Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fiber Friends Are The Best!

I looooove my fiber groups. It is such a joy to create alongside fun, friendly, and talented people. If you aren't a member of any fiber groups yet, you should totally check them out! There are many opportunities through local yarn stores, Crochet Guild of America, and Meetup.

I attend two weekly fiber groups. On Tuesday nights a bunch of folks who live in my apartment complex get together to crochet and knit. Most of them do both. I have made some good friends in that group! We have so much fun chatting and sharing our projects. It's a fabulous beginning to my week. Then on Sunday afternoons I chill at Uptown Espresso in South Lake Union with the Rainy Sunday Knitters. I am the most avid crocheter there, though a few of them crochet now and again. These ladies are so talented and have many years of experience. They've totally adopted me into their circle and I'm so pleased about it!

My fiber friends are everything awesome I mentioned above -- and generous, too! Take a look at the things they've given me. I promise I'm not bragging, it's just important for me to recognize others when they give me gifts. My yarn drawers are certainly satisfied...

Katie from my Tuesday night group recently spent a few weeks traveling Europe with her husband. I watched her kitty while they were gone. To thank me they brought me some Lettlopi! I'm really excited to use it on Sonja van der Wijk's patterns. They also gave me some soap and a fun kitchen towel.

My friend Toni from the Rainy Sunday Knitters gave me some luxury yarn that she acquired at Vogue Knitting Live. As you can see, I've already been playing with the Rowan. She also got a gift certificate for books that she shared with the whole group. Isn't that kind of her? I can't wait to get my two books, one on scarves and another on Noro yarn.

Vicki, also from Rainy Sunday Knitters, came in the other day and set this huge bag of bulky weight yarns next to me. Whoa! That's a lot of yarn. She wasn't using it and wanted to share the love. I'm still trying to pick a pattern or two for it. Have any suggestions?

Thank you so much Katie, Toni, and Vicki!

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's Official! Crochet is Good for Your Health

Need another excuse for hooking your hours away? Crochet is good for you. Science says so!

Awesome article. Also, it's totally adorable how all of my friends who knit and crochet have been squeeing about these findings all over my email inbox and Facebook feed. Fiber folks unite!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Focus: Carol Wolf

I love how crochet unites people from many different places. I'm not just talking about geographic locations. Crochet unites people of all different ages and backgrounds, too. I've met and connected with so many amazing people through crochet who I never would have known otherwise. There are so many talented people out there! It's incredible. I love seeing what others are creating. It's like a positive escalator of mutual passion that lifts all of us up.

Carol Wolf is a very talented woman. She has 50 patterns available on Ravelry of all different types, from clothes to accessories to home decor. Her crochet work is classy and classic. And guess what? She does it all just for the fun of it. All of her patterns are available for free. It takes a special person to put in all of those hours of work for the benefit of others without asking anything in return. Let's show Carol how much we appreciate her generosity by taking some time to get to know her today.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
My mother taught me to crochet when I was about 14 years old.  I was immediately intrigued and started making my own patterns for sleeveless tops.

I have been crocheting now for 48 years!  Of course, there were times when my enthusiasm waned a little.  After the big crochet frenzy in the 1960's,  the look simply went out of style.  But when my two girls were small, I enjoyed making little skirt and jacket ensembles for them.  I really resumed my crochet in earnest when my husband and I traveled the country in our RV for seven years.  Crochet is imminently portable and it provided me with a wonderful hobby while traveling.

Why do you crochet?
What can I say?  I am simply a fiber-aholic!  When I was in high school I loved anything that that had to do with fabric and sewing.  I made most of my own clothing.   Once I discovered crochet however, I realized that it was much easier to design in yarn.  It is also much more affordable and satisfies my need to make something with my own two hands.

Crochet Favorites
When it comes to crochet hooks, I have always preferred the Susan Bates metal hooks.  Not only do they come in the yummiest colors, but the in-line construction avoids the snagging that I get with the Boye hooks.  Of course, I've tried many other types but consistently find myself back with Susan!  For Tunisian Crochet, I really love the Denise Interchangeable Crochet Hooks.  These hooks also have the in-line construction that I prefer.

Trying to identify a favorite yarn is impossible!  The market is constantly changing and some of my favorites have long been discontinued.  However, I might state that I prefer a sport or fingering weight yarn.  Crochet has a somewhat bad rap for producing garments that are awkward and bulky.  I find that the thinner weight yarns result in a more attractive fabric for clothing.

My favorite crochet book of all time is Glorious Crochet Sweaters by Nola Theiss.  The patterns and color-work in this book are simply amazing.  While the book was published in 1989 and features the over-sized  sweaters that were in style during that decade,  the designs are truly timeless.  There is a lot of inspiration in that book.

What are you working on right now?
I saw a knitted sweater pattern recently that had a knotted short sleeve.  I thought that this was a beautiful detail so I am trying to recreate this pattern in crochet.  Of course, I will have to use lace-weight yarn since knotting the sleeve will cause extra bulk.  Not long ago I took a Pattern Grading Class from Kim Guzman.  This class teaches you how to make garments in different sizes.  I thought I might try to apply some of what I've learned to this new project.

A few finished objects...
Heart Throb Tote: I had been working on a scrap yarn pillow that used the spike stitch and got the idea that this stitch looked like an EKG.  One idea led to another and the Heart Throb Tote pattern was born.  This pattern is worked in tapestry crochet.

Pietra Shrug: This pattern is free on my blog, Wolf Crochet.  It is much easier than it looks and keeps you interested while you are working.  One size fits all.

Mien Hut: This little hat ( Mein Hut means “my hat” in German ) was so much fun to make!  It works up quickly but the key is to use a nice stiff cotton worsted.  The buckle is simply 2 plastic rings covered in crochet.

To check out the rest of Carol's pattern selection, visit her Ravelry page. In addition to her blog mentioned above, you can also catch up with her on her Facebook page. Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Carol!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

'Apelila Headpiece

In addition to the two crochet/knitting groups I attend each week in real life, I am also a member of several online crochet communities. The one I'm most active in, r/crochet, is having an Aloha April Contest this month. Since Alex grew up in Hawaii and some of our fondest memories are those we made during our 2013 visit to Oahu and the Big Island, I knew I had to participate. One of the users there, SassySSS, is an amazing crocheter who is super generous. She's offering delightful prizes to the contest winners. The only rule is that the project must be made with 200 grams of yarn or less. My project ended up being an amalgamation of two different patterns plus a good deal of my own imagining. I call it my 'Apelila Headpiece, or "April Headpiece".

The plumeria pattern is available for free on June Gilbank's website. The idea for the headpiece came from this pattern, but I didn't end up using any of the instructions. Instead, I made up my own leaves and white flowers. The white flowers are meant to be stephanotis, the dark leaves are maile and the light leaves are 'olapa.

Is it weird that I don't really care whether or not I place in the contest? I had fun crocheting and that's all that matters. Normally I'm a freestyle girl in both crochet and poetry and like choose my projects based on things that inspire me, but sometimes it's nice to be constrained as I would when writing a haiku or similar. It was a fun change to fit someone else's theme.

This contest has been so fun that I really want to pay it forward and host my own contest on r/crochet sometime soon. I'll let you know when and if I do that. :)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Unexpected Crochet Find

Adult life is full of so many boring must-dos. You must do the dishes. You must make a dentist appointment. You must take care of paperwork. Recently Alex and I were taking care of a must-do -- signing a lease renewal in our apartment complex office. While signing papers about money, cleaning mold, and not letting our cat ruin everything, I spied a bit of color in the corner of the desk. It was a crochet chevron blanket!

Our complex is super pet friendly. Apparently these cards are available for pet owners to fill out about their animals. That Russian Blue looks super pleased to be perched on that blanket. This little bit of unexpected crochet brightened my day and made our must-do a little less boring. Huzzah!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Focus: Twinkie Chan

The Seattle sky has been taunting us lately. We recently had a few of the loveliest, brightest, clearest days ever. Alex and I took walks in the sun, admired the flowers, and smiled at the children playing in the fountain... and then the rain came back and took away everything we love. Okay, so maybe I'm being a bit dramatic, but the clouds are back and it's been cold and sad again. Boo.

If only there was some way to bring color and excitement into this cloudy Friday. Something bright, fun, and sweet. A ray of sunshine and happiness. Oh, hey! Guess what? The day has been saved. Not by something but by someone. This person needs no introduction because I can't possible do them justice, but I'll try my best all the same. Today on Illuminate Crochet we have none other than the amazing Twinkie Chan here to visit us! Twinkie is a super accomplished lady. She's written some of the sweetest (pun intended!) patterns available. She's a published crochet author, a designer, an online shopkeeper, a blogger, and more. Her style is unique and imminently enviable. Here she is to tell us all about what it's like to be a crochet maven.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
My best friend's grandmother taught us both to crochet when I was about ten years old, so I have been crocheting on and off for about 28 years. I started to crochet more purposefully and prolifically in 2005, and that's when I first launched

Why do you crochet?
I crochet because I love yarn! Yarn is so beautiful and squishy and colorful and comforting. Crocheting is portable, and I can take my work wherever I go. It's how I can turn the crazy ideas in my head into a cute reality.

Crochet Favorites
My favorite weight for yarn is worsted weight, and I work with Lion Brand Vanna's Choice a lot for items in my Etsy shop. Deborah Norville's Everyday Worsted also has an incredible and vivid color palette. I tend to shy away from fancy/luxury yarn, because it would make the cost of my shop items too high, but I still love to admire everything in my local yarn shop! My favorite hook is the Susan Bates with a bamboo handle. 

What are you working on right now?
I'm usually working on more than one project at once, because I have terrible project-ADD! I'm currently finishing up a top secret scarf sample for my mass brand, "Yummy You! by Twinkie Chan," and I also just finished up my pattern for Kitty Donut hair pieces. I think my next move is going to be finally finishing the pattern for a Circus Animal Cookie scarf! That's been on my to-do list for 2 years! 

A few finished objects...
Cupcake Scarf - My crocheted cupcake scarf was probably my most popular item when I first got started. This piece went through several incarnations before looking like it does now, which is the pattern that's in my first crochet book that came out in 2010. These days, lots of other people are making them, but I always have a soft spot for it! 

Kitty Donuts: These kitty donuts are a brand new item for me, and I just finished the pattern to use as whimsical hair pieces. They are based on donuts from Japan that come in all sorts of animal decorations, like frogs, pandas, piggies, anything you can think of!

Mini Chocolate Bunny: I just finished the pattern for mini chocolate bunnies, and the pattern is currently available for free on my blog. They are really versatile and great for pins, hair clips, Easter basket-stuffers, necklace pendants, ornaments, etc!

So presh! How kind of Twinkie to share her bunny pattern for free on her blog. These adorable examples barely scratch the surface of her pattern catalog. You really need to check out all of the sweet and savory goodness yourself! Twinkie Chan and her designs can be found on her website, her blog, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. If you are looking for finished objects and other goodies, Yummy You is the place to be to score some fabulous stuff. Thank you so much for joining us today, Twinkie! You chased the rainy blues away.

Edit: Oh my gosh! Twinkie really did chase the rain away! It was supposed to be yucky today but it's actually pretty nice out right now. Yay!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More Media Crochet Sightings

How I do love Netflix. Know what I love even more? Finding crochet gems hidden in shows and movies! Have a gander at what I've spotted lately.

Here's a double sighting in COG, a movie based on some David Sedaris stories. It was a difficult movie, but interesting too. Notice the granny square blanket on the couch as well as the doily on the back of the chair.

Here's another granny square blanket on the back of a couch in an episode of Parks and Recreation. 

And what is this? Yet another granny square blanket draped over a chair in Take This Waltz. I just keep finding granny squares everywhere.

Here's a black and red chevron blanket I noticed while watching The Shipping News. 

Here's another The Shipping News sighting. This blanket was absolutely gorgeous. I couldn't capture its beauty with a screenie though I tried several times. It made me wish I had a pattern for it!

That's all for now. If you find any exciting crochet in your favorite shows and movies, feel free to send along a screen cap!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Katniss Cowl Pattern Explosion

When the second Hunger Games movie came out this past winter the big talk of fiber town was the grey cowl/vest thing Katniss was wearing at the beginning of the film. I thought that it was just a fad and would die down but man was I wrong. Crocheters and knitters have been in a frenzy over the cowl. Tons of designers have posted their own versions to Ravelry and Craftsy. Etsy buyers have been clamoring to purchase the cowl from crafters of all kinds. Here's what happens if you search for "Katniss cowl pattern" on Google.

Whoa. There are many versions of the cowl in both knit and crochet but none of them are quite right. Some come really close to the original but still... there's something off. I became curious. Who actually made the cowl Jennifer Lawrence was wearing? I learned something quite interesting.

The "Katniss cowl" isn't knit or crochet... it's woven!

Handwoven by artist Maria Dora to be precise. No wonder fiber folks are having such a hard time replicating it perfectly. It's really fun to see the intersection of fandom and fiber arts. What do you think of the Katniss cowl?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Focus: Marken aka The Hat and I

Let's do a little experiment. Don't worry, there won't be any hazardous materials involved! This is a thought experiment. You have to guess what I'm thinking. If you had to choose the most loved animal in pop culture today, what would it be? Cats are very loved, but their popularity is pretty enduring. Octopuses were popular for quite a while, but I feel like that trend is cooling off a bit. Foxes are pretty popular right now, but that's not the animal I'm thinking of.

Did you guess? I'm thinking of owls!

Owls have exploded everywhere and there seems to be no stopping them! I've seen tons of owl baby items, household items, clothing prints, jewelry, and more out in the world. The crochet world is just as mad about owls as ever. Searching for "owl" on Ravelry returns over a thousand crochet pattern results. I see owls popping up all of the time on r/crochet. I've even made some owls myself!

Today's featured designer is the Queen of the Owls. It's true! Let me explain. Marken has designed what I believe to be the best, most colorful, and most adorable owl patterns out there. One of her patterns has over 12,000 favorites on Ravelry. Doesn't that number explode your brain?! In addition to her amazing owls she also has tons of other bright, beautiful patterns that are really well done. I'm really excited to have her here with us today. Let's learn all about Marken of The Hat and I.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
It all began with an admiration of quilts and afghans.  For many years, I wished I could be so crafty and talented to make such lovely and useful things.  As luck would have it, one day, back in 1999, a gal at work brought in an afghan she made.  A co-worker and I were delighted to see such loveliness and asked if she would, pretty please, teach us how to crochet.  To our delight, she said yes!  Although she couldn't teach us how to read a pattern, she could show us how to make this one blanket of hers.  I bought a set of hooks plus a few skeins of Red Heart Super Saver, and I was ready.  The joy of finally learning this craft made me ridiculously HaPpY!  Many months later, I purchased a book to help me read patterns.  That was the icing on the cake.  And the crochet adventure continues....15 years into it, and still, much to do and much to learn.

Why do you crochet?
At this point, I don't think I can stop.  It's too much fun and there are too many things I still want to make.

Crochet Favorites
HOOKS:  Currently, I use the Clover Soft Touch hooks.  I love these, but have recently been eyeing their new (and more colorful) Amour set.  I might be splurging on those soon. 
YARN:  Oh My's difficult to choose a favorite yarn.  Usually, the project chooses the yarn.  Each project is unique and seems to want its own special yarn.  And, with so many choices available, it’s impossible to stick with one brand.  Still, I do have a few current favorites.  For self-striping yarn, Knit Picks Chroma is a dream to work with, and the color changes are divine.  I love it!  My go to cotton yarn is Hobby Lobby's I Love This Cotton, but I also use lots of Lily's Sugar'n Cream.  Acrylics seem to rule my stash, however.  They are incredibly affordable, and I enjoy keeping loads of colors on hand...just in case.  Vanna's Choice is probably my favorite.  All the colors are rich, warm, and blend nicely together.  Hobby Lobby's I Love This Yarn and Red Heart Soft are my other favorites.  Lots of shelf space is dedicated to those three brands.  For making smaller items, such as ornaments, I adore Lion Brand's bonbons in cotton.  Thankfully, those wee little skeins take up no space at all.  With each trip to the yarn/craft store, there seems to be ever more enticing choices....and the yarn stash grows bit by bit.
BOOKS:  I do love a good stitch book.  My favorite book to date is "The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet."  The photos are wonderful, and the patterns are easy to read and understand.

What are you working on right now?
I am hooking up a spring-themed blanket.  And, I decided to splurge on some new yarn for it, Cascade 220 Superwash wool.  I hesitated bringing in a new load of yarn but couldn't resist the delicious assortment of colors...had to give it go! 

A few finished objects...
Owl Obsession – This blanket was my first project using self-striping yarn (Knit Picks Chroma), and I love how it turned out.  I think the owls give the blanket a fun personality and the colors make the whole project happy. 

Floral Fantasy – My first “Yarn Art” project.  All those blooming flowers make for a dreamy garden.  This hangs in my little girl’s room now and offers a splash of color and a bit of cheerfulness there. 

Sweetheart Scarf – I love these linked’s a scarf with a message.

So pretty! You can see all of Marken's other delightful patterns and more on Ravelry, Etsy, and Facebook. Thank you so much for joining us today, Marken. We're charmed! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Crochet Blogs I Read

I am so appreciative of my readers. Having all of you nice folks read my blog not only makes me feel good, it also helps me focus on producing interesting content, gives me production deadlines, and encourages me to connect with others. Blogs are a great way for the people interested in a topic and the people who are knowledgeable about that topic to find each other and rejoice in their shared interest. Yay!

I don't just write a blog... I read blogs, too! Just as I think it's important for designers to work up others' patterns, I think it's important for bloggers to read other blogs. There are so many great crochet blogs out there. If you're in the mood for adventure, go click on the Spark in the sidebar labelled "Friday Focus" and scroll to the end of each feature. Nearly every single designer I have ever featured has a blog. Some update frequently and some not as frequently. I use Feedly to aggregate the blogs I like to read. It shows me every update so I don't have to worry about who updates when.

Today I'd like to share the blogs I read on a regular basis with you. Reading blogs helps me learn new things, connect with the crochet community, see awesome projects, and have fun! This isn't a complete list. I've selected the crochet blogs that I read most often and that update most frequently. I also want to note that none of the bloggers asked me to write about their blogs and I am not being paid to do so. I simply enjoy them! Here they are in alphabetical order.

Important: All pictures/banners/logos/brands below are the sole property of the linked bloggers and are pictured here to help organize this post, give you a feel for each blog, and help you recognize blogs you may have seen before.

According to Matt is such a beautiful blog. He's been updating a lot more frequently lately which is awesome! Matt writes about his daily life, his relationship, and creative projects. He often writes about crochet and the projects he's working on. He recently featured a glorious crochet wedding bouquet that he and his partner made for their friend. So pretty! This blog has lots of nice pictures.

Attic 24 is a very popular blog. Lucy has become well known for her liberal and eye-catching use of color. She has quite a few patterns available on her blog that you can also find listed on Ravelry. The best word I can think of to describe her blog is charming. She writes about domestic life, simple pleasures, her family, and crochet. She includes many high quality photos in each post, both of nature and the topics I mentioned.

Cardigan shows off the unique crochet and knit art of Kate Jenkins. She does a lot of detail work with thin yarn and sequins. My favorite posts are her "Fishy Friday" offerings that play around with puns. She updates regularly. Cardigan is mostly a one-pic-a-post kind of blog.

The Crochet Architect is the blog of designer Susan Lowman who is just the nicest woman ever. I've had her over for a Friday Focus and working with her was a delight. She regularly posts a lot of book reviews for new crochet books which I find useful. She shares her own pattern information and general crochet-related thoughts. Susan also keeps her readers up to date with current CGOA happenings. Fun fact: The colorful crochet banner on the CGOA website was made by her!

Crochet Concupiscence... wow where do I begin? This blog is like the vortex of crochet. It has it all: news, patterns, ideas, art, fashion, everything! Kathryn updates really frequently so there's always something new going on. She's really good at bringing together all kinds of crochet related stuff from all over the web, from the obscure to the super popular. Her round-up posts are amazing too and make it easy to find what you're looking for whatever that may be. I'm glad I was already subscribed to her blog or I may not have noticed that she mentioned me a few times recently! Visit my Media and Press section to check it out.

Fresh Stitches is the blog of designer Stacey Trock who was kind enough to join us for a Friday Focus some time ago. This blog updates very often and covers a wide variety of topics. My favorite posts are those with tips and tricks for crochet designers. She is one of the few bloggers I've encountered who regularly tackles design and time management related topics.

futuregirl is a craft blog that often references crochet and knitting but also features other crafts. Alice mostly writes about her current projects, projects that she works on for enjoyment. She's designed a few patterns and has a few tutorials but she doesn't really focus on design most of the time. I like this blog because I think Alice is cool. That's really all there is to it :p This blog doesn't update as regularly anymore, which I can understand (blogging is a lot of work!), but it makes me a little sad.

Go Crochet is the blog of designer Ellen Gormley, a well-respected name in the field. Her blog's feel and her voice are both bright and cheerful. Her blog mostly focuses on her recent publications and crochet experiences.

Hakelmonster is an interesting little blog from Germany. I can't quite remember how I came across it. The author writes about her crochet, knitting, and other craft projects with a little bit of domestic life thrown in. I like looking at the pictures on this blog and enjoying the calm, quiet nature of the posts.

Repeat Crafter Me is an extremely popular craft blog, one you've probably heard of. Sarah posts tons of free crochet patterns to her blog and updates very regularly. She sometimes mentions her family but most of her posts are craft tutorials or recipes. I have successfully followed a few of her crockpot recipes and they are pretty good! I haven't worked up any of her patterns quite yet but I know that they are quite popular with the online crochet community.

Twinkie Chan is the blog of crochet personality... Twinkie Chan! I call her a personality because she has lots of it. She is more than a blogger, designer, author, and Etsy seller. She has a very unique style and brand that is fun, youthful, and cute. I like this blog because I find Twinkie Chan to be very creative and personable. She writes like she speaks. She is upbeat and happy most of the time, but something I admire about her is her honesty. She's not afraid to be a little grouchy when she's sick, tired, etc. She comes across very real while still extraordinary. Twinkie writes about her projects, her patterns, and her day to day life.

Wonderstrange is a blog written by two different people who pursue different crafts. I started reading it when I featured Ann D. Angelo's crochet patterns for a Friday Focus. Ann is so cool. Her personal aesthetic is really interesting and weird. I love her writing style and her personality that comes through on the blog. Both she and Sarah chronicle their very interesting artistic and crochet pursuits on the blog.

That's it for blogs that feature crochet either solely or in part. Before I sign off for today, I also want to tell you about two blogs I read on a regular basis that have nothing to do with crochet. 

All Things Paper is a gorgeous blog about every paper craft imaginable plus a few you haven't imagined before! The art featured here is simply stunning. I love looking at all of the pictures and learning new things. A main focus of All Things Paper is quilling, which is a hobby I personally enjoy and the craft that led me to this blog. I once won a giveaway prize from an artist featured on this blog and I was so excited about it!

Rebecca Demarest is the self-titled blog of the author. She recently published her first book, Undeliverable. Though I know her personally because we attended college together, I don't follow her blog because I know her. I follow it because it's interesting. Rebecca writes about other authors and helps me to learn more about books I've never heard of. She also talks a bit about what's going on with her own writing. My favorite part of her blog? The writing prompts. I used to write creatively quite often and want to get back into writing poetry for enjoyment, maybe even some fiction. Her prompts make me think and create stories in my mind. They are a good reminder that creativity is a muscle that needs constant exercise. 

Thanks for reading today. I hope I've acquainted you with a new blog or two!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Freehand Purple Hat

Ah, the joy of playing with yarn. Yarn! I love yarn and I know you do too. I recently free-handed a hat for no other reason than wanting to play with the yarn, a nice hand dyed skein from Huckleberry Knits. Here's my hat. It's a bit peculiar but I like it.

What do you think? I played around with double crochet, bobbles, and half double crochet to make my hat. If you're interested, this one of a kind hat will go up on Etsy sometime today.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Focus: Jenn Wolfe Kaiser

Although we moved around a lot when I was a child, for the most part I grew up in Boise, Idaho. Boise holds a special place in my heart. From the fish hatchery, the greenbelt, and Camel's Back Park to Goody's, Flying Pie Pizza, and Dragonfly, there's certainly a lot to love. That said, it's rather dry. The summers are hot and while there's a decent amount of snow in the winter... it doesn't rain a whole lot. In fact, it rains so infrequently in Boise that the summer thunderstorms became really special and exciting, leading my friends and I to run around outside in the rain for fun. Being a moody, romantic, and starry-eyed sort of teen, I became obsessed with rain. I dreamed of going to college in Oregon or Washington where it rained all of the time.

I followed that dream. I obtained both my Bachelor's and Master's degrees at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Boy, did it rain! The rain made everything green and alive. Willamette University is nestled in Oregon's Willamette Valley along the Willamette River. Not enough "Willamette" for you? When I finally moved to Eugene, Oregon to join Alex as he finished his Master's...the very first street we lived on together was Willamette Street! And now, dear friends, Willamette has found me again in the form of Jenn Wolfe Kaiser. She's today's featured designer and she hails from glorious Portland, Oregon (where the dream of the 90's is alive *wink*). Her designs are right at home here in the PNW and make me nostalgic for Oregon. I found her through her Over the Willamette Shawl, seen modeled by her below. Read on to learn more about her and her designs.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
I grew up loving macrame and cross stitching. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college, 13 years ago, that I was introduced to crochet. My friend had one of his friends from back home come and visit, and we didn’t believe him when he said he’d made his hat. We had to get him to demonstrate for us. He taught us how to single crochet in the round, the only stitch he knew, and to just add stitches randomly here and there to make the piece larger. I’ve been self-taught (and come a long way) since then!

Why do you crochet?
I’ve loved to create things for as long as I can remember: drawing, stitching, writing poetry. Since I learned to crochet, I feel like I haven’t been able to put my hook down. I don’t like to have idle hands, and crocheting is a rewarding way to keep busy. It’s so satisfying to see your efforts take shape into something beautiful and functional. It has also been a great tool for relieving stress: the repetitive activity of yarn crafting is calming. Just a few minutes working on a project can be a great mid-day reset or end-of-day wind down.

Crochet Favorites
The thing that changed my crafting life the most was Ravelry. Before I knew there was a whole community out there with the same interests as me and a seemingly endless library of creativity, I dabbled in simple stitches and never followed a pattern. The site changed everything for me, most notably in two ways: it gave me an outlet to develop my own designs, and opened my eyes to the appeal of spinning my own yarn. I love the vibrant colors of Madelinetosh, Malabrigo, and Noro, some of my favorite yarns to work with, but I tend to feel the most satisfaction while using the yarns I’ve spun myself.

What are you working on right now?
I’m pretty excited about the two new shawl designs I have close to completion. The first, asymmetrical, takes the shape of a mythical creature’s wing, using stitches of different heights to manipulate the shape. The second, a triangular shawl, uses post stitches and an unconventional construction method to imitate a wood parquet floor pattern. In between these, I’m also working on a blanket for a close friend who’s having a baby boy in July.

A few finished objects...
I like to have volunteer Ravelry users test patterns for me before their release. The Bistro Beanie a slouchy hat currently in testing, to be released next week.

I also volunteer for other designers’ tests. Otis the Bat was a test project for Kate E. Hancock (aka Patchwork Moose). Her amigurumi designs are so fun and clever.

Life, the Universe, and Everything is a crochet version of the popular Hitchhiker knit shawl. I did this one in my handspun yarn.

Wow, I just love Jenn's shawls. I can't wait to see how the two in-progress shawl patterns turn out! You can connect with her on her website, Ravelry, Etsy, and Pinterest. Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Jenn! Oh, and say hi to the Willamette River for me ;)