Friday, November 28, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Well the Sale May Be Over But ...

... the rest of the Ravelry holiday gift-making palooza most definitely is still on! Until the end of December, everyone should definitely feel free to join in here for gifting camraderie and drive-by prizes like ... all the time. If you're interesting in finding some DIY gift ideas, do feel free to check out my 2014 curated Holiday gifts board on Pinterest. It's chock full of (mostly!) quick and stylish designs to whip up for everyone on your hand-made worthy list. Full disclosure: I don't do socks so they aren't included, but my designs are cause hey, I'm just a little partial. However, mine comprise only about 9% of the board so, you get the drift. 

In keeping in the GAL spirit, I'm here with another wonderful designer interview - this time with Sara Peterson, a sort of anti-designer designer (and how's that for descriptive language?). She's based on the east coast, in upstate New York, so I do hope she's not anywhere near all that lake effect snow. If she is, well, then she's got plenty of great designs to keep her knitting and crocheting! In fact, one of her shawl designs made my Holiday gifts board. Without further delay, I give you (and all photos used with Sara's kind permission):
The Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire with 
Knit and Crochet Designer Sara Peterson

Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you started to design knit garments and accessories?

After college, I needed a hobby to occupy my free time so I decided to take up knitting. I have been a crocheter since I was a teenager, but knitting was a fun new challenge. Eventually my skills grew enough that I tried to duplicate or make my own version of items that I saw in magazines. I think this sweater was my first successful “design”. Not too long after that I started writing patterns.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to become a knit designer?

I have to say that it’s never really been my dream to be a knit or crochet designer. I sometimes have fits of creativity and I enjoy puzzling out how to make the ideas in my head a reality. It’s gratifying to see others make my patterns into their own creations but being known as a “designer” isn’t really my priority.

Please describe your personal knit design philosophy?

I like simple things that incorporate something interesting, whether it’s colorwork, or texture, or lace. Knit and crochet are relaxing for me so I like designs that hold interest all the way through without being so complicated that they make your head spin.

What is your greatest knit (or design) memory?

Having a design published in Interweave Knits Accessories was pretty exciting (and nerve-wracking!)

If you could have dinner with any three designers, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?

I would thank Barbara Walker for her stitch dictionaries and Knitting from the Top and ask her how on earth she could be so prolific.

Ysolda Teague seems like she’d be a fun person to have dinner and drinks with.

I think that Doris Chan is a genius. I started knitting because at the time there were so few crochet designs that I’d actually want to wear. Her garments are modern and stylish. I’d love to pick her brain on what inspires her.

Throw or pick?

I’m a thrower, except when knitting stranded colorwork and then I use one strand in both hands.

It’s your last object to design (or make). What is it, and what fiber do you use?

It would have to be a cabled hat made out of warm soft cashmere.

What trait do you most admire in designers?

I love how designers can come up with so many ways to make simple things. There are thousands of hat designs in the Ravelry database and yet there are tons of unique designs. Everybody finds a way to put his or her own spin on it and I find it fascinating.

What trait do you most detest in designers?

Detest is a strong word, but sometimes I think designers can be a bit overly protective of their work. I allow purchasers of my patterns to make items for charity and I don’t have a problem with crafters selling their FOs from a home-based business. Nobody wants to get ripped off by big corporations but I don’t see the harm in letting individuals sell at craft fairs or on etsy.

You are recommending a design gift in response to a friend’s inquiry. Other than your own designs (which, as everyone knows, are quite beautiful!), what would you recommend?

Michele Wang’s Stonecutter is just about the perfect sweater and you can’t go wrong with Cookie A’s socks.

Thanks so much Sara! And for all of the crocheters, her Tilt Shift Shawl (the one featured in the photo directly above) is having a wee whirl right now - make one and post a photo on your Ravelry project page, finished (of course!) by December 21st, and receive a free pattern from Sara's Ravelry store. And since she's a participating Gift-a-long designer, and there are like, a bazillion people making shawls in the gift-a-long, c'mon people ... get your shawly gifting on ... 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sometimes Designs Come Along At Just The Right Moment

She's a sassy shawl, ain't she?
Happy Friday, everyone. With a week before U.S. Thanksgiving, it's been busy good at chez Voie de Vie.

As I wrote about here on Monday, I'm participating in Ravelry's Independent Designer Gift-a-long. (An aside: if you don't think this shebang has grown volumes since last year, think again: so far, there are over 5,000 participants in 8 different gift-making categories, and one can sign up and gift-a-long until the end of December. Folks, indie designers and their gift-making pals are on fire.) As part of my design purchases, I picked up fellow designer Gabriella Henry's Lucie Shawlette pattern.

I cannot quite explain what it is about this pattern, but I became absolutely enthralled with it. Maybe it's the perfect combination of gloriously wonderful garter stitch with an elegantly simple crochet edging; perhaps it's the no-thinking-required aspect of the pattern - I wound up not putting it down and completed it in about four days (record speed for me). 

Or maybe, just maybe, it's been the genuine respect shown me by a fellow designer half-way around the world, at a time when I sorely needed a show of professional respect, that's made this shawl such a breath of fresh air. I've recently experienced a doozie of a professional blow and I have remained rather silent about it. Nevertheless, I had been feeling a fair amount of anger and disappointment, but I continued forward with my plans because I believe in myself. That's cold comfort, though, when you're in the middle of it. 

And then, along came Gabes (tweeting @Sweetpknits) and her ditty of a shawl and turned my thinking right 'round. Like a perfectly stitched record, if you will. Along the way, she's been nothing but gracious and complimentary, and it's made All.The.Difference. This is the season of giving thanks, and so I sincerely thank her for her kindness and open appreciation. Far beyond the counting of dollars and cents is how we make each other feel; that's what we'll remember. So it brings me great joy to show off my version of Gabe's Lucie Shawlette:

Speaking of good things, it is rare to see Mt. Rainier in any horizon shot in the Pacific Northwest fall and winter, yet it made a guest appearance for this photo shoot (check out the above left background). It guilded the lily rather nicely: what a great pairing of pattern and fiber, don't you think?

Even though these two fibers are (I think) discontinued, they played well together: Laines du Nord Prancer for the main body of the shawl and Noro Cash Iroha for the edging. I worked this up on U.S. 10 1/2" circular needles (6.5 mm) and a U.S. H hook (5.00 mm) for the edging, which is smaller than called for in the pattern. I also made my shawlette more akin to a shawl by using about 147 grams of yarn for the body and approximately 44 grams on the edging, for a grand poobah total of 366 fibery yards.

I cannot tell you how much I love this shawl. It's super warm and the perfect thing to throw over the shoulders or double up around the neck. Make one for yourself, and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Now, in keeping with the spirit of design/er giving during this gift-along (which, again, runs straight through the end of the year), I've had the pleasure of interviewing and getting to know Ella Austin, a/k/a Bombella Knits. Here's a designer after my own color-filled heart - her claim to fame is stranded color work and she has a love of Karie Westermann shawl designs. Without further ado, I present:

The Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire
with knit designer Ella Austin

Ella Austin. Photo used with designer's kind permission.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you started to design knit garments and accessories?

Just before I started designing I was a stay at home mum and breastfeeding helper. Before that I worked in admin and IT for a charity in London and before that I studied sociology and classical studies at Reading University. But I’ve always loved art and design and I’ve always been an avid knitter -ever since I was a child.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to become a knit designer?

Although I’d knit for all my life I had never really tried to push myself as a knitter until I met the Reading-based Outcasts knitting group about seven years ago. Then soon after Ravelry came along and inspired me further. I started to have ideas for things I wanted to knit and so I started experimenting… and found that I loved it!

Please describe your personal knit design philosophy?

I love stranded colourwork so I tend to think in terms of colour, line and pattern. I mostly design small, colourful knits that I consider to be fun!

What is your greatest knit (or design) memory?

It’s hard to pick a single moment because knit design involves a lot of gradual development of ideas. I’m most proud of my knitting kits and I hope to continually improve and develop them. For a single moment memory, I was very excited when one of my early designs was commissioned by Knit Now magazine.

If you could have dinner with any three designers, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?

This is a hard question. Most of my old knitting group the Outcasts have done at least a design or two so I’d pick a bunch of them!

Throw or pick?

Throw. I’m a very slow knitter!

It’s your last object to design (or make). What is it, and what fiber do you use?

There’s so much I want to knit, it’s too sad to think of a last thing! One thing I’ve been wanting to do for ages but haven’t done yet is a small woodland creature in Skein Queen Blush 80% merino 20% cashmere.

What trait do you most admire in designers?

Diversity. I admire designers who can do all sorts of things with all different techniques. I also love a good cardigan so a designer that does a good cardigan has my respect!

What trait do you most detest in designers?

Detest is such a strong word! I don’t like snobbery in knitting whether it’s ‘I only use x yarn’ or ‘I’d never knit y type of object’.

You are recommending a design gift in response to a friend’s inquiry. Other than your own designs (which, as everyone knows, are quite beautiful!), what would you recommend?

Suzanne Stallard’s colourwork mitts (especially the Alfredos) or a Karie Westermann shawl.

All right everyone - now head on over to Andrea's at Wisdom Begins in Wonder to see how everyone else is interacting with the gift-a-long. As for me, I'm officially blogged out ... for the moment. 

Stay tuned ...

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's All About The Gifts This Melange Monday

It's (late!) Monday, time for melange.

As many of you may know, I've been involved with Ravelry's 2014 Independent Designer Gift-a-long, specifically I helped pin all of the participating designs to Pinterest boards. I have gone one step further and curated my own 2014 DIY Gifts board right here. I have chosen my favorites from all of the boards excepts the baby/children's board as well as the feet and leg board. I still have one or two children's patterns curated, but mostly I'm all about the hats, gloves, sweaters, scarves, home and shawls, shawls, shawls. There are some fantastic designs currently on sale and ripe for the picking before the end of the day this coming Friday. Of course, most of my self-published patterns are part of the mix (hey, I'm biased!), but with over 200 pins on the board, my designs represent only about 10% of what I curated. Do please take a look (knit and crochet together) - maybe there will be something you missed the first time around!

My fiber choice for my version of the
Lucie Shawlette. Photo taken with craptastic
cell phone camera.


So, I purchased some shawl patterns late last Friday: four in all, but one for me to make now and one to make as a gift for a family member this holiday season. I'm currently enthralled with Gabriella Henry's Lucie Shawlette. It's a combination of simple garter stitch and a sweet crochet edging on one side. I am not only thoroughly enjoying the squoishy comfort of all that garter stitch, but as a fellow designer and creator of written patterns, I appreciate her unorthodox and artistic approach to pattern presentation. Henry incorporates unique font choices as well as (what I suspect) is her own art in her document layout. It's a real breath of fresh air from all of the cookie-cutter approaches to pattern layout. As someone who also utilizes some unique font choices as well as lots of photos and my own art (although less of the art in my single patterns), it's nice to see someone marching to her own tune. Well done, Gabriella. 

I'm farther along than this photo indicates.
I am loving the subtle color changes and
A friendly reminder that 20 of my designs, bundled here, are 25% off until the end of the day this Friday with the code giftalong2014. Partake of any of my designs on sale as well as those from other designers on my curated board linked above. Give someone hand-made worthy a great gift this holiday season, hopefully made with some yarn produced by an indie dyer or spinner.

Of course, that hand-made worthy person could be your very awesome self. Craft on, people.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Let The Gift-Making Begin!

Happy Friday, my friendly fiberistas. I hope your week was most excellent (and included a Veteran's Day remembrance of some sort on Tuesday). 

I have just completed the marathon Pinterest pinning session for the Great Gift-a-Long, otherwise known around Ravelry as the Indie Design Gift-a-long v. 2014. If you're interested in seeing all of the fantabulously beautificus Pinterest boards, just head on over to Pinterest and plop "2014 Ravelry Gift-A-Long" in a search box to discover 8 of the best darn DIY gift boards this side of a shooting comet. Truly people, there are some amazing designers and designs out there just waiting to be discovered ... including yours truly (full disclosure, of course).

I must really take a moment and provide a shout-out to my friend Andrea, the talented lady behind The Wonder Why Alpaca Farm. I have known her going on three years now, and I've seen her farm (as well as her kids) grow and truly blossom. If you're going to make gifts for those handmade-worthy folks in your life, consider indie dyers and yarn producers, and definitely consider the wonderful alpaca blend that Andrea dyes herself. Take a look at the great skein of teal awesomeness she sent me (unannounced, I might add!) last week:

I choose to have an affiliate-free blog so I can promote those things I truly believe in when I come across them. Showing off Andrea's great yarn (alpaca/merino/bamboo blend) is just a no-brainer for me. I love petting it. I love designing with it. I love making things for other people with it. Heck, I'd eat it for dessert if it was edible (although my cat has some experience with this ... with rather disastrous results). I'm not exactly certain what this skein of awesomeness is destined to become, but I guarantee I'll blog about it.

Now don't forget to head on over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder and give Andrea a little positive feedback, as well as check in on what others are contemplating, fiberistically-speaking. Just a friendly reminder, Small Business Saturday is a mere two weeks away ...

You know this will be me.

Friday, November 7, 2014

All Kinds of Fibery Things This Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

Hello everyone - happy Friday! Can you believe it's only three weeks to Thanksgiving here in the U.S.? And then just a few short weeks until Christmas? Where oh where has the year gone? Where oh where can it be?

I'm going to start with all things holiday, which includes my latest published pattern in - the Dainty Snowflake Garland:

photograph (c) - used with kind permission

All of these different snowflakes are from one master motif! Stopping after various rounds yields amazingly different results. All of them are made with several different Lion Brand Yarns (a primer, if you will), which I blogged about here in July. As you'll see (I hope) from my photo at the right, the garland is studded with silver-lined beads for a little bit of extra sparkly. I used some spray starch + a steam iron on the larger snowflakes for just some slight stiffness, but these snowflakes are meant to be relaxed, no stiff-as-a-board motifs here. I used several different yarn weights, so they will look good made with just about any yarn weight you have lying around the house.

I must also provide a shout-out to for putting together an AMAZING holiday issue. If you are looking for DIY crochet decorating ideas, I would highly suggest you download this issue. Personally, I'm in love with the large stocking on the cover from Mary Beth Temple:

photo (c)
used with kind permission

I might be making it in a different colorway. Stay tuned. 

Speaking of holidays and DIY, has everyone started to think about what gifts you plan to make? I stick by my motto "if I can't make it or bake it, they don't get it." If you knit/crochet/weave/spin or dye gifts for those worthy in your brood, then I sincerely hope you'll check out this year's Indie Designer Gift-A-Long 2014 on Ravelry. We're in the process of getting all the Pinterest boards together with each participating designers' designs, which will be on sale for a week starting 11/13. The Ravelry linky above leads to the gift-a-long group, which will have everyone participating in a grand gift-making mash-up, complete with games and prizes. I am extremely excited to be a participating designer this year (cause, you know, I don't have enough on my plate with Leather, Lace, Grit and Grace coming out at the end of December :) ). I'll be pinning up a storm for the next week, and then will be around the gift-a-long boards to ooh and ahhh at all the great gifts everyone completes. And please, everyone, this is inclusive - Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and anything else I might be missing - it's just one, big holiday gift-fest. So get your DIY on, and I hope to see you there.

A collage of my designs that will be on sale starting next Friday in
my Ravelry shop. I do hope to see some Voie de Vie FOs around the GAL.
Now please head on over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder and see what everyone else is up to (fiber-wise) this week. I hope Andrea is having fun and spinning up a storm.