Tuesday, November 21, 2017

And the Official Holiday Gift Making Is On

And here it is - we are off and running in the 2017 Indie Designer Gift-a-long!!!!

You can find all of my sale designs here for your gift-making and pattern-giving needs. And just in case you may be interested - there are over 300 additional indie knit and crochet designers participating, each of which has a sale bundle of their very own for you to find just the thing you're looking for.


'Tis the season to GAL in 2017 - fa la la la la!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, just one more day until the indie design gifting madness begins!!!!!

We have been working super hard behind the scenes to make this 5th anniversary Gift-a-long the best yet. More total designs, more designs on sale the first week, more prizes, and definitely more fun.

Over 8,000 people in the dedicated Ravelry group alone cannot be wrong, right?

See you tomorrow at 8:00 pm EST. I'll be there with my hooks and sticks and yarn.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

In Between

It has been quite some time since the end of #SlowFashionOctober, and I have been busier than a bee with design stuff and the upcoming gift-giving maker event planning, that I have not had an opportunity to update the blog. Well, consider it time right now.














Initially, I want to thank each of the makers who worked up items right alongside me during my Flyings Sticks + The Poncho Escapade a-long. As evidenced from a sampling of the finished pieces, we indeed completed some lovely projects - and ponchos were definitely the item of choice. There was also a lovely mix of neutrals and jewel tones, which made for really outstanding looking finished items. I personally was really thrilled that two makers from the Southern hemisphere were in the maker mix. While almost all of the projects were crocheted (yah!), one person completed a knit project she had been working on for a while - you'll see her lovely orange version of the Coleman Embossed Muffler in the top right corner of the collage. It's worked up in the same yarn as the original sample, Lost City Knits' Twin Canyon Merino/Silk in the pretty penny colorway. It looks fantastic with that jean jacket, doesn't it? One of my Ravelry group moderators completed two versions of the Mixlace Poncho, one of which is in the collage (bottom left collage photo). Those colors look so stunning on her - she's going to gift one of them, and I hope it's not that one.

I completed a second sample of the Mixlace Poncho (seen above at right) in Knit Picks' Chroma Twist Bulky (which happens to be on sale right now, go figure!). I liked the colorways, and it was quite fine worked up, but quite honestly not as soft and cozy as the Lion Brand Scarfie used in the original sample. This second sample became the one photographed for my self-released version of the design, now that my rights have reverted back to me. 

Additionally, I worked up a Quimby Hooded Cover-up for moi, moi, moi. I love how the colors turned out and am super thrilled with the final piece. I am also about 1/2 of a sleeve and trim away from finishing up an Aviatrix Pullover in deep blue. As soon as that gem is done, I will provide photos. I really want to wear it now so, hopefully, very soon.

I must say I am pleased at how October has evolved to become my go-to month for me making. It is a perfect time of the year to spiff up one's wardrobe with handmade things. Well, ok, I suppose that could be every month for me!


And now that we are well into November, I am thrilled to let everyone know that I once again will be a participating designer in the Indie Gift-a-long hosted on Ravelry. Every year for the past five years (yes, it's the GAL's five year anniversary!), independent knit- and crochet-wear designers band together and bring all of their awesome designs to makers who make gifts-a-plenty for those worthy of handmade at the holidays. This will be my fourth year as a participating designer, third as a group moderator. We've been making lists and checking them twice now since the beginning of the month, so that the big participating designer reveal (set for next Tuesday, November 21st, at 8:00 pm EST) will be the best it can. You can check out the Ravelry Indie GAL group (with currently over 7,500 members, and growing!); also check out the GAL's Instagram account, where we have already posted our hashtag challenge prompts throughout the six weeks of gift-making. We've already started the GAL countdown there, too. 

This is my favorite time of the year for a reason, folks. I hope to see each of you there.



 

 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Slow Fashion October: Finally, Where Do We Feel Best


Initially, let me say that I cannot believe how fast Slow Fashion October has flown. It figures, of course.

This final time in the month is, traditionally, the time when we share resources. It is also, for me, the most dense amount of reading and link clicking and saving and information processing. One of the best resources on how to sort out ways to approach slow fashion in a meaningful way is this Racked article from August, compliments of the Elsewhere feature of this Fringe Association blog post. It was nice to read that beyond the obvious (buy less, recycle/upcycle more, DIY), it focused on industry standards and other environmental impacts (like using public transportation in both personal travel and shipping materials - a big issue with me, a confirmed public transportation user my entire life).

Moving on to the main attraction, however, is where I'm feeling best in sourcing my raw material - the all important yarn. I first did a similar round-up in 2015's Slow Fashion October, and the sometimes fleeting nature of yarn producers will show that some of those mentioned in the past are no longer yarn resources. If one likes to use small, independent yarn producers where the fiber can be sourced from animal to skein, then there's a likelihood of high turnover. Basically, if you like a source, speak up loudly and often so they stay around. Additionally, while Brooklyn Tweed has actually added new yarn lines since 2015 (a great thing!), I am getting, if truth be told, a little bored with the single color approach, as well as the designs. I hope Jared will shake things up in the house - perhaps a foray into crochet? Jared, I'm a stone's throw away. Just sayin'.

Left to right: A Hundred Ravens' Tyche base,
Neighborhood Fiber Co's Studio Chunky,
and Manos Del Uruguay's Silk Blend.
This year, while there is some overlap from 2015, you'll find at least one surprising choice, although I will explain all:

1. A Hundred Ravens - The first half of this past year, I curated/organized/birthed my first global design collection and related maker event (you can read more about it, as well as view the designs, here). That effort put me in contact with my first yarn resource. Female owned, awesome hand-dying, yarn bases made in the U.S.: this is a source that I can absolutely support - and so can a lot of other makers, apparently.

2. Neighborhood Fiber Co. - On my first resource list, Karida & company will remain on my list until the not-so-bitter end. She and I continue our symbiotic relationship with the publication of my Aviatrix Pullover in the 2017 edition of Knitting Traditions Magazine. 

3. Manos Del Uruguay - This non-profit, established to provide rural Uruguayan women with economic and social opportunities, has been producing wonderful yarn for the last over 4 decades. I am not certain why it didn't make my first list, but it's on there now.

Left to right: Garnstudio Drops Merino Extra Fine and
Belle, Lakeside-wolle's merino alpaca sock, and
Sidispinnt's 100% merino single.
4. Garnstudio Drops - This European-based yarn supplier has yarn lines made in the EU, Turkey, and South America (with additional mohair sourced from South Africa). It is high quality, amazingly priced yarn and, on its surface, a yarn source that seems out of place on my list. However, all of their yarn lines produced in the EU and Turkey (with the exception of the kid silk - that darn South African mohair!) are all OEKO-TEX certified. While the certification site is rather dense, basically there are three types of textile certification, and the mentioned Drops yarn lines fall into one of them (and the Drops site notes their OEKO-TEX certification numbers). The value of this yarn (which I've used for a long time), went way up.

5. Lakeside-wolle - This is another small, independent dyer I met during my earlier curated event. She has many wonderful OOAK colorways, and her small batch approach and great customer service made her yarns one of the summer event's favorites. Bonus points come from her ownership of an independent book store.   

6. Sidispinnt - This Swiss-based indie dyer/spinner/weaver is the third new-to-me source from my summer curated event. Not only did Sidi provide some of the deepest yarn support, her yarns were far and away the most popular on social media, selling out of the event's custom colorways almost immediately. She's highly creative and endlessly supportive of her fellow indie dyers. 

I can so easily not only feel good about sourcing yarns from any of the above, but my slow fashion path falls in nicely with each of their respective approaches to their craft. It is a great feeling - and one on which I will end my third Slow Fashion October.

Thanks once again, Karen, for wrangling all of us into a coherent month of awesome social awareness. Until next year ...

 

 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Slow Fashion October Week 3 - The How of it All

My Aviatrix Pullover: starting to look like
something vaguely resembling a sweater.
I am about to tuck into sleeve #2.
Here we are already in week 3 of this slow fashion month - which, to me, seems to be flying past us. This week we're focusing on the how of it all: in terms of skills, thrifting strategies, and wardrobe care, as well as how we carve time for the making.

I am going to start with the last of these things - the time. I make a lot. As I've stated, I enjoy it; nevertheless, I still make a lot. And because I am always in design mode, the making for myself is definitely relegated to last place. Not good, in my estimation. I will state, however, that Octobers and this month-long awareness campaign actually has made me focus and carve out time during this very month for, like, the last three years. That's a great thing, also in my estimation. Balance when estimating is a beautiful thing.


In the middle of all the making this month,
this also became a new design thing.






My wardrobe care is quite something else. I have had extenuating circumstances that has made my wardrobe care take on additional facets, in addition to the normal wear and tear mending. I really don't purchase that many pieces anymore, and now I find myself in need of several basics. For instance, I really only have two pairs of pants for winter, one of which is jeans. I need to rectify that. I also am in desperate need of foundation pieces, including cotton camis in all colors, as I wear them under everything. Because I am trying to source these pieces ethically, I really need to up my source knowledge, and because I have a lack of the aforementioned time, I find myself putting off the task. Then I place undo stress on those pieces I do have by, literally, wearing them into the ground. I have not yet found a happy balance between what I have and what I need because my wardrobe seems to be evolving right before my eyes. I just breathe deeply and take it one day, and piece, at a time.

As for my skills, I just do it. I make. I mend. I learn from the making and the mending. I did learn how to hand sew basic things (read: hems) when I was fairly young, and that knowledge has actually held me in good, albeit grudging, stead. I have a few well-worn knit and crochet technique books that fill in gaps and provide ideas on how I might approach making dilemmas. I don't thrift too much for myself - I have, however, taken to thrifting when styling designs for photography. This has actually turned into a fun activity, and then when the shoot is over, if models want the pieces I've thrifted, they are welcome to them. Everybody comes out ahead. I like that.


 

 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wardrobe Wednesday - Second Slow Fashion October Edition

Happy (late) Wednesday, everyone! In keeping with my promise last Wednesday, here's my second outfit of the month that I have actually worn, utilizing parts of my handmade wardrobe.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that both items I made in this outfit are two that definitely fall into the "well worn" and "much loved" #slowfashion description categories. The cardigan is my version of the Nichols Cardigan from Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace; the cowl design is also from the same publication, the WASPs cowl. I have worn these two particular items a lot since I've made them. In fact, the cowl is the one that hangs right inside my front door, so it's my go-to cowl in most situations, and it is starting to show it around the edges. 

I am planning on making a second version of this cowl design for my own personal use, and I may make another of the cardigan. I wore this with a pale pink cami, and I actually would like another cardi in a different color so I can mix things up. This is a perfect time to invoke Sonya Philip's influence - while I am not necessarily looking for a uniform of sorts, if you look at her wardrobe photos, you'll see that she's made the same basic patterns (her own sewing patterns), over and over and over in multiple colors and textiles. She's found what works for her, it's definitely not boring (!), and she's sticking with it. I love these two pieces, they get worn ... so why not make a few more versions for myself? 

 

 


Sunday, October 8, 2017

The What of My Slow Fashion Closet

Welcome to week 2 of Slow Fashion October. Initially, let me provide a visual update on some of the projects I am working on during this month. You will see the completed back as well as the lower portion of the front of my own Aviatrix Pullover; the bottom right shows the shrug portion of my Quimby Hooded Cover-up. I am trying to complete both by the end of this week - we will see how far I get. 

I started this post with a projects update because it is directly relevant to this week's #slotober prompt: the what - specifically, what am I doing differently than I have in the past vis-a-vis my clothing, how has slow fashion impacted my closet, and what projects or individual pieces do I feel strongly about, and why. 

Initially, because I am also a designer, slow fashion has had an impact on what I design. I have been having this very conversation with a few of my fellow designers on social media for a while now - I have become rather picky in terms of what calls I respond to. Some aspect of the call itself needs to speak to me in order for me to put together a submission. I am also being very particular with those designs I self-publish - no more designing just for the sake of it. 

However, I do want to make clear that aesthetics can be a high motivator for me. Function is important, but I view fashion and home design within an artistic framework - so if a design idea really speaks to me along aesthetic lines, it might very well get made, irrespective of whether it is the uptheenth bag in my accessories repertoire. It is, for me, always balanced by the fact that I will never make a sock, so at least I know which rabbit holes I can easily and successfully avoid.

What is animating my personal making, as well as my closet, leads me back to my opening update. When I first started making things in earnest back in mid-2009 (when I joined Ravelry), it was all shawls all the time. I look back on that introduction to making fondly. I met many fellow shawl makers (some of whom are now my fellow designers), and I learned a lot about color, fiber, and finishing. But I am mostly (although not completely) over my shawl making phase. I am slowly but inexorably going down the sweater and skirt paths. I have not yet attempted a dress, but I am certain it is on the design and making horizon. As I am making more and more of my clothing that makes my everyday wardrobe rotation, this is a natural progression. This is also an area in which I still have a fair amount of curiosity - both with designs I may devise, as well as those of other designers. Heck, I have three + decades of Vogue Knitting designs to work through, my favorites of which inhabit a Ravelry working queue that will, quite literally, outlive me. However, each of the designs in my queue speaks to me (and trust me, that queue has gone through several rounds of editing over the last few years!), so making any amount of them would satisfy me on many levels. I am working on those designs for which I have yarn already put aside. That, along with my regular designing activities, will keep me busy for quite a while.

I design for myself, and hope that what animates me is also animating other publishers and makers. I take this approach for a particular reason - I am not willing to blindly feed the consumerism monster. I absolutely do not see my design activities as merely an extension or tool of those who need to sell magazines and yarn. Of course, I've written about this extensively with regards to advertising and content on this blog. I take a public broadcasting approach to advertising, and by extension, designing ... like Ken Burns' approach to documentary film making (in a far, far bush league sort of way). One can design and make with purpose, and still be prolific, but do so based on what deeply animates. That will necessarily mean that choices are limited and edited, but in the best possible way. 

However, once the editing occurs ... then all bets are off. If I want to make 5 of the same sweater in many colors, I will do so. 

 

 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Receiving a Little Piece of History

A copy of correspondence in de Laroche's own
handwriting circa November, 1912, along with
the beginnings of the front of my own Aviatrix
Pullover, my design included with the article
about the Baroness in the 2017 issue
of Knitting Traditions Magazine.
Yesterday was a good mail day. As you may (or may not!) know, I authored an article in the recent Knitting Traditions Magazine about the first lady of licensed flight, Raymonde de Laroche. This in-depth piece is an extension of my overview of her story in the self-published book, Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace. 

The process of writing the Knitting Traditions article was a real treat, as it allowed me to dig deeper into the Baroness's story. I wanted, however, to unearth bits of history in her own voice which, almost two centuries after her death, with an ocean separating me from much of the scant source material, made that somewhat of a challenge.

Nevertheless, I managed to uncover articles not found in my original research for the book, and I continue to receive copies of research materials from sources not local to me. Much of those research results can be read in today's blog entry over at the Interweave Knitting blog entitled "Take Flight with Baroness Elise Raymonde de Laroche and Knitting Traditions."

However, yesterday's mail packet from The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum was a real gem, as it contained a copy of the Baroness's own correspondence from a Reims hotel dated November 19, 1912. Not incredibly long, yet in it she wrote of her eye on the Coupe Femina as a distraction from her sadness at the death of Charles Voisin. The Baroness would win the coveted European racing competition the very next year. Seeing her handwritten note, complete with signature, made her grief and flying focus all the more palpable.

I hope everyone will read the Interweave blog entry as well as the article in Knitting Traditions. Of course, making your own version of the pullover would be great, too, during Slow Fashion October. Just sayin'.


 

 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wardrobe Wednesday - Slow Fashion Edition

On Monday, Karen Templer threw down her slow fashion wardrobe challenge for the month: 20 pieces yielding 30 outfits for October. As you'll see here, she's done a fantastic job with her 20 x 30. I, on the other hand, am taking a slightly different approach. In October, I plan to highlight outfits that I've actually worn utilizing handmade in the rotation. Since I plan on finishing up a bunch of projects this month, I think I may plan a 20 x 30 for November. Right now, all that wardrobe planning is a little too daunting.

However, I am pretty pleased to show off an outfit that I have actually, really, honest-to-goodness worn, since we are getting some cooler weather now interspersed with sun and 70s (it is turning into a really lovely autumn here in the Pacific Northwest). The cotton/linen striped sweater is this one from Vogue Knitting, circa 1987, that I completed this summer for a 35th anniversary challenge a bunch of us are participating in on Ravelry. Easy-peasy design and a great completed piece.The black velvet pants I have had forever, and the hem on both legs has been mended. The scarf is my crocheted Colorblocked Scarf I originally designed in 2014, and the necklace was a gift in a swap package from France. I wore a pale pink cami underneath, and I was mighty pleased with the comfort and ease of this outfit. 

This cotton/linen tee has already gotten good rotation with these pants, as well as with jeans and sandals.  I will probably make another next year, in different colors obviously, and probably a different size. 

Handmade love.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Slow Fashion October: Take 3

Ladies and gentlemen, start your maker engines, because it is once again time for that month dedicated to all things wardrobe which are “small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, and known-origins.” The brain behind Slow Fashion October is Karen Templer of Fringe Supply Co. and karentempler.com, and much thanks to her for once again spearheading this mammoth 31 day social media event.

I plan on posting blog entries throughout the entire month here on the blog, definitely in response to each weekly prompt, and perhaps beyond and/or ancillary to them. This initial week's prompt is the "who" - obvious and not so much. Obvious in the introducing of oneself; not so much in the who/what has influenced my personal clothing path.

To answer the obvious, I am a handknit- and crochet-wear designer. I’ve been at this now for six amazing years; I’ve self-published a first book of designs based on the early females of flight – Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace. I currently continue designing and publishing utilizing that same inspirational material with the Aviatrix Pullover (and an accompanying in-depth article on Raymonde de Laroche) in the current Knitting Traditions Magazine, as well as my own fall mini-remix of knit designs in the Flying Sticks remix e-book.

As anyone who has read this interview or this blog post (from last year's Slow Fashion October) or the acknowledgement to Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace knows, my initial wardrobe influencer was my maternal grandmother. Her clothes shopping trips, and their related purchase reveals to an audience of one (yours truly) when I was barely a tween, left an indelible mark in my fashion memory. The fact that she was a New England textile worker (which I learned only many years later) provides such context to those reveals, in which she would tell me the alterations she planned for each piece. My grandmother used her sewing machine regularly well into her mid-70s, and while I had no desire to use the sewing machine, her willingness to share what she had in mind absolutely had an impact on my approach to clothes and wardrobe.
Just a few of the many Vogue
Knitting editions in my
personal library

Of course, initially I had no desire to alter my off-the-rack purchases beyond a hemming here and there. However, handmade has had a long, slow simmer on my clothes’ making back burner, as well-thumbed and much traveled issues of Vogue Knitting, purchased when originally published over the almost last 30 years, can attest.


It wasn’t until the middle to late 2000s, coinciding with my time instructing ethics to design school students, that I started to really focus on handmade and DIY with some semblance of mindfulness. The back and forth with students really helped to bring my own thoughts into focus. It doesn’t hurt that I also have a fair amount of curiosity about how things work, some natural mechanical and spatial abilities, and a deep love of color. I am currently a huge follower of all things Sonya Philip. We may have very different styles, but the breadth and depth of her handmade wardrobe is so damn impressive, not to mention her awesome way with color and pattern. Katrina Rodabaugh and Tom Holland have made me reimagine mending across all the textiles of my world (and found via Slow Fashion October Take 1); designer Veronik Avery remains a design and pattern grading inspiration. Oh, and let me not forget Norah Gaughan - because in addition to the designs, she's an amazing human being.

I do have wardrobe goals for the month, and they feature me actually completing several handmade pieces, a few of which are part of my Ravelry group’s maker event which started in September and ends mid-October. I have two pullovers, a cardigan, and a cover-up in various stages of completion that, if I can manage to get them off my making plate, are perfect fall weather wearables. I also have a few long-overdue model thank-you’s to complete; my regularly scheduled original design life continues behind the scenes.

It’s a good thing I like this hand-making stuff.



 

 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

As September Comes to a Close


Hello my crafty maker friends. I have been a little quiet here on the blog, although I have been busy design-wise. In addition to my latest pullover design and article in Knitting Traditions inspired by Raymonde de Laroche, the first female to receive a pilot's license at the turn of the 20th century, I have also self-published a new knit cowl design - The Coleman Cowl - named for Bessie Coleman, the first African-American of either gender to earn a pilot's license. That new design is also the anchor for an e-book remix of several other knit designs of mine inspired by the early females of flight. We are also, in my Ravelry group, working on several of these designs in a maker event that will conclude mid-October. There is still time to join in (and an equal number of crochet and knit designs are eligible for making, so everyone is welcomed!), and you know I will be awarding fantabulous yarny prizes when it's all over.

However, one of the reasons why I have been so quiet here is because I have been contemplating how to proceed with my blog. I have been mulling this over for quite some time, so when I recently read Grace Bonney's excellent and in-depth take on the state of Design*Sponge's blog and blogging in general, I sighed with, admittedly, a fair amount of relief. It's always nice to get confirmation from others what my gut has been feeling for quite a while.

Now to be certain, I am not in the same league as Bonney's blog. My blog has always been a deeply personal space, unencumbered by any desire on my part to monetize it. In fact, I wrote about just this topic - the lack of ads - here two summers ago. I refuse to feed the content monster, opting to create and post only the content I choose (it's pretty much an extension of how I design). If people want to read this blog, they are welcomed to do so.

Still, I write on a fairly wide range of topics, and I genuinely enjoy the writing, yet I have provided no way for readers to express their appreciation with money - especially if a reader likes the blog content but is not necessarily a maker (so paying for a pattern is probably out of the question). I know that I have made donations in the past to other designers (most notably, for using font they have created).

So with today's blog entry and going forward, I will provide a Voie de Vie donation link at the very end of the post. Any amount (in whole dollars, please) a reader wishes to donate in an appreciative expression of this blog - and my design and creative life generally - will be graciously accepted and deeply appreciated.

This blog will continue with new posts for the foreseeable future. It is a place where I have been able to express myself since 2010 (amazing!), and it will continue, without reservation or condition. 

And of course, if you like what you read, don't hesitate to hit that donation button. :)



Saturday, August 26, 2017

And Then There Was a New Knit Design

Photography (c) Interweave, used
with kind permission
It is a wonderful day when I get to announce a new, published design. It never gets old, and that's a good thing.

My latest design, The Aviatrix Pullover, has special meaning: it's inspired by Baroness Elise Raymonde de Laroche, one of the female pilots profiled in Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace. Worked up in Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Chunky in the fantastically industrial Patterson Park colorway, this super easy pullover earns its wings in the details: the seed stitch edging all around, as well as the wonderful grommet insert at front hem. The design's complete lack of lace, dropped shoulders and weightier yarn echo a trademark sweater worn by the Baroness during many of her flights. Of course, this design is updated for 21st century appeal with a casual v-neck and a closer fit. Chunky yarn and big needles means you can whip one of these up for yourself in plenty of time to show it off at Rhinebeck this year. What's not to love about that?
Photography (c) Interweave, used with kind permission

Additionally, I also penned an in-depth article on the Baroness that is included with the design in the Fall 2017 edition of Knitting Traditions. It was a real treat to be able to get into details of her flying career that I could not in LLGG (time and space are issues no matter the type of publication). It was a real treat to interact with this material again after some elapsed time since LLGG's publishing. Because Knitting Traditions is an Interweave publication, they had access to certain archival photos that I did not as a sole author; as a result, the article's details really come alive. I would urge everyone interested in this subject matter (as well as the Victorian era generally), to pick up a copy of the 2017 Knitting Traditions issue. There's a wealth of really good reading that will keep you engaged as you work through one (or several) of the included 18 designs.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Reading Round-up

Everyone – it is August. August! August. I have already started to see Halloween items in the stores. Man oh man, where has this year gone?

I realized recently that I had not perused any new (or recent) crochet or knit books in quite a while, so I decided to check out a bunch from my local library just to see what was up in book titles.

Initially (of course), my search and perusal was bounded by those titles carried by my local library. While I have an amazingly awesome local public library system, it nevertheless does not carry every knit and crochet title out there. At least on the crochet side of things, they definitely are missing some recent titles from Interweave, as well as the most recent book from Dora Ohrenstein. While I must give honorable mentions to Modern Crochet Mandalas (edited by the in-house Interweave editors) and Vintage Knits by Marine Malak and Geraldine Warner (those old designs have stood the time test), there were two crochet titles that most interested me - the first, I am admittedly a little late on the review (it came out in English last summer), and the second is an updated version of a classic.

                                              ***************************************

Crochetterie by Molla Mills is, in many ways, the modern anti-crochet design book. Editors spend considerable time and energy trying to curate crochet fabric and designs that fit into knit fabric’s mold, with (some) historically disastrous results (can anyone say overweight crochet cable pullovers?). Ms. Mills takes basic crochet stitches, goes with the grain, that is, the strength of crochet fabrics created and, situating her designs squarely within her native Finland, has produced a book of designs that is equal parts hip, surprising, and aesthetically pleasing.

You will not find one lace crochet shawl in Crochetterie (because you know I was looking). In fact, other than a filet crochet soccer bag, there’s no lace to speak of anywhere in the book. However, if you are looking for unconventional accessories with bold lines and color work, this is absolutely the publication for you. The book is broken into four main design chapters – home, clothes, travels, and equipment – and there are designs in each chapter that jumped out and called my name. I particularly liked the “Do Epic Shit” poster (yes, it says that!) done in stranded black and white double crochet, the Wayfarer jumper (which is modeled by her dad, but can absolutely be a unisex design), bow ties for man and beast, and an amazing Folk Bag are just some of the stellar designs in this compilation. Ms. Mills has also created a “man made” tag in single crochet thread (again, black and white) that can be liberally applied to most any piece in the collection. It looks most awesome on any of the bags or cases in the collection. I particularly liked it on the Lumberjack’s Backpack.

There’s also a section on equipment as well as on self-care, including stretches for the crocheter. What makes this title stand out to me, however, is how much of Ms. Mill’s life is represented in the book – from her tale of losing her design notebook to featuring her family and artistic friends throughout – it is, in many ways, deeply personal and very engaging. Do be aware that, since it was not originally written in English, some of the conventional crochet nomenclature and technical directions are not present. Nevertheless, a seasoned crocheter will have no issue quickly grasping how things are explained.  Makers should also be prepared for a lot of notions use, as well as leather, other mixed media closures, and other non-crochet finishing touches.

Simply stated, I love this book. It will make its way into my personal library, and I’m already working on a few of the designs.

                                                    ******************************

I have had Jan Eaton's 200 Crochet Tips, Techniques & Trade Secrets (shown on the left side in photo at left) in my personal library for, like, ever. It is my go-to book when I have sticky design questions, as the tips and tricks in it are always a great springboard in helping me solve my own particular design dilemma. When I heard that it was being updated, I was fairly thrilled. 350 Crochet Tips, Techniques, and Trade Secrets has just been released, and I managed to get my hands on a library copy. 

Initially, I am not certain exactly where the tips and techniques were increased - there are exactly the same number of pages in the same number of chapters in the book. I compared my old 2007 book with this latest version - page by page - and found only 10 noticeably different pages covering 5 different techniques, and in four of the five instances it was more of a change in book layout and visuals; only in the 'garment shapes" section is there actual content difference (and I, admittedly, do like the updated material here). 

Having said that, if you don't have the previous version of this book in your personal repertoire, I would highly urge you get the updated edition. Eaton is one of our best crochet treasures, with knowledge to spare. Your library will be all the richer for it. If, like me, you already have the initial version of the book ... well ... I think it will still serve you well for many years to come.



Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Roots Party
Acrylic/mixed media on canvas
4" x 12"
July, 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Happy Birthday

This land may be yours and mine, but we've all come to look for America. Here's a sampling of what I've found so far.



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Thank You, Patty Jenkins

Dear Ms. Jenkins:

I have, this weekend, gone to the theater and viewed the Wonder Woman movie, in 3D no less (my first 3D movie experience). I am not one to write public letters to Hollywood directors (because, hey, who am I?), but I must thank you from the bottom of my feminine, mythology-loving heart for creating a superhero movie that finally speaks to me, on so many levels and in so many ways.

I am looking way beyond the obvious elements that many critics have cited: Gal Godot in the lead role, looking so comfortable in a Wonder Woman costume that she wears effortlessly, and not the other way around. Or to the natural chemistry between her character and that of Chris Pine. Or the lush world of Themyscira devoid of cliched Greek elements. Or the rounded, feminine edges to this movie, despite great fight scenes (and the first one on the island remains emblazoned in my mind's eye), or the fact that the movie has earned more than $600 million world-wide in the four weeks since its release - breaking so many box office records.

Here are the things that have stayed with me: an inspired casting choice of Robin Wright as Antiope (I had not looked up any cast information prior to my viewing, so I was thrilled to see her in the first scenes in the movie). The Queen of Themyscira relating a well-developed origin story to a young Diana, complete with the child's formation from clay (which taps into such a rich mythological creation tradition. My Ganesha comic book from India was instantly and happily invoked.) An early 20th century female clothes shopping scene that would make any fashion history major or sociologist happy. I hope that at least a few of my former design school students were invoking their own papers written in one of my several courses discussing fashion during the Victorian era as a limiting, feminist straight jacket. Or, finally, the battle scene where the Wonder Woman character fully comes into her own, and she is single-handedly deflecting bullets and bombs from all sides, while simultaneously absorbing the heat and hate of a war front and paving the way for her male companions to get out on the battle field and support her efforts. The metaphor is so incredibly timely it almost brought me to tears.

While I do wish the ending fight scenes would have been formulated differently, and the writing not quite so heavy-handed and obvious, you are forgiven those thirty film minutes, for they are supported by the first almost 111 minutes of stellar celluloid. Wonder Woman's hero journey has all the right elements - what a gift!

I cannot state with enough emphasis how this movie's female lead and message are timed perfectly. It is exactly what we all need to see and hear. As someone who grew up watching and totally enjoying the Lynda Carter-led Woman Woman television series, this movie is a must-see that will not disappoint. More importantly, given the events that have occurred since the beginning of this year, the future is feminine, and this movie speaks to that future so eloquently. I hope everyone will run, not walk, to view it. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Our Happiness Make A-long 2017 Update

My four Progress, Hope, and Happiness designs:
 Jewels of the NajadsStars Fell on Yellowstone Cowl,
A Force for Good Capelet, and Stone's Clutch. All of
them are available, along with all of my other single
patterns, for purchase during today's Solstice Flash sale.
Well, everyone, we are about half way through our Ravelry-hosted make a-long (MAL if you're into acronyms), and makers are working on and through the 14 designs in the collection. We celebrated Worldwide Knit in Public Day with some awesome photos and a little yarny give-away, and now we are at the height of summer - the solstice! If you haven't yet checked out our make a-long group, now would be a great time, as we are having all kinds of fun over there for the next 24 hours. Really. I won't spill all the beans, but the fun includes a huge flash sale for most of the 10 designers!!!! If you want some quick summer makes plus are into saving your precious cash, check the group out, hit the bundle with all of the participating designs, and link to each of the designers' individual Ravelry stores and get while the getting is good!

I am working on, or have completed, several of the designs and I am enjoying each making experience. I completed a quick Jewels of the Najads bracelet for my summer fun swap package recipient (and have heard from her that she likes it very much); I am almost done with a winter version of Stars Fell on Yellowstone Cowl (photo of which, just prior to starting the edging, you can see to the left); on Worldwide Knit in Public Day I started a mohair version of a Lilith Stole for myself, and I will be working on a few other things before this along is over and done. I have no idea if I will get everything completed prior to the deadline, but since two items are model thank-you's, I am hoping to speed through their projects in record time (at least record time for moi).

Makers from all over (U.S., Canada, Australia, and Germany, at minimum) are working on multiple projects. I hope you will join us and make some summer happiness for yourself!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Progress, Hope, and Happiness Collection Launch Day Has Arrived!

It felt like this day would never come, but here it is - the launch of the 2017 Summer Progress, Hope and Happiness Collection. Hold on to your making sticks and hooks, because this collection is a stunner, even if I do say so myself!

As I write this, I am just a wee bit teary-eyed. I started this collection's process on January 1 of this year with a world-wide indie dyer submission call. That was followed by a designer call. The 14 indie artists that responded (5 dyers and 9 designers) have absolutely gone above and beyond anything I could have imagined. From all corners of the globe, we huddled in an off-line forum at all hours of the day and night and hashed out myriad details. We commiserated with each other, overcame technology snafus, and (mostly) met self-imposed deadlines with grace and good humor. We gathered prizes, put together a Ravelry group for a world-wide #happinessmakealong2017 event, got makers to actually join the group without even seeing one design beforehand, and now are here at launch day. It feels like winning the Boston Marathon and the Tour de France at the same time.

And it fills me with joy to know that artists around the world came together with good will and some amazing ideas and never once threatened to take their respective toys and leave the sandbox. This collection is my heart - and I cannot be more proud to have designs shown alongside each of these nine fellow designers and made with these awesome indie-dyed custom colorways. Our #happinessmakealong2017 group can be found here on Ravelry. We will be making these designs, all of which can be purchased on Ravelry in each designer's respective pattern store, between June 1 - July 16. There will be surprises. There will be yarny (and other) prizes. Most importantly, there will be a shared, world-wide maker community. I hope you will join us!

Without further ado, here is the 2017 Progress, Hope, and Happiness Collection look-book: