Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Focus: Lara Mouttham

I am a nerd. What's a nerd? The definition varies. To me, a nerd is someone who knows a lot about something and is invested in it. Being a nerd can mean using your brain, building your skills, and getting excited about things. A few (believe me...there are loads) of the things I'm nerdy about are space, the ocean, fantasy/sci-fi novels, Minecraft, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and crochet. That last one should be pretty obvious by now. I suppose there was a time when "nerd" was used as a pejorative, but happily I have never had it used that way towards me. "Nerd" seems to be more of a point of pride nowadays, which is awesome. It's wonderful that more and more folks feel like they can share their interests with others without as much fear of judgment.

Ye, all my fellow nerds rejoice! For I have found a crochet designer of great consequence. Lara Mouttham of Level Up Nerd Apparel is on a quest to fill the world with delightfully nerdy crochet patterns. Her patterns span many fandoms and her selection is still growing. I squeed when I saw her A:TLA stuff and got even more excited once I realized how completely creative and attentive to details she is. Let your freak flag fly with me today as we learn more about Lara and her designs.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
I taught myself how to crochet about 4 years ago, from a book. I had decided to take up crocheting because I found it increasingly difficult to just sit and watch TV without doing something with my hands (it was too boring). So I figured I would pick up a hobby that would occupy my hands with minimum thinking involved, and when it came to choosing between crocheting and knitting, I figured crocheting would be easier because it only requires one hook instead of two needles - you can't argue with that kind of logic, right?

Why do you crochet?
Now I crochet because it is a relaxing and productive way to enjoy my downtime. It also allows me to be creative in a way I have never been before. I've always had an artistic side, and while I could always copy or reproduce something quite well (a drawing, dance choreography, etc), I could never create something from scratch. Designing my own patterns has been the first time I've created a project straight from my imagination without relying on a guide of some sort. It's extremely liberating - and makes me feel less like a creativity-deficient human being.

Just over a year ago, I made a Viking hat for my boyfriend. When one of our friends suggested I start selling them, I thought it was pure madness... Me? Charging people money for my hats? Who would be crazy enough to GIVE me money for them?? Well, it turns out many people are! Starting my crochet business has been a wonderful learning experience, with many ups and a few downs (taxes.... amiright?), the best of which is that I now have a valid excuse to blend two of my favorite things: crocheting and being a nerd. I can justify watching nerdy shows as research, and my equally geeky boyfriend gets first dibs and input on my new creations, making us one big happy nerdy household.

Crochet Favorites
My hooks are the Boyes set that came with the teach yourself crochet book. They've served me faithfully all these years, so I've never really looked into getting other ones! However, I might upgrade to fancy ergonomic ones for my trusty "I" hook, before I give myself carpal tunnel. 

As for yarn, I use the Caron Simply Soft line for my products, because they are so soft with beautiful colors, and you can't do much better as far as pricing goes. I do want to explore wool-cotton blends for my personal projects, because that's what grownups with bigger budgets do.

What are you working on right now?
Everything! I'm one of those who gets amazing ideas when I don't have a pen, then forget about them until later when I have no time to work on it.  

Right now is the busy-busy season for hats and accessories, what with it being winter and stuff, so I don't have much time to actively work on any new designs. But a few that I have cogitating in the back of my mind include Jake and Finn hats from Adventure Time, Sailor Moon wrist warmers with little bows, ewok hooded cowls to round up my Star Wars line, a Spock beanie from Star Trek, a dinosaur hooded cowl, and a Thor helmet (mostly because I hope Chris Hemsworth will want one). 

A few finished objects...
The Aang wrist warmers are a tribute to Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of my all-time favorite shows. It has allowed me to explore color change and come up with a new (albeit confusing) method of changing yarn to allow for neat, straight, seamless lines.  

The Link hat, from the Legend of Zelda, is by far my best-seller. I had no idea it would be this popular when I first created it, but Zelda fans everywhere love the simplicity and warmth of this hat.
The R2D2 hat is just adorable, in my opinion. It was a lot of fun (and challenging) figuring out the color pattern to be as faithful to the original droid while working within the stitch count required for the size and shape. It's also the hat I wear the most during the winter time, although I try not to play favorites too much.

How cool is all of this nerd swag? I totally adore Lara's patterns. They can be found on Ravelry, and both patterns as well as finished objects can be found on Etsy. Thank you for nerding out with us and sharing your story, Lara!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Criss Cross Stitch

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! I'm really excited and certainly very thankful. My favorite dish at Thanksgiving is the green bean casserole. What's yours? To start preparing, today I am making the dessert ahead of time. It's not pumpkin pie, but a pumpkin roll. I like pumpkin rolls because they are a delicious twist (ba dum ch) on the traditional. Sometimes it's nice to mix things up a bit.

For a different take on a common stitch, why not try the criss cross double crochet stitch? This technique is sometimes called cross-over double crochet and it is exactly what it says on the tin. It is worked in sets of two stitches, with the first double crochet worked in the second stitch before you backtrack and work the second double crochet into the first stitch from behind. Here is an excellent tutorial. I would definitely suggest this stitch to a beginner because they will utilize skills they likely already have with a little twist to make it interesting. Also, the motions performed will help to prepare you for around the post crochet if you haven't tried it yet. I'm in a perpetual state of stash busting. This criss cross project was great because I made it for a tall girl and it used up a lot of yarn!

To finish I added a simple picot border. Fringe might have looked nice but the scarf was already so long that I didn't think it would be a good idea. This stitch has a nice rhythm and a modern look to it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bird's Nest Bowl Set

Crochet bowls and baskets have always interested me. I like that they are flexible and soft while still maintaining enough rigidity to be functional. After filtering through the available patterns, I finally selected Tamara Kelly's Bird's Nest Bowl Set to play around with. Happily, I happened to have a skein of the exact yarn that she calls for in the pattern, which was nice. Here's how they came out.

I made two of the four available sizes. Bowls like these would be great for kids' toys, random clutter, electronics cords, and more. They were fun and fast, so I recommend this as an instant gratification pattern. Gotta love the texture too, one of Tamara's specialties. Why not hook some up yourself?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Focus: Kathy Clark

Friday. What does it hold for you? It could be the end of a long and tiring work week and the beginning of a weekend of fun. It could mean that your kids are home from school and you're excited to spend time with them. You might have a busy weekend lined up, exciting but also a little draining. As for me, my weekend will be filled with the love of my husband and a rare night out on the town with a close friend. Living in walking distance of downtown Seattle can come in handy! All of the little moments in between will be stitched with care. Hopefully I can come close to finishing the project I've been working on for a month and a half. I can't wait to share it with you after Christmas.

Kathy Clark has spent years filling her moments with crochet, leading her to become a talented and accomplished woman. With over forty years of experience and numerous publications, she has a splendid and impressive body of work. She is enamored of snowflakes and has many delightful wintery projects available, both small and delicate as well as large and substantial. It is my pleasure to spend a few of my little moments this Friday acquainting you with Kathy. Here are a few of her insights and reflections.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it? 
I've been crocheting for over 40 years. When I was 12, there was a crocheted vest pattern I found and was determined to make, so my mom and I figured out how to crochet together. I fell in love with crochet and have been crocheting and making up my own projects ever since.

Why do you crochet?
I always like to be busy working on something. I find crochet very mathematical and I enjoy the challenge of figuring out all the intricacies of a design.

Crochet Favorites
I am definitely a threadie at heart and use mostly Aunt Lydia's Classic crochet thread, size 10, and a small steel crochet hook for my designs. My favorite thread projects are snowflakes, but I also enjoy creating summery tops and skirts with thread. I recently discovered the new Knit Pick's Curio crochet thread which I'm also looking forward to creating many more projects with.

When I'm not working with thread, I love working on reversible designs. Typically, I work on afghans using Caron's Simply Soft or Bernat's Satin yarn because of their softness and ease to work with.

My favorite hooks are the Boye hooks. I like the shape of their hook the best.

What are you working on right now?
I'm currently working on several snowflake designs. Each year I put together a new snowflake pattern set. I'm a huge fan of the "Snowflake Man" Wilson Bentley, who photographed snowflakes in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I like to fashion my snowflakes after his photographs and try to pick up the intricate details of each. I'm also working on a second pattern set which uses snowflakes in a creative way such as a clock and area rug. In addition, I have several projects in the planning stages, like ruffle scarves using ruffle yarn in a unique way and reversible tote bags.

A few finished objects... 
Winter Shimmer Shrug: I love snowflakes and try to incorporate them into my designs as often as possible. My Winter Shimmer Shrug uses a snowflake motif for the body of the shrug and then carries elements of the snowflake motif into the sleeves. 

Cool Blue Evening Shawl: I love working with thread and figuring out motifs that can be crocheted together as you go so there is no need to sew the motifs together. I also enjoy seeing the additional designs that take shape when connecting the motifs. The Cool Blue Evening Shawl uses hexagon and half-hexagon motifs to create this triangle shawl. 

Wicker Wonder Reversible Afghan: My favorite of my reversible designs is the Wicker Wonder afghan. I was inspired by how the wicker design is woven and challenged myself to duplicate that effect in a reversible afghan.

My patterns can be found on my website. For updates on my current projects, you can also visit my Facebook page. I'm also on Ravelry and Craftsy

What gorgeous projects, and they barely touch on the wealth of patterns that Kathy has written. My personal favorite is her Hawaiian Lei Ruffle Scarf, as I have developed a fondness for Hawaii in recent years due to my husband's stories of his early childhood living near Honolulu. Kathy has something for everyone, from snowflakes to leis! Thank you so very much for sharing your treasures with us today, Kathy. In fact, I'm off to take a look at them once more!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Practical Birthday Present

Today is my birthday! Yay! I love birthdays. I feel like there aren't enough special times in life dedicated to celebrating the people we love, so birthdays are important to me, both my own and others'. It irks me that some folks think excitably enjoying birthdays and holidays is childish. It's not childish, it's human. Happy Birthday to me! I think I'll spend the day making myself some orange flavored chocolate chip cupcakes, ignoring my chores, watching movies, and... you guessed it... crocheting!

I have such a dear husband. We decided to celebrate my birthday together this past weekend since it falls on a weekday this year. He took me to The Melting Pot for dinner. Yum! I feel so fortunate and blessed. When I was young I always wanted to try fondue, but it was so expensive. I am grateful for my life and the amazing, fun things Alex and I are able to do together. This whole year has been pretty incredible.

Wanna know what else we did this past weekend? We journeyed to Ballard to pick out my birthday present... yarn storage! Yes, friends, I am thoroughly enamored with storage. I love organizing and my yarn had gotten a bit out of control. I'm working on a few large projects at the same time, so the yarn for those projects ended up overflowing my old, modest storage and colonizing my project box, linen closet, and a dresser drawer. Yikes! Not to fear, my days of yarn ferreting are now behind me. Meet my new storage. It was immensely satisfying sorting my yarn into it.

Isn't it delightful? It enjoys a place of prominence in our dining/living area. There's my project box on top where I keep my hooks, notes, scissors, and whatever my current project happens to be (with the exception of the one I'm hooking up now, which is too big to fit in the box). This may be a modest yarn stash compared to some, but I personally don't like having a lot of stuff lying around. I only want to have yarn in the house if it is going to be used soon. In light of my preferences, this storage seems super large to me! Let's take a tour. Sorry for the poor lighting. Not much natural daylight to be had in Seattle in late autumn!

The top drawer houses my nicer yarns. Lots of Cascade Cherub, both Aran and DK. Be on the lookout for an awesome new pattern in that teal color in the coming months! There's some Berroco and some nice nylon cord hanging out in there. I also keep my indie yarn up top.

Next up is my Lion Brand Drawer. Lion Brand makes my favorite craft store yarns, of which I prefer Vanna's Choice. Vanna's Choice makes up 75% of the drawer, though there's some Kitchen Cotton, Lion Suede and Jiffy in there too.

Finally, I've filled the bottom drawer with Simply Soft plus a bit of Red Heart and another acrylic yarn by Caron. I have a somewhat lofty goal of slowly phasing out the yarns in the bottom drawer, moving the Lion Brand to the bottom, and filling the middle drawer with the same quality of yarn as the first. We'll see how that goes. Yarn can set you back a pretty penny, another reason I keep my stash small and make sure to use what I have.

Here's a gratuitous cat picture. Ranna has always loved sitting on my project box on the ground (and in it if she's sneaky!), and now that it's elevated she's positive we did it just for her. You have no idea how hard it is to take pictures of anything around here without a cat in them. She is the worst photo bomber ever. She's so friendly she just has to follow me around the house and climb in every shot. Every picture you see here had to be retaken at least three times as a result.

I want to show you what I upgraded from. I've also put some other supplies in the old storage. Let's check it out.

It sits in the corner of the nook next to my craft tower that's full of quilling, card making, and other miscellaneous supplies. Notice that it's like one third the size of my lovely new birthday storage.

The top drawer now houses all of my remnants/scraps. These balls of yarn are too small to be used in a substantial project but may be useful for appliques, simple baby hats, and other small projects. They look rather large in this picture but the largest of them would still easily fit inside a cupped hand, and my hands are fairly petite.

The second drawer is filled with odds and ends. Safety eyes, pipe cleaners, felt, that sort of thing. The bottom drawer is crammed full of bags of stuffing. I didn't open it because, ahem, it's rather hard to close.

Well then, now you and I have no secrets. I feel like showing you my stash is like showing you my diary or something. I'm a bit envious of those folks who can proudly and prettily display their yarns on shelves or similar out in the open, but my little yarn stealing fiend of a cat makes that impossible. Despite those limitations, I'm pleased as punch about my new storage. Thanks, Alex! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy my birthday :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Focus: Liz McQueen

Some designers' pattern portfolios just astonish me. The creativity and dedication of the crochet community is amazing. I see picture after picture of unique objects, each born in someone's brain and somehow magically made up out of string. What an inspiration! Today's featured designer is the popular Liz McQueen, and she is a designer to follow. Her hat patterns are colorful and diverse. Almost a thousand people have hooked up her beloved Brain Waves Beanie. She is an amazing woman for so many reasons, of which crochet is only one. I wanted to learn more about this talented lady, and I'm pleased to be featuring her as today's Friday Focus.

That's me and my son, Declan, in front of the fence at our Kindergarten. In late May, 2012 we experienced a deep loss - my daughter Bryn passed away suddenly, just after her last day of Preschool. The following year on what would have been her 6th birthday, I organized a global yarn bomb in her honor. The flower garden you see on the fence is the result of crocheters from all over the world flooding me with flowers, stems, ladybugs, butterflies, and even a rainbow. It stands as a testament to the many lives touched by my amazing, sparkling Bryn.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
My mom was my first teacher when I was very young, but I was more interested in riding bikes with my friends than I was in granny squares so it all fell out of head pretty quickly. My real passion for crochet took hold when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, Bryn, in 2006. My sister-in-law taught me the basics over Thanksgiving and it took off from there. I haven't put down my hooks since. 

Why do you crochet?
It's a pretty simple answer - I love it! I've always been a little nerdy, so imagine my excitement when I found something that plays to my natural analytical tendencies (pattern repeats and even counts) while letting my right-brain play with color and design. Math and I are even on speaking terms now because of crochet, after a painful break-up in my teen years. I also have a hard time sitting still and crochet give me something to do with my hands - my husband laughs at me because he ends up having to explain things that I miss while we watch our favorite shows because I was keeping count.  

On a more serious note, I love the crochet community because of the support and love given to my family during a tragedy that no parent should ever have to go through. About a year and a half ago, my daughter Bryn passed away in my arms, a month after her 5th birthday. Family, friends, and complete strangers rallied behind us and continue to give us support; something I'll be eternally grateful for. We've received more than I could ever give back, but what touched my heart the most was the number of people who volunteered to help me yarn bomb the fence around the kindergarten Bryn would have attended. I've written more on my blog if you'd like to read more. 

Crochet Favorites
I'm definitely a worsted weight kind-of-girl so my main yarn is Vanna's Choice by Lion Brand. Although I try to get my hands on merino and alpaca as often as I can afford it. As for hooks, I've worked with my fair share. By far my favorite is my set of Tulip Etimo's. I tend to lose my hooks a lot, only to find them later stuck in my back pocket or in the scary crevices of my sofa. I've gone into a state of panic more than once over a misplaced Tulip, turning everything in my living room upside down. In fact, I have a backup of my "I" hook now because my daughter put the original in the trunk of her tricycle, only to be found after I got the replacement.

What are you working on right now?
With Christmas right around the corner (already, gah!) I'm focusing on balancing my order list with my other ongoing projects. It's Playin' Hooky Tee & Hoodie Week and I'm super excited about it. Every 3-4 months I hold a sale of tees & hoodies featuring my skull & cross hooks logo drawn using actual crochet stitches. This time I added new softstyle long-sleeve tees to my regular line of fitted & unfitted tees plus pullover and zippered hoodies. I can't wait to see the new tees! I'm also in the middle of re-testing and upgrading each of my patterns with all new tutorials and using my new pattern format. I'm in it for the long-haul! 

A few finished objects...
Offshore Beanie - This is probably my favorite new beanie. It's fun to work up and the entire look of the hat can be changed by using more of fewer colors.

Houndstooth Beanie - A classic and it's reversible! My latest upgraded design included a few new add-ons - Earflaps and a slouchy version!

Brain Waves Beanie - My free pattern. It's still one of my favorites and perfect for everyone.

Hats off to you, Liz! Her designs and more can be found on her website, Ravelry, Craftsy, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. It must feel good to know that your patterns keep others cozy and warm. Thank you very much for joining us today, Liz. 

Today's blog post is dedicated to Bryn.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Meet Mr. Bingley, the Little Scottie Dog

I just love trying out new patterns. My Ravelry queue is unreasonably long, but I swear I will get to each and every one of those projects eventually. Designing my owns patterns makes me appreciate the hard work of others all the more.

Since I needed a little break from designing my current project, I decided to take a crack at a pattern that's been in my queue for a long time: Scottie Dogs by Sonea Delvon. This is a free pattern. It's fairly well written, and any ambiguities are cleared up by looking at her hand-drawn diagrams. In fact, I'd suggest looking at the diagrams before you begin so that you get a feel for the project. I was able to finish my dog in about two hours, making this a quick and fun project. My dog was made using her "medium" guidelines. I used Vanna's Choice with a 5mm hook so the fabric would be tight and the stuffing wouldn't show through.

I added the collar and heart-butt myself. I think he's a charming little fellow. He might have been named Mr. Darcy, but I think he looks a little too friendly for that, so Mr. Bingley it is. There's a lot more Vanna's Choice where that came from, so I'll likely add a few more Scottie Dogs to my collection. How should I embellish them?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Crochet Sample Sale

Hello, friends! It's the time of year when I sell all of the finished objects that haven't already been sold or given as gifts during 2013. All of the items you see here were handmade by me. Some of these items were made as samples for the writing of my own original patterns and some were made because I wanted to try out the patterns of others. A few items were free-handed, meaning I invented the designs myself but did not write patterns for them. I know many of you have probably started your holiday shopping and I want to give you this opportunity to buy handmade. All proceeds will go towards more materials so that I may continue to grow in my blossoming and successful crochet design career.

Below you will find a list of item descriptions and prices. If you are interested in a piece and would like more information, please contact me with the name and/or item number via text, phone, or Items are one-of-a-kind. When they're gone, they're gone!

1. Sweet As Honey Baby Set, $65. Pattern by Me
2. Paris Baby Set, $65. Pattern by Me
3. Amber Bee Bag, $20. Pattern by Me
4. Blair Headband Collection, $10. Pattern by Me
5. Natural Baby Hat, $10. Free-handed
6. Denim Baby Hat, $10. Free-handed
7. Textured Baby Hat, $10. Free-handed
8. Women's Divine Hat, $18. Pattern by Sarah Arnold
9. Women's Motif Beanie, $15. Free-handed
10. Women's Half-Crossed Hat, $18. Pattern by Me
11. Lullaby Baby Set, $65. Pattern by Me
12. Wheel of Dreams Baby Blanket, $45. Pattern by Me
13. Nicki Tote Bag, $25. Pattern by Me
14. Large Octopus, $12. Pattern by Paula Gail
15. Small Octopus, $8. Pattern by Paula Gail
16. Small Octopus, $8. Pattern by Paula Gail
17. Heart Garland, $12. Pattern by Sarah Anderson
18. Strawberries and Cream Baby Set, $50. Pattern by Me

For domestic shipping, please add $5. International shipping will be assessed on a case by case basis. I sometimes do custom orders if the idea interests me. If you'd like to chat with me about a custom order, please email me at the address shown above. Be aware that it may take a few weeks for me to fill the order and a customization fee may apply.

Here's a BIG THANK YOU to all of my blog readers, pattern and object buyers, social media followers, friends, and family who have supported me this year. Illuminate Crochet couldn't shine without you!

<3 Sara

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Focus: Maja Masar

When the weather outside is frightful...isn't crochet delightful? For sure! I love spending the gusty grey days with my hook and yarn. It's also nice to take a gander at all of the pretties other people are putting together. As I was making my internet-addicted crochet search rounds, I came across the sweet little baby booties of Maja Masar. I have to admit that I'm usually not the biggest fan of baby booties for whatever reason, but when I saw Maja's designs I became a convert. She also has several other sweet patterns. Here she is to chat with us as today's featured designer.

My name is Maja and I come from Zadar, small town in the center of the Croatian coast. I'm the mother of two beautiful children and they are the inspiration for all of my patterns. My son is true little helper. He is only 8 months old and always wants to grab my yarn. :) Here is me with my daughter on a weekend trip. She is reading the map and the rest of us follow.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
My mother taught me how to crochet basic crochet stitches about 20 year ago, and as she was crocheting only doilies I thought that was all I could crochet. That was not too interesting to me so my hook lay down for 20 years. Then my niece asked me to crochet a cellphone purse for her birthday. I said "ok" and wrote in Google search "crochet". Wow... what I found was amazing and I started crocheting all over again. That was in 2010. Since then I have crocheted baby afghans, baby booties, scarves, hats, bags... about anything you can think of. I sold some baby booties on Facebook and they soon became a huge hit! I have more than 14,000 fans on my page. Now I know that my real passion is designing booties and baby toys.

Why do you crochet?
I started selling my patterns two months ago on Etsy, Ravelry, and Craftsy, and I also have shops on Zibbet and Luulla. That is really my dream job and I hope it will soon become my only job.
Crochet Favorites
My favorite crocheting yarn is 100% cotton because of the beautiful and clear color. When I crochet with wool it always seem blurry to me but that doesn't stop me from using wool as well. :) 

What are you working on right now?
Currently I'm working on my patterns. I want to make many of them as I already have many booties that need to be written down. My imagination never stops working and new ideas come to me daily but I just don't have time to write everything so quickly. So I go one at a time and soon there will be many of them. 

A few finished objects...
This is designed as a baby carriage toy, "4 Elements". The idea came to me when my daughter and husband watched Avatar, so I said to myself "Why not?". :) The patterns still waits to be written. 

This one was designed when one lady told me "If you crochet flip-flops, I'll buy them." So I did, and she did buy them. :)

This is the first model of baby booties that I crocheted and when they were finished my thoughts were "Ok, now we're talking business", and my adventure with Facebook started. Since then I've improved them but idea is still the same.

So cute and creative! My personal favorite pattern of Maja's is her ladybug baby booties pattern. Her work can be found under the brand Maki Crochet on Etsy, Ravelry, Craftsy, Zibbet, Luulla, and Facebook. Thank you so much for showing us your adorable creations, Maja!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller

The Good
This book is a must-have for beginning crocheters. It explains all of the crochet basics in a clear and entertaining way with good graphic accompaniment. The patterns in this book are fun and young. My copy is very worn from all of the times I've thumbed through it for direction. I would not hesitate to purchase this book for a friend. There's even a pattern for fuzzy bunny slippers!

The Bad
This book has quite a few errors, and errors are certainly not conducive to coherent crochet patterns. There is an error correction page, but it's annoying to have to keep a loose page inside a book. All of the patterns are by different authors. This isn't a problem, but it is worth noting that many of the book's patterns can now be found distributed by those authors for free on Ravelry.

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

Monday, November 4, 2013

More Crochet Sightings!

Crochet is so popular right now and I'm totally loving it. Here are two crochet sightings that my husband and I have had recently.

You've likely seen this first one. It's a coffee cozy on a poster at Starbucks. My friend and crochet buddy who manages our apartment building sent it to me as well. I really like it because it encourages using alternatives to wasteful java jackets.

The second is a phone case that my husband Alex and I saw in a Ross store. It has great vintage appeal. It's kind of a weird idea for a phone case to be honest, but I enjoy it for obvious reasons. It could be tatting but it looks like crochet to me, especially the outer round of the circle before it becomes lacy and pointed.

Seen any cool crochet out and about lately? Share it with us here or on my Facebook page!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Focus: Sonja van der Wijk

It's November! Yay! I really like the month of November, that bridge into winter. Everyone begins to hunker down and get cozy in their homes preparing for winter and the holiday season. Speaking of holidays, I hope y'all had a nice Halloween yesterday. I'm not a big Halloween person so I didn't dress up (if I had, I would have been Daria). Instead, my husband and I ate dinner out and then relaxed at home to chat and eat some chocolate.

I really have been feeling like a homebody lately, spending my time doing house chores, baking, reading, and of course crocheting. The other day, as I was snuggled up on the couch with the fireplace going, I came across the work of today's featured crocheter: Sonja van der Wijk. I instantly fell in love and knew I had to share my discovery with you. Her precious creations are so delightfully classic. With their sweet details and spot-on shaping they totally remind me of the illustrations in Beatrix Potter stories, an appropriate comparison as Sonja herself is an illustrator as well as a crocheter. So dear readers, get cozy with me today and let these little fellows warm your heart. Tell us all about them, Sonja!

This is me, doing one of my favorite things, hiking. Here I’m followed by the providers of wool, lovely sheep.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it? 
About three years ago I learned to crochet and I'm self taught. I discovered crochet animals in a local gift shop and I loved the retro style and texture of them. I looked for more information about them on the internet and learned they were crocheted and that many people were making similar animals called ‘amigurumi'. I really wanted to learn to make these amigurumi and from one thing came another and eventually I started designing my own patterns. 
Discovering those crochet animals in that gift shop is one of the best things that has happened to me. Now I do something I absolutely love doing and every animal I design is special to me. I’ve always loved animals and sometimes regret that I chose to study art instead of biology. But by making crochet animals, those two worlds kind of come together. Now I can study animals and ‘make' them.

Why do you crochet?
I crochet because I love to make 3 dimensional versions of the animals I'm drawing (I’m also a professional illustrator). It's so challenging to do and when an animal is finished I feel like I have brought my drawing to life. It is a struggle sometimes and can drive me mad, especially when I have to make lots of versions to get the right shape, but the end result makes worth every effort I’ve put into it. 

Crochet Favorites
My absolute favorite yarn to work with is L├Ętt- Lopi. It's a 100% Icelandic wool and I'm fond of the texture and character it adds to my animals. The yarn has become an important aspect of my style and gives my animals their rustic looks. My other materials are cheap metal crochet hooks, paperclips as stitch markers, and other low budget materials. I like working with basic materials.  

What are you working on right now?
I just finished a crochet hedgehog pattern and now I'm going to design a pattern for a reindeer and a raccoon. I think I’m going to focus on making more ’seasonal’ animals. I consider hedgehogs to be autumn creatures and the reindeer pattern is perfect for winter. The raccoon is an exception but I just look very forward to making one. 

A few finished objects...
This is Falun, my crochet badger pattern. Badgers are my ultimate favorite animals. I love their attitude and habits and had to make a crochet version. 
Flam, the crochet fox pattern is one of the first ‘forest friends’ I designed. I love his colors and rustic looks. Like the badger he’s about 5.5 inches tall while sitting.

Finse is my wild rabbit friend. He’s a cheerful looking animal and a lovely doll. I love making animals like these. They look quite realistic, but are playful dolls at the same time. And that is most important to me. To make animals who have their own character and also do resemble the real thing.

What precious little animals. I would like to declare that these are some of the best amigurumi animals that I have ever seen, at least according to my tastes. Honestly, these are some of the best crochet objects that I've seen, period. Sonja has achieved exactly what she set out to achieve. Her darling stuffies truly do have their own character while still being very true to life. Well done!

You can learn more about Sonja, her many lovely patterns, and her illustrations on her website and her Twitter. As for me, I know that I will be making a few of these little friends in the future. Thank you so much for spending time with us today, Sonja!