Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Still Feeling the Cowl Love

(c) Annie's
I wrote in my Ravelry group a while back that I was feeling the cowl love. I have designed quite a few cowls in the past year, and I've got another one to share with you: the Gradient Flower Cowl.

As I blogged back in March when I photographed the yarn used in this project (Lion Brand Amazing - one of my favorites), I thoroughly enjoyed making this sample. In fact, I pretty much couldn't put it down. Even weaving in the ends wasn't a chore. There is something about watching color in a project come to life that is completely engrossing to me. I simply cannot get enough of it. Since I used three different Amazing colorways to achieve this gradient (lightest and brightest colors at the face and neck to darker colors around the shoulders) it once again felt like painting with yarn, which is always a thrill for the painter in me.

There is one big first with this project - it actually made the cover of the special Annie's publication it's in: From Scraps to Sensational. Here's a smaller photo of the cover - check out the left hand top corner:

(c) Annie's

This is the first cover of a publication that's not published by yours truly on which one of my designs appears. A little chuffed am I. 

I've linked to this special Annie's publication above. It's currently on sale for instant download directly from Annie's, and it will hit newsstands mid-August. 

This has completely made my day!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fibers Currently On the Hooks/Needles

Just thought I'd let everyone see some of the fiber I'm currently working with. I'm loving this oh-so-fall palette as well:

Clockwise from top center: (1) peeking out from behind, Neighborhood Fiber Co. Chromium in the Remington colorway; (2) (partially hidden) LB Collection Angora Merino in the parchment colorway; (3) Lion Brand Lion's Pride Woolspun in the rust, mahogany and coffee colorways; (4) LB Collection Natural Wool in the natural colorway;  (5) Frabjous Fiber's Peace Silk in the natural colorway; (6) a wound skein of handspun (by Kathryn) from Bandit, one of the Huacaya alpacas at; and (7) Neighborhood Fiber Co's Rustic Fingering in the Roland Park colorway.

Things are percolating here at chez Voie de Vie (and not all of it's coffee).

Monday, July 20, 2015

Online Ads and the (Summer) Season of our Discontent

Hello everyone. I have a few things I'd like to say about online advertising and business models. This has been building within me for some time, and has some connection with the release of  A La Maison No. 1 - feel free to go here to view the look book.

Before I begin, full disclosure: I spent over six years in advertising (Madison Avenue, CA, back to Madison Avenue, Connecticut). I have worked pretty much all sides of the TV ad game, back before there was an Internet. While the technicalities certainly have morphed, the basic game remains the same: either the consumer pays for ads at checkout (the current "free" model of running ads), or content publishers expect consumers to pay them directly in one form or another for providing an ad-free environment. 

A little while back, I had a brief Twitter exchange with Abby Glassenberg of the popular site While She Naps. Both Abby and I run ad-free and affiliate-free blogs, and I basically agree with Abby and her approach to business. However, she took a third blogger to task, and here's our exchange: 

  1. This feels like a weak argument to me - "But It's Free? How Copying Free Patterns Hurts the Designer (and You)"
  2. The designer's response. Basically the argument is that you're messing up her stats.

The third party's basic argument: please don't copy my (or anyone's) free patterns because when you do that you're stealing my content, and my content is the bread and butter that drives traffic to my site, and since I make money from my site's traffic (via advertising in various forms), you're basically robbing me of a source of livelihood. While Abby focused on the stats portion of this blogger's argument, I was far more vexed with the free pattern. In this age of the rise of intellectual property importance (folks, it's all about intellectual property in a non-agrarian economic model), giving away designs and patterns for free can be one way to go - if you accept ads. If one doesn't (like, for instance, moi), then free patterns undercut the value of my intellectual property, i.e., the strength of the designs

Please don't misunderstand my position: I have no issue with whether or not someone wishes to host ads or affiliate links on their site. It's one valid way to go (pretty much Madison Avenue 101). However, for me, I am more in the vein of the public television model: pay for the content (or in my instance, designs) directly to me cutting out the middleman, for a price that I have the ability to set; I even have a tiered pricing system (buying a pattern individually as opposed to the entire e-book).

I am particularly concerned that many crochet designers (but certainly not all) give away their designs for free, and even go so far as to advocate to "keep patterns free." While certainly there are some fine designs that are being given away, the overall effect is to somehow diminish crochet, make it less (why pay for it - let's all just make it free). Some of you may have noticed, but most knitwear designers are asking money for their patterns and getting it, with pretty much no resistance, yet crochet patterns are given away like so much design candy, either by some yarn companies or designers who rely on other (and more shaky) forms of revenue. I point to the fact that Vogue Knitting cut their special yearly crochet edition this year (the first time in three years) because of declines in - you guessed it - ad revenue.

I cannot, cannot, cannot stress enough: if you like a design, just pay for the pattern! Please don't force a designer (or publisher) to resort to revenue streams that are on the decline (and yes advertising in many forums is going the way of the dodo). 

George Bailey and I thank you.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Interior Design Fun in the Summertime

A former student once remarked during a class discussion that we were in the midst of an interior design revolution. This was sometime in 2008, and I wholeheartedly agreed with her.

Well, seven years later, the revolution shows no signs of stopping. Humans continue to define, redefine and refine their living spaces. One of the revolutionary fronts has to be DIY and knit and crochet. Even though decoration for the home has always been one of crochet’s hallmarks, there is an absolute redefinition of its aesthetic. While many have reclaimed the granny square blanket, the crochet interior design fabrics currently being created are full of cutting edge texture, design, and color. From motif work with an ability to mindfully stash-bust to texture rich pillow covers to decorative lace, crochet for the home has come of age. As Marcy Smith, Interweave Crochet’s editor, remarked in her introduction to its first-ever home collection published at the beginning of the year, not only does crochet everywhere in her living space define it as “home,” her teenage son’s friends thought it was cool. Thanks, Marcy, for sharing that nugget – it indeed was a crochet “win.”

I was fortunate enough to have many home fashion designs published in 2014 by third party publishers (including a rug design in the aforementioned Interweave Crochet special home edition). Now that many of those designs’ rights are once again mine, I’ve used them as the basis for my very first home-centered collection. A few pieces I’ve republished in their originally published form, but most have been reworked with slight tweaks in different fibers and colors, and I’ve added two brand new designs that have been percolating in the background for many months.

I hope you enjoy the look book for A La Maison No. 1. I thoroughly enjoyed photographing and putting it together. All of the design patterns can be purchased from my Ravelry Design store either individually or as a complete collection.

I once wrote in an Instagram line that home was where the cat and the hand-made blanket were located. As I think you’ll see from this collection, no truer words were written.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Kicking Off July

Hello everyone - welcome to the hazy, lazy days of summer. It's been super warm around here, and there's pretty much no end in sight.

photo credit:
To distract from the heat of the moment, I am pleased to show you my two latest designs published in the August edition of I seem to be in cardigan overdrive these days: check out the Cozy Chic Cardi. Worked up in Drops Baby Alpaca Silk, this is a light, airy cardigan that's also a breeze to work up. The sleeves have cuff interest courtesy of some boho shaping (if the model's arm was straight, the sleeve would rest past the wrist). The overall look is relaxed and casual, and since it's lightweight, makes a great travel piece.

Please excuse the sun in the photo,
but you can see how the
cuff dips along the outer edge.
Additionally, I've written a quick article on how to work with multiple colors in tunisian crochet, and designed a cowl to show off the technique. The Mixed Bag Cowl is a great project not only because you'll get to play with color, but also because it does double duty as an excellent stash-busting project. While I used three different fingering weight yarns for the main body of the cowl, the edging is worked up in Berroco Mixer, which is dk weight. There's also a thick and thin quality to it that I found added a ton of interest to the cowl's edges.

This is a good shot of the thick and thin
quality of the edging done in Berroco Mixer.
This is a great project to play around with color and texture and create something unique with one of my all-time favorite techniques - working with multiple colors in tunisian crochet.

I do want to take a minute to also urge you to check out this edition of It is really chock-full of great crochet projects (my designs notwithstanding), including this lace topper that, if you like crochet lace as much as I do, you might want to make ... like ... pronto.

It's Indepedence Day weekend here in the U.S., and Canada just celebrated Canada Day. I wish everyone all kinds of freedom - however you define it.

Oh, and let's hope everyone stays cool and enjoys some rockin' food.