Monday, March 31, 2014

Viking Hat

I am very particular about taking commissions. I will only take commissions for things I have never done before. Although I take a lot of pride in my designs (and put a lot of love into them, too!), I don't derive enjoyment from working up the same project many times.

Recently my dear friend Maddie bought the sample set for the Sleepy Panda Baby Set for an upcoming baby shower. Hooray! That was awesome enough, and then she and her husband commissioned something different... a viking hat. I had seen all of the fun people were having with crochet viking hats on various social networks but hadn't yet made one myself. I accepted the commission and here's the finished product.

I used this pattern by MyntKat to make my hat. There are some free patterns out there but it's worth paying for a pattern when you can see that the design is closer to what you're looking for. Indeed, this pattern was quite comprehensive with multiple sizes and thorough directions.

Maddie's husband requested black horns on his hat. Since stuffing the horns with fiberfill would have shown through, I stuffed them with cheap black yarn instead. Okay... this is totally silly... do you want to know what was running through my head the whole time I was making this hat? This song.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Focus: Stace Clement

I don't care if Monday's blue, Tuesday's grey (and Wednesday too). Thursday -- I don't care about you! It's Friday I'm in love :) Yes my friends, another Friday is here! Do you have exciting plans for the weekend? I'm going to spend my weekend finishing this interesting novel and... crocheting!

Today's featured crocheter is a brand new designer with interesting, colorful patterns. Stace Clement's patterns caught my attention with their bold, chunky texture and nature themes. Nature is important to her. In fact, she works hard to make her designs 100% vegan. She's definitely a designer to watch. Let's take a little time to get to know Stace, aka Zonal, and her style. 

 Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
When I worked at Michael's Arts & Crafts in Custom Picture Framing as a freshman at the University of Albany in upstate NY, it wasn't long before I bought one of their 'Teach Yourself to Crochet' booklets & was spending part of each paycheck on yarn.  This was in 1994--twenty years ago now (holy cannoli).  Ever since then I've been learning new techniques & crocheting for all my loved ones, through living in San Diego in southern CA for 4+ years & returning to NY two years ago to live here in Brooklyn.  Ravelry itself is relatively new to me; the first pattern I published there was a 'Sideways Heart <3 Hat' for Valentine's Day just last month!  Now within a month my 'Free Rainbow Cables Cuff Bracelet' has had 500+ unique downloads. This boggles my mind.

Why do you crochet?
Remember the line of that old song "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Haaa!" when he says "And basket weavers who sit & smile & twiddle their thumbs & toes & they're coming to take me away, ha haaa!"?  A focus on productivity with a rhythm, such as basket weaving or crochet, helps some of us stay sane in this sometimes bonkers world of ours--particularly those of us who are math enthusiasts, because crochet involves a wonderful amount of math.  It has the added benefit of helping me keep loved ones warm through the Northeast US winters, & keep my Southwest friends cool in crochet bikinis. 

Crochet Favorites
Hooks: it's relatively exclusively Clover Takumi bamboo crochet hooks these days in sizes F, G, and H.

Yarns: when I learned about what really happens to animals involved in wool production, it was traumatic (don't look it up if you don't have a strong stomach); as a vegan for 5+ years & a vegetarian for about 22 years for my love of all animals, it's exclusively the cruelty-free fiber blends including acrylic, bamboo, cotton, hemp, linen, nylon, polyester, & rayon.

Books: the one I'd learned by far the most from was The Crochet Answer Book by Edie Eckman, which is small-ish & thick-ish to fit perfectly in any handbag or backpack.
What are you working on right now?
Next in the series of outdoor scenes I've been posting crochet patterns for--following 'Crescent Moon Treeline Hat', 'Mountain Sunset Hat', & 'Southwest Desert Sunset Hat', all of which feature color changes (a.k.a. tapestry crochet) with cables--will be an 'Ocean Beach Sunshine Halter Top' inspired by the Pacific Ocean beaches of the Southwest US, which I have completed most of the stitch chart for.  After that will be a 'Deep Forest with Black Bear Hat' inspired by New York, Vermont, & Maine (the stitch chart for the bear is complete), & something with a 'City Skyline' inspired by NYC where I currently live.  Outdoor scene suggestions are welcome, so if anyone has an idea, be in touch! 
A few finished objects...
Southwest Desert Sunset Crochet Hat: Inspired by my recent years living in the Southwest US in southern California with trips to Arizona, Texas, & Utah, this design is the most recently posted in my Ravelry series of outdoor scenes that feature color changes (tapestry crochet) with cables.  It contains several saguaro cacti at the request of a fellow Raveler, & a second fellow Raveler had suggested "Georgia O'Keeffe colors" for it in prior pattern comments so I've incorporated his suggestion as well, primarily into the unusual sky, with credits to them both in the notes.
Crescent Moon Treeline Hat: Away from cities, the sky is sometimes so clear that above the treetops you can see the dark side of the moon fairly well; memories of this, now that I'm in Brooklyn, inspired the Crescent Moon Treeline Hat.  It features tapestry crochet, cables, & a vertically ribbed bottom edge, & has been my best-selling pattern in my month on Ravelry.
Free Cable Cuff Rainbow Bracelet: It stunned me that this relatively simple cable weave/braid design I'd come up with had not yet been published online, & I'd done quite a bit of searching for it before uploading it to Ravelry as a free pattern to make sure I wasn't stepping on anyone's toes. With 500+ unique downloads just a month after joining Ravelry, it seems others love a rainbow colorway as much as I do! is my crochet photo gallery site; in addition to a contact form, there are social media links at the top including a link to Ravelry where my crochet designs are.  If you have an idea for a crochet outdoor scene, or if there's a completed project on my site that you'd like to see a pattern for, contact me whenever's clever & I'll be in touch, usually within 24 hours.

I just love her Crescent Moon Treeline hat. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for most of my life, that hat reminds me of home. Thanks for sharing your fun, new designs with us today Stace! I hope everyone has a super weekend. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kiss Me Bag

Oh, cotton yarn. So necessary and yet so hard on your hands. Some cotton blends or very high quality woven cotton yarns are nice and soft, but really durable cotton can do a number on your fingers. I had some extra cotton and wanted to find a project that wouldn't be tight and stiff. The Kiss Me Bag turned out to be just the thing. The finished product is not as awesome as I'd hoped, but the pattern was certainly enjoyable enough and used up my cotton skein. I turned my bag inside out because I prefer the other side of the shells.

What are your favorite ways to work with cotton?

Monday, March 24, 2014

My New Etsy Store

Aside from blogging, my main focus is crochet design. I love designing new patterns and bringing my ideas to life with my hooks. I get bored quickly if I have to make the same thing over and over again. Some folks truly enjoy making many items and building a business selling lots of hats, scarves, amigurumi, etc and I'm happy to leave all of that hard work to them :)

That said, I do end up with a lot of high quality finished objects leftover from both designing and from working up others' patterns to blog about. Thus I have opened an Etsy store. I'm not so much looking to make a huge profit as I am to recoup materials costs, re-home finished objects, and expand my brand.

I hope opening this store will help connect me to crochet admirers who would like to adopt my FOs. Etsy is pretty saturated with crochet items at this point so I'm going to have to be creative to get noticed. Since I'm new to Etsy I'd love any advice from those of you who are seasoned sellers. Stop by my Etsy store sometime and let me know what you think!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Experiment: Crocheting with Roving

Hello! Happy Friday my friends. Unfortunately, there won't be a Friday Focus today. Fortunately, there will be a funny story.

The other night I was antsy pantsy. I had been alternately working on a difficult design and doing chores all day so I wanted to have a little random fun. I dove into my Ravelry queue expecting to pick out a simple, fun project for my evening entertainment. For some reason, nothing appealed. I love all of the projects in my queue but that evening I didn't have the yarn for any of the things I felt like starting. After combing through my list about 5 times, I decided to let it go and get new inspiration. Staring into my yarn storage, I spied an unlikely candidate.

A while back at Fiber Fusion Northwest I had purchased some roving. Roving is fiber that has been processed and likely dyed but not spun into proper yarn yet. It is thick and soft. I had never crocheted with roving before and thought it might be a fun experiment. And so, with the pangs of unfulfilled creativity sharp in my hands, I plucked the roving out of the drawer, grabbed my special wooden crochet hook (of unknown size), and finally got to work.

Spoiler Alert: I had no idea what I was doing.

If you are looking for a tutorial on how to crochet with roving you are in the wrong place. If you are looking to be entertained by my attempt to crochet with roving for the first time, hello. Let me spin you a yarn. Er, I mean, not spin it.

I began with the notion that I would make a pretty headband. A few minutes of messing around with the roving told me that this was much too high an expectation and that I should be satisfied with a single crochet swatch. The lovely woman who sold me the roving said all I had to do was pull it apart and hook it. Easy peasy. Apparently I am horrible at pulling it apart. Here's a casualty of my fumble fingers.

A moment of silence for the wasted roving. So soft, so pretty. Okay, it was time to pull off big chunks, kindergarten style. That worked a bit better. Once I got used to it I noticed that the roving would come off evenly if I was gentle and pulled in one smooth motion. Crocheting with the roving was actually pretty easy. It slid nicely on my hook and was very forgiving given my inexperience. Before long I had a little chain going.

I probably should have looked up a tutorial on crocheting with roving before I set off on my adventure but hey, what can I say? I let my free spirit get the best of me. It went okay. My tension was all over the place. However, I am happy to say that adding more roving onto the end of a strand was a piece of cake. I simply overlapped the end of the old strand with the beginning of the new one and rolled them together between my fingers.

All in all I had fun. I think roving would make a great chunky hat or cowl. This roving swatch is destined to become a luxury cat toy for little Ranna :p Have you ever crocheted with roving? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Flock of Birds at Caffe Zingaro

Spring is coming! It will be here tomorrow! Are you as excited as I am? Just in time for the change in season a flock of birds has landed at Caffe Zingaro, one of my favorite places to sit and crochet. The owner and baristas there are so fun and friendly.

Hmm, I wonder how that flock of birds could possible have gotten there? ;)

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd think they were a modified version of this free pattern by Lucy of Attic24. Welcome, birds. And welcome, spring!

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Local Yarn Store

Living in Seattle I am fortunate enough to have several local yarn stores within a reasonable distance from my house. What's a local yarn store you ask? Well, a local yarn store is a small business that caters to fiber enthusiasts like crocheters and knitters. They often carry mid-range to high-end yarns as well as yarns from local spinners and dyers. In contrast, a "big box" craft store like Joann Fabrics, Craft Warehouse, or Micheal's usually carries craft store brands like Red Heart. Both have their place in the yarn world.

The LYS closest to me is called So Much Yarn. It's located in Pike's Place. I love walking over from our house. I get to gaze at Puget Sound and experience the hustle and bustle of the market. Plus, a warm yarn store is especially inviting when you've been out in the cold! I want to share a few pictures from a recent trip with you.

It's so fun to browse all of the beautiful yarns. They all seem to be begging me to take them home. This is So Much Yarn's new location. Their old location was cozy, but this new, bright studio suits them much better in my opinion. They always have a good supply of Cascade Yarns Cherub Aran on hand, my favorite yarn for baby blankets. I really like Cascade Cherub. In fact, I am currently working on an exciting pattern that calls for Cascade Cherub DK. I can't wait to show you.

Do you have a LYS that you love? Tell us about it in the comments!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Focus: Regina Rioux

Guess what? My husband has been acting weird lately... asking me what I'm doing this weekend, telling me I shouldn't make plans... and now I know why! My best friend Brianne (the namesake of the Bri Leigh Infinity Cowl) made secrets plans with him to fly in and surprise me for a visit this weekend! She just arrived last night! Hooray! It's been almost two years since we've gotten to see each other, which is way too long. We have been friends since 7th grade and man have we had some amazing times. I love her so much. She is loyal, charismatic, talented, fun, and bold. We're going to have an amazing weekend together! By the by, if you need an awesome hair stylist and/or colorist in the Boise area, she's the best. Oh the fun we had when she (successfully!) cut my hair in her parent's kitchen when we were 13...

You know what else is fun and bold? The crochet designs of Regina Rioux, today's featured designer. Her work has been featured in several publications, one of which is called Kooky Crochet. You know she's gotta be awesome to be featured in a book with a name like that! From giant crabs and meat shawls to seashells and poinsettias, Regina's patterns go from the peculiar to the pretty and everywhere in-between. It takes a special crocheter to be so good at so many different types of projects. Let's learn more about Regina and her varied designs.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
My maternal grandmother taught me to crochet at the age of 7. I'm pretty darn old at this point, which puts me with hook and yarn for 37 years.

Why do you crochet?
The short answer is that I crochet because I have to. I don't mean that crocheting is an obligation. Rather, I mean it is more of a bodily function for me like breathing, sleeping or eating. Crocheting and making things is just a part of who I am. I have never been a person who can just while away the evenings vegging in front of the television. My hands need to be doing something. Therefore, I crochet (or alternately knit, weave, or spin) while spending my evenings sitting in front of the tube. 

Crochet Favorites
Because I crochet so much, I use hooks with a substantial handle (regular hooks cause me to have hand pain after repeated usage). Even my steel hooks have handmade wooden handles (courtesy of this amazing guy). I love working with thread and I just couldn't use those little steel guys without the wooden support. In addition, I have a set of Clover hooks in the standard sizes that I generally use when working with yarns larger than thread.
In terms of yarn, I like the lighter weights (DK and below). I LOVE Malabrigo and Noro. Those two are my favorites, but when designing I need a lot of bang for my buck, so I often buy yarn from Knit Picks. In addition, I am a spinner/dyer and use my own handspun a lot. I also couldn't live without DMC perle cotton in size 8. Yay, thread! LOVE.
As far as books go, I am a collector of vintage needlework magazines. I have stacks of vintage McCall's Needlework magazines. I also really love the Japanese crochet and knit pattern books and magazines. I am lucky enough to live in a city (Los Angeles) with several Japanese bookstores. I frequent those establishments often, perusing the craft sections for hours.
What are you working on right now?
Primarily, I am designing a crocheted shawlette for an Interweave publication. However, I have stacks of WIPs (utilizing a variety of techniques) that I work on in between design assignments. Here's a sampling of what I'm currently trying to tackle: a crocheted thread "painting" which is part of a larger body of work to be shown at a gallery here in Los Angeles next year, a shawl constructed from tropical flower thread motifs that is based upon a previous shawl design I worked up in worsted weight yarn, a summer hued shawl/scarf weaving project (using a floor loom) sampling a variety of twill patterns and lace weight knitted shawl that is begging to be finished. I'm not going to even tell you how many items are currently sitting in my "to be blocked" pile. It's staggering. 

A few finished objects...
Poinsettia Shawl - In December of 2013, I participated in and released a book of holiday crochet patterns for the Malabrigo Freelance Pattern Project. My favorite pattern in the book is the Poinsettia Shawl, which is constructed from several Tunisian crochet poinsettia motifs. It's one of those designs that went from paper to reality looking exactly as I had originally envisioned. 

Flower Power Shawl - I was really inspired by my childhood when designing the flower power motif. I wanted the motif to resemble the plastic flower stickers that people used to adhere to their vehicles (think the VW bus) in the 1970's. Although this shawl was crocheted with worsted weight yarn, I am currently sizing it down in a thread version.

Technicolor Cube Ottoman - Over the years, I've been asked to design a lot of items for the home. I generally like these assignments because they tend to be items I would never think of designing for myself or my home. As such, I tend to think of these projects as experiments and I try to push myself outside of my familiar technical box when working up these designs. Hence, the woven top of this ottoman, which was fun to construct.

Neat! As a designer myself I can completely appreciate the imagination that drives the creation of such different patterns. I also understand the motivation. The crochet world is so large and diverse that it's no fun to stick to the same thing over and over! It's so nice to feature the work of someone so versatile. You can check out more of Regina's designs and ideas on Ravelryher website, and her blog. Thanks for visiting with us today, Regina! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Nebula Cowl

It's March. It's almost spring. Did that stop me from designing a cowl? Nope! I had about 260 yards of some lovely Malabrigo Mecha given to me by a friend. When I couldn't find a suitable project for it I thought well gee, I guess I'll just design my own.

She also gave me this neat little button with a bird and a skein of yarn on it. The bird looks pleased with its acquisition.

She told me she picked the yarn out for me because it reminded her of the nebulae I'm always talking about. I love space stuff, especially nebulae, so I was super pleased with her rationale. One thing led to another and the Nebula Cowl was born.

It's really interesting how different this yarn looks in various lighting. I decided to make this a free pattern since it's pretty short and repetitive. All the same, I really enjoy the finished product. I may even keep it! I haven't decided yet.

I had enough yarn left to make a matching hat, but I decided not to include instructions for the hat in the pattern. On my first hat attempt I included more of the cowl's style but ran out of yarn and had to frog it. The second hat attempt was made in triple crochet finishing with a border to match the cowl. I had juuust enough yarn, with about one yard leftover. Whew!

The pattern for the Nebula Cowl is available for free on Ravelry.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Queen Anne's Lace Scarf

I've had this scarf in my queue for a while and was waiting for the perfect yarn for it. When a friend gave me some Chroma recently, I knew I'd found it! You can make the scarf as short or as long as you like, which is always a plus. It's rather thin, so I recommend making it a long wraparound scarf.

What do you think? Do you like the colors?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Focus: Maya Kuzman

Spring is getting closer, I can feel it. Can you? This has been such a difficult winter in the states and I can imagine that many folks are as eager to see springtime as I am. We've still got a little while to wait but the lovely purple crocuses popping up and the buds on the cherry trees allude to wonderful things. Flowers truly bring nature's glad tidings. I love flowers, all kinds of flowers. Dahlias, crocuses, roses, carnations, peonies, hydrangeas, sweet william, flowers, flowers, flowers! I'm sure we'll get plenty of those spring showers here in Seattle, too.

Why do I like flowers so much? They're fragile. They smell good. They bring a little color to the world. And...they're pretty! Perhaps you'll recall my previous post on pretty things. Well, have I got a treat for you today. There I was messing about on Ravelry, a favorite activity of mine, looking for new patterns to add to my queue as if I didn't have a full queue to begin with. All of a sudden, there they were. Pretties! Flowers, sweet colors, delights. Spring captured in yarn. Further investigation was a necessity. Let's just click the designer's name and... ooh! Such beautiful little treasures! At once I knew I had to bring them here to you, dear readers. Happily Maya Kuzman, today's featured designer, is as delightful as her patterns. Her brand is aptly named: The Little Treasures Shop. She has recently been featured in Simply Crochet magazine and she is here with us today to share her thoughts and show her lovely work.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
I grew up in a family where traditions were deeply rooted and respected and handwork was highly appreciated, praised, and practiced. Both my grandmothers were proficient in what I like to call handmade art – one was a professional seamstress, the other masterful crocheter and knitter. I readily accepted the love they shared for sewing and crocheting and started paving the way of my handmade life, only to find out soon that crochet is the one that makes my heart skip a beat. 

Having been hooked by the wonderful crochet creations that leapt into life through the magical hands of my grandmother I became deeply enamoured with the enchanting ‘twist and turn’ dance of the yarn with the hook. So in my teenage years, my grandma introduced me to the very basic crochet stitches, and since she was mostly crocheting “Romanian Point Lace” projects, which had a spider web quality and appearance of course, at first I was put off by it and didn’t think I could use the thinnest thread possible to make something. And I stuck to knitting and sewing until I had my second baby. And suddenly, on the internet I saw a scarf with crocheted flowers. And the urge to make one myself was the avalanche that pushed me forward. And I’ve been doing it for almost a decade now.

Why do you crochet?
I love crochet because it is my tool to capture and express the fairytale-like world that I feel within myself. Crochet is the medium through which I combine relaxation and beauty. It is my vent from the hectic daily activities and also a tool with which I create enchanting and eye-catching accessories through which I strive to express my love for the beautiful world, to show the rainbow of my soul and the whims of my imagination.

For me crocheting is not simply a hobby or a recreational activity. It is the tool for preserving tradition, making my own clothes and accessories, embellishing my home. It also contributes to my pledge to live an environmentally conscious life. The yarn I use is mostly organic and when something loses its attractiveness or I just get bored with it I can unstitch it and re-use the yarn to make another lovely thing. In a word – it makes my world richer and more meaningful.

Crochet Favorites
My favourite hook is the one with which I have created almost all the things in my shop and that is the famous 1.9mm one. Favourite working yarns include DK and worsted cottons. I am entranced by Japanese crochet and love the Keito Dama and Let’s Knit Magazines, then there is the Simple Crochet and Crochet Today, just to name a few. 

What are you working on right now?
I always work on multiple projects at one time. Right now I am working on a baby set patterns which would be the perfect gift for new mothers, then there is a collection of boutonnieres and a spring headband. The crochet kiln is never at rest!  

A few finished objects...
The crocheted tube necklaces made quite a stir and the pattern for them is still the most demanded. 

The Forget –Me-Not Headband involves my favourite flowers – the pattern is free and I am sure you’ll love making it. They can be used as brooches or made into hairpins. Or you can freshen up an old tee by adding a couple of these to the neckline.

The Blue Flower Necklace is the type of necklace I enjoy making. Lots of lovely flowers and leaves arranged to make a unique piece of crocheted art. 

Pretty patterns and pretty words! To get the full experience you ought to visit Maya's Ravelry page. My favorite designs are her Vintage Collar Necklace and her African Violet Bracelet. You can also find her work on her blog, Etsy, Pinterest, and Facebook. Thank you so much for visiting us today, Maya. Now, if you'll all excuse me, I'm about to go pin every darn thing she's ever posted on her blog to my Pinterest board. ;)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Netflix Crochet Finds

I've been watching Netflix streaming again. How surprising not. Here are a few recent crochet sightings that I wanted to share with you. Apologies for the grainy quality of the screen caps!

Here's a beautiful lavender crochet shawl seen on ABC Family's Princess: A Modern Fairytale.

I caught a glimpse of a granny square blanket draped over a couch on Farscape.

Rugged wolf-dude was snuggled up with a crochet blanket on Hemlock Grove. Man, I really love all of the Netflix original series.

That's all for today. I'll be on the lookout for more crochet gems hidden in random shows and movies.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mini Yarn Bomb

As I was walking down a nearby street I caught a flash of color in the corner of my eye. Upon further investigation I discovered a tiny yarn bomb. I thought it would be fun to share it with you.

I think it's fun how just a few strands of yarn on a fence brightened my day. Thank you, mysterious yarn bomber!