Sunday, October 8, 2017

Color Pooling in Crochet: An Exploration (with Bonus Knitting!)

Have you ever purchased a multi-color yarn that didn't work up like you expected it to? Perhaps the colors on the hank or skein didn't match what you wanted the finished object to look like. Perhaps an unexpected color pattern showed up along the way. When the colors of a yarn group up in particular places, that is called pooling. The color pooling in a finished object can really make or break it. You can have a lot of pooling or a little. The pooling could be patterned or random. There could be spots or stripes.

Here's the most important thing about pooling: It changes based on your stitch pattern. So, while it may be tempting to give away a yarn skein when the colors didn't thrill you the first time, wait! Try again. Another stitch pattern might make all the difference. Pooling can also be affected by the length of your repeat.

For this pooling exploration, I used a discontinued skein of Caron Simply Soft that my friend Vicki gave me, which hopefully represents something you might have laying around in your stash. I worked it up in a number of stitch patterns, trying to maintain around the same width.

In this first picture, I really like the pooling in the smaller stitches. The single crochet on the bottom left and the linen stitch on the top right look good to me. However, I don't really enjoy it in the taller stitches. The shell stitch at the top left looks a little muddy to me, and also has some vertical stripes going on. I also don't think this yarn looks good in the round at all, in either the double or triple crochet. What this tells me is that it could make a nice simple scarf, but I probably wouldn't want to use it for a hat.

I'm not the biggest fan of the pooling in almost any of the samples in this picture. The post ribs, v-stitch, double crochet, and triple crochet all look muddy to me. I think this is because this is a short color changing yarn instead of a long one, so in taller stitches there are lots of colors per stitch instead of just one or two. The knit garter stitch on the bottom right doesn't tickle me, either. However, the striped look of the stockinette above it is nice in a very different way from the single crochet.

There you have it, a small look at pooling. Have fun experimenting to find what looks best to you.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Crochet Basketweave Cowl in the Round

One of my most popular blog posts of all time is my basketweave stitch tutorial. It's easy to understand why; this is a fun stitch to work up, and the results are very attractive. One of my favorite basketweave projects has been my Carefree Crossbody Bag pattern. I also enjoy the basketweave stitch for times when mindless crocheting is necessary, such as on my commute or when distracted and chatting with my weekly fiber group. So, when I had some extra Berroco Ultra Alpaca hanging about, I decided to work it up in basketweave.

Sometimes you aren't sure what you are making until after you've begun. Such was the case with this particular project. This was my first time working the basketweave in the round, and boy was it fun. It looks crisper and cleaner than basketweave worked in rows because only the fronts of the stitches show on the outside. What my item eventually ended up becoming was an asymmetrical infinity scarf. I also included a little twist (ba dum tss!) on the basketweave by working up the lighter yarn in basketweave cables to vary the texture in addition to the color.

Working the scarf in the round made the finished product very warm. This is because the pocket in the center traps warmth. It would be an excellent choice for a very warm winter accessory.

Of course, Ranna didn't seem to mind the warmth. She is convinced that this scarf is actually some kind of cat bed. She murred and meowed while trying to get comfortable in it.

All in all, I definitely recommend working up basketweave in this way.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Berry Good Berry Bag Crochet Pattern

Fall is here! I love fall. Maybe that makes me "basic," but I don't care! I love pumpkin spice lattes, and pretty leaves, and candles, and crisp air, and all kinds of shenanigans. You know what else is a fall staple, especially in the Pacific Northwest? Berries. Berries grow all over the darn place out here; they happen to be invasive. Invasive or not, it's so fun to pick berries on the side of the road and eat them raw, turn them into pies, or even put them in a cocktail. You can pick your own berry with my new pattern, the Berry Good Berry Bag. It is available on Ravelry and Craftsy.

This sweet bag pattern is highly customizable. The sample is a raspberry, but you can easily create a blackberry, salmon berry, or blue raspberry with a simple color change. You could even make it into a bunch of grapes by using purple! You can also make it bigger or smaller by changing the weight of the yarn, changing the hook size, or adding more repeats.

Unlike many lined bags, this bag is worked in one piece. How convenient!

This pattern is for intermediate crocheters. The techniques used include crocheting in the round, working in front/back loop only, cluster stitches, detailed repeats, and some minor shaping.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Rainy Sunday Knitters Go to Tolt

A few weekends ago my fiber group, the Rainy Sunday Knitters, took a little trip to celebrate one of our members. Lindley (in the blue shawl that she made for her wedding) just recently got married, so we all went to brunch and to Tolt Yarn and Wool to celebrate. It was a little bit of a drive, but it was worth it. Tolt is known for its inspiring displays of yarn and friendly attendants. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Pictures of items are mine, and pictures of people were taken by my friend, Toni. Thanks for a great day out, friends. Best wishes, Lindley!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Review: Manos del Uruguay Alegria Grande Yarn

Today, I'll be reviewing Manos del Uruguay Alegria Grande yarn. Disclaimer: I received this complimentary yarn in exchange for a review. I am not being paid to write this review and everything shared here is my real opinion. Thanks go out to Fairmount Fibers for providing this lovely yarn for me to play with.

Despite having both my personal and professional lives being very busy, I am getting into the groove with my crochet business again. As such, I need to be very picky about how I spend my time. I have some big, exciting projects that I am working on. That said, when I got the opportunity to review another yarn from Manos del Uruguay (I previously reviewed Franca), I accepted right away. What a wonderful yarn company! They care about the people who make their yarn and the yarn itself is wonderful to work with.

As soon as I received my skein of Alegria Grande, I knew I would not be disappointed. There were many colors to choose from, but I selected Orquidea because it reminded me of a spring garden. The hank of yarn was so soft and squishy! Wanna know something silly? I ended up winding it up by hand instead of using my winder, simply because I wanted to play with the squishy goodness.

Having only one skein, I decided to dive into my crochet One Skein Wonders book to find a suitable project. I settled on the Boutique Weave Scarf because I wanted to show off the colors in the yarn. I ended up making some alterations to the pattern. First, I included more repeats of the mesh base. Second, I added a decorative border to either end instead of fringe. Last, I whipped up a little cinch with the remainder of my yarn ball so that the scarf could be worn once around the neck more comfortably.

I enjoyed every moment I spent working with this yarn. It is soft, doesn't snag, and has just the right amount of stitch definition. I will absolutely be working with this yarn again in the future. Don't just take my word for it; take a look at the finished product and decide for yourself.

Once again, I wholeheartedly recommend this delightful yarn.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Crochet in the Horror Movie "It Follows"

When I was younger, I used to be afraid all of the time. Of EvErYtHiNg. I mean, I once stayed up all night because I heard a noise in the wall while reading Stephen King's The Langoliers. I would also sleep with all of the lights on after watching any movie with aliens in it, even if they were friendly. While I still have a few lingering fears, like large spiders and needles, I am so much more able to handle the freaky and the frightening than I used to be. It's glorious!

I was recently watching an off-beat horror movie on Netflix called "It Follows." Surprisingly, the movie had a bunch of crochet in it. Here's a sampling:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors (with Bonus Crochet and Knitting!)

I recently attended the Infinity Mirrors exhibit by Yayoi Kusama, showing at the Seattle Art Museum. I love living in a city that is filled with such interesting and exciting things to do. This exhibit included many fabric-based pieces, so I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you. I tend to stick to fiber arts on this blog; if you'd like to see other interesting things I do and encounter, consider following me on Instagram. I waited in line for two hours to get a ticket to the exhibit. It is only traveling to a few cities in the United States, so I feel lucky to have seen it.

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who works with repeating patterns and colors. Her personal inspirations, philosophies, and experiences are quite interesting if you're inclined to do some internet research about her. She had a difficult upbringing and was a part of the counterculture. Today, she chooses to live in a psychiatric facility. Her exhibit is a wonderful example of the enrichment that those who struggle with psychological disorders can bring to the world, and specifically to art. Here are some highlights from my visit to her exhibit, along with a few extras from the rest of the museum. I even found some crochet and knitting!

On display were many interesting painted pieces. All of the chunky-looking work was done with stuffed fabric, with painted designs added. They felt like they were alive. One can only imagine how labor-intensive they would be to put together.

Here is one of the infinity mirror rooms, again populated by friendly, squishy, fabric lumps. The experience of being in this field of polka dots was very interesting. This particular room was quite cheerful. Since I went to the museum sans my boyfriend or friends this time, I got to skip many lines and enter with other groups. Thus, I got to experience the rooms over and over. Delightful!

Both times I caught this room on camera, it was green. However, the lights flashed and changed in rainbows of colors. It was spectacular! Each mirror cube limited you to a short period of time, usually 20 to 30 seconds. I think the artist wanted this for several reasons. First, there were many people who wanted to enjoy the exhibit, so times had to be short. Second, if you looked too long in the rooms your eyes and brain might habituate. This means you would start to notice reference points, like the seams in the mirrors, and a bit of the magic would be lost. Finally, infinity is made more special when we only get glimpses of it. I left the exhibit with a craving for more, which would likely please Kusama.

This whole section was love-themed and very sweet. I found this to be the most whimsical part of the exhibit. Also, I love the way that the horizon dips inside the mirror-sphere in the leftmost picture. It really gave me the sense that there was something beyond.

This is the Obliteration Room. It started out completely white. All of the dots that you see were added by museum patrons. I got to add my own dots, too!

This mirror room was my absolute favorite. It was so magical that my eyes misted over the first time I walked in. By now, you all know how space-obsessed I am. I think that this experience was the closest I have ever felt to being surrounded by stars. Since it was dark, you couldn't see the lines in the mirrors very much. It felt real, like I was really standing in a different realm for a few brief moments. I couldn't stop myself from using my singles-line privileges to view this room about five times in total. The whole exhibit was really wonderful.

Even though I had been on my feet for hours by this point, I made sure to stroll through the rest of the museum. Above is a small collection of art that made a particular impression on me, including a wood-paneled room from the late 1500s. I suppose I really do love immersive experiences! SAM is very nicely curated.

I promised you crochet, and here it is! There was a super interesting piece on display that was an amalgamation of fabric swatches sewn together by Nick Cave. It included many knit swatches and also crochet rounds.

My day at the museum was delightful indeed. I encourage anyone who gets the chance to go see Kusama's art.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sweet As Honey Commission

I have a dirty secret to share... I don't really enjoy doing commissions. Part of the reason that I love being a designer is that I never have to make the same thing twice. Instead, I get to come up with brand new ideas, occasionally working up other people's patterns as well. Commissions almost always end up being something I made in the past, someone saw, and then wanted me to make again for them. I value and thank all of my previous commission customers, but it is highly unlikely that I will accept another commission unless it is extremely unique.

I love my Sweet As Honey pattern. It has brought so many people to Illuminate Crochet, and I am very thankful for that as well. It is fitting that my last official commission be based on that pattern. Alex, one of my best friends, wanted a miniature version of it to hang on his wall. I worked it up in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, a fingering weight yarn. Here is the finished product, along with a  few process photos. The work will eventually be framed. I am happy that it is finally complete.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Knit Yarn Bomb Spotted in Seattle

A while back I was walking from Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle, when I happened to spy this lovely knit yarn bomb on a sculpture outside Cornish College of the Arts. Such a stylish wrap the figure has!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Crochet Shrimp Amigurumi

Alexis, my former co-worker turned friend, has the most adorable child. (She's also an excellent hat model.) He is currently three years old and melt-your-heart cute. I always enjoy the stories Alexis shares about him, especially the funny things that he says.

One day, Alexis was working one-on-one with an elementary student who attends the school that I manage. She planned a mosaic art project for the day, a snowman made of ripped pieces of construction paper. Upon returning home, she shared her example project with her son. The following is my best second-hand account of their conversation:

Alexis: "Look what I made at work today. What is it?"

Adorable child: "It IS... a shrimp!"

Alexis: "... a what?"

Adorable child: "It IS a shrimp!" *points to nose of snowman*

Alexis: "No... see? It's a snowman."

But alas, the little one was insistent that the snowman's nose was a shrimp. He didn't stop there, either. Over the next several weeks, he declared several other things to be shrimp, including a slice of lemon in a glass of water. I decided that I needed to make the little dude a crochet shrimp, so that when he emphatically declared "it IS a shrimp" he would be right. When Alexis mentioned that I was making a shrimp for him, he commented "Oh! It will be tasty."

I'm not sure how tasty it is, but here is the shrimp. I made it with leftover yarn from my Sushi Baby Set, which worked out quite well. I recorded pattern notes for the shrimp, but don't have an official pattern for it yet. I may develop one later if there is interest.

Alexis has mentioned that her son is quite pleased with his acquisition.