Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Focus: Kimberly McAlindin

How has your week been? Mine's been pretty busy. My dear friend Nicki is getting married on Sunday (yay!) so I've been doing a lot of thinking about and planning for that in addition to all of my crocheting, errand running, and other daily activities. It's fun to be busy, though.

I'd like to introduce you to a very busy and accomplished designer, Kimberly McAlindin. Kimberly is an established crochet designer and author. What an honor to have her with us today. Here's what she had to say about her crochet experiences.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it? 
I taught myself to crochet after going to a friend’s baby’s shower, she received this beautiful basket filled with beautiful crocheted garments. I was a knitter first and was always spending months knitting wedding and baby gifts. I went up to Mrs. Vitale and asked her how long it took her to crochet all of those beautiful sweaters and blankets and booties, when she told me should could whip out a sweater in a couple evenings…. The very next day I went to my local Michael’s and bought myself a hook and a Learn to Crochet book. I was literally hooked! That was back in 1997.

Why do you crochet?
I crochet because I love the freedom I feel when I sit down with hook and yarn. I love how easy and portable it is. I love the speed! I love that if you drop your hook you do not have the panic that can sometimes occur when knitting. I find it very easy to translate images I see in nature into crochet pieces.

Crochet Favorites
My favorite hooks are Lantern Moon Ebony hooks… there is something about the smooth feel of the hook that I just love. Before my obnoxious obsession with those hooks I was an all out Bates girl. Every single yarn I come across I love! I find the challenge in putting the right hook and design to each yarn. I prefer to crochet garments for example, in sock weight yarns. I loved reading Lily Chin's Crochet Tips & Tricks: Shortcuts and Techniques Every Crocheter Should Know.

What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on a knit design for Red Heart and swatching for a few crochet submissions. I love to swatch! One project is with crochet cables and one submission is for hairpin Lace.

A few finished objects...
This was an amazing sweater! Oh I loved the way the yarn photographed – I worked on this in the summer on the beach and everyone that saw it could not believe it was a crochet piece. The top was a cable that I’d seen in a stitch dictionary and the bottom and sleeves were a single crochet, but you place your hook in the center of the single crochet from the row above which gave a knit look. It is called the Frosted Windowpane and was in Interweave Crochet Winter 2010.

The Sidewalk Shawl is one of my most popular designs. It was made with Debbie Stoller’s yarn Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe and is available as a free pattern on the Red Heart website. The shawl is a simple pineapple stitch and the shawl is worked from the bottom up - the striking fringe is what really makes this a show stopper!

The Moss Fern Wrap was my first design ever published in Interweave in Fall 2009. This design looks difficult, but is a very easy 2 row repeat that even a beginner can master. I have made this design several times and in different weights of yarn. It is a quick shawl to crochet and I often crochet these as gifts.

Such lovely designs! In all their beauty they still only scratch the surface of Kimberly's design profile, both crochet and knit. You can keep up with her on her website, Ravelry, Twitter, and Facebook. Thank you so much for joining us, Kimberly!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Schultertuch/Dreieckstuch aka Orchideeflower Shawl

Have you every crocheted with Knitpicks Chroma? They have such lovely colorways! I had been gazing longingly at Wondermint for a long time and finally decided to purchase it for myself. I'm so glad I did -- they are retiring it! What did I make with my precious Wondermint fingering weight yarn? A lovely shawl.

Such pretty colors! The pattern is a really great four row repeat that was very easy to memorize. Here it is on Ravelry. The original pattern is in German so I ended up using the chart. As other Ravelers suggested, I subbed in a ch 7 for the ch 10 loops and it came out very nice. I also added a simple single crochet border at the very end which I think ties everything together. I definitely recommend it as a great pattern for showing off a slow striping yarn. Thanks go out to my lovely husband Alex for helping me take pictures! Also, wow do I need a haircut or what?

I may end up vending at a craft fair this winter, but if I don't this shawl will eventually show up in my Etsy shop.

Monday, August 25, 2014

200th Post

Guess what? I have some special news. Today marks Illuminate Crochet's...

Yay! Let's celebrate! In honor of reaching this milestone I'm having a special coupon and a giveaway! During this week only use coupon 200BLOGPOSTS in my Ravelry store and receive 50% off your pattern purchase. What a deal! The coupon will expire on Friday the 29th at 11 pm PST. Thank you for reading my blog and helping to make Illuminate Crochet a success.

Interested in a giveaway? How about one of my patterns for free! This one's only open to Facebook followers. All you have to do is find this post on the Illuminate Crochet Facebook page and comment with which pattern you'd request if you won the giveaway. I'll announce the randomly chosen winner on Facebook on Friday night when the coupon expires, so you have until then to enter.

Thank you for reading and for supporting me as I've grown as a blogger and designer. Happy Monday!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Crochet in Downeast Maine

Sorry, no Remix Friday today :/ I haven't mentioned this before because it isn't terrible productive, but I do want to say that while it's usually a complete joy to connect with other crocheters and designers it's sometimes difficult as well. There are some occasions when a commitment someone has made to me falls through and it makes my job a bit harder. Today was one of those times. I suppose the thing I should take away from these moments is a resolve to be as easy to work with and as reliable as possible when it's my turn to make commitments. Stay tuned, there are many other awesome Remix Friday and Friday Focus posts on their way in coming weeks! In the meantime, here's a crochet sighting.

Alex and I recently took a trip across the country to Maine for a wedding. The rehearsal dinner was a low-key affair in a vacation cabin with lovely views of the forest and ocean. While we were there I noticed this crochet valance. When I told everyone it was handmade, they didn't believe me at first! It's true, though. While some machines can mimic the look of crochet (you may have seen mock-crochet edgings on the necklines of tops and dresses like the one I'm wearing below), true crochet cannot be done by machine.

Cool, huh? Also, this post would not be complete without a giant blueberry. Yes, a giant blueberry! I didn't know this but Maine is apparently an important blueberry location. We visited a super fun tourist attraction called Wild Blueberry Land. The inside of the main building had blueberry flavored/themed everything. We got some blueberry coffee, blueberry taffy, and blueberry soda. The complex had other things to do as well, like a blueberry-themed mini-golf course. If you're ever in downeast Maine, go have a look :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

More Crochet Slang

A while back I wrote this post on crochet slang. More slang has crossed my path since then and I'd love to share it with you!

HOTH = Hot Off the Hook. You've just finished a project that's HOTH and peeps better watch out... those stitches are on fire!

Yarn Barf or Yarn Vomit = The clump of tangled yarn that you pull out of a center pull skein. I pulled hard on the strand and then a bunch of yarn barf spewed out. Gross!

Ami = Short for "amigurumi", a Japanese word for small crocheted animals/toys. I might have made more ami owls this year than is necessary or reasonable. Don't judge.

Yarn Bomb = A decorative piece of crocheted or knitted art that is strung up in public. I am totally gonna yarn bomb that ugly trash can with some cool crochet stripes. 

Freehand = Making an object without following a pattern. I totally freehand crocheted a hat for my cat. She's not terribly impressed. 

Scrumble =  Combining freehand and other crochet pieces to make a unique object. A little of this, a little of that, and voila! A scrumble.

Yarn Cakes = The small skeins of yarn that result from using a yarn winder. You can never have too many yarn cakes. Yum.

Stash = As a noun, your collection of yarn. As a verb, to amass a collection of yarn. Gotta keep on stashing to build up my awesome stash.

De-stash = Going through your stash and giving away yarn you aren't using. Hmm, yarn stuffed in the trunk? In the linen closet? On the bookshelf? Time to de-stash.

A few of those should look familiar from Monday's post!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Destash to De-stress

You're sitting in the living room minding your own business, having some fun crocheting, maybe drinking some tea. Everything is serene. What a lovely evening. That's when it starts, the low rumbling sound, a groan that emanates from every corner of your house. Zippered bags are bursting! *RIP* Drawers are busting open! *POP* Closet doors are rattling! *CLATTER* It's your yarn stash, it's out of control! ***BOOM*** All of those great deals, perfect colorways, and indie finds are now exploding all over the place. Yikes! Maybe it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Is your stash so large that it's stressing you out and taking over your home? Are you ferreting yarn in your linen closet, your dresser drawers, and the trunk of your car? It is hard to select yarns for your projects because you just don't know where to start? Are you worried you'll have to live to age 247 to have any hope of using all of your yarn? Maybe it's time to...

Today I'm going to give you some helpful tips on decision making when it comes to your yarn stash. Here's how to Evaluate, Designate, and Donate for a stress-free and well-organized stash. You'll want to set aside one to two hours for this process depending on how large your stash is.

First thing's first, you gotta know what you're working with. Find a clean place where you can lay out your entire stash. Yes, all of it! This might be your dining room table, your bed, the floor of your craft room, or your entire living room. Great! Now you're ready to ask yourself the following questions:

What needs to be tossed out right away?  If some of your yarn has unfortunately been attacked by wee beasties like moths, mice, mold, and the like, throw it out immediately. Some folks might tell you to try to save the yarn by sending it through the washing machine in a lingerie bag. I wouldn't recommend it, especially if the pest in question was mice. Machine washing yarn might work if you accidentally spilled something on it or if you'd like it to smell fresher, but pests are not something you want to mess with. Do you really want to risk contaminating more of your stash? Take a gulp and toss it. It's sad and a bit of a waste, but hopefully this can be avoided in the future by storing your yarn in a clean, dry place and discouraging pests with cedar or lavender sachets.

Where am I going to store my yarn? Notice this is not necessarily the same as "where have I already been storing my yarn?". Whether you've got an entire craft room, a closet, a chest of drawers, or a single plastic bin to work with, you need to build a stash that fits there comfortably without overflowing into other places in your home. You may wish to invest in some new containers or shelving for your yarn. I personally store my yarn in two three-drawer Sterilite towers.

How do I want to organize my yarn? If you like to pick a project and then find the yarn for it, you may want to organize your yarn based on weight. If you like to pick a yarn and then find a project for it, you may want to organize your yarn by color or fiber. If you have a ton of projects in mind you may want to group your yarn according to project. You'll likely use a few different approaches. Take a good look at the space you have set aside for your yarn and mentally label your shelves/drawers/bins.

What am I going to keep? This is the beginning of the hardest part of the process. Start by picking out the yarns that you are really invested in based on what's important to you. This could be cost based, brand based, weight based, color based, or similar. Go ahead and put this yarn in your stash location to see how much room you have left for the next step.

Do I already have a project in mind for this yarn? Now that you've already set aside your favorites it's time to be practical. Pull up your Ravelry queue. Pop open those Pinterest boards. Dive into your pattern library. Set aside yarn for specific projects. It only counts if you have all or almost all of the yarn required for the project. Mind the age of the yarn and think about how feasible it would be to get more in the same dye lot. Put away all of the yarn you've gathered so far. You may want to label it in bags or similar based on the project it's set aside for.

What else will fit? If you've still got some room left you can allow yourself to keep more of your stash based on impulse. For example, if I had extra room I would probably keep all of the purple yarn since it's my favorite color, or keep all of the softest yarn.

Whew! Give yourself a pat on the back. That was hard work. Maybe all of your yarn fit in your stash spot. Awesome! However, it's more likely that it *sniff* didn't. Now you've got some extra yarn on your hands. If you want to make some last minute yarn switches that's okay. Don't let yourself ferret the yarn somewhere it doesn't belong. Let's solve your problem once and for all!

There are many excellent choices for re-homing yarn that is perfectly good but doesn't fit into your new stress-free stash lifestyle. You may wish to sell your extra yarn on Craigslist, on Ravelry, or as part of a yard sale. If you're looking to donate the yarn here are a few options:

Make a friend's day. If you've got a friend (or two, or three!) who shares your love of fiber arts, see if they'd like to have any of your extra yarn. My friend Toni recently gave me some absolutely lovely yarn that she was looking to re-home and I am very appreciative.

Donate the yarn to a local community or senior center. Google community centers in your area. They may enjoy having your yarn on hand for kids crafts, crochet and knitting lessons, and more.

Donate the yarn to a specific charity. Many charities ask for finished objects but there are also a few that ask for yarn. Do some internet sleuthing. One good option that comes to mind is groups that teach prisoners to crochet and knit. Lion Brand Yarn has an excellent database of charities to explore.

Donate the yarn to Goodwill. When all else fails you can always donate your extra yarn to one of the major thrift store chains and feel good knowing that it will find a new home and help provide services to those in need.

There's one last thing you need to think about before you can consider yourself destashed. What kinds of limitations are you going to put on your yarn collecting? Decide how much yarn you need to use before you're allowed to buy more. That way your stash will stay organized and you can avoid another big explosion :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Remix Friday: Baseball Blanket

Even though there are so many clever crochet patterns available it can sometimes be hard to find a single pattern that is exactly what you're looking for. If a few of them come close enough, why not combine them to form a totally unique object? That's just what Sherie did when she made her Baseball Blanket, today's Remix Friday project. Here's her story.

The Crocheter
My name is Sherie. I learned to crochet as a girl but never really started crocheting until I retired in 2012.

The Original Pattern
Corner-to-Corner Throw by Catherine J. Watson and Bouncy Ball Baby Blanket by Debbie Smith

The Story
I have two grandchildren and made the baseball blanket for my grandson.  

The Remix
I used the Bouncy Ball pattern on Ravelry to make the squares. I initially was going to make just the squares to fit a twin bed,  but my husband thought I should make a diamond shape. So I joined the completed squares into a diamond and for the corners, used the corner to corner pattern on Ravelry to simulate grass. I joined with the ladder stitch. Since my son-in-law is a Braves fan, I decided to make the baseball squares in blue. The result was a blanket that will fit on a queen size bed!

Crochet is... so very addicting!

What a cool gift! Thank you so much for sharing your project with us today, Sherie.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How to Do Foundation Single Crochet: Two Ways

You know what I just love about crochet? There are so many different ways to do things. Because we're only working with one hook and only one stitch is active at a time (with the exception of Tunisian), we have a lot of options for places to insert our hook. That's why crochet is ideal for shapework like amigurumi. So versatile!

Foundation single crochet is an invaluable skill that saves time and eliminates crocheting into the chain. Seriously, who likes crocheting into a wiggly base chain? Not me. You can generally substitute in foundation single crochet whenever a pattern asks you to work up a base chain while working in rows. If Row 1 of your pattern happens to be a row of single crochet, you can also count your foundation single crochet chain as your first row! Sweet.

I also know that those many options I mentioned can sometimes be confusing. Inserting the hook in a place you didn't intend to can give your item a different look than you wanted. If you've been stumped by foundation single crochet and you'd like to sort it out, today I'm here to help! I'll show you not one but two ways to do foundation single crochet. You should be familiar with chain stitches and single crochet stitches before attempting foundation single crochet. It's all about where you insert your hook! Grab a nice light colored yarn and your favorite hook and come see what all of the fuss is about.

Here's the first method. Start with your slip knot as you always do when starting a base chain.

Work 2 chain stitches. Now, instead of continuing on we are going to stick our hook under the back loop of the first chain stitch as shown by the arrow.

There we go!

Now yarn over and draw up a loop.

Yarn over again. This should all be familiar so far, just like a regular single crochet stitch.

Here's where things are a bit different. Instead of pulling through both loops as you normally would, only pull through ONE loop as shown above. You'll be left with two loops on your hook again. This step is the "chain" part of the fsc (that's short for foundation single crochet).

Yarn over once more.

This time pull through both of the loops on the hook. Fabulous! That was the "stitch" part of our fsc. Congrats, you have now made your first fsc stitch.

Here's another view of our stitch. The lines show the two arms of the "v". It looks like the top of any other single crochet stitch.

Let's continue with our fsc. Each time you make a new stitch you'll insert your hook only into the loop shown by the arrow above.

Like so.

As before, draw up a loop. Yarn over and pull through one, yarn over again and pull through two. Review the photos above again if you need another look.

Now you've got a second fsc stitch.

Here are our stitches from the top.

Continue on until your chain is the desired length. 

Notice how tidy the stitches are. Working into them on row one will be a breeze.

This first fsc method leaves a bottom edge that has noticeable gaps. These gaps could be useful for attaching fringe or tassels, working a border, etc. 

Now we'll take a look at another way to do fsc. The finished chain looks a bit different.

Start by chaining 2 just as you did for the first method.

Now, instead of inserting the hook through only the back loop of the first chain stitch you will also insert it into the butt/spine of that stitch as shown by the line above. 

Just like this. Now simply finish the stitch just like we did in the first method. Pull up a loop, yarn over, pull through one, yarn over again, pull through two.

There's our first stitch.

As you work your method 2 chain, continue inserting your hook under the back loop and the butt/spine loop every time you make a new fsc stitch.

Here is what a method 2 chain looks like. It's much denser.

Here my fingertip is pointing at the top row of "v's", the stitches you'll work into on row one. There's another little row of v's to the left of my finger that weren't there for method 1. You could potentially work into those loops if you wanted another piece of crochet fabric to be attached at an angle.

That's not all! This second method also leaves a line of v's on the bottom edge of the chain. This second method is handy for garment making when you don't want any holes in your seams.

Play around with both of these methods to see what works for you. There's no right or wrong choice! I like the first method because it works up a bit quicker, but I will concede that the second method has a fuller, tighter look. Have any questions about fsc? Feel free to ask away in the comments.