Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Ending the Year With Another New Design

It is December, everyone - and gifts are abundant. I am on the receiving end of a lovely publishing gift - as a new hat design (yes, you read that correctly, a hat design!) has just been published in Interweave Crochet's Winter 2019 edition! (The electronic version is available right now for download; it hits newsstands December 11th, although some LYSs already have it in stock).
Vanilla and Spice Hat, Interweave Crochet
Winter 2019 edition; photo courtesy of
Interweave/Harper Point Photography

I am not normally a hat-design kind of person. While I have published a few hat designs, I really don't wear hats (too warm for this polar bear), so they are not usually at my design ready. However, at the beginning of this year, the magazine's submission call (containing requests for designs with puff, bobble, and/or popcorn stitches) combined with all of my South Korean Olympic games-watching to create a perfect design storm for the Vanilla and Spice Hat to be created for release into the crafty wild.

While I will have more to say on the hat's design genesis in a subsequent post, I want to focus on the elements of Interweave Crochet's Winter 2019 edition, which is truly chock-full of crochet goodness. Can't you already tell????

Included with the Vanilla and Spice Hat are an additional 19 projects, many of which incorporate the awesome bobble, popcorn, or puff. Along those lines, I am all in with the Wintertide Sweater, the Snow Day Sweater, the Solstice Cardigan, the Cinnamon Cowl, and the Cedar Mittens. There is also a quick tutorial from Sara Dudek, the editor, on constructing each of these soft, textural stitches (and more on stitch construction a little farther below).

There are other designs in this edition that strike all of my favorite internal design bells and whistles: the Granny Hexagon Bag and the Nordic Tapestry Pouch both hit me in my bag-loving heart; and for those of us who love and appreciate history, Dora Ohrenstein has a streamlined crochet history article, coupled with projects from across the Interweave magazine library that underscore several crochet technique/tool firsts (and a shout out to Piecework Magazine as an excellent repository of crochet and fiber arts' history). 

As I mentioned above, cluster textural stitches like the puff, bobble, and popcorn, have not only shown up in my designs, but have been previous writing fodder for me. I wrote an article on the differences between them in an early edition of ILikeCrochet.com. Below I provide a slightly reworked version of that article, complete with a visual tutorial of all three stitches (in case you cannot wait for your copy of the IC Winter 2019 edition to reach your mailbox). 

Bobble, Popcorn or Puff?
(originally published August, 2014 by ILikeCrochet.com)

I use test crocheters frequently. All of my testers are well-seasoned crocheters and are invaluable to me. So recently, when two of my testers had questions concerning the bobbles and puffs I had in a few of my patterns, a green light went off – this was something I needed to investigate further.

As you can see from the makeshift bookmarks,
I consult these books frequently
Whenever I want to research a subject, the first thing I turn to is a book (oh, those humanities and literature majors!), and in this instance, crochet books from my own library that are relevant to the topic. While certainly not exhaustive (cause I’m a city gal and have limited space), you’ll see I consulted books written by industry professionals, all heavyweights and extremely knowledgeable. I admire all of these authors, and these books have been and continue to be incredibly helpful to me. But it wasn’t until I actually started to research this subject that I realized the extent of the inconsistency in the published material. Of these six books, only three directly address the bobble, popcorn and puff. Of those three, two are consistent in their approach and instruction; the third, while receiving an honorable mention was, shall we say, less than consistent (and no, I will not identify the publications). The other books either have different approaches to one or several of the stitches, or just didn’t cover them.

Please hear me: I am not knocking these designers/authors or publishers! I note that the authors who didn’t touch upon these stitches may have felt a discussion of them was beyond what they were attempting to accomplish with their respective material. Additionally, there is, unlike knitting, no cohesive crochet language. Stitches on one side of the Atlantic have a different interpretation on the other side of the pond. Season the above liberally with copyright issues every author faces when writing instructions, and the heat level surrounding all of this just went up by at least one chili pepper.

There are professional organizations one might turn to – the Crochet Guild of America, The National Needle Arts Association, and the Craft Yarn Council of America – and while all provide excellent training, there is no consensus for definitive answers (and this takes nothing away from the good work these organizations do every day for crocheters). Finally, while crochet symbols are universal, they are incomplete (although for my purposes here, well established), and not all crocheters feel comfortable with them. So, in the face of all this wishy-wash, what’s a hooker to do?

Focus on the stitches themselves, of course.

One of the ways to create crochet fabric is to work clusters of stitches. Clusters come in two basic flavors:


Clusters worked                     Clusters worked
over several stitches               into just one stitch

Close-up of the Vanilla and Spice Hat;
note puff stitches on brim of the hat.
Photo: Voie de Vie
Bobbles, popcorns and puffs fall within the category on the right – they each are worked in just one stitch. That’s the first main element to note: if the instructions say to work over several stitches, then it isn’t a bobble, popcorn or puff.

Next, the generally accepted symbol for each of these respective crochet stitches is instructive in showing the second main element – how each stitch is closed at the top. The symbol for bobbles and puffs have a short, straight line at the top. This indicates that for each, a number of incomplete stitches are held on the hook and closed at the top with a yarn over through the multiple loops on the hook. Popcorns are different – the stitch symbol is acorn-like because the stitches are completed and not held on the hook; as will be shown below, popcorns are closed at the top by removing the hook from the last stitch worked, inserting it into the first stitch of the popcorn cluster and pulling the last live stitch loop through the first stitch.

There is a difference in the size and texture of each stitch – popcorns are the largest and provide bold, textural interest. Bobbles and puffs are generally smaller, yet still pack an excellent textural punch This leads to the other main stitch element – while bobble and popcorns can be made with multiple types of stitches – double crochet, treble, double treble – puffs are usually made with half double crochet stitches. Of course I say usually, because there are exceptions to every rule, and exceptions to the exceptions.

Here is a quick visual tutorial of how to construct each stitch:

1. The bobble:
Work a partial double crochet into the designated stitch: yarn over,
insert hook, pull up a loop, yarn over and through two loops on the
hook. Two loops will remain on the hook.
Repeat the above instruction for as many double crochets
as is called for in the pattern instructions (in this instance,
I am making a three double crochet bobble).
Once you have completed the requisite number of
incomplete double crochets, yarn over and pull through
all remaining loops on the hook.

2. T
he popcorn:

Work a complete double crochet in the stitch indicated.

Repeat the above instruction for as many double
crochets as is called for in the pattern instructions
(in this instance, I am making a five double crochet popcorn).
Note they are all in the same stitch.
After the last double crochet is complete, remove
the hook from the live loop and place your hook through
the top of the first double crochet in the popcorn.

Now place the hook back into the live loop of the last
double crochet and pull it through the first double crochet.

After being pulled through the first double crochet.
Notice how the completed popcorn is raised up
from the crochet fabric. 
3. The puff:

Work a partial half double crochet in the stitch indicated: 
yarn over, insert hook into designated stitch, yarn over 
and pull up a loop. You will have three loops on the hook.
At this point, you will place yarn over hook and 
pull through all 7 loops. The partial half double crochet loops 
should be even and just slightly loose, so the hook will slide 
easily through all 7 loops. 
Here is the completed puff. It is shorter in hight than
either the bobble or popcorn, but it is cushiony soft.

These stitches provide loads of texture to any project, as well as enjoyment for the maker. Just remember to focus on the elements of each: all are worked in only stitch; popcorns are clusters of completed stitches that are closed at the top by removing the hook from the last live stitch and putting the hook through the first stitch and pulling the last live stitch through; bobbles and puffs are clusters of incomplete stitches that are closed at the top by pulling a loop through several stitches held on the hook; popcorns and bobbles are usually comprised of double crochet or larger stitches; and, finally, puffs are usually worked with half double crochet stitches.  Knowing the elements of each will allow you to easily identify the correct cluster used in any pattern.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The 2018 Indie Designer Gift-a-long - Some Opening Thoughts

Yes, everyone, it is that time of year again – the 2018 Indie Designer Gift-a-long rang the opening bell on Friday, November 23rd, at 8:00 pm EST. This year’s version features a whopping 349 designers, including yours truly.

As usual, we are in the midst of this year’s GAL kick-off sale – each of those 349 designers has designated up to 20 items eligible for a nifty 25% off at checkout (with the giftalong2018 code entered) – and I am not immune to a good sale. No, no siree Bob. Each year I purchase patterns from my fellow designers, and I have (so far, I may or may not be done) picked up three designs that I just may work up during the next six weeks: the Cacophony Shawl from upstart designer Margo Bauman, Annie Modesitt’s awesome Pembroke Jacket, and the Urban Frieze cowl from one of my favorite Italy-based indie designers, Paola Albergamo. These designs figure (to a greater or lesser degree) into my own gift-making plans this season, and I’ll be posting project progress and photos to my Instagram feed (with all appropriate hashtags), so I’d suggest following there for all the good and (goofing!) details.

A sampling from my design sale bundle
As is also my yearly wont, I once again have put together a 2018 GAL Pinterest board of a sampling of totally rockin’ designs from virtually all 349 of my fellow designers. Yup, I spent two days and more mugs of coffee than I can count digging through each designer’s respective sale bundle (which we each designate beforehand), as well as looking through some non-sale items in certain instances, and taking a peek at a seemingly never-ending stream of photos to put together one of the most colorful, eye-catching displays of indie crochet and knit designs, like, ever. And, yes, my entire sale bundle of designs is interspersed in the board (containing almost 800 pins!!!), but that is not why I have, and continue to, engage in this design-pinning marathon.

Designing exclusively in a fiber medium (specifically crochet and knit garments and accessories for both self and home) is, at its most basic, a reflection of self and what animates each of us. My fellow indie designers and I put our hearts and souls and sweat and tears and talent into each and every design we publish.  We put ourselves out there every day in ways big and small. It is all guts and a very teeny, tiny, eensy, weensy amount of glory. This yearly gift-making celebration was conceived as a way to celebrate indie designers and their designs. Curating a Pinterest board every year is my way of contributing to that celebration. It is geared to showing off my fellow designers’ respective designs, and there is an additional happy and long-lasting by-product.

As I think most devotees of Pinterest know, pinners receive various Pinterest emails each week pushing pins and boards. I also receive (along with most other pinners with businesses) a weekly recap of one’s top three pins. For every week during the last oh, at least, two months, one of my most popular pins is one I pinned to my 2015 curated Gift-a-along board. Yes, a pin from 2015 is still getting all kinds of exposure for its designer.  That is one helluva designy half-life, and one I am more than pleased and happy to report and help create.

So, please, I hope everyone will join me in celebrating our yearly tribute to indie design, indie designers who give so much all the time, and makers who embrace the best of the season and make gifts like there’s no tomorrow. ‘Tis the season for it all, people. I raise my coffee mug to that.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

On Veteran's Day ... and Baroness Raymonde de Laroche, Part 2

Jacqueline Cochran, in uniform, 1943. Photo: Airbus.com
We here in the U.S. are set to celebrate Veteran's Day tomorrow, October 11th. Of course, we are not the only country paying tribute to war veterans, as France is currently marking the centenary of the end of WWI.

I thought this might be a fitting time to post the second part of my article on the Baroness Raymonde de Laroche, who was a veteran of WWI: she settled for driving an ambulance on the front, after the French government turned down her request to fly for France. The Baroness gave so much to that particular war effort, and of course she was not alone, although I am uncertain whether France formally recognizes the sacrifice of the women who served in non-traditional capacities.

Of course, this non-recognition of female war contributions continued (at least in the U.S.) through WWII. Notably, Jacqueline Cochran, the head of the WASP - Women's Air Force Service Pilots - which trained many women to fly during WWII, fought hard to get female pilots the official federal government recognition their service and sacrifice so richly deserved. Unfortunately, Cochran was unsuccessful in that attempt, and other attempts since then have also failed. 

So, to honor all veterans' service - both official and non-official - here is the second and final part of the amazing story of the first woman of flight, Baroness Raymonde de Laroche. (If you missed the first part, feel free to access it here.)

Raymonde de Laroche, the Baroness of Flight

The Baroness Raymond de Laroche. Photo
from Airbus.
When we last left the Baroness, she had just successfully competed with male pilots in the first five days at the second Grande Semaine d’Aviation in July, 1910 in Reims, France. On the sixth day, however, she suffered an incredible accident that saw her almost die on the competitive field.

Elise remained grounded for six months after the Reims accident as she recuperated, returning to the airfield on crutches in January 1911. Throughout 1911, she resumed flying and successively traded up to better planes until she was piloting a Farman biplane. By this point, she and Charles were living together. Voisin had left the family plane business to manage a group of the best pilots of the day, including Roland Garros (for whom the French Open tennis match was named).

In the same year, dangerous machines caused another tragedy for de LaRoche even when her feet remained squarely planted on the ground. She and Charles were driving near Lyons when they collided with another car. Charles died at the scene, and Elise sustained serious injuries.

The Baroness turning to flying (in new-to-her plane manufacturers) for solace, and it played an eventful role for her in 1912. Although de Laroche had been working her way through a series of different planes other than Voisins prior to Charles’ death, there was no more relationship with either the Voisin brothers or their planes since Gabriel, Charles’ surviving brother, blamed her for the accident.  Additionally, a French company, Office d’Aviation, was supposed to provide her with a plane as well as secure her flying engagements, which it did not do. As a result, she brought a breach of contract claim against the company, and after initially losing in a lower tribunal, won a 10,000 francs court judgment in the Fourth Chamber.

Then, in 1913, the year in which one of her Belgian contemporaries, Hélène Dutrieu, announced her retirement from flying, the Baroness won the coveted European Femina Cup—and the hefty prize money that came with it—for setting a flight record by a female pilot. She also seemed to fully recover from her loss of Charles Voisin and married Jacques Vial in the same year. Had it not been for the outbreak of WWI, when all non-military flight came to a halt, she would have continued, unabated, to fly.

However, when WWI broke out in 1914, civilian flying – including that of the Baroness - came to a complete stop. Elise actually wanted to fly for France, but had to settle for driving an automobile instead. She survived the war, but these years greatly impacted the rest of her life: the government requisitioned her plane to fight the war, her husband Vial died on the battlefield, and the Spanish flu killed her son.

In the summer of 1919, after setting (for a brief time) a women’s altitude record, de Laroche visited the airfield at Le Crotoy Somme, where she was offered a ride in a new Caudron airplane. Elise was in the process of reimagining a new “first” role for herself- that of test pilot. No other woman had, to that point, qualified for that type of pilot work. At just 33 years old, however, Elise died on that flight, along with the pilot. Flight’s obituary notice on July 24, 1919, approvingly documented her many achievements and closed with a nod to one of many controversies at the time: “A few weeks ago she took a machine up to a height of 4,900 metres (16,170 ft.) but the French Club refused to recognize ‘women’s records,’ a decision which has caused some discussion across the Channel.” Local flying clubs had forbid women to compete with men, but since the FAI was the official international record-keeping body, Elise and all other women had used it as a way to crack the gender flight ceiling.

Statue commemorating the Baroness at Paris Le Bourget
Airport. Photo: Paris-Le Bourget
It is clear that de Laroche loved flying and remained dedicated to it despite the obvious and the all-to-often fatal risks involved in early aviation. The Baroness, in her own words, hauntingly alluded to both her dedication and the associated risk, when she spoke to reporters after she earned her pilot’s license in 1910: “Most of us spread the perils of a lifetime over a number of years. Others may pack them into a matter of only a few hours. In any case, whatever is to happen will happen. It may well be that I shall tempt fate once too often. Who knows? But it is to the air that I have dedicated myself, and I fly always without the slightest fear.”

Further Reading:

Gibson, Karen Bush. Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013
Lavoie, Denise. Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace: Crochet and Knit Designs Inspired by the Early Females of Flight Including Bessie Coleman and Harriet Quimby. Seattle: Tough as Lace Publishing, 2015.
Lebow, Eileen F. Before Amelia. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's Inc., 2002.
Lieberg, Owen S. The First Air Race: The International Competition at Reims, 1909. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1974.
Marck, Bernard. Women Aviators: From Amelia Earhart to Sally Ride, Making History in Air and Space. Paris: Flammariion, 2009.
Pawlak, Debra Ann. “The Baroness of Flight,” Aviation History (July 1, 2008).
Villard, Henry Serrano, and William M. Allen, Jr. Looping the Loop: Posters of Flight. Carlsbad, California: Kales Press, 2000.
Voisin, Gabriel. Men, Women, and 10,000 Kites. London: Putnam, 1963

Magazine articles:
Air Trails, July, 1953 – “The Brave Baroness – First Licensed Ladybird,” Harry Harper, pp. 19-21, 56, 58.
Flying, March, 1957 – “The Intrepid First Lade of Flight,” Harry Harper, pp. 34, 84-85.
Icare, Revue de l’Aviation, edited by SNPL France ALPA (Association des Pilotes de Ligne), December 2012, vol.
            no. 223 – Courses et Meetings Aeriens de la Belle Epoque (1909-1914) – Vol. 2: 1910, pp 12-12, 18, 86-
            88, 95 (a French language publication).
Knitting Traditions, Fall, 2017 - "Aviation's Baroness: Elise Raymonde de Laroche," Denise Lavoie, pp. 22-27.