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 ...

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Remember This House

This is my first blog entry of 2019, and as is customary for me most years, I am usually fairly silent during the first few weeks of any new year. I have been busy with other things and on other social media, but somehow this first long weekend in January, when we remember and celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., it seems fitting to break the bloggy new year ‘s fast and put some thoughts to screen.

As many of you may know, MLK, Jr. figures prominently in my own notions of social justice. In my second year as a VISTA (Volunteer In Service to America) I, along with a group of other local VISTAs, spent our entire year dissecting institutional racism – what it was, how it manifested itself in our respective work sites as well as our everyday lives, and what we might do about it. King featured prominently in the supporting works I read, as well as my taking note of his own thought evolution on social justice. Along with a handful of undergraduate courses, that year-long inquiry, more than a decade ago, stays with me to this day. I still feed off the lightening-bolt moments I had as a result of an off-comment here, a well-placed paragraph there, as well as the memories of intense conversations we had as a group.

While my days of direct service are all-but over, my willingness to continue to dig deeper into the entire history of this country remains strong, and this weekend is always a personal reminder that I still have much to learn. In that vein, I highly encourage each of you to find and watch Raoul Peck’s excellent I Am Not Your Negro, his 2016 ode to James Baldwin, via one of his unfinished works, Remember This House. Using (as Baldwin was intending) the deaths of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and MLK, Jr. as a thematic link and backdrop, Peck masterfully brings to life Baldwin’s unfinished last work. Through it, Peck also (as he admits in an interview included as a video extra) keeps Baldwin alive through the current medium of choice – video and cinema. It is, of course, a meta nod to Baldwin’s final written material, as the writer was attempting to do the same (as well as so much more) with the examination of the referenced deaths.

Undoubtedly, this 2016 documentary also makes a singularly powerful statement on the current issue of race in today’s America. Using archival footage of Baldwin’s own speeches and talks (he died in 1987), it shows how far we’ve come as a nation, and yet how easy it has been to fall back. There is, also, a 1969 Dick Cavett show exchange between a white professor and Baldwin that is not, absolutely not, to be forgotten. Talk about not missing his shot.

There is so much more to say – both of Baldwin and King. However, it would be just my thoughts and impressions, and that is not what I want to convey. Read any King writing this weekend; watch this masterful documentary based on and inspired by Baldwin, himself a slave’s grandson. Determine how best you might be as light a societal presence as possible, and then live it every day. That is a legacy King (and Baldwin, I expect) would encourage.