Wednesday, October 9, 2019

And Boom! A New Design is Out in the Crafty Wild

Well I may have all things personal book test on my mind, but I am reminded that I have also been busy with other third-party published designs - and the Crochet World blog today sneaked my shawl design featured in its upcoming December edition - the Frosted Berries Shawl.

This design started out with an idea to dye the yarn for it - from Jackie Daugherty, the magazine's editor. Using the winter white colorway of Berroco's Ultra Alpaca and Cushing's acid dyes, Jackie worked up these lovely hand-dyed skein (and you can, too - there's a whole article on the process in the issue!).The colorways turned out superbly, and it is squishy Ultra Alpaca - so the rest of the design process was a breeze. Not only is this shawl big and warm as all get-out for the upcoming winter season here in the northern hemisphere, but it is fun to work up. The main shawl body is an easy repeat with increase rows interspersed, and the show-stopping edge is a combination of regular and tunisian crochet, perfect for adventurous beginner tunisian crocheters.

I'll be announcing a little later (once the magazine actually hits newsstands at the end of the month) how you might be able to win a copy of it for your very self, so stay tuned. However, since this is slow fashion October, I hope you might consider a little hand-dyeing experiment of your own.

And keep those hooks at the ready to make yourself a great project with your beautiful brand-new hand-dyed yarn!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Slow Fashion October - A Solo Road?

Autumn Rustle, the most recent design of mine
published in September as part of a KnitCrate Kit
(yarn included). The single pattern is also available
in my Ravelry design store.
Well, everyone, it is already the beginning of October! Can you believe it? The season for all things pumpkin spice is upon us once again ... and also one of my favorite months the last four years running because of Karen Templer and Slow Fashion October.

However, this October is different. Karen meant for 2018 to be her last year focusing on slow fashion in October only, and I must admit not only did I miss the allusion to it at the time, but also I am slightly bummed. I thoroughly enjoyed our month-long deep dive into all things hand made and slow ... and my wardrobe reflects that deep dive. I have been out of my normal environment every day for a service project since the beginning of September, and I have managed to wear a major piece of clothing (mostly sweaters and cowls) each day. While my wardrobe is still in flux - I want to, of course, knit and crochet more clothing for myself - it is starting to more accurately reflect my mindset and commitment to slow fashion. It is a value I feel strongly about, so the fact that my actions are in line with the value makes me feel all kinds of good. There is no doubt that Karen's (among many others) emphasis over the last four years really was instrumental in my clothing evolution, and for that I owe her a true debt as well as a heartfelt thank you.

This lace topper is just one of the designs that
will be tested commencing next week.
This October will be slightly different for me - my focus is squarely on my upcoming book publication, including testing the designs within the book. If you are interested in being a tester on what will likely be the Mother Of All Pattern Tests, do drop me an email or connect with me on Ravelry (Rav ID Deniseworld).

In the meantime, I hope you will take this time of new, crisp beginnings to deeply dive into your own wardrobe. Make a commitment to pay attention to how materials are sourced for the things you wear, as well as all appropriate appreciation given to the labor it took to make the garments. If you are so inclined, start small and make an accessory or two for yourself. Take chances and be bold. The satisfaction you will feel at truly taking control over how you present yourself to the world, and not just merely picking up something quick that will most likely be tossed into the landfill, will make you never look back.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

What's New? An Open Letter to Peak Media Properties, LLC

The S-Curve Rug, my first design in the
2015 Interweave Crochet Home edition.

Dear Peak Media:

You are the “new” owner of many Interweave magazine titles, including Interweave Knits and Interweave Crochet. Purchased from F+W Media as a result of its early March, 2019 bankruptcy filing, you are also the owner of the online communities and other intellectual property associated with the titles. However, given that Terry O’Toole, the owner of Macanta Investments (the money behind Peak Media), was the chairman of the Board of Directors of the bankrupt F+W, Greg Osberg, the new CEO of Peak Media was the most recent (and interim) CEO at F+W, the sole editor posting knitting design calls was a former editor with an Interweave magazine title, and even Peak Media’s contracts administrator is the former contracts administrator for Interweave under F+W, I wonder, what, exactly, is new at Peak Media?

From your lack of clear communication with the design and maker communities, to your focus on padding your own bottom line (the only two avenues of electronic contact on Peak Media’s site are for advertising or media inquiries), this seems like business as usual at an F+W Media property – you know, the F+W that failed to listen to employees as it squandered millions in equity funding and imploded – the one that the former chairman of the Board is now in control of the investment money here at Peak Media Properties, LLC. If I was unsure of the exact posture of Peak Media, a recent email from you (addressed to “Dearest Contributor,” which elicited a hearty, ironic laugh from this recipient) made it abundantly clear: the communication stated it had good news – an expanded version of a program, in which I have no control over my intellectual property, and for which you provided absolutely no particulars, was in the works! Best of all, I had less than two weeks to opt out of all this good news. Wow. Insert so much additional hearty, ironic laughter right there.

Now, as an independent designer with 7+ years of design publishing (my own and with third parties), it would be easy for me to just let all this sit right here and marinate. However, as a proud female small (ok, micro!) business owner who has managed to survive the last almost eight years designing in a medium - yarn and textiles - that I have loved since childhood, I find it only fair to put out into the world how I might go about things in this “new” version of the F+W legacy. So … well … here goes nothing:

1. Please let Peak Media Properties, LLC find its humility muscle, like, yesterday.

2.  Once it finds such muscle, let it be flexed in the form of a DAMNED APOLOGY: to designers for squandering their good will and stomping on their intellectual property without any respect, and to the maker community at large for this lack of respect. I not-so-elegantly remind you that, if not for the collective intellectual property of the independent design community, there would be no publication foundation upon which Peak Media Properties, LLC could build.

3. Please publish this DAMNED APOLOGY not only in all of your publications, but also in your competitors’ publications. As I have stated previously elsewhere, we all rise and fall together. What you are doing right now, Peak Media, will have a ripple effect on the entire hand knit and crochet industry which, at its zenith, was a large portion of the income bread and butter at F+W.

4. Going forward, please be transparent in all communications with the design community. It is our intellectual property you wish to leverage for your own gain at, if the past is any indication, our direct expense. In case you were not aware, there is not one independent designer I know that can earn a living wage designing solely for third party publication. Not one. Yet, Peak Media personnel seem to be earning a living wage doing just one job.

5. Sort of in tandem with #4, and on the eve of the long U.S. Labor Day weekend, please pay a living wage for our designs, be transparent about that wage, and provide greater flexibility in sharing intellectual property rights with the independent design community. Interweave publishing titles provide compensation at the mid-to-lower end for independent designs and currently have some of the most restrictive intellectual property rights’ contract clauses in the industry.

At this point I sigh. When I first wrote about the bankruptcy, I was willing to keep an open mind, to see what would transpire, despite the fact that I am one of F+W's creditors (albeit a very small one - other designers were in for far more than me). I maintain that I, as an independent designer who erroneously believed in the good of being published in an Interweave publication, expected too little in the past. Not anymore.

Despite the above, Peak Media does have an incredible opportunity right here, right now. Start to rebuild the trust and good will that F+W eroded. It can be done. Don’t take a wait and see approach – seize the day! Truly lead the Interweave publishing titles you purchased to a brighter place where mutual respect might flourish instead of the muscular, opaque, and lop-sided approach of the past. That, of course, will take a significant amount of public courage and a willingness to think and do things differently.

As the organizational posture currently stands, I will not be creating submissions for any design calls issued by Peak Media titles. I genuinely need to see some deep, structural changes. I am happily close to self-publishing my second soft-cover publication, have third-party-published designs in the works, and consistently self-publish single designs. I have a small core of makers with which I regularly make garments and accessories, and to whom I am not only dedicated, but for whose support I am supremely grateful.  Nothing would make me happier than to augment the former with future designs published in titles run by a Peak Media that viewed me and my creativity as a respected partner and equal, not merely a “dear contributor.”

Very truly yours -

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Some Publishing Updates

Well, my maker friends, we are entering the last week of August, and with sunset times getting earlier each evening, as well as a slight nip in the night air, that almost-autumn feeling is upon us. To where has the summer gone? 

I have been so busy over the meaty summer months that I did not get the opportunity to post here on the blog, and considering the fact that I released the third sneak peek from my upcoming book, that is saying something. So, without further ado, here are most of the additional patterns from the third sneaked chapter of the book.

Watercolor Pops is thehe amazing crescent-shaped shawl, thanks to lovely colorways from A Hundred Ravens. Just two skeins of fingering weight yarn produces a shawl that easily stays on the shoulders or (my preferred way of wearing it) coiled around the neck cowl-like. The "pops" of lace in the body offset a rather linear stitch pattern which, with a final little bit o' lace at the edge, combine to produce an accessory that is feminine and graphically pleasing.

The necklaces and earrings are pieces in a series of jewelry designs all put together in the same chapter under the title "The Month of Jewelry." Each of the pieces appear throughout the book and are meant to be worn with other designs. I am definitely loving the mixed media approach to these jewelry designs. Researching the materials used was definitely a great guilt-free way to get in touch with my inner material girl.

I am about a month away from commencing the mother of all pattern tests for the designs in the book. I have so much to prepare between now and then, but if any readers are interested in testing some of the book's designs, definitely send email and I will be more than happy to add you to my tester list. Be aware that all patterns will be crochet, and there will be a good mix of accessories and garments, across a wide spectrum of sizes. 

This is, of course, my second self-published title. Self publishing is more important than ever to me, given this year's earlier F+W bankruptcy filing. We are coming to the end of the bankruptcy, and the relevant design magazines and related online resources in which I have intellectual property have been sold to Long Thread Media and Peak Media Properties. I will have more to say once the final bankruptcy dust has settled (because there are motions before the bankruptcy court that could have implications on the shared intellectual property rights I have with both new entities), but in the tentative first communications between both, Long Thread has been awesome, and Peak Media has been ... well ... just like it's predecessor, F+W. One wonders what, exactly, has changed? All I can do is sigh, shake my head, and pour my energies into my own book.

It is going to be a busy autumn of design publishing here at chez Voie de Vie, so I hope you'll be around to take a peek both at the new book, as well as a few single designs published by third parties, all due between now and the end of the year. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Crochet Every Way Stitch Dictionary - Book Review

Crochet Every Way Stitch Dictionary
125 Essential Stitches to Crochet in Three Ways
Dora Ohrenstein
9 ½ x 7 ¼”
287 pages
Publisher: Abrams (May, 2019)

There are two basic avenues to gain knowledge of any subject: (1) via study through books and/or the classroom; or (2) from direct experience. Both have their place, but when it comes to crochet, the former is almost impossible as there is scant formal written information on the subject, especially when compared to its’ big sister needlework art, knitting. Just to provide one cursory example, I pulled out a general textiles book from my personal library, written in 2005, and searched the index for knit and crochet entries. I was expecting a fair amount on the former, but was unsure whether crochet would have made the cut. I was surprised when, after mentally recording that more than three quarters of the 24 entries under “K” in the book were about knitting, the almost 2 pages of “C” entries contained exactly one about crochet – “crocheting.” And that lone entry in the textile wilderness was contained, tellingly for my current purposes, in a chapter entitled “Nonwovens and Other Methods of Fabric Construction,” and was grouped together with macramé, netting, and tatting, as alternative ways to create openwork fabrics. Of some note, this textiles book also included hairpin lace as its own method within this grouping, indicating it as a subset of crochet. I can only guess that the frame used to create hairpin lace was the reason it earned its own distinct entry separate from general crochet.

Enter Dora Ohrenstein.  She has been writing books on crochet and crochet design for the better part of the last decade, and the title that had, until now, the biggest impact on my designing career was her 2011 title Creating Crochet Fabric. Before it, I was not a fan of swatching, and initially I purchased the book for the design projects (and have made one, the Juliette Shawl, which project made the blog in this entry back in May, 2011). While the design projects drew me in, it was the brief, ending stitch dictionary and fabric creation that kept me coming back to it, again and again and again. Dora spent considerable time throughout the period when that book was first published attempting to get everyone – both designers and non-designers – to just swatch. Ohrenstein was trying, back then, to get everyone to learn to love the art and beauty of crochet fabric as much as she did through the means she knew best: direct personal experience with hook and yarn.

A swatch sampling from Crochet Every Way Stitch Dictionary
Fast forward to now, and Ohrenstein’s latest title, Crochet Every Way Stitch Dictionary, picks up rather elegantly, and with some innovation, where Creating Crochet Fabric left off. In keeping with my theme of how one gains knowledge, Dora’s opening words in this book provides her personal roadmap: “I taught myself to crochet as a twenty-one-year-old hippie while living on a houseboat in Amsterdam.” It doesn’t get any more hands-on than that. While she would leave crochet for a singing career in the intervening years between that hippie houseboat and now, creativity has never left Ohrenstein, and it shines brilliantly in this, her most recent entry, on the way to get everyone hooked (no pun intended) on the possibilities of crochet fabric. (Note: Dora has also completed an Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire here back in 2012.)

My version of Plump Posts, p. 126, worked in
Cascade 220 Superwash + a 5.00 mm hook
For designers and non-designers, swatching is the cornerstone of most any knit and/or crochet endeavor. For the maker, it yields vital information on gauge and fiber behavior with a particular stitch pattern, the lynch pin of whether a project will be successful. For designers, swatches are mini-fabric windows through which designs flow, morph, grow. Each attempt yields different informational fruit, all of which goes into the trifle that will become future fabric. We designers become the masters of the 4” fabric square, the going industry size for determining whether a design is, or isn’t, a potential publishing winner. The swatch is, of course, conventionally a means to a bigger design end and, most probably, was created in service to a design idea already formed.

What Ohrenstein wants us to recognize and internalize is that the swatch is a vehicle for stitch patterns that, in and of themselves, are a wealth of design information and inspiration. Exercising the swatching muscle can (and I might argue) should be one of the foundational design inspiration tools in any self-respecting designer’s tool kit – to be exercised at any point, whether or not with a particular design in mind. This book shows that how one manipulates a stitch pattern via increase and decrease can just as easily lead to other design inspiration. Stitch pattern increase and decrease is just as much an art as a skill.

My Open Ovals swatches, p. 236, using
a fiber cocktail of Habu Textiles Silk
Mohair + Tahki Stacy Charles Luna
held together + a 4.25 mm hook
After introducing some perfunctory basics on stitch patterns and how they create designs, Dora lays out the book’s organization – stitch patterns in five flavors over six chapters from closed stitches to open, texture to lace, and that final crochet mainstay – ripple stitches. After thumbing through each section, I chose the first three stitch patterns that caught my eye to work up for this review.  My gut is consistent when it comes to the types of stitches I like – I chose one from the texture section, one from the classic lace section (and that’s my favorite section in the book, truth be told), and one from the ripple section because its increase was just so darned intriguing.

Working these swatches was not only a pleasure because each is charted (such a treat – work the chart and fini!), but also because I chose stash yarn for each, and for this textile fan pairing the right fiber with stitch pattern is always a fun exercise. Working some of the decreases on the first texture stitch swatch instantly gave me other ideas on what could be done along that particular edge. The lace swatches were the most satisfying, not the least because I chose to work them up in a mohair blend. The ripple increase swatch was, however, the most enlightening. I know I shall be going back to that swatch as well as that 

Tilted Ripple, p. 270, was by far the most fascinating
swatch worked. I used Drops Puna + a 4.25 mm hook.
section of the book (at the end, and the shortest) to further investigate.

While this is technically a stitch dictionary, I find the title slightly misleading. I do not find the stitch patterns themselves to be the star, but how we can learn to manipulate them. In that respect, this book is indeed innovative, because stitch repeats in whole cannot always be successfully increased and/or decreased. Ohrenstein, through her instruction for each increase and decrease, is giving us the underlying tools to successfully get any stitch pattern to do what we want it to.

It is a shame that we (at least in the U.S.) tend to look down our noses at craft (although this continues to change and evolve). Ohrenstein, with this latest title has, along with her title from 2011, created a one-two punch for anyone wanting to create crochet fabric, or learn more generally about fabric creation and manipulation. As crochet is seen more and more regularly on the fashion runway, it takes its place alongside knit fabrics as a potential design fabric staple in any house’s seasonal collection. Resultingly, I find both of these Ohrenstein titles should be useful not only to a general craft public (as each title is categorized by their respective publishers), but also relevant in any textile or design classroom setting. Then there would be, at minimum, three crochet entries in any thorough book on textiles.

If you love to create fabric (crochet or otherwise) as much as I do, and you’ve read this far (ha!), now comes the payoff: I had no idea Abrams would be sending me two copies. Therefore, I am so thrilled to be able to give a copy of Crochet Every Way Stitch Dictionary away to one lucky winner. All you need do is comment below on why you want a copy of this book, and what you hope to learn from it. I will be awarding the copy to a winner via random number generator from all comments received between now and the end of the day next Monday, June 17th. 

Good luck ... and happy swatching!

Wednesday, June 19th Update: Sorry I am a few days late in awarding a winner - but I gave the random integer generator a whirl just a few minutes ago, and it picked number 1 (and 5 was the alternate), so Missy of A Tree Hugger's Wife wins this awesome book! I will also be posting this on Instagram, so everyone can see it there as well. Thanks to everyone who read the review, and especially to those who took the time to leave a comment. I urge everyone to add this title to your crafty book shelf - you will not be disappointed.

Monday, June 3, 2019

2019 Progress, Hope, & Happiness Collection Launch - Year 3!

Oh my friendly makers - it is the beginning of June, and for the third year in a row, I have curated, coordinated, and/or otherwise wrangled a collection of summer makes, and it went live last Friday!  For a viewing of the collection's look book, just click on it below:

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am with this year's designs, and the yarny colorways created and/or picked especially for the collection really make the designs stand out. As usual, we have our make-a-long home on Ravelry and people are starting to figure out what they would like to make, and what yarns they will be using.

I have two designs in the collection this year, and they are meant to help anyone get out there for a quick adventure or two. I happily present the Rings of Saturn, a really well-sized bag great for short weekend jaunts (it's small yet so roomy); and Weekend Adventure - a tee with a whole lot of pink attitude that is easily customized to fit a maker's personal style.

There are also a good number of shawls, some head wear, a super tank (in pink!), and a cowl that I really want to make (along with several other designs). So much to make; so little crafty maker time. Grrrr.

Also, there are a few new things this year: if you are on Instagram, do follow the MAL's hashtag #happinessmakealong2019 - we are currently running an #artadventure challenge that, if craftily played, can find both you and a tagged friend winning prizes, including a grand prize (and this year's other big new thing): an e-book of the entire collection of 12 designs! That's right, the collection has an e-book for sale this year exclusively on Swatch Warriors (retailing for $19.95, with most of that going directly to all nine participating designers), but only for a limited time (basically, through the end of July, which is when the maker event ends).

Given the ups and downs in the yarn publishing industry so far this year, it is a testament to my fellow indie designers and dyers that we have just not given up and are continuing to forge our own designing path. I cannot tell you how pleased and proud I am to be among the company of these talented artists. I hope you will check out the look book, buy a pattern or two, or even gift an e-book to someone just because. Then, get your yarn and making tools all lined up and come join us as we each find our own yarny renewal.

Happy summer, everyone! 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Arlington National Cemetary, Arlington, VA,
snapped approximately 15 years ago.
I have been super busy and have neglected my blog for the last month or so - I do apologize not only to you, dear readers, but also to myself, because I genuinely love my blog. Look for me to rectify the neglect in the coming weeks.

However, I am taking a moment to recognize it is the Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S. - the holiday weekend that marks the unofficial start of summer, but also when we take a minute to recognize those armed service members, across centuries, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. 

I snapped the photo at the left because I loved the composition - I did not know at the time that Memorial Day was conceived after the U.S. Civil War as a way to dress up the graves of military dead with flowers (and thus the reason it falls in May, when so many things are in bloom).

If you would like to take a moment sometime over the weekend to pay your own tribute, here is a listing, by state, of national veterans' cemeteries. Additionally, many jurisdictions also have local veterans' cemeteries which might be of some interest. If you do, please don't forget to bring the best blooms you can find.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

April is Upon Us

I cannot yet believe we are already experiencing April - to where did the first three months of 2019 disappear?

Of course, design things are busy here at chez Voie de Vie. They always are! Initially, I started a very laid-back maker a-long in my Ravelry group - the Well Adorned Neck. As you might guess, we will be focusing on any of my designs that fit around or otherwise highlight the neck. I have put together a bundle of my knit and crochet designs that can be worked up during the a-long, which runs through May 11th, and yes, there will be a few prizes awarded at the end. People are focusing on cowls and necklaces at the moment, although scarves, shawls and some garments are included in the bundle.

I decided to host this maker event because I have a few new designs that have recently been published and, of course, they focus on the neck! The first one, released at the end of March, adorns the cover of Knit Picks' latest crochet shawl collection Color Crush. Three Stitch Samba is rated intermediate (there are increases and picked up stitches along a portion of the edging), but an adventurous beginner could definitely give it a go, since only three stitches are utilized throughout the entire shawl. Each of the six wraps in the Color Crush collection are relatively easy to complete, yet pack a big color and style punch. The book is almost 50 pages, and includes schematics as well as (for select patterns), charts for all those visual learners out there.

Knit Picks has also generously donated two prizes for me to give away: the Hawthorne Fingering three-skein color cocktail seen on the cover, along with a copy of the print book, which will be an awesome for one lucky winner who completes a project in the maker event and posts a photo of it in the appropriate thread.

I also have an additional copy of the book + a set of 8 of Knit Picks' radiant wood crochet hooks, which prize I am currently taking comment entries for in my Instagram feed:

Alright, my crafty friends - it is give-away time here at chez #voiedevie! Since I do not do this all that much, you know it is a big deal. 😄 The prize to be awarded: shown in the photo - a Color Crush Crochet Wraps book + a set of 8 Knit Picks Radiant Wood crochet hooks, from E/3.5 mm - K/6.5mm. This is a super prize for any crochet lover, as well as any #knitter who has ever written "This pattern makes me want to learn to crochet!" All 6 wraps in the almost-50 page book are easy enough for most adventurous beginners, and lots of schematics and a chart or two are included for visual learners. The only thing one needs to add is yarn, and you are good to go! * * * So, here are the giveaway deets: 1. Open to anyone living on Earth (all other inter-planetary residents - so sorry 😁) 2. Public accounts only, please. 3. Please follow my account. 4. Leave a comment and tell me why you love crochet or which shawl from the Color Crush collection you want to make. Feel free to tag as many friends as you would like, including any knitters who have expressed a previous desire to learn to crochet. 5. One entry per person, please. 6. Comments accepted between now and the end of the day (PDST) Monday, April 15th. 7. Winner will be chosen via random number generator, based on number of unique, first comments, and will be notified via dm. 8. Instagram, including their employees and any relevant, affiliated persons, are not involved in any way and do not endorse and/or otherwise have any responsibility for this giveaway. Ok my crafty friends, get your #crochet on!!! #crochetinspiration #crochetersaroundtheworld #knitpicks #shawls #crochetersofthepnw
A post shared by Voie de Vie (@denisevoiedevie) on

If you want to enter to win this most excellent prize, you have until the end of the day next Monday, April 15th, to hop on over, follow my feed (if you don't already), and leave a comment. Of course, if you do win it, you should feel free to add yarn and join us over in my Ravelry group and make the Three Stitch Samba. See what I did there? 

Of course, I also provided the second sneaked chapter from my upcoming second self-published book coming out this September. The chapter contains the Casual Lace Topper, and I am super pleased in how this design turned out. Check it out to the right - isn't that just the best little cardigan for transitional weather? Worked in just three pieces and some tunisian crochet 3 x 2 ribbing along the edges, this scoop neck piece is meant to be thrown in a bag and worn over most anything. It's worked up in baa ram ewe Titus, which comes in a flock of beautiful colorways. Of course, only those who purchased the pre-publication package have received this chapter (along with the one I sneaked last month). There is still time to get your very own pre-publication package, which will get you the first two chapters plus one more that will drop May 1st.

That's enough for now, my crafty maker friends - I told you I've been busy.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Independent Art to the Rescue … Cause It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

My crafty friends, I am so thrilled to be able to announce, via revealing my newly created artwork, the world-wide independent designers and dyers who will be taking part in this summer’s Progress, Hope, and Happiness Year 3: Adventure + Renewal collection and maker event!

Kudos to each dyer who created new colorways and/or otherwise stepped up to the plate and willingly supplied yarn support to nine designers and their summer creations. Yarn support is currently winging its way around the globe so that creation can begin. The collection’s big reveal will occur May 31st, which is also the beginning date of the related maker event, which will last until the end of July. Since dyers make their own design support decisions (I coordinate the call), even I have no current idea of the shape the collection will take. I won’t know until designers provide me with their sample photos in May so I can create this year’s look book (and the look books from the last two collections can be viewed here and here). I genuinely like it this way – some mystery built into the process is nice for me. Design revelation toward the end of May is always so thrilling and that joy is, hopefully, reflected in the final look book to which the public will have access.

I am also pleased that I have developed and continue to coordinate an event that is truly independent – independent designers, independent dyers, no outside money of any kind, participating designers and dyers do all the social media posting as a collective. I would be remiss if I did not talk about this week’s crafty elephant in the room – the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of F+W Media, the parent company of many magazines and book titles, including the entire family of Interweave knit and (sole) crochet magazines. This bankruptcy filing touches a large, large, swath of the design and maker community (and a quick look at the names on the almost 550 pages that make up the creditors’ list will provide you with a snapshot of just how wide a swath it is). I also feel for all of the day-to-day editorial staff at these publications – they work so hard, and their professional lives are currently in limbo. Since the bankruptcy pleadings have openly stated F+W will be looking to secure a sale of Interweave (among other assets) within the next 90 days to an as-yet identified buyer, not only do editorial staff not know about their immediate professional future, but the design community’s willingness to submit designs to current calls becomes a dicey proposition. For myself, I withdrew a submission I just sent in last Thursday, and I will not submit to any additional Interweave call until the dust settles on either an Interweave sale or a bankruptcy discharge, whichever happens first. At that point, I will reassess the facts on the ground to determine whether or not I will once again start to submit (although I want nothing more than to see a positive outcome so I can do just that). For the record, I am also on the creditors’ list, although I am only out some royalty amounts on four designs (and I am not planning on ever seeing any of that money). There are many other designers and contributors who have not, and perhaps never will, receive far larger sums for their unpaid-at-time-of-bankruptcy hard work.

I have written, both previously on this blog, as well as across most of my social media, that makers need to pay indie designers a fair pattern price for their designing work, and that my designing for individual publication as well as for third parties went hand-in-hand. There can be, unfortunately, no more excellent example of that inter-relatedness than this week’s events. We rise and fall together. In the initial dyer and designer call for this year’s Adventure + Renewal collection, I wrote that this year could be the most stressful of all of the last two previous years. Of course, I had more geo-political ideas in my head when I wrote those words. I never envisioned that the stress could and would hit so professionally close to home.

Businesses come out at the other end of a bankruptcy filing and continue to exist (just ask many a car company and/or airline carrier) – that’s what the bankruptcy code is there for, to provide a fresh start. I cannot, however, be optimistic about a company whose own bankruptcy papers admit (in an uncharacteristically honest assessment that I believe on its face) it managed to piss away $6 million in fresh capital, and who are searching for buyers in order to liquidate. I genuinely thought after F+W cleaned house at the end of 2017 it had turned a corner, but unfortunately not. I also noted to myself a concern about the lack/quality of the advertising in the winter edition of Interweave Crochet (although, editorially, I think the magazine is as strong as it has ever been). For my crochet-design loving heart, this bankruptcy also touches upon how consolidating crochet publishing into just a few voices has detrimental consequences. In the U.S., there are only two other major crochet publishers, and one of them is electronic, no physical publications. F+W had purchased a second crochet title and then proceeded to discontinue publishing it, leaving only three U.S.-based crochet magazines that potentially might be seen on the periodical shelves.

Nevertheless, just like Brexit – it ain’t over till it’s over. Yogi Berra was never so prophetic. My hope is that a strong publisher scoops up Interweave and, at least in terms of Interweave Crochet, re-imagines a more robust and forward-looking publication. There are many ways that might be accomplished, but no matter how, I hope it is accomplished with its current editor. I expect she may have good ideas on how the magazine could be tweaked and/or otherwise reinvented.

In the meantime, I am going to continue getting ready for this summer’s Adventure + Renewal collection. I cannot tell you how pleased I am to be in the company of these independent designers and dyers – artists all – whose work as a group brings much summer designing and making joy. I urge everyone to support independent designers. They are the collective designing voice that will keep craft and DIY/slow fashion moving forward and growing. DIY is here to stay and your support, in the form of pattern sales, keeps those independent voices steady and strong. I hope I see everyone take part in our May 31st maker event!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

And The Sneaked Chapter Releases Begin

Alright, everyone - damn the self-publishing torpedoes, because here I go, leaning all in on round two. As I wrote about here at the beginning of last month, I shall be putting forth my sophomore book effort in September. After some technological snafus yesterday, I am pleased to announce that my first sneaked chapter of that second self-publishing effort has been delivered to everyone who (so far) has purchased a pre-publication package. 

In it, they have also received the pattern to the first of the designs from the book to see the pre-publishing light of day - Go Green or Go Home - a long wrap/wide scarf filled with all kinds of tunisian crochet goodness. Just get a load of those cables and small shibori-like bobbles - and it all comes to life with two strands of Neighborhood Fiber Co. yarns held together. It was a cold day when this was photographed, yet my model was really very warm with this wrapped around her shoulders. It is a perfect transitional piece to wear, and an excellent travel project.

Neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Loft
(foreground) and Rustic Fingering
I am so thrilled, and not a little bit nervous, to share this first sneaked chapter. This is a very personal book - not only the copy and the designs, but also all of the artwork and design layout. If I had a steep learning curve with my freshman publication Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace, this one puts pressure on me to get it right. Let's hope I succeed. I'll get back to you on it at the beginning of September.

There is still plenty of time to get in on my pre-publication package, although as of today, the price just went up a small notch. However, perhaps the design and awesome yarns will entice you?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Who (or what) Is My Fiber Family?

From the Voie de Vie photo archives, circa approx. Spring 2014: an 
incredible melange of fibers and price points, from Mary Maxim 
acrylic to artisan hand dyed.
(Updated 2/7/19 to correct spelling errors/typos)

I have, in fact, been thinking a lot about this very question recently, and since it is a prompt in this Instagram February challenge (participation in which is quite robust, if you'd like to join us), I thought it worthy of a little deeper dive.

By way of case study, I want to use a recent Countess Ablaze Instagram post (as well as one of the post's comments) from a recent prompt in this very same February challenge. Please firmly note: I am an emphatic fan of the Countess!!!! She has leaned into her life in such an incredible way - not only becoming a marketing genie in the process, but perfecting being a human extraordinaire. 
Tools of my trade: the
hooks always lead.

In this post, she explains her first project - an acrylic crochet blanket, which her daughter still has displayed on a family bed. The Countess described it as a "gateway" project - and of course, her current business reflects that she has long since abandoned her inexpensive, acrylic crochet days for hand-dyed scrumptious natural fibers at considerably higher price points. (Do take stock of the fact that no matter the fiber, her trademark use of eye-popping color is constant.) A quick look at the accessories page of her website underscores this: only three entries for crochet hooks, yet considerably more for knitting. It goes without saying that there is no acrylic in sight in her hand-dyed yarn and fiber inventory.

Among many of the comments in response to this post is one that immediately caught my eye. In it, the commentor indicated (and I'm paraphrasing) that she always provides inexpensive acrylic and hooks to those who want to learn, since the yarn can be, in essence, ripped out and/or otherwise abused by the beginner without guilt (whose guilt, whether the beginner or the one commenting, is unclear).

I had to breathe deeply and remain calm when I got to this section of the comments, because in tandem with the original post, it paints an incredibly inferior picture of crochet (unintentional on the part of the writers no doubt, but evident nonetheless): crochet is a great vehicle to learn a craft, and cheap acrylic is acceptable at the beginning stages of the learning process, but crafters should (and probably will) aspire to something more lofty. Separate, yet aspirationally equal, takes on a whole new meaning, although I am certain there are knitters, too, who started on their crafty path with cheap acrylic yarn.

George Bailey, before he completed his life here on earth, on one of his
favorite blankets, made with hard-working Patons acrylic yarn. It will
work hard perpetually: I could not bear to keep it, opting (at the risk of
being too morbid), to wrap him in it before burying him.

I have written on this blog in a few places, but most recently
here that I am no yarn snob - and the photographic evidence underscores my writing. Additionally, I have written about the intersection between my working class roots and my approach to textiles and clothing here and here - and the upshot is, of course, one cannot escape one's roots, a person can only incorporate and transcend them. Nevertheless, our early associations with things and processes have a huge lasting effect: blame the 70s and early acrylic incarnations to explain why we still make references to cheap acrylic and crochet, despite the fact that both have come a long way since then.

I hope that everyone, who wants to gift the love of craft to a new maker, thinks about the materials beforehand. Those first associations can never be erased. An inexpensive blend (which one can purchase for the same amount as acrylic, in all the same places as acrylic) will stand up to a beginner's uninformed hook, yet still leave the crafter with an early association of the feel of at least some natural fiber and the good it can produce, however awkward the effort. That association will have a positive impact on that new crafter's willingness to keep a well-rounded stash in future.
The acrylic and the indie dyed, side by side.

I am not suggesting doing away with acrylic. It has its place, for a whole host of reasons. But making it into something one must aspire to overcome is short-sighted and, to many, elitist. I personally may limit my acrylic-blend use to certain types of projects for environmental, residual crochet-centric stereotypical, and other reasons, including my wallet: sometimes a blend is the best my budget can afford, and I know I am not the only one in this particular yarny boat, the Countess's excellent use of color notwithstanding.

Now, if she decided she wanted to hand-dye acrylic blends and sell them at lower price points, she might be onto something else. That dyeing mix would, of course, come closer to symbolizing my true fiber family.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Next Big Thing ... from Tough as Lace Publishing

As many of you are, perhaps, aware, my first book, as well as certain other of my publications, are released through my tough as lace publishing imprint. 

I have been working, slowly behind the scenes, on a second book of designs! It's been simmering on a back burner for about three years, and I am finally able (and confident) to announce that it will be ready for its public debut in September, 2019. 

While I will not spill the beans concerning its contents (for reasons that will become apparent in just a moment, as you read further), I will tell you that it is bigger, by about 20%, than Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace. The designs, this time around, are all crochet. Gloriously, wonderfully crocheted in amazing yarns and colorways - both from indie dyers as well as bigger, commercially manufactured yarn producers. The artwork, photography, and layout are, of course, also mine, so this is my second multi-discipline labor of love. It is, however (unlike the first book), deeply personal. It is a read, as well as filled with all the things I love - design, art, color, fiber, photography.

I will be offering, over three months (March, April, and May, 2019), sneak previews of three book chapters, as part of a pre-publication book package, and of course the earlier you commit, the less money it will cost you. Initially, here is the package:

- a soft-cover edition of the book, signed by the author (me!);
-free, world-wide shipping of the soft-cover edition; and
- an electronic version of the book.

The chapters (to be released electronically via my Ravelry store) will start March 1st, the second April 1st, and the third May 1st, and the earlier you purchase the pre-sale package, the more you will save. Commencing today, February 1st, the above book package will be listed in my Ravelry store for $20.99; when the first of these chapters goes live March 1st, the price for the package will then increase to $23.99; when the second chapter is uploaded April 1st, the package price will increase to $26.99; finally, the complete package price of $29.99 will be listed once the final of the three chapters is released May 1st. After that, this package price will remain at $29.99 until the book's publishing September 2nd. On September 3rd, the $29.99 price will be for the soft-cover book only (no electronic version included, and no shipping either).

I will also tell you the chapters I will be releasing are not at the beginning of the book - they actually fall about two-thirds of the way into it. Once you see the first installment March 1st, you will understand why I am doing it this way. However, it also provides a healthy sneak peek well into the book's evolution, yet also still leaves enough mystery to make the anticipation of getting the entire book rather high. Finally, on the preview chapters: all chapters released early include awesome crochet designs, and the May release includes multiple designs.

I am, just as for the first book, excited and scared in equal amounts. I do hope this sophomore effort meets with maker (and reader!) approval.

Taking a very deep breath ...