Friday, February 28, 2014

Special Friday Focus: Lauren Schoener

Good morning fellow crochet lovers! The weekend is upon us. I had quite a productive week and am really proud of myself for it. I've been working on some new patterns, working on a few small side projects, and working on standardizing my patterns. It's true! Although I've always paid attention to detail, accuracy, and presentation with regard to my patterns, I am now in the process of conforming all of my patterns to a new template that should make them even better! If you've bought a pattern from me expect an update email in the coming weeks.

Designing can be challenging. It's a good thing I have talented people who are kind enough to lend a hand. Today's Friday Focus is a special feature on my secondary pattern tester Lauren Schoener and her brand CausticWear. As you'll recall, we already had my primary tester over for a chat, so I think it's time to hear about Lauren! As my secondary tester she chooses the patterns that appeal to her from my collection and works them up. She's my second defense against the dark arts mistakes and confusing bits in my patterns. In addition, she helps get me more exposure through social networking. Getting noticed as a beginning designer is difficult, so it's nice to have testers who can proudly show their FOs for others to see. Lauren is a hard worker and is good at identifying problematic issues in my patterns. While every designer strives to write perfect patterns, the truth is that we're all human and need a little help. I'm grateful that both Burgundy and Lauren are each willing to lend a helping hook. In gratitude, I'm happy to have Lauren here today to share her crochet experiences with us.

Raised in Michigan, moved to NYC in 2008 for grad school. My favorite color is purple. My favorite snack is popcorn. My favorite movie is The Royal Tenenbaums. My favorite type of yarn is superwash merino in any weight. In my spare time, I take Aerial Silks classes so I can join the circus (and no, that's not a joke).

I was taught to crochet by one of the RAs during my freshman year of college. I was 19 when I learned. At the time I didn't realize that she was teaching us only one stitch, and incorrectly at that. I made one relatively simple blanket or two and gave it up for a while. Years later, as I was trying to find a way to occupy my time/mind, I decided to pick up the hook again, but I couldn't even remember the double crochet stitch I had (sort of) learned. So when I was 27, I pretty much taught myself from scratch using Stitch 'n' Bitch Crochet and lots of YouTube videos. To this day, I learn new crochet skills best by Googling them.

I crochet because it relaxes me. Seeing the progress I've made throughout the day on whatever it is I'm working on gives me such a great sense of satisfaction. And thinking of new and different things to create, or different ways of doing something makes me feel accomplished. And when people's eyes light up when I present them with a handmade object as a gift or that they've commissioned from me gives me joy. Generally, crocheting improves my life in every possible way.

Future goals: to get my online store CausticWear up and running in a meaningful and fulfilling way. It's sort of lackluster right now because I've been mostly working on commissions and haven't really had time to focus on projects that *I* want to work on. You can look forward to seeing a lot of new pieces posted to my website for purchase in the near future. I also want to design more of my own original pieces, and, eventually, teach myself to knit more than just your basic straight lines.

Here is something that Lauren worked up independently. 

 This is a two-toned infinity cowl made with the Catherine's wheel stitch, that I call the "Wheel of Time" cowl, because I was starting to read that book series as I created this piece. And as they say, "The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills."  

Now, here are the pieces Lauren has crocheted as my pattern tester. 

I'm so thankful for all of the help Lauren has given me and the fun we've had collaborating. You can connect with Lauren and CausticWear through her website, Ravelry, and Facebook. So nice to have you join us today, Lauren!

If you or someone you know might like to be a secondary tester, please contact me via

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Crochet Ball Pattern

My father-in-law knows how to juggle. It seems like juggling as a hidden talent is dying out. How many young people in your life know how to juggle? Anyway... per his request, I crocheted Buddy some hacky sacks to help him out with his juggling practice. I didn't feel like following someone else's pattern this time and whipped up my own instead. Balls made from this pattern could be used for a variety of things: juggling, playing hacky sack, tossing games, etc.

I used about one and a half skeins of Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton to create the set. Since Kitchen Cotton calls for a 5mm hook on the label, I used a 4mm hook to make the balls extra tight. It hurt my hands a little to crochet with cotton so tightly, but it was worth it. The fabric is very stiff and the beans inside do not show through. Here's what I did...

Start with magic circle.
Round 1: Work 6 sc into the ring. Sl st into first st to join. Pull ring closed tightly. (6)
Round 2: Ch 1, do not turn. Work 2 sc into each st around. Sl st into first st to join. (12)
Round 3: Ch 1, do not turn. *Work 1 sc in first st and 2 sc in next*, rep around. Sl st in first to join. (18)
Round 4: Ch 1, do not turn. *Work 1 sc into each of the first 2 sts, work 2 sc in next*, rep around. Sl st in first to join. (24)
Round 5: Ch 1, do not turn. *Work 1 sc into each of the first 3 sts, work 2 sc in next*, rep around. Sl st in first to join. (30)
Round 6: Ch 1, do not turn. *Work 1 sc into each of the first 4 sts, work 2 sc in next*, rep around. Sl st in first to join. (36)
Round 7: Ch 1, do not turn. Work 1 sc into each st around. Sl st in first to join. (36)
Rounds 8 through 12: Rep Round 7.
Round 13: Ch 1, do not turn. *Work 1 sc into each of the first 4 sts, work 1 dec*, rep around. Sl st in first to join. (30)
Round 14: Ch 1, do not turn. *Work 1 sc into each of the first 3 sts, work 1 dec*, rep around. Sl st in first to join. (24)
Round 15: Ch 1, do not turn. *Work 1 sc into each of the first 2 sts, work 1 dec*, rep around. Sl st in first to join. (18)
Round 16: Ch 1, do not turn. *Work 1 sc in first st, work 1 dec*, rep around. Sl st in first to join. (12)
Fill the bag with dry beans. I used dry pinto beans. You can fill it as little or as much as you desire. I filled mine just until the beans were touching the top of the inside of the bag, a little over 3/4.
Round 17: Ch 1, do not turn. Work 6 dec. Sl st in first to join. (6).
Fasten off, leaving a tail for sewing. With a yarn needle, weave in and out of the stitches of Round 17 all of the way around. Pull tightly to close the ball. Weave in the end securely.

If you decide to try it, let me know how this simple ball pattern works out for you!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cable Hat

I love crochet cables! That's right, you don't have to know how to knit to create some fabulous cables. Sarah Arnold, creator of the ever popular Divine Hat, has done it again with this awesome pattern. She really has a way with hats! How generous of her to give out her patterns for free.

I had some Wool-Ease in my stash, and the hat only took up one skein. Here it is.

This hat project only took a few hours, perfect for an evening movie night. I'll certainly be making more in the future to give as gifts. Cables are so fun!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Focus: Tammy Hildebrand

One of my major goals for this year or next is to become officially published. I love self-publishing because it allows me to control many details about how my patterns are presented, like being able to provide many pictures of the process and work in a few silly quips if I want to. However, I would also like to experience the thrill and pride of being published in an official capacity. I also think it will help make me a better crocheter. I look up to designers who are featured in many publications as inspiration and motivation to submit patterns for consideration (and hopefully a few books!).

With a variety of gorgeous patterns featured in many publications, Tammy Hildebrand is certainly a designer to look up to. She's also the current Vice President of the Crochet Guild of America, which I have recently joined. Wow! I'm so pleased to have her with us today to share her insights and projects. It feels great and is humbling when respected, established designers come visit us here on Illuminate Crochet. Let's take a look at some of the results of hard work and creative genius. Take it away, Tammy!

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
I learned to crochet from my second grade teacher, Mrs. Crooks. She offered to teach any of the students after school but I was the only one who took her up on her offer. I remember sitting at her big wooden desk working on a floppy, purple hat which I still have! We are now friends on Facebook and I sent her a copy of my new book!

Why do you crochet?
Umm...this is a question that I gave a lot of thought to but it is pretty much like asking someone "Why do you breathe?" Enough said!

What is something my readers probably don't know about you?
My whole life growing up I wanted to be a truck driver. When I was 24, I went to truck driving school and got my license the first try! I never ended up driving for a living and instead married a truck driver! Years later we opened our own brick laying company so back to school I went to learn to lay brick! For 15 years I laid brick and ran a crew during the day, designed and crocheted in the evenings! 

What are you working on right now?
I am just finishing up an afghan for Red Heart done in beautiful Fall colors, worked in strips. Afghans are my favorite project so I am really enjoying this.  

A few finished objects...
Waiting for Willow is one of my favorite designs from my new book, Crochet Wraps Every Which Way. Not only is it my favorite type of design - lacy motifs assembled with a join-as-you-go technique, but I designed and stitched it while we were waiting for my granddaughter, Willow to be born. 

Babies grow so quickly! Here is Willow modeling a cheerleader dress for my upcoming book, Crochet For Baby All Year which will be released June 2014. The new book features a seasonal design for each month with both a little boy version and a little girl version.

The Bloomsbury Top was a design I entered in the 2012 Crochet Guild of America design competition. It won first place in the fashion category and later ended up on the cover of Interweave Crochet, Spring 2013! That was so exciting! The pattern is available here.

Such beautiful work that only scratches the surface of Tammy's catalog. I was initially drawn in by her Love This Cardi and have also fallen in love with her Raspberry Lace Top. You can see more of her on Ravelry and Facebook. Thank you so much for joining us today, Tammy!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sleepy Panda Baby Set

Pandas are rare and special. It's hard not to love those sweet, cuddly, beautiful animals. You know what else is special? Infancy. It's such a short time and yet so meaningful. Babies are like little sponges, absorbing information about the world around them and learning new things about their own bodies every day. Did you know that babies flail their arms and legs because their brain is working hard to cement only the strongest motor connections? All of the flailing movements slowly become more deliberate as the weak connections are dropped and the strong connections are reinforced. Amazing!

Here's a baby set sure to delight panda lovers everywhere, the Sleepy Panda Baby Set. I was originally going to put a panda applique on the blanket, but my amazing genius of a husband stopped me and said "No, the baby should be the panda." Indeed!

The Sleepy Panda Baby Set pattern can be found on Ravelry and Craftsy.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Crochet iPhone Case

It can be a little tricky trying to think of a project for extra sock yarn. It doesn't go very far, so one has to think of something special for small amounts. My husband needed an iPhone case, so I put two and two together and made him one.

I didn't write a formal pattern this time, but here's a brief rundown of the process if you're interested in making one yourself. This case is worked in the round and will look especially nice if you use self-patterning sock yarn. I used Berroco Comfort Sock in Dunedin.

With any sock yarn and the hook size it calls for, chain until the base chain is juuuust shy of the length of the short end of the phone. This will ensure a snug fit. Starting in the second ch from the hook, work 1 sc into each ch in back loops only. When you reach the end of the chain, ch 1. Do not turn. Continuing around to the left, work 1 sc into each of the missed front loops. Ch 1. Sl st into the first st of the round to join. Ch 1 and turn. Work 1 sc into each st around, including the two ch 1 spaces. Sl st into first st of the round to join. From now on simply ch 1 and turn at the beginning of each new row, work 1 sc into each st around, and join each round with a sl st in the first st. Work as many rounds as necessary in order to cover the phone before fastening off and weaving in the ends.

If you need any help, don't hesitate to leave a comment! My husband loves his new phone case and has already received compliments on it, which pleases me greatly. I know you'll love your phone case, too!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Focus: Vendula Maderska

Happy Valentine's Day! Yay! I hope you're as excited as I am. Do you have any special plans? Alex and I are going to have a romantic evening at home and make ourselves lemon fettuccine alfredo. For dessert I'm going to make banana bread, stir up some fresh whipped cream to top it with, and then sprinkle it with blueberries. There are nice things about going out for Valentine's Day, but there are also nice things about having a quiet evening at home. :)

I'm really excited about today's Friday Focus. I saw Vendula Maderska's work months ago and loved it so much that I knew I had to save it for Valentine's Day. I'm so happy she said yes and made my vision come true! Her work is so bright, detailed, and whimsical. Whimsical is a word that's a little overused, but gosh darn if Vendula's work isn't the very definition of whimsy! Playful, quaint, and fanciful indeed. I just love it! And so, on this day of love, let us delight in the cuteness of Vendula's wonderful patterns.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
My mom :-) My mom is a very creative and talented lady. She knit and crocheted for all her life. She wasn't a professional seamstress, she worked in health care, but she created professional fashion for me and my sister. And you know, every little girl wishes to be like her mom. I have been knitting since my childhood. I remember that I knitted my first sweater with black beads, using a Norwegian pattern and lot of colors when I was 12 years old. I didn't crochet, I only knew the basics. But I found the beauty of crochet 6 years ago. And I am absolutely hooked :-) I inherited an obsession with details and colors from my grandfather who was a painter.

Why do you crochet?
I love crochet because of its freedom. You could crochet everywhere and there is huge space for your own creativity, using colors and embellishment... When I am crocheting it is like time stops. The yarn is dancing around my hook and I feel all that energy, you can feel when something is arising. The silence of the night, or the bright day full of colors and different sounds – myself, colorful yarns around me and my hook ...I really love these moments :-) And I cannot forget my greatest inspiration, my two amazing daughters. 

Crochet Favorites
My personal star is a yarn called  Kacenka by Nitarna Ceska Trebova – it is mixture of cotton and acrylic. I love its beautiful colors and it is such a pleasant material. Because I crochet a lot I am using ergonomic hooks by Clover. I have no special books. When I was younger, I collected the Verena knitting magazine, because I did knitting almost all of the time. I am a self-learner in crochet. Crocheting is like every other skill - you have to practice, practice, and practice.. I still remembered the basics that my mom and grandmom taught me when I was a child – and I am very grateful for that. I am very happy that my crocheting became recognizable in this huge world, which is not easy. I am so moved when I read nice messages from all the world with compliments of my work. I am very glad for that. 

A few finished objects...

Hearts Purse in progress 

Owl Pendant

Crazy Rainbow Bag

You just have to check out Vendula's other patterns. Looking at her whole collection together really takes you to another world. I love them all, but a few of my faves are her Lighthouse Ruffles Hat and Wall Pocket Organizer. A big thank you goes out to Vendula for sharing her work with us. What a delightful way to spend Valentine's Day! You can find her on Ravelry, her blog, Etsy, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Heart Garland

When I found myself with some extra red yarn I struggled with what to do with it. I had been looking for a nice heart pattern for a while and thought that my bright red yarn would best be used in a heart themed project. The yarn was called Red Heart after all, ba dum ch. I was overjoyed to find this delightful pattern for a heart garland and set to work right away. Smaller hearts were also included by stopping short of the last round of each heart because I liked the contrast between the two sizes.

Holidays and crochet go so well together. What fun things have you crocheted for holidays in your home? What are your favorite Valentine's Day projects?

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Gift for Kerri

I wanted to do something nice for Kerri, a talented woman in my weekly crochet group, since she gave me a whole bunch of free yarn. I could have crocheted for her I suppose, but I wanted to do something a bit unexpected. Since I still have some of my old jewelry making supplies (I used to make and sell jewelry in high school and college), I decided to make her some stitch markers. Here's how they turned out.

From left to right they are made of: Swarovski crystal, African agate and some simple black stones, and shell. I hope she finds them useful!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Special Friday Focus: Burgundy Bonner

A lot of work goes into pattern writing. It is very important to me that my patterns are of high quality, so the large amount of work is both necessary and fulfilling. The process begins with an idea. Some ideas practically slap me in the face while others grow quietly and gently. The idea rolls around in my brain for a long time, maybe even months. I morph it, change it, and play with it in my head while I'm doing dishes, taking a shower, and even working on other patterns.

One morning when I wake up my idea is finally ready. I know the yarn I want to use, the stitches I'll use, the shape I want, the size, the colors, the whole shebang. I begin my work with purpose and excitement, handwriting my instructions in my rainbow notebook as I go. Sometimes I "Mozart" it, meaning that the idea I have in my head comes out fully formed with no editing. Other times I frog and scribble out the first few rows several times before I like the direction of the piece. Day after day I put in hours of work, taking pictures all the way, writing and crocheting until my vision is realized and I hold my idea in my hands. It's a magical feeling to create.

And yet, I'm still not done. Not by far. I upload all of my photos, culling and editing them so that they are as clear and useful as possible. I painstakingly transfer the pattern instructions from my notebook to my digital document. I arrange, edit, explain, and revise. Converting my pattern to PDF at the end of it all is probably one of the best feelings in the world. I'm done.

What now? Up to this point the pattern has been only mine. My ideas, my thoughts, my words. How useful will it be to someone else? Will they be able to read it? Does it make sense? Are there errors that my brain has sneakily glazed over? If this pattern is going to be meaningful to others it needs to be tested by someone other than myself. Like a light in the darkness, enter Burgundy Bonner.

Burgundy is my primary pattern tester. She is the first one to take a crack at the project before I send it to my secondary tester and eventually publish it for the public. She is incredible. She can find the three errors in 121 lines of tapestry instructions. She finds the typos and the missing words. She knows what might be confusing to others. I have never known anyone who crochets so quickly and yet with such accuracy and consistent tension. Sending my patterns to her is so exciting because I know she'll do a good job and that her feedback will be useful. I trust her with the important job of making sure my patterns are of high quality. Above all that she is kind, fun, friendly, positive... and so modest about her skills! She comforts me through my mini-panics and is a good friend. Today I want to feature Burgundy to thank her for her stellar work as my primary tester. I know that she and I will go far together! Here's what she had to share with us.

 A bit about me: I grew up in the country in Montana. Being outdoors with my kids and being creative are very important to me. I have always had the urge to crochet but I never knew how. I taught myself to crochet using YouTube videos :-) I've been crocheting for almost two years now. I crochet to create and to relax. I love the movement of it. My goals are to improve on my abilities, write some of my own patterns, and eventually become a professional tester.
Here are a few things that Burgundy has made that were not based on my patterns. She's made many other items as well. You can check them out on her Ravelry page. Sometimes she's willing to sell a finished object. Ravelry would be a good place to contact her about that.

This is my favorite one :) The pattern is from myntkat on Ravelry.

Here's a close up of my dragon.

 A scarf I made up as I went along... It's all made with a continuous strand... No sewing together.

Here's a Spiderman hat I made for my son.

Next I wanted to share pictures of the pattern tests that Burgundy has completed for me. I am ever so grateful!

It's amazing. She's done all of this work and she is still willing to continue testing for me. She is working on several tests right now! She does have an advantage, though...she gets to see all of my patterns before anyone else! She also gets all of my patterns for free. That adds up to almost $50 so far. 

Burgundy, thank you so much for everything you do. I am so happy to have connected with you and I'm delighted to have you as a friend. It will be a pleasure to continue collaborating with you as I move forward in my design career. Everyone, please give Burgundy a round of applause! *claps* :)

Happy Hooking!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Craftsy Blog Shoutout

Just the other evening I was making my usual internet rounds when I noticed something interesting. My pattern sales had picked up quite a bit when compared with the usual rate. Woohoo! The designer in me was simply pleased that things were going well... but the sleuth in me wanted to figure out why sales had picked up all of a sudden. Thanks to some good Google-foo on the part of my husband, we figured out why folks had suddenly taken a special interest in me. Craftsy had featured one of my patterns, the Sweet As Honey set, on their blog!

This was a complete surprise. I did not know ahead of time that they were going to feature me. I feel so fortunate and honored. In order for this to happen someone I don't know personally had to look for patterns that they found appealing, happen upon my pattern, and then enjoy my pattern enough to write about it. Talk about satisfying! Now a bunch of folks are all whipping up the Sweet As Honey set for babies in their lives. It's all truly touching... and super exciting!

Thanks to all those people who have supported me as a designer by purchasing a pattern, and thanks to Craftsy for the sweet shoutout!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Love Letter Sachet

Picture if you will an awkward teen girl in the early 2000's. She was short, brunette, had glasses, and loved to get straight A's. A hopeless romantic, she loved Valentine's Day with a passion. On Valentine's Day she could be found sporting a springy heart headband, a heart-themed outfit, and a huge smile while passing out cards and candy to all of her friends (and on a few lucky occasions, a boyfriend). Maybe she was weird sometimes, maybe she was a bit quiet, and maybe she hadn't quite come into her own yet... but Valentine's Day was her day, the very best day of all. A day of love and happiness and frills!

I'm sure you can guess by now that the little awkward girl was me. Guess what? Valentine's Day is still my very favorite holiday and I'm super excited that it's coming up. This will be Alex and I's ninth Valentine's Day together. I'm a lucky girl! To celebrate, I plan to make caramels, dipped shortbread cookies, and frosted sugar cookies to share with others. Yay!

There's something else I've prepared for the season of love... a brand new pattern! Here's my Love Letter Sachet pattern. Man, do they smell good!

I walked over to Pike's Place to get the lavender that I used to fill the sachets. The sweet little store was located in a warm corner overlooking the water. I would definitely recommend it and I will be returning there for any future lavender needs.

The new pattern is available on Ravelry and Craftsy. xoxo