I've been totally blissed out over my new yarn winder ever since I received it from my husband for Christmas. It's sturdy and quiet and amazing. I got the Stanwood Needlecraft large winder with a metal base as well as the corresponding swift. They are both well worth it and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to a fellow yarnie looking for a winder. WIND ALL THE THINGS!



Our cat got a bit too close to it while I was winding and it smacked her in the face, so now she's in a fight with it. She gives it dirty looks whenever I pull it out. No matter, it just means I get my sweet yarn cakes all to myself. Muahaha!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Yay for Free Yarn!

So, I've mentioned before that I crochet with my friend Katie one evening each week. Recently we've been able to draw other folks who live in our apartment complex to our group. It's really exciting! It's so fun to see what others are making and enjoying each others' company as we crochet and knit. Just this past week one of our new members, Kerri, asked if I wanted any yarn. She said she had a bag of yarn that she was going to donate if no one wanted it. Picturing a small grocery sized bag in my mind, I said why yes of course! Who doesn't want free yarn?

It wasn't a small bag. It was a garbage bag of yarn. A garbage bag full of yarn! I couldn't believe she wanted to give it all away, but she insisted. Cue internal evil scientist laughter. Yes, all mine. My precious! This yarn isn't just some random mishmash of scraps. We're talking brand new skeins of Lion Brand Wool-Ease, Patons 100% Peruvian wool, Martha Stewart Crafts wool blend, Knit Picks Chroma Worsted, and a whole bunch of different fingering weight yarns. It's not enough for me to just talk about the yarn. You need to see it for yourself.





Yep, it's freaking amazing. I have a special project in mind for a good portion of this yarn and many of the remaining skeins are good matches for projects in my Ravelry queue. Hurray! I've always been happy-jealous (when you're kinda jealous but still happy for the other person) of users on r/crochet who show off yarn hauls given to them by a friend or family member. Until now I was incredulous that I would ever be so lucky. Thank you, Kerri!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Focus: Maggie Weldon

I've been working quite hard on designing patterns lately. At the beginning of this new year I set down many ambitious goals for myself, and I'm happy to report that things are going well. Although, I do vacillate with regards to my image of myself as a crochet designer. Sometimes I feel so accomplished and proud of what I've already achieved, and other times I am reminded that I am as a child compared to other designers, designers like Maggie Weldon. Maggie currently has over 1000 (yes, 1000!) designs available. She has been published many a time and has touched all areas of the crochet community through her video tutorials and social networking. She even makes pottery impressions of vintage lace! Crocheters like Maggie remind me that I'm just starting my journey, and hopefully one day I can look back on an impressive career as well. Let's learn more about this dynamic, gifted woman.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it? 
In 4th grade I learned the chain stitch from a nun after school. After chaining forever - I had a huge ball of just chains. I was learning to sew at the same time so I thought I would have to sew the chains together side-by-side with a needle and thread! Thank God it was easier than that!

A couple of years later I saw diagrams of crochet stitches in Family Circle and Woman's Day Magazines. I was back in business!  I grew up in an unsettling family environment so I learned to escape through crochet.  I just loved crochet and did it for hours and hours.

When my son was born I took him to a friend’s house dressed in a beautiful baby bunting I had crocheted from a pattern I had purchased. When it came time to take the bunting off - I couldn't get him out! I had to cut the front seam open. I later redesigned a button down front and the designer in me was born. Since then I have started www.MaggiesCrochet.com and sell over 1000 of my original crochet designs along with yarn, hooks, and other craft items.

Why do you crochet?
Crochet keeps me calm in several ways. In the past I battled anxiety attacks and crochet allowed me to feel safe. The processes of creating (and tearing out) stitches can be very therapeutic. I also feel like my brain is constantly in design mode. In my everyday life there is so much inspiration to be found. Crochet is a way for me to release that creativity and to share this art with others. I feel rewarded every time I hear a story of how my designs played in a role in making a special memory for someone. 

Crochet Favorites
My favorite hooks are definitely Dreamz hooks, Tulip Etimo Rose hooks, and Deb Norville wood hooks. I've recently been introduced to Starbella Strata yarn and I just love how versatile it is-not to mention the colors!  

What are you working on right now?
I have been designing for over 30 years and have been working hard on developing my YouTube channels. We just finished setting up our new video studio at the office and are producing how-to videos. Lately I have been shooting free pattern videos sponsored by Premier Yarns, making more ruffled scarf videos, and arm knitting videos. Last week I did a how-to arm knit infinity scarves in 30 minutes and how-to arm knit an afghan in 2 hours. If you subscribe to my channel you will get updates when new videos are published, but if you do not have a YouTube account you can find most of our videos on our blog.

A few finished objects...
Long Hooded Cape: My favorite part about this pattern is the way the hood drapes - it is gorgeous! This intermediate skill pattern is perfect for either a casual or dressy occasion. All you need is a worsted weight yarn of your choice to achieve the style you desire. With one size fits most, this classic shape is ideal for all body types.


Best of Maggie Weldon Afghans: I am so proud of this book that features 36 of my afghan designs. If you order this book from www.MaggiesCrochet.com you will receive an autographed book and a free pillow pattern to match the Snow Afghan.


Ladybug T-shirt Dress, Hat, and Purse: I have a whole line of t-shirt dresses for little girls and versions to match an 18" doll. They are easy and fun to make and work with any sized t-shirt! One of my customers created a whole day around this pattern to make a special memory with her seven granddaughters. It was so sweet that we had to feature it on our blog.


Crocheters can buy my patterns for mail and download at www.MaggiesCrochet.com. We send out e-newsletters with new patterns, discounts, videos, contests and more! Sign up for some sunshine in your inbox. Of course I would love for people to join me on social media, I have a very active Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and blog.

Though it's almost silly to choose a favorite among hundreds of amazing patterns, my favorite of her designs so far is her Lemon Drop Layette. With all of the projects that she has going on Maggie must be a busy woman, indeed! I am ever so grateful that she took the time to be with us here today on Illuminate Crochet. Happy Friday!  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cats Love Crochet (and Crochet Loves Them, Too!)

Something that I've noticed in my crochet adventures is how many cat lovers there are amongst my fellow crocheters. I'm not quite sure why the two are so closely related, but I do know how much I love having my cat around while I crochet. Cats love the soft, squishy, textured goodness of our FOs as much as we do. It's nice to be appreciated! There's nothing like quietly hooking away while your sweet little kitty purrs by your side, all warmth and closeness. Today I want to honor all of the lovely fur-balls out there who brighten their owners' days. Many thanks to the wonderful crocheters who collaborated with me to make this post possible. Here are their cats and their creations!

Pookie is having a sweet snooze on Leila M's One Skein Throw. She belongs to Leila's son, Chris M.


Here you see Westley testing out Mandi C's Granny Stripe Blanket. He approves!


Selena S's Richmond Lace Infinity Scarf is so beautiful that Dewey just has to rub his face all over it.


Milou is basking next to Eleonora G's Elise Shawl.


 Miscellaneous, aka Miscie, is making herself comfortable on Amanda C's Ariel's Baby Blankie.


Olivia has hitched a ride on Emily H's Sea Turtle Rug.


Evgenia G's Autumn Throw is perfect for Tima to stretch out on.


Daru is enjoying some friendly snuggle time with Carolin B's Amineko Cat.

Of course, today's post wouldn't be complete without my own little cat, Ranna. Ranna is a daily delight to my husband and I. Our home wouldn't feel right without her!



Have a purrfectly wonderful and crochet-filled day!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Stitchboard


There aren't many free tools for creating crochet patterns. There are several paid pattern making programs, but none that I've seen effectively deal with detailed color charts for tapestry crochet. Enter Stitchboard. Stitchboard's pattern wizard can help you take a picture of your choice and turn it into a stitch chart. This makes it an excellent tool for those who want to make custom designs. It's nice of the creators to make it available for free, and even more features are available to you if you make an account. The settings and options are decent and the program makes filet and tunisian crochet charts as well.

Though I am certainly thankful that this tool is available, it has a few shortcomings that I wish to discuss. The most annoying part of using the pattern wizard is that it does not allow you set the height of the chart and only allows a width up to 150 stitches. This can become a problem when you want to add a border to your finished project that requires a specific number of stitches. For example, a shell border requires a multiple of 6 stitches plus 1. Since you can't control how many rows the chart has, you may have to add random rows to the top and bottom to meet your border requirements.

The chart that Stitchboard comes up with is more of a starting place than a complete pattern. This becomes more pronounced the more complex the picture you start with is. Here's an example. When I started with this stock photo of a heart:


and gave a width of 100 stitches, the program spat out this chart:


Not bad at all! Very useful. There seem to be three colors instead of the two in the original picture, but it doesn't matter that much. However, when I used this picture:


and gave a width of 100 stitches, this is the chart that I got:


Hm. Pretty good, but needs some editing. There are brown stitches around the pupils even though the original pupils were all black. The nose isn't symmetrical. Perhaps you need to set an odd stitch width if you want to achieve symmetry. There are brown patches around the body and whites of the eyes that need to be cleaned up. Also, the colors of the spots and the rest of the body are too close, making it difficult to look at. As you can see, the chart is a good starting place but you'd have to go in with an image editor to clean it up which is a time-consuming and somewhat difficult process.

Just for fun, let's see what happens if we upload an actual picture into Stitchboard. We'll use the 100 stitch width again. Here's the picture, a flower from a greenhouse we visited in Hawaii:


and here's the result:


Better than I expected! But that's a lot of colors to work with. Perhaps I should have limited the color options quite a bit more.

I hope this review of Stitchboard proves useful to you, if only to make you aware of a tool you may not have been familiar with. I'm going to continue to use it until a better tool becomes available.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Focus: Danielle Kassner

Hello again, friends. Another week has passed. Are you looking forward to the three day weekend? My husband's best friend Kyle and his girlfriend will be visiting us from San Francisco. We are picking them up from the airport tonight. Also, Alex and I have our 8-year dating anniversary coming up tomorrow. We will all be going out for a nice dinner to celebrate. I'm really excited!

You know what else I'm excited about? Showing you the work of today's featured designer. Danielle Kassner, sometimes known in the crochet world as Laracroft, has dreamed up some stunning patterns. When I first saw her work I did a double take. 'Is that knitted?', I asked myself. The colorwork in her designs is so detailed that it blows my mind. Never let anyone tell you that you can't do incredible colorwork in crochet! Danielle's projects are proof of the awesome power of the hook. But don't take my word for it...

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it? 
My mother taught me to crochet when I was about 11. We made granny squares one whole summer. Years later, she pieced them together and gave me the blanket as a wedding gift!

Why do you crochet?
For many reasons: The pleasure of colour, texture and movement; to dream of beauty; and to have things to wear that were never decided upon by any marketing board.

Crochet Favorites
Malabrigo! I love Malabrigo for crochet. I find it wears better crocheted than knitted. But I have no preference in hooks. 

What are you working on right now?
I'm learning to knit with steeks. I'm dreaming of designing a cardigan in crochet jacquard, that would have to be crocheted in the round and then steeked. So I'm working on my steeking chops.  

A few finished objects...
Here are three recent designs which I made for the Malabrigo Freelance Pattern Project. All of them are inspired by Medieval art and architecture, which I've loved since I was a child.  

An upscaled Granny Afghan, inspired by cathedral ceilings. I'm very proud of having designed those Right-Angled triangles. Very difficult! 


A round-yoke pullover in jacquard, because it's not fair that only knitters get to make these. This one is based on a Gothic Rose Window. 


These gloves are based on an illuminated manuscript from Northern Spain. Crocheters should know that crochet jacquard gloves are much nicer than knitted fair isle gloves. Easier to make, and no pesky floats on the inside. 


Truly gorgeous pieces. I am especially fond of that pullover. It is wonderful to see a talented designer imagining such exquisite patterns for crocheters to work up. Crochet is sometimes taken less seriously than knitting, but all you have do to is take one look at Danielle's work to see what folly that is! Her designs can be found on Ravelry. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us today, Danielle!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: Crochet Lace by Pauline Turner


The Good
This book has some interesting information on the history of different styles of crochet lace. It also has one of the clearest explanations of filet that I've seen so far. The book goes into great depth in its descriptions. There are several motif patterns as well as a few edging patterns. The author herself is an accomplished crocheter with many publications.

The Bad
There isn't necessarily a picture for every pattern. The book focuses more on the general application and formation of the crochet pieces rather than focusing on finished objects, so it may confuse those who are looking for clear start-to-finish patterns. Also, I expected a book about crochet lace to have more doily patterns and examples.

The Verdict
If you're looking for an interesting read and introduction to crochet lace and object construction in a general sense, this book is a yes. If you've been having trouble with filet and want another take on it, this book is a yes. If you are looking for a book with many fully-formed start-to-finish lace patterns, especially doilies, this book is a no.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dragon Egg Dice Bag

Do you like Game of Thrones? Both the books and the television series are quite popular with fantasy lovers. While I certainly consider myself a lover of fantasy (The Abhorsen Series, His Dark Materials, and Earthsea for the win!), I never really got into GoT. I tried reading the first book several times but it seems to cater too much to the male gaze for me to become seriously interested in it. Perhaps I'll try watching the series sometime.

Though I'm not terribly interested in it myself, I can totally understand why others are. One person in my life who really loves the books is my brother-in-law, Eric. Another of Eric's hobbies is playing Dungeons and Dragons. When I asked myself what to make him for Christmas this year, the answer came to me quite readily: a dragon egg dice bag. Many members of r/crochet have successfully made nice dice bags, so I thought I would follow their lead. Here's what I ended up with.




To create the egg I used this pattern by Rachael Fulcher. I used Bernat Satin and a 4mm hook. The pattern is for a stuffed dragon egg but I modified it slightly to make it into a bag. She also has this pattern that is actually meant to be a bag, but I liked the look of the first egg more since it is truer to the egg seen in the show. To modify the first pattern I stopped about 3/4 of the way through and worked up a row of posts to run a string through. I'm really happy with the finished object.

Wanna know something quirky? I find it tremendously satisfying when I'm making a project and at some point the yarn I'm using can fit inside of it so I can keep it there while I'm not working on it. Like this!


Isn't that satisfying? So tidy. This was a great project with nice texture and I would totally recommend it to all of the GoT fans out there.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Focus: Joyce Overheul

How was your week, friends? I hope you had a delightful week and accomplished everything that you set out to do. Unfortunately, our week was a bit stressful and we are very much looking forward to the weekend! You know what helps me relax and recover from life's stresses? Crochet! Especially lively, colorful crochet. In fact, just perusing the patterns of today's featured crocheter makes me feel a bit lighter. Joyce, aka The Flying Dutchman, has written many popular and imaginative patterns. I'll wager that her designs can put a smile on your face. You might even find that you're dying to work one up! But that's not all... Joyce also creates compelling concept art. What a multifaceted and talented woman! Let's take a moment today to learn about her.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it? 
I taught myself to crochet almost three years ago, after I got my first crochet hook from my grandmother. I still use that hook, I make almost every design with the same 4.0mm needle.

Why do you crochet?
The reason I started to crochet was because I loved being able to make nice accessories and stuffed animals. Also I was trying to raise some funds for my concept art projects, which can be found here, by selling those items on Etsy. I noticed I didn’t have that many sales and that it wasn’t really working out as I hoped because of the high international shipping rates. At the same time people started asking me if they could have the patterns I used for creating those items, since they wanted to make everything themselves. From that moment on I decided I was going to be a pattern seller. I also found out I love to make something entirely from scratch; to design a 3D crochet item is like 3D printing something with your hands and just some yarn. ☺

Crochet Favorites
I love crochet animals! They’re so much fun to design. I also love making funny hats, too, and crochet food. 
I don’t really have a favorite yarn, I only work with yarn that is donated to my web shop. In exchange of your left over yarn you may pick as many of my crochet patterns as you want! This way, I can keep on crocheting in the most inexpensive way possible, and save up more money for my concept art.

What are you working on right now?
Currently I’m working on some Autumn themed items (I know, it’s January….), like toad stools, forest animals, gnomes and cute gnome houses. I really like to work on a theme for a couple weeks, I just finished two ancient style hats (a Roman helmet and a Viking helmet) and previous to that I made some plants in pots. Feel free to follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see the latest pictures of my work-in-progress. ☺

A few finished objects...
I’m really proud of my 3D alphabet. It was a pain to design, but in the end it’s so much fun to decorate your house with these lovely letters. ☺ 



Rocket ship



Lobster


Wow! Such variety and lovely shapes. My personal favorite of Joyce's patterns is her Monsieur the Lobster Chef. Joyce is a true citizen of the web. In addition to the links above, she can be found on Ravelry, Twitter, Etsy for patterns, Etsy for FOs, Craftsy, and her blog. Thank you so very much for sharing with us today, Joyce. I can't wait to go check out your concept art!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Grandma's Chevron Blanket

When my brother and I were very young our grandmother made each of us a traditional crochet chevron blanket. I didn't know what crochet was at the time. All I knew was how much I loved my pink and purple blanket. Dan's blanket is blue and cream. In addition to sleeping under them we often incorporated them into our games. They were our mushroom tops when we danced around like the mushrooms in Fantasia, they were our caves when we played "diggers", and they were our robes when we were royalty.

My grandmother passed away when I was six. The chevron blanket has always been very special to me, but when I became serious about crochet I saw the blanket in a new light. I can now see all of the individual stitches and know just how she made it. It makes me wish that I could show her my own crochet. It's amazing to make items that others can cherish and to write patterns that will be followed and lovingly made by grandparents, parents, siblings, etc. Crochet is warm and fuzzy on both the outside and the inside.

If someone in your family makes things by hand, take a moment to appreciate them today. If you're the one who does the making, I'm taking this moment to appreciate you! Thank you for sharing your skills with others and giving them items they can cherish for years to come.




Monday, January 6, 2014

Streamwave Throw plus Giveaway Winners Announced

Just as the best writers read often, I believe it is important for crochet pattern designers to follow others' patterns on a regular basis. Not only does taking short breaks from pattern writing allow you to collect and organize your thoughts for your next pattern, it also shows you styles and ideas that are different from your own. While following someones crochet fox hat pattern you might be struck with an awesome idea for a coyote throw pillow. If you follow a poorly written pattern you can make mental notes about what not to do, and if you follow an awesome pattern you can reflect on what makes it so awesome and incorporate that awesomeness into your own designs. Since crochet designers are often trying to make a beloved hobby into a career, it's important not to burn out or lose the joy by focusing on designing to the exclusion of everything else. Plus, let's be honest, following others' patterns every now and then is fun! Finally, working up patterns that others have written helps you stay connected to the crochet community and its trends.

I recently followed Kim Guzman's Streamwave Throw pattern and I'm really proud to show you my finished product.


The blanket was a pleasure to make. It has a great rhythm to it and is a nice size. It must be noted that I rarely follow the recommended number of rows on patterns like this. I like to stop or continue on as I see fit. This throw didn't take me too long to make. I worked on it over a three month span of time, during which I worked on and completed several other objects. If I had dedicated myself to it I think I could have finished it in about two weeks.


I think this throw pattern looks like stained glass. The original calls for variegated yarn, which would probably look very nice if you found the right color. Since I'm not a huge fan of variegated yarn I opted for two solid colors to make it interesting. I used Caron Simply Soft for its glossy finish and reasonable price.


It will be a pleasure to add this project page to my Ravelry account. It's great looking back on all of the hard work I've done, especially when so many of my finished objects are sold or given as gifts. I'm sure you can relate :) As ever, my hook keeps moving. If there's a pattern you really love and you want me to check it out, you're always welcome to drop me a line via illuminatecrochet@gmail.com.

Now, for the giveaway announcement! Using a random number generator, I have selected our winners! Congratulations to Crocheter Carrie R. and Admirer Melissa S.! After I get their details I will arrange their packages and show you what they're receiving. A huge thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. If you didn't win, stay tuned for more fun giveaways and contests.