Friday, June 28, 2013

A Cowl's Tale ... In Three Parts

There once was a little cowl design (the Climbing Vines Cowl) that was in search of the perfect fiber weight to be made with.

First, the little Climbing Vine Cowl went to see the fingering weight:

Oh, what lovely stitch definition you have! said the cowl to the Cascade Ultra Pima cotton. The cowl loved how it draped once made, and thought the color most excellent for summer. However, there were more fiber weights to visit.

Next, the little Climbing Vine Cowl went to see the aran weight:

Oh, what wonderful squoishiness you have! said the cowl to the Reynolds Mandalay 100% pure silk (even as it knew this silk had been discontinued). The cowl also loved this color, and was convinced it will make the giftee to whom its going very happy indeed. Yet, there was still one more fiber weight to visit.

The little Climbing Vine Cowl then went to see the bulky mohair (in two colors):

Oh, what amazing airiness you have! You are super warm, yet weigh less than a feather, said the cowl to the various mohair it met. Climbing Vines was also thrilled with how both colorways looked next to each other - almost a match made in heaven.

Is there a perfect fiber weight for me, thought little Climbing Vine? Hmmmm .... maybe all three!

(Of course, we won't tell our star cowl that there's yet one more fiber weight - laceweight - still to meet. Oh, so many date choices.)

I wonder what other fibery tales the fiberistas are telling over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder. Maybe Climbing Vines will find some handspun to cozy up to.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer ... into Fall

Publishing schedules can have a way of folding seasons in on each other - especially if seasonal publishing timeframes are tinkered with, as is the case with Crochet! Magazine. They changed their publishing schedule some time ago, although the results are just now being felt - no sooner did their summer issue come out, now they've released their Autumn 2013 issue.

Of course, this time compression is great for designers who wait endlessly for designs to be released into the crafty wild. I'm no exception: I'm thrilled to show you, straight on the heels of my summer  La Peinture Blanket my latest design - the Tunisian Meets Tartan Bag:

Image used with kind permission of Annie's

I was definitely channeling my inner Celt at the beginning of the year (although I'm convinced if I ever followed my family history back far enough, one side would be Scottish or Irish, even though my roots here in North America are all French Canadian), and this was the result: a great, roomy bag that's still easy to carry, yet allows for all kinds of color creativity (one person on Ravelry commented that it was the "best looking crochet bag ever" - I don't know about that, but I do thank the commenter). I am particularly pleased with the zipper (it's easier than you think, really!) and the wonderful silk-like red paisley lining.

This design makes the most of the elements of tunisian simple stitch (the basic tunisian crochet stitch) which, when done, creates vertical "channels" that were the perfect backdrop for some tartan-inspired slip stitch crochet surface work.

While I love this color combo, I also supplied swatches for two different color combinations that I think the magazine may show (at least that was the plan, but I haven't seen my hard copy yet so am uncertain what made it to print). I am planning on creating another of these bags for myself in early fall (and I'll be doing it very publicly so that everyone can see how easy it is to make such a complicated-looking bag), and so I got together all of my balls/skeins of Cascade 220 I had on hand (the yarn used for the sample bag):

I must admit, I didn't quite realize I had so many Cascade 220 colors on hand! Putting that aside, what colors would you use to create your own tartan-inspired bag? I like using three colors for the main fabric, and adding one more color for the slip stitch vertical rows, but that's just me. One can use more or less, depending on preference and/or clan colors. So, channel your inner clan and tell me what colors you'd gravitate toward.
Don't forget to also channel your inner Wonder Why Gal and head on over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder to see what other fibery time warps people are experiencing this Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Friendly Reminder - With Baked Cookies!

Just another friendly reminder - if you'd like to win a complete yarn kit to make my La Peinture Blanket, check out Crochet! Magazine's Facebook page today, June 18, and tomorrow, June 19 for your chance to enter.

Additionally, as most of you who read my blog regularly know, I'm a tester for America's Test Kitchen. They'll be publishing a gluten-free cookbook next spring, and so they've been sending out gluten-free recipes for testers to run through their paces. I cannot, cannot, cannot say enough good things about these gluten-free sugar cookies:

I don't have any intolerance to gluten; I'm just an equal opportunity tester and eater. However, my neighbor eats gluten-free, and she loved these cookies too. In fact, she smelled them from the hallway and thought to herself "Well, someone's baking something that smells good that I can't eat." Ha! Pleasantly fooled was she when she received a plate of them. And not only do they taste great, they also whip up super quick-like, so the flavor gratification is just that much faster.
If all the recipes are as good as this one, I'd run, not walk, to my local bookstore in the spring and snag a copy of this cookbook.

Friday, June 14, 2013

All Things Blanket-like This Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

After the final push to publish Fleurs et L'eau, I spent a few days doing some deep spring cleaning/rearranging/remixing of my living space. It was waaaaay overdue.
One of the results: I had all of those swap blocks from last fall that needed to be joined into a blanket. Getting them worked up into the blanket would free up some needed yarn shelf space, and I'd have a new blanket to go with my newly rearranged living space. A fine plan, no?
Sooooo ... here it is - my Froggy Swap Blanket:

This used 16 of the 18 blocks received. The block joining was fairly straightforward and done as I went; I only had two ends to weave in from the joining. Sweet. 

The edging I basically created on the fly -three rows in all (although it looks like four because of the joining round), and I designed it to use up as much of the remaining stash yarn from the block swap as possible. I love the delicate touch of the final outer row, if I do say so myself.
However, I had two blocks left, and knew I wanted to use at least one of them ... to create a small pillow. I had some great flower-inspired fabric that coordinated well with the color scheme, so I cut an appropriately-sized block of it, seamed the edges, then added a crochet edging all around 

with some coordinating silk fingering weight yarn. I then edged the entrelac block in the same yarn, seamed the two together with a round of single crochet on the outside for decorative effect, and stuffed the pillow with some fiberfill I had on hand just before doing the final few single crochet stitches closing the pillow.

Now my feet are comfy and cushioned when I rest them on the coffee table.
And, finally, some post-scripts on La Peinture Blanket: it was published in Crochet! Magazine; Talking Crochet is a newsletter hosted on their sister publication's website (Crochet World Magazine) and it has an interview with me about it and the painting. It's still amazing to see the painting and the blanket side by side. If you read through to the end, you'll find a link to a Universal Yarn give-away - they've generously made a kit of all the colorways used in the blanket and will be giving it away to one winner from all those who enter on the Crochet! Magazine Facebook page June 18 and 19th (that's next week, everyone - yipes, June is half done already).

Now head on over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder and see Andrea's latest installment from the farm - will she be weaving, or knitting, or dealing with farm animals?

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Anchor Design This Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

Hello, everyone - I'm here to, among other things this jam-packed Friday, introduce you to my final design from Fleurs et L'eau - my Climbing Vines Cowl.

This anchor design of the collection is an easy-to-make, stunning (and versatile!) accessory for summer. Worked up in a cream-colored cotton blend, this was the model favorite of the shoot. I was pleased that it worked so well with both a summer dress as well as jeans.

 Both of my testers also produced lovely finished cowls using sock (fingering weight) yarn with a minimum of effort (and their photos are used  below with kind permission).

See - great with jeans!
What could be better for a summer project?

As it currently stands, Le Bateau shawl is just edging Climbing Vines in the voting for the next JAL, which voting will remain open until the end of Sunday. Definitely head on over to my Ravelry group and join us in our next hooking adventure.
I'm thrilled that Fleurs et L'eau will now go on une petite bloggy tour. During the rest of June, you'll have a chance to win a copy of the e-book if you visit the following blogs:
Week of 6/10: Underground Crafter
Week of 6/17: Our very own Wisdom Begins in Wonder
Week of 6/21: Bits and Pieces

My sincere thanks to my fellow bloggers for hosting these e-book giveaways; I expect each will have a unique perspective on the collection, so I hope everyone will check out all three blogs.

Fashionable shades optional.
Finally, Yarnbox (a new monthly yarn subscription service) was kind enough to post an interview with me! I was their May crochet designer (and provided a special deal on Voie de Vie patterns exclusively for their crochet subscribers), so they conducted a related interview. It's a little weird to be on the other side of the interview mic. :)

Now do make certain you get over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder and check out what Andrea has to say - there's always something fibery going on at the farm.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

And Now for a Little Jewelry and a Bag

Next up from Fleurs et L'eau - a bag for most any occasion and a little summer bling.

I love bags. Along with shoes, I could have a different one to coordinate with every outfit of every day.  The Melina Clutch was one of the first patterns I ever wrote, and bags continue to animate my designs. For this collection, the Anyone for a Stroll? Bag has a sassy shape that's just big enough for holding the stuff necessary for well-prepared day trips, yet compact enough to easily carry while walking. I used thick 'n thin yarn which, when paired with a just-slightly-smaller-than-recommended hook size, yields a wonderfully stiff fabric. If there's some uneven handspun lying around, this is the perfect project for it.
Additionally, one could just stop once the crocheting is complete and go directly to button and handles, but I've lined my sample. There's something about great lining fabric peeking out from a bag that just makes the accessory.

I have also designed my first jewelry pieces in this collection - the Constellation Bracelet and Earrings. It could be easy for me to also become a jewelry junkie, so this blingy foray could potentially be sooooo bad. Much like the Le Bateau shawl, this design came to me in large part last summer. I had a sample all worked up ... and then started to tinker. Thank goodness for patient testers, although I am thrilled with the outcome; the delay was well worth it. I'm equally thrilled with the response to this pattern - I wasn't, quite frankly, expecting it - but I'll take it, thank you very much!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Anyone for a Summer Shawl?

The next design introduction from the Fleurs et L'eau collection is Le Bateau Shawl.

If you follow this blog regularly, you'll know I love a good shawl any time of year. Summer shawls are, however, particularly sweet - portable in the making, easy in the wearing (coordinates with most anything) and extremely functional for all those times when summer temperatures fluctuate. It just might be the perfect summer accessory.

My ver-sion this sea-son is a modified stole/crescent - the bottom gently increases on one side and then decreases on the other, not unlike the bottom of a boat. I was also after a fabric that would be light and airy, yet a nice mix of texture and lace. The easily-memorized pattern repeat in the shawl's body (worked first from side to side) creates a subtlely-textured "stripe" that takes to variegated yarns really well.

I love the balance of billowy textured body and lace edging - a perfect blend of form and function. I worked this up in two different fibers (wool and tencel, both laceweight) held together. The tencel provides lovely sheen and the wool just enough structure. I can, however, also easily see this shawl in lace- or fingerweight silk, linen, bamboo, hemp or cotton for summer (or any blend thereof), and definitely alpaca or even mohair for a winter treatment - it's very versatile.

This design, I'm happy to report, is currently leading in the voting for the next JAL (join-a-long) I'll be hosting in my Ravelry group. Do feel free to vote and then join us, won't you?