Friday, October 30, 2015

Qualities of Yarn and Fibers: Part One

On this blog I often highlight how important it is to choose the right yarn for your project. However, there are so many different ways to judge a yarn. Does it provide good stitch definition? A lot of luster? Halo? Some of these terms may be unfamiliar to you. I would like to help you out!

Although it is difficult to completely define and categorize yarns and fibers, I am going to attempt to focus on two main categories. The first category is made up of qualities that are mainly fiber-specific (wool, nylon, etc). The second category is made up of qualities that are specific to individual yarns (Berroco Comfort, Lion Brand Wool-Ease, etc). These charts are not going to be exhaustive (there is so much information to be gleaned through experience!), but I hope that they can serve as a preliminary guide.

Today's chart focuses on fiber-specific qualities with another chart to follow in my next post. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More Fun with Stitch Fiddle: Repeating Patterns

I recently came across this fun blog post about repeating patterns. Anyone can make a repeating pattern by following the simple directions. How neat! I couldn't resist doing some experimentation since repeating patterns have obvious crochet applications. Stitch Fiddle provided the perfect starting tool. Here's the original design I came up with. It could potentially be used as a tile, but I wanted to see what would happen if I followed the repeating pattern instructions. Imagine each box as a single stitch of a crochet color chart.

I took a screen shot (command+shift+3 on a Mac and the Print Screen key on a PC) and then edited it down to just the design. Next, I opened a blank document and copy-pasted the left side to the right and the right side to the left. It looked like this:

Tip: You can see the change in position by following shift of the black highlight box. I zoomed in as close as possible and then took another screen shot. Finally, I took the top half and moved it to the bottom using the same procedure as before to produce my tile. I finished it off by changing the center stitches to black.

Now that I have a repeatable tile I can arrange it against itself as many times as I like to make a design.

This process could be used to create some super interesting crochet colorwork, don't you think? Here's another design process using an asymmetrical picture to start.

I am having WAY too much fun with this... Be sure to try it out!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fans and Fishnets Scarf and Hat Set Crochet Pattern

I am so excited to unveil my newest design, the Fans and Fishnets set! Working with this yarn was a dream (thanks again, Toni!). However, any fingering weight yarn can be used for this project. It is available on Ravelry and Craftsy.

This sleek set is a little bit flirty and a little bit fancy. The Fans and Fishnets set joins the hipness of crochet mesh with delicate shells for a modern yet feminine effect. The pattern includes a simple chart, along with the written instructions, for extra clarity. It’s great for showing off tonal yarns. For a youthful look, choose a bright color and make it pop. For some sophistication, jewel tones will work well. Whatever color you choose, you’re sure to love this soft, pretty pair.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Crochet at Geek Girl Con

Last weekend I went to Geek Girl Con for the first time with my best friend, Alex. I'd like to take a moment to let long-time readers know that Alex and I divorced this year over some private issues. However, we are still best friends (how could we not be after being together since we were teenagers?!), spend time together often, and share Ranna.

So, the con! This was the first convention of any kind that I have been to and it was super fun! There were so many people of all genders and ages dressed up and geeked out that it made my little heart explode with happiness. I wore my apropos Strong Female Protagonist shirt for the occasion.

Guess what I saw a bunch of while I was there? Crochet! It was sometimes hard to catch up to people in the crowd, but I managed to snap a few crochet pics to share with you.

This girl had an adorable Hobbes outfit on, complete with a hat that she free-handed to go with her costume.

The folks over at Careful It Bites had a bunch of adorable "Cat Loaf" toys...

...along with some "Dust Bunnies" lounging in a crochet basket.

Colette Taylor was helping out at the event, dressed as an airbender. She had her trusty, original flying sloth along for a shoulder ride.

In addition to crochet, I also spotted some knitting. Here is Kelley McMorris knitting behind her booth of amazing original artwork. 

I had a great time at the convention. Thanks for taking me, Alex! It was also nice to spend some time relaxing at Alex's apartment afterwards. He's got a great view!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Yarn Substitution with Yarnsub

Pattern writing is a detailed process. It's important that I record everything I'm doing, as perfectly as possible, so that others know just what to do when following the pattern. However, I can't control for everything. Yarn substitution is one of those things that it's hard for me to control for. I can list the weight of the yarn I used, the brand, the color, the gauge with the hook that the pattern calls for... but if a different yarn is used all bets are off. Yarns of the same weight vary enough in thickness and other qualities that two hats made exactly the same way but in different yarns could be very different from one another.

So, what's the solution? I've written about WPI before, and knowing about that helps a lot. However, there is another tool available for this purpose. Have you heard of Yarnsub? It is a really awesome web tool for helping you find yarns that are similar to the yarn called for by the pattern you're following. How does it work? Let me show you!

Let's say my pattern calls for Cascade Yarns Cherub Aran (which I love). What if that yarn isn't readily available in your area and you'd like to start working on your project today? Perhaps you'd like to see if something in your existing stash will work. Well, let's plug it into Yarnsub and find some options.

Yarnsub gives me all of the specs for the yarn in question. How handy! Keep in mind that the gauge listed is for knitting. Not to worry! It also provides suggestions.

Right away you get recommendations for similar yarns on a number of different points, including gauge, fiber content, and even notes about the qualities of the finished project.

So many options! Seriously, I love this tool. It can also help you find less or more expensive yarn options, as well as help you to learn about new yarns and yarn in general. Try it out!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fridge Friend

When I make design swatches I sometimes make a square swatch to show the texture of the fabric. Sometimes I make a miniature version of the item in question. I have a whole drawer of design and gauge swatches that I will do something with one day. I happened to have a mini-set that fit perfectly on a little penguin of mine, so I bundled him up. He ended up in the fridge as a joke (y'know, since penguins live in cold weather), and now it has become his permanent home. Maybe I'm weird for keeping a stuffed penguin in my fridge, but I happen to think that being weird is a good thing :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Color Squish Beanie Crochet Pattern

I am so, so excited to be releasing my new pattern, the Color Squish Beanie. Remember when I got that gift card yarn a while ago? Here's what I did with it! The pattern is available on Ravelry and Craftsy.

It has texture, style, and squish that will brighten your day and bring on the compliments! It’s quick and fun to work up, making it the perfect charity project or gift. Make it in any size. The heart adds that little bit of love that makes it so special. Clear written instructions and photos ensure that your crocheting experience is awesome. Hook it today!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fiber Arts Friday: Basket Weaving with Jean Johnson

Today is Fiber Arts Friday! Join me as we expand our horizons beyond crochet to focus on other interesting fiber and needle arts. Enjoy the beautiful projects and learn something new along the way. Today's featured craft is basket weaving. "Basket weaving is the process of weaving pliable materials into a basket or other similar form." Here to guide us on our foray into the craft is Jean Johnson of Color Basket Studio.

About Jean
"I’m Jean Johnson.  I live in Germantown, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee.  I am married and have two daughters and two grand-daughters. The grand kids are 12 years and 18 months and live about 90 miles away. Occupation wise I have been lucky enough (husband had good job and health insurance) to be a basket weaver.  I have been doing art shows for about 25 years.  Some in Wisconsin and some in the Midwest. When my husband retired I decided to only do one show this year and try to sell on Etsy.  Etsy has been a nice surprise.  Sales are good and people love hand made products. I collect vintage fiesta (bright colored dishes that first were made in 1936). I have a great collection of the dishes and they inspired my colored baskets. I also enjoy spending time with the family and a glass of wine on the porch with my husband."

How long have you been basket weaving? How did you get started?
"I have been weaving for about 30 years. I started with a basket kit. Made one basket and it was fun and turned out great. Before weaving I did all sorts of arts and crafts. Sewing doll clothes and outfits, crochet, cross stitch etc. After the first basket I was hooked.  Made some more baskets and gave them to friends and family.  Sold some in shops that wanted most of my money, and finally at art shows. 

I started doing the colored baskets about 10 years ago. I dye all my own reed much like you dye fabric or wool. Then I make the basket. First the bottom is woven and double twilled. The sides are up staked and the sides are then woven. The top is turned down and a rim is double lashed in place. I also make traditional basket  that are stained with a natural walnut stain."

What advice do you have for folks who are interested in basket weaving?
"To get started weaving you can buy a kit or take a class.  To find a kit you can go online to a basket supply shop. I like Noresta for good quality reed and supplies."

Behind the scenes...

Some of Jean's work...

Such wonderfully colorful baskets! So useful, too. Thank you so much for sharing your craft with us today, Jean! You can find out more about Jean and her baskets on one of her two websites or on Etsy