Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New 2015 Friday Features

Hello, readers! We are here at the beginning of a whole new year. This blog has seen so much growth and development over the past year and my current Friday features, Remix Friday and Friday Focus, have enjoyed a lot of popularity. We've seen inspiring, bold projects remixed by everyday crocheters and learned about talented designers. My 2014 features were wonderful indeed but I am just itching to shake things up. Collaborating with others has left me with so much enthusiasm that I have decided to expand all of our horizons in 2015... with new blog features! You're going to love them and there's something for everyone. Read on to discover what you have to look forward to on Illuminate Crochet this coming year.

The first Friday of every month is Fiber Arts Friday! Join me as we expand our horizons beyond crochet to focus on other interesting fiber and needle arts. Enjoy the beautiful projects and learn something new along the way.

The second Friday of every month is Indie-Dye Friday! Feast your eyes on lovely yarn in gorgeous colorways developed by talented independent yarn dyers.

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

The fourth Friday of every month is From the Source Friday! Show your appreciation to these dedicated fiber farmers as they teach you all about where your yarn comes from.

The fifth Friday of January, May, July, and October is Freebie Friday! Tune in to find out how to enter my exciting giveaways. You could win yarn, patterns, findings, and more!

So, there you have them! I hope you're as excited about my new Friday features as I am. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 29, 2014

I Love the Rainy Sunday Knitters

The other day my friend Toni took a bunch of pictures at the Sunday fiber group I attend, The Rainy Sunday Knitters. Both knitters and crocheters (like me!) are welcome in our group, and we even have a cross stitcher/embroiderer. Although not everyone is pictured or present, I wanted to share the fun and liveliness with you. A few members even finished major projects at this particular meeting. Thanks for letting me post the photos, Toni!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday Focus: Sarah Jane Designs

We've reached the end of the month once again. You know what that means... Friday Focus time! Today's featured designer, Sarah Jane, creates really interesting lacy and textured patterns. Her accessories have such a neat Victorian flair. If you're looking for something a bit different yet still elegant and chic, Sarah's got just the patterns for you. She's here today to tell us a bit about her patterns and about her design career.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
I have been crocheting since I was about 4 years old (if very long chains count!). From memory I was shown the basic stitches by a great Aunt of mine who was actually blind. I only ever saw her the once but she was patient enough with a curious 4 year old and sent me away with a ball of wool and my very own crochet hook. The rest I taught myself via library books and trial and error (lots of error!). My first actual finished object was a hideous cape thing made from any scrap of yarn I could salvage, using only chain stitch and single crochet which were the only 2 stitches I knew at the time (I was about 8 I think)....I wish I still had it.

Why do you crochet?
I need to be creative, it helps to keep me sane in the insanity of a life that involves 8 children even though they are a mixture of children and adults now. I love to crochet because it’s portable and needs minimal tools, I can pick up a hook and work just a few stitches or spend an entire afternoon ‘hooking’. I have done many other crafts but have always come back to crochet which is my first love. With the number of children in the house it’s great to have a craft that I can pick up and put down at will and that doesn’t include copious pins or other sharp implements, also if I lose a stitch it is only one stitch :D.

Crochet Favorites
Magazines, I love all kinds of magazines for crochet and I get a lot of inspiration from knitting and fashion magazines as well. Pinterest is my very favourite place (after Ravelry of course), I can spend hours on Pinterest if I’m not careful. I have a couple of stitch dictionaries but these days I find most of what I need on the internet. Also and are my favourite blogs both for reading and tutorials and things.

As for hook I use the cheap aluminium hooks that can be bought on Ebay for just a few dollars, I also use Boye aluminium hooks and love them. I seem to prefer the weight and feel of the aluminium hooks over other types and don’t like hooks that have handles because my crocheting style means that the handle gets in the way.I adore colour and texture, I am inspired by the feel and colour of the yarn as well.

What are you working on right now?
I have just finished a shawl that I am blocking and am part way through a submission piece. I also have a few ideas floating around for a couple of collections I’d like to publish next year. I am also working on a hat but am not liking it so much so that one will probably end up in the frog pile.

A few finished objects...
I am very proud of my Hardware Heaven Collection which combines both crochet and steampunk. It’s made in Jilly yarn from Dream in Color and I loved everything about working on this collection.

Soft as Butter was a departure for me as it is a larger item than I usually make. Creating the pattern and charts was challenging but I love how it turned out.

Frostberry Hat is one of my most popular designs and came from a stitch pattern I saw on the internet that I loved and was determined to use in something...The difference in the texture from one side of the hat to the other is my favourite thing about this.

Sarah is so talented to be able to create such unique and different designs. Take a look at more of her work on Ravelry and catch up with her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Thank you so much for joining us today, Sarah!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

An Unusal Tree Topper

My wonderful friend Nicki texted me the best picture ever the other day. I just have to share it with you! She was decorating her Christmas tree with her husband Jake and the subject of a tree topper came up. What was his delightfully silly contribution to the project? He took a crochet octopus I had previously given to Nicki and gave it a new home.

Aww! What an honor to be a part of their holiday season in this way :) Whatever you happen to celebrate, I hope that all of your holidays are filled with happiness (and tentacles)! <3

Monday, December 22, 2014

How to Read a Crochet Pattern

I remember the first time I tried to read a crochet pattern. It was a rather frustrating experience. What was/is it like for you? If you're teaching yourself to crochet, as so many folks are doing these days, you may find yourself attempting to read a crochet pattern with no one to guide you. Today I'd like to share some strategies for reading crochet patterns as a novice or beginner. Hopefully I can save you some time and frustration!

Learn the basic stitches.
Before we walk, we crawl. Before you learn to read a pattern it's best to be familiar with the most basic of crochet stitches: chain, slip stitch, single crochet, half double crochet, double crochet, and triple crochet. There are tutorials for all of these on blogs and YouTube. You could also purchase a beginning crochet book or check one out from the library. I recommend The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller. Make a few squares, potholders, and scarves out of the basic stitches until you get a good feel for your hook and yarn. Then you'll be able to tackle a pattern.

Be mindful during pattern selection.
When selecting a pattern be sure to select one that is accessible to you. That really awesome doily pattern might be tempting, but you're only going to make yourself miserable if you attempt something far beyond your skill level. Most patterns have a difficulty level listed, so try to find one labeled "1", "Easy", "Novice/Beginner", or similar. Ravelry is a great tool for finding patterns. You can save the difficult patterns for later as something to aspire to.

Become familiar with crochet abbreviations. 
Most patterns are written in short hand. You can find a list of the most common abbreviations here. Sometimes the designer will invent unique abbreviations just for their own pattern(s). If that is the case they should have a section explaining what they mean. Treat the abbreviations like a math problem. If you don't know what "sc" means, look it up. Move piece by piece until you understand each set of instructions. Remember, it's totally okay to pull out your work and start over!

Look at the entire pattern first.
Every pattern is different. Some will have pictures (mine do!) and charts to help you along and others won't. Some will be well written and others won't. It's best to read the whole pattern all the way through and get an idea of what you'll be doing before you begin. You should also pay attention to what yarn weight and hook size the pattern calls for. I think the best thing for a beginner to do is to bring the pattern with them to a yarn or craft store and have an attendant show them how to find the proper yarn and hook. That way you'll have that information for the future.

Dive in!
Once you're somewhat confident about your basic stitches and have looked through your pattern, go ahead and try it out! It's okay if it doesn't look perfect at first. If you get stuck, remember to treat the pattern like a math problem and patiently move bit by bit, one abbreviation at a time. Google is your friend! I promise that with some hard work you'll be easily reading crochet patterns in no time.

Have questions about reading crochet patterns? Please don't hesitate to ask them in the comments!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Remix Friday: Bloomsbury Dress

Every once in a while we need a bit of glamor in our day. Sometimes glamor means adding glitter to your eyelids, sometimes glamor means a sassy strut while walking down the street, and sometimes glamor means remixing your crochet project in a new and fabulous way. Today I'm going to share a glamorous twist on an already wonderful pattern. Aleksandra made her project pop with amazing bell sleeves and other alterations. C'mon and vogue!

The Crocheter
Hi! I’m Aleksandra, I work as a software developer by day and a rabid crocheter(and sometimes knitter) at night. I live in the greater Chicago area with my two cats, Heath and Freya. I started crocheting a few years ago when I was working as a traveling consultant for a tech company. I was literally in and out of airports every week and I needed some sort of creative pursuit that I could easily travel with, so I ended up choosing to crochet and I’ve been loving it ever since.

The Original Pattern
Bloomsbury Top by Tammy Hildebrand

The Story
I seek a lot of inspiration from Art Nouveau, Baroque, and Medieval styles and I’m especially fond of the large flared sleeves worn in the middle ages. I searched for a pattern that I thought I could modify to suit the design I had in mind and I ended up choosing the Bloomsbury Top. 

The Remix
I made the Bloomsbury Top longer by adding an extra round of motifs and I used a basic trellis stitch for the sleeves. I used the edging for the collar on the arm holes also to give a sturdy base for the sleeves (they are very heavy). I started with a round of 15 5-chain spaces and then I made 5-ch space increases (evenly spaced out) on the 2nd round of the sleeves, and then did the same increases on every 4th round until I had completed 5 rounds with increases. After that I just continued the trellis stitch in the round until I had the length desired. 

Crochet is... Output for creativity

Look at that picture. Just look at it! So. Much. Glamor. Thanks for sharing your totally gorgeous dress with us, Aleksandra!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 Pattern Retrospective

With the year coming to a close soon I thought I would take a moment to look back at all of the patterns I published in 2014. I am really proud of what I have accomplished this year! Look forward to more awesome patterns and blog posts from me in 2015.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Learn to Crochet Lesson One: How to Tie a Slip Knot

There are a lot of folks out there who are getting into crochet for the first time. Bravo! It's a wonderfully relaxing, creative, and rewarding hobby. I'd like to help encourage those who are new to crochet by providing a series of short lessons intended for complete novices. Today's post is the first in that series, a lesson on slip knots.

A slip knot is used to anchor your yarn to your hook so that you can start crocheting. Crochet is a series of interlocking loops, so you have to have a loop to start with before you can make anything. Here is how to tie a slip knot. When learning something new it's best to work with a light color of yarn. I've chosen Martha Stewart Extra Soft Wool Blend and a 5.5mm hook for this tutorial. I also recommend Lion Brand Vanna's Choice and a 6mm hook for novice crocheters.

Find the end of your yarn. You can pull from the outside of the skein or from the inside of the skein if your yarn is center-pull. Read the label to find out.

Cross the tail of your yarn over the rest of the strand. We will call the part of the strand that connects to the skein the 'working yarn'.

Put your index finger and thumb under the loop and get ready to grab the working yarn.

Grab and pull the working yarn through the loop.

Pinch the working yarn that you just pulled through. Tighten the slip knot by pulling on the tail with your other hand.

You now have a loop that can slide over your hook. Tighten the loop by pulling on the working yarn strand.

Insert your hook into the loop and tighten it until the loop is slightly snug on the hook. 

Congratulations! You have successfully made a slip knot and can now begin to crochet. Have any questions about this tutorial? Feel free to ask them in the comments.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Remix Friday: Cheshire Cat Bookmark

TGIF! Have any fun plans for the weekend? I'll bet many of you are frantically working on holiday gifts. If you're still in need of something small and customizable for your co-workers, for stockings, etc, take a hint from today's Remix Friday project. It's small but completely creative and adorable. Think about how you could run with Rachel's idea and make your own Remix.

The Crocheter
Hello! My name is Rachel Ballew. I am known on Ravelry as yarnaddict12. Now here's the fun ones; my siblings call me Roach and Rachelina Ballerina(and no, I have never done anything with ballerina). I am 24 years old. I have been crocheting for several years now, I learned when I was a teen. I am left-handed. My favorite yarns would have to be Red Heart Super Saver and Red Heart Soft. I personally do not like the super soft yarns. I am weird about the way things feel. My favorite colors are purple, green, and turquoise. But I also love lots of color! I am happily married without children. My husband nor I want any. We have 3 wonderful dogs known as Alice, she is a 60 pound, 4 year old, bull terrier; Mia, she is a 70 pound 4 year old, wolf hybrid; and Scootie, he is a 14 year old, 25 pound mutt. I am a stay at home wife.

The Original Pattern
Cat Bookmark by Justyna Kacprzak

The Story
I made the cat bookmark as part of a Crochet Along(CAL). I am obsessed with all things Alice in Wonderland. Even my craft room is decorated with Alice memorabilia! The Cheshire Cat in the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland inspired me to make it turquoise.

The Remix
I changed the shape of the tail so that it would be fatter and short to resemble the Cheshire's tail more. I also added craft felt to make the eyes, smile, ears, nose, and all his stripes.

Crochet is... Creativity, Inspiration, Imagination

Such a cute cat! Just think of all of the ways you could use felt to decorate your very own cat bookmark. Thanks for the great Remix, Rachel!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Illuminate Crochet Won an Award!

Yay! I am honored to report that Kathryn Vercillo of Crochet Concupiscence has awarded me with Best Promotion of the Crochet Community for her 2014 Awesome Crochet Blog Awards! Head on over to see what she had to say about me. Thank you, Kathryn!

This award means a lot to me because I do indeed strive to highlight all of the amazing facets of the crochet community, especially through my Friday posts. I'm proud to be part of a community that is so creative, inclusive, and varied. Let's all work to mutually support one another and celebrate the work we do! Kathryn has always been excellent in this regard.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Urban Craft Uprising Winter 2014

This past weekend saw Urban Craft Uprising's tenth anniversary. You may remember last year's blog post about their Winter 2013 show. UCU is an awesome annual indie craft show here in Seattle with tons of delightfully creative booths to peruse. Did I wait in line for a swag bag this year like I did last year? You betcha! Here's a rundown of my Sunday at the craft show. It was very exciting!

I secured my place in line around 8:30 in the morning with the show set to open at 10. It didn't take long for an impressive line to form behind me. Only the first 100 people in line get a swag bag, so competition is fierce.

Last year was so bitterly cold that I made sure to bundle up this time. Waiting in line was a cinch this year. Even though I got there so early I was still number 43 in line. I enjoyed the yarn ball on my little ticket. They also passed out hot drink samples and mini Luna bars to those of us in line.

After a wait in the cold it was quite nice to get my swag bag and filter inside. You'll get to see the contents of the bag at the end of this post. As you can see from this picture, one of the best things about being there early is having plenty of room to explore all of the booths before things get too crowded.

I was able to revisit several booths I've seen at past shows and others in the area as well as chat with the lovely talent behind them. Yarnarchy's booth is always filled with such beautiful yarn. Are you sad that you missed out? Never fear! I have a special coupon code just for you, generously offered by Yarnarchy. Just use code "illuminate" in the Yarnarchy Etsy store and receive 10% off through February. Wow!

10% off gorgeous colorways is a very good thing.

Later on I was lucky enough to catch up with Craftwich Creations. Monica always has the best crocheted outfits ever as well as awesome wooden crochet hooks.

Don't you just love that some of the hooks are on necklaces? Make sure you read to the end of this post for a chance to win a special prize from Craftwich Creations!

Wanna know the coolest thing ever? Monica was kind enough to introduce me to a good friend of hers... Laurinda Reddig! Monica and Laurinda work together on cool crochet kits that you can see in this picture. Laurinda's book Reversible Color Crochet is a big hit right now, so she was at UCU to do a book signing. She was wonderfully warm and friendly. How lucky was I to run into someone so accomplished?

After my fun at Craftwich I paused to admire the beautiful colors over at the booth for Pacific Fabrics and Crafts.

Spincycle Yarns was another gem, and quite busy as you can see in this picture.

By this time the show had really picked up and folks were bustling about all over enjoying themselves.

No visit to UCU would be complete without a trip to the Yarnia booth. Yarnia is a major organizer of the whole event! Such fabulous yarn cones were available. 

All in all the entire show was very enjoyable indeed, the perfect place to get some holiday shopping done! Are you ready to see what I got in my swag bag? Here we go...

My swag bag contained a small wooden parachute man, a card, a postcard, a purple hat with a flower on it, a novelty shirt, a bookmark, a soap sample, pencils, and some screen cleaners. Wow! All that just for waiting in line.

Remember that Craftwich Creations prize I promised you? Here it is! It's a novelty crochet hook in size K. Wanna snag it for yourself? Be the first person to email me at with the subject "I'm a knotty, knotty hooker!" and the hook is yours!

Urban Craft Uprising never fails to amaze and delight. I missed this year's summer show but I'll definitely have to catch it in 2015. Who's coming with me?