Friday, September 11, 2020

It's Finally Here - My New Line of Hand-Dyed Yarns!

My crafty friends, it is finally the day. In the midst of pandemic life, on the anniversary of 9/11, in the face of all the racial inequity, and despite the fact that half of the West seems to literally be on fire, I am saying yes to hope - one glorious color at a time - and am ready to launch my new line of hand painted/dyed yarns!

This really started over the summer with the soft launch of 6 new colorways on two bases for our fourth year of the Progress, Hope, and Happiness collection and MAL (make-a-long for any new readers to this blog and yarny life generally). Those six colorways were well received by both makers and designers, several of which used some of the colorways in their own designs and projects.

Since then, I have been tinkering with colorways, bases, and all manner of combinations to arrive at what you see below and above.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be able to reveal all this gorgeous color. Over these last few months I have learned a lot - not only about color and technique, but also about the bases I want to work with, the materials that are working for me and fit with my ethos and approach, and how these colorways can inspire and transform my own designing life (because you know I ain't giving that up, my making friends). 

Of course, bumps will still be occurring because of the pandemic (a base that I love is currently on deep back order, so I will be going to Plan B in the intervening weeks), and I am still developing a few more new colorways for later in the year - but that is par for the course. All I can do is look at all that color and grin from ear to ear - the sight fills me with so much flippin' joy!

I will have a small collection of designs of my own to reveal next week that will help to launch the Voie de Vie line of yarns - and I am also fairly excited about that, too. 

So, if you'd like to ooh and aah over the 15 colorways in the yarn line so far, or make a wee purchase, head on over to my Big Cartel shop. A word about the online shop: the yarn is organized by colorway, and bases that are currently available for each colorway are listed under each individual color. Big Cartel is a little quirky in that it shows the yarn price for the first base listed (or available) for each colorway. Not all colorways will be on all bases, and all bases are different prices. So, basically, read carefully about each base within each colorway.

Taking my 15 minutes of happy dance fun - those colors are ... like ... so wow!!! Take that, my quarantining friends.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

On Unsung Veterans and Labor

Jacqueline Cochran portrait. Original mixed media art,
Denise Voie de Vie, (c) 2015, Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace.

I have only managed to mark the Labor Day holiday twice here on the blog. I expect it is a weekend during which I attempt to not labor. However, given the current disheartening conversations surrounding U.S. military veterans, combined with how we all are re-conceiving our notions of what constitutes essential labor in these pandemic times, I wanted to share some details of the life of one of our first females of flight, Jacqueline Cochran. This is excerpted and re-edited from two different chapters in my first self-published book, Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace.

Jacqueline Cochran: 1906 - 1980

For all her inconsistency, Jacqueline Cochran (born Bessie Pittman in the Florida panhandle) represents the rags-to-riches story that America just loves.

Jackie grew up poor, with no indoor running water or toilet, and knew she wanted more. She wed a young salesman in 1920, had a baby the next year, and then proceeded to leave the upbringing of her child to her parents as she left Florida to start her career.

Jackie eventually landed in New York and, over dinner one night in 1932, she not only met her second husband, but also found someone willing to bankroll her next business venture (cosmetics), as well as flying lessons. Soon she was flying for both sport and business.

A mere six years later, during which Jackie lived through the disappearance of Amelia Earhart (her best friend among female pilots of the day), she went on to win the Harmon Trophy for best female pilot after beating all the male pilots in a transcontinental race. In case anyone thought it a fluke, Jackie went on to win the Harmon trophy a second year in a row, thus solidifying her position as "first lady of the airlanes."

Soon after, WWII broke out, and Jackie went on to head the WASP program - the Women's Airforce Service Pilots. Conceived as a way to get male pilots to train on the B-29 bomber after one of Boeing's best test pilots died during the bomber's testing phase, the WASPs went on not only to train men, but to also fly every type of plane the military used during WWII. WASPs logged more than 60 million miles in the air, 38 women lost their lives flying planes during WWII, and despite Jackie's impassioned efforts to save the WASP program, it was shut down in 1944. These female pilots never received the military status they so rightly, and still do, deserve.
WASP portrait in front of a B-29. Original mixed media art,
Denise Voie de Vie, (c) 2015, Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace.

Jackie, however, went on to receive the Distinguished Service Medal for her WASP program efforts, was the first female to break the sound barrier, and ran for Congress in 1952. She won her party's primary, but lost in the general election to the first Asian-American congressman,Democrat Dalip Singh Saund. 

Her second husband's wealth has (as some commentators have noted) overshadowed Jackie's own business acumen, but she went on to be twice named Associated Press's "Woman of the Year in Business," based on her lucrative cosmetics industry career. Jackie fought hard on behalf of her fellow WASPs, many of which she personally recruited for the program. I expect if Jackie was around today, she would be labelled "ambitious." I also expect she herself would own that label. Ambition and ethics need not be mutually exclusive - Jackie gave selflessly to a program that has yet to be formally recognized by the military.

I initially ascribed "inconsistency" to Jackie's life, but it's more a commentary on American caste than anything else. There is no doubt that Jackie worked tirelessly to improve her station in life. She represents the promise of the American dream, yet many would criticize, in hindsight, her choices, precisely because of the tensions inherent in such a station change.

On this Labor Day weekend, I recognize Jacqueline Cochran, and all the WASPs of the second World War. Their unsung labor and effort (and let's be honest, sheer guts) helped shape the U.S. efforts in WWII. Grit and grace, indeed.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Getting Ready for a Collection Launch In This Most Amazing Time

I have been working since the beginning of the year on this year's Progress, Hope, & Happiness collection which will, all forces willing, launch June 26 - two Fridays from now. To say it has been a roller coaster of a ride would be an understatement; what has been my saving grace is coordinating and working alongside an impressive group of indie dyers and designers.

Of course we all know about COVID-19 and our world-wide lockdown. What many may not know is that the lockdown affected mail ... well, ok, at least I did not, until I and another dyer tried sending yarn support around the world. For both of us, packages either just flat-out did not arrive, or it took, literally, months for the designers to receive.

Then, one of our indie designers actually contracted the virus and in the whirlwind hospitalization and isolation, could not let any of us know. While I am so glad to report she is out of the hospital, out of home quarantine post-hospitalization, and now back with her family, she is still catching up on her designing schedule. To add insult to injury, that same designer also, in the last two weeks, had a major death in the family.

Of course, our initial focus - Tokyo - was chosen because of it's Olympic world stage. Yes, and we all know what happened to that.

And, since all roller coaster rides must rise after a death-defying drop, one of our indie dyers also gave birth to a beautiful baby girl!  Mom and child are doing fine, now.

Through all of this (and the behind the scenes logistics have been super busy this year), I have managed to start a new Instagram feed just for the Progress, Hope, & Happiness collection, complete with a spiffy new Linktree that contains links to all of the past collections (if you'd like to go down indie dyer + designer lane), coordinate designers and dyers from around the world, including two new-to-the-collections' designers (from New Zealand and Canada, respectively), start my own small indie dyer business (the soft opening of the yarns which can be viewed and purchased here in my online Big Cartel shop - it's soft because I will still be adding bases between now and collection launch, and then colorways are limited to my first six), all while working on my own knit and crochet designs for the collection, using both my yarns as well as one of my fellow indie dyer's yarns.

When I say that I can see the finish line and it feels incredible, I am not kidding! However, to work alongside such an incredible group of dyers and designers has truly been life-affirming. Since one of this year's designers also happens to be black, it has been my privilege to center her experiences and words (as well as other black designers and crafters) over the last few weeks. It goes without saying (and should be evident to anyone who has read and followed this blog for any length of time) that I stand with black lives - they have always mattered. Full stop.

In case anyone should doubt the ability of a group of women to come together and just slay a project, let me put that doubt permanently to rest. I am so grateful for this group of independent and creative minds who have provided critical and valuable input throughout this collection's process. I hope I have created an environment that lets them know that when they speak up, I listen and make adjustments accordingly. I have always tried to foster such an environment throughout all the previous collections, but this year it definitely seems to have solidified. 

View this post on Instagram

Alright my making friends, our first yarn prizes give-away has been announced in our #Ravelry group! If you look at the brand spanking new linktree in this insta feed bio, you will see the Ravelry group link (and you can stroll down past look books Lane and see some of the amazing yarns and designs from previous years). All the deets are on Ravelry, and you will need to be a Ravelry group member in order to be eligible to win. That, and clicking the Insta love buttons on any of this year's dyers" new colorways with our #happinessmakealong2020 hashtag, is all you need to do in order to be in on a great yarn prize! #crochetersaroundtheworld #knittersofravelry #knittersaroundtheworld #crochetinspiration #blackgirlscraft #blackgirlsknit #blackgirlscrochet

A post shared by Denise Voie de Vie (@progresshopehappiness) on

Right now we have a prize challenge going on Instagram - click through to the above post, start clicking some love for our dyers' yarns, and definitely make certain you follow the collection's feed as well as join our Ravelry group! I hope you will take these next two weeks and follow as our designers complete their behind-the-scenes efforts and our dyers' launch their amazing new colorways created specifically for this collection. 

In a world that is going through so much upheaval, loss, and grief, this creative endeavor, and these creative designers and dyers, have been a real bright spot for me, and I thank my lucky stars its been here.