Monday, December 28, 2015

Fait à la Main: Day 3

Hi Ho crafty crochet lovers - here we are at day three of the design introductions from my latest collection.

Today it is all warm color: I present the Caramel & Chocolate Cowl. I must admit, this cowl's colors really remind me of dark chocolate and caramel ice cream topping, and thus the cowl's name. Don't be surprised that it's also super warm, thanks to the bulky weight Lion Brand Lion's Pride Woolspun I used to work it up. It's very soft, surprisingly springy, and will definitely keep you cozy, worn either doubled around the neck or down with a shawl pin. 

The shawl pin I used here was actually a surprise gift I received from a designer in New Zealand. It was such a thoughtful gift, and little did she know when she sent it that it was the perfect color for this collection, which was well into production once I received it. I am so thrilled to be able to show it off, so thanks so much Gabriella!

We shot this the day after Thanksgiving (believe it or not!), and the sun was just doing wonderful things to the trees and leaf colors - it was almost like I perfectly planned it. Thanks so much, Mother Nature - and thanks also to my very photogenic model, who had a good time with this piece. 

This piece is available to view and purchase in my Ravelry design store, either individually now or as part of the entire collection a little later this week once all of the pieces have been introduced. If you haven't yet seen it, you can check out the collection's look book, which previews all of the designs.

I'll see everyone tomorrow!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fait à la Main: Day 2

Hello - I hope everyone is recovering nicely from giftmas; here at chez Voie de Vie it's day two of design introductions from my latest collection.

As you can see, it's all about the jewelry today - specifically, the Brabant Cuff. Named for both the historical lace technique (related to Bruges lace) as well as the Belgian Duchess (who is currently 14 years old and the next successor to the Belgian throne), this is worked in the awesome NFC Chromium. The slightly rustic quality of the silk and stainless steel makes for textural interest as well as a surprisingly strong jewelry piece. Silver-lined seed beads and a sterling silver tube clasp complete this oh-so-quick piece.

Kudos to the husband and wife who modeled the cuff. I actually tried to get a wide shot of both of them, but I couldn't get a smile from hubby - nerves I expect. 

If you haven't yet seen it, you can click on the collection's look book below to see all of the designs that are ending my 2015. And of course, you can tune in tomorrow for the next design introduction.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

And Now On Boxing Day ...

... it's time to unwrap the new Voie de Vie collection! This project is one of the things I've been juggling over the last few months, and I must say I'm rather thrilled with it. Here's the new look book:

As with all of my previous collections, I'll be introducing each of the new designs each day between now and the end of the year, as well as upload each to the Ravelry database and my Ravelry store. You'll be able to purchase each design separately or as an entire collection in an e-book.

I am so thrilled to introduce everyone to the lead-off design in the book - the Hardware Cowl. This is a satisfyingly quick project to whip up, thanks to the super bulky Lion Brand Natural Wool and a mondo sized crochet hook. The swivel clasps and d-rings that create the loose pleats were a notions aisle inspiration. I love how this cowl captures the best of vintage with an updated, 21st century look and feel.

You'll find this in the Ravelry database shortly. 

Come back tomorrow for the second introduction. Woot!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Rain Forest Inspired

It's another quick Wardrobe Wednesday post this week. 

It's also no secret I love green and blue, and this week I've found a great way to incorporate my Olympic National Forest-inspired Gradient Flower Cowl into an easy outfit. I've paired it with a simple navy tee and a green suede skirt (just like the burgundy one I used in this outfit back in October). Oddly enough, the colors in the cowl really pop on this navy background. I actually had tried it with a much lighter top, and it just didn't look as natural. Paired with a well-loved pair of heels, and this outfit is ready for prime time. 

I love how the blue tee highlights
 the blue in the buttons.
Alright, now back to our regularly scheduled gift making - I'm almost done gift #2. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Go for the Light and Joy

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the December holiday season isn’t the best time of year. There is, for many, always so much emotional baggage and history to carry and remember. I’ve come to the decision that this is the year I’m permanently lightening my load. I can search out the wonder, joy and light of this season, and that’s exactly what I’m doing this year, in one of the easiest-to-me ways I know – through decorating my personal space.

My very first holiday
stocking. This is the closest I'll
get to making an actual sock.
In the middle of several other projects I’m juggling, I have made my first ever holiday stocking to hang on my very own self-fashioned mantle (hey, a book case is a great stand-in). This stocking is not my design, but one from Mary Beth Temple published in, and featured on the cover of, last December’s I instantly loved its bigger dimensions and use of motifs and differing yarn weights. I am a big proponent of mixing traditional with non-traditional holiday colors so I’m kind of liking the blue, since it coordinates well with my space’s color scheme.  

I’ve also included my own Sparkly Snowflake Garland to my mantle-scape, and I just love how this turned out. My space, for the first time in I can’t remember how long, feels truly festive to me. This brings me joy.

Additionally, I’ve worked up a deconstructed holiday tree (read: branches with ornaments because a live tree is no good with George Bailey on the scene) that manages to capture the light and beauty of the season. I could look at those snowflakes all day. They bring me so much peace, not to mention a smile. It is difficult to accurately convey how content I feel this holiday season, despite being busy with several ongoing projects. I haven’t felt like this in a long time at this time of year.

I consider my load successfully lightened.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Hard Work Behind Five Good Design Days A Year

For the third in my series of designer interviews for the 2015 Indie Gift-a-Long, I looked to my curated design ideas Pinterest board, and this choice became rather clear. Jenise Hope (nee Reid) designs things I (and a lot of other people, it seems) want to make. Personally, I have been in love, love, love with her Persian Dreams Blanket forever. For anyone thinking about designing or those newbie designers, I would urge you to read and really internalize this interview - Jenise gives it to you straight, no chaser! I am beyond thrilled to present:

The January Pullover designed by Jenise Hope

The Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire with Knitwear Designer Jenise Hope

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

Through my teen years (starting at 14!), I worked at my Dads accounting practice during tax season.  I was the receptionist, organizing and keeping everyone’s papers running through the system, and did bits of bookkeeping or the odd (easy) tax return on the side.  It was a small office and so I really got to see all the parts of what goes behind the scenes in a small business.  After I graduated, I began to study (sewing) pattern drafting and did custom work sewing.  I was honestly very devoted to sewing.  In the midst of that, I picked up knitting needles for what may as well have been the first time, and learned to knit.  It took a year or so, but soon I preferred knitting to sewing (even though, to this day, I still sew a good portion of my personal wardrobe).  It was a natural move to “write” my own knitting patterns. (For me, a knitting pattern only for myself is a page of paper with a stream of numbers and minimal explanation of what they actually mean, not a real pattern that someone else would be able to follow.) Once I was happy with what I was turning out, it was also very natural, not easy, but it just happened almost on its own, to write a handful of knitting patterns just for fun and put them up for sale.  Since I had experience working with exacting sewing patterns and all that, the technical and business side of knit design was relatively easy.  A lot of designers start into designing knit patterns while they work in a completely different day job and try to make it all fit.  My life more or less flowed smoothly to it, and starting at my age, before I was married or had a “real” job, I had the huge advantage of being able to jump into giving it a full time try.

2.    When was the moment you knew you wanted to become a knitwear designer?

When I was young, a lot of the parts of knitwear design were things I thought would be fun one day - photography, design, modeling – and I have always had a huge amount of patience doing fussy jobs.  My Mom has in her photo albums these pictures of my third birthday and this story about how I wanted to decorate my own cake that year.  She iced it and gave me a plate of candies to stick on top.  I only vaguely remember it myself, but apparently I didn't even ask to eat a single candy till the end and very carefully placed them on the cake.  From the photos, I can see that I made it symmetrical; it was a butterfly shape and the right and left wings match.  Truth be told, the only part I really remember is digging through the plate of candies and finding matching ones to place on each wing (I think I ate all the leftover single candies at the end).  I'm not sure why.  I am around a lot of little kids (my 12 nieces and nephews) and while it seemed normal to me before, thinking about all the 3 year olds I know, I can't imagine any of them doing that.  No wonder my Mom thought it so noteworthy that she bothered to write the story out, I seem to have an inborn sense of order. 

I don't think I ever specifically wanted to be a knitwear designer, it was more one day I realized I already was one and I loved it.  I don't mean I realized this the first times I made sweaters for myself – it finally occurred to me that this was what I was somewhere around my first 1,000 or 2,000 pattern sales.

Jenise Hope's X&O Cardigan
3.    Please describe your personal design philosophy?

For garments, I try to work out the simplest way to make a good fit.  This usually involves complex increase/decrease rates to make curves, and they are a pain to calculate and write, but I think the end result is worth the time.  It is such a relief when I finish writing a pattern and I can relax and just knit from the directions.  I like to design the kinds of garments I like to wear, generally in finer yarns (with the odd exception for really cold days), lots of stockinette, carefully fit, no/minimal seams, and precise finishing.  They probably wouldn't be my favorite to make, but I enjoy a challenge and I have learned to love mindless stockinette, grafting, and sewing.

For “fancy” stuff (like colorwork blankets or accessories with more decoration), I try to come up with a key element, and then enhance and elaborate on that theme through details everywhere else.  The hard part is predicting if something will enhance the central theme, or distract from it before completing the item, and don't look to my work for great examples of how this should play out.  I am still very much learning! The most beautiful things I have admired and analyzed all share this quality. There is much detail and texture, and yet what you see is one to three primary elements that are built up out of this mass of little unnoticed details.  If I am honest, part of the reason I like skinnier yarns is to give me more “resolution” for more detail.

4.    What is your greatest design memory?

Probably a year from when I started writing those very first patterns, standing in the kitchen with my Mom and one of my sisters.  Casually checking if I had any sales, as I did most days, there was this flood of sales of one of my few published patterns, I think around 60 that day.  If you recall from before, I wasn't thinking of myself as a designer, I did it just for fun not expecting any sales at all.  I was dumbfounded and hardly believed it, but I showed them and my mom was all excited and I realized I had actually made a pattern that other people liked and wanted.  It took a while to sink in!  The success of that particular pattern was the push I needed to decide that I would give this pattern-writing thing a serious try and see what happened.  Apart from that incident, I would never have believed it would be possible to do it for a living.  I was the only one shocked.  I had a year or two of coming to my friends or family in absolute awe and surprise when any pattern was doing unusually well, and them saying back to me things along the line of “well, I would be surprised if my pattern was doing well, but of course you can do it.  I'm not surprised at all.”

The amazingly wonderful Persian Dreams Blanket.
5.    If you could have dinner with any three designers, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?

Since it wasn't specified, I am going to “cheat” and say Madame Vionnet (there is so much technical genius in the structure of her bias cut dresses), Paul Poiret (because I just love his harem pants and hobble dresses; turbans less so...), and any of the ladies who designed Bohus Stickning sweaters.  They all worked in ready to wear rather than patterns, but I take more inspiration from ready to wear than other knitting patterns/designers.

6.    Picker or thrower?

Is “Scrambler” an acceptable term to use?  Having taught myself to knit, sticking my fingers where ever made it easiest to get yarn through yarn and on the sticks, I don't follow either method!  I am working on learning to pick – I challenged myself to give it a try earlier this year to speed up my stockinette, so I sometimes pick in a long stream of stockinette.  Otherwise, fingers are everywhere.

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

It is a colorwork sweater, in laceweight cashmere that I have to purchase in white and dye myself to get the exact shades I need.  I am picky about colors and struggle to find the ones I want. Alternately, I might be similarly satisfied with a rectangular lace stole in cobweb weight merino.  Hard to decide!

8.    What trait do you most admire in designers?

Fortitude.  If you are going to make it, you need to be willing to do the most mundane and picky jobs (like checking over your numbers again), you need to learn a variety of new skills, and you need to keep slogging at it for at least a year or two before you can expect any substantial reward for all the effort and cash you put into it.  The fun stuff of designing is something like 5 days a year, and all the rest of the days are hard work doing confusingly complex or painfully dull tasks.  Satisfying when done, but not necessarily the things you wake up wanting to do.

9.    What trait do you most detest in designers?

Impatience and carelessness.  Either will prevent you from moving on anywhere.  You need to take the time to learn to do it all well, and you won't be rewarded till you do.  Be that side things (which you could hire someone to do for you if you have the cash) like photography and writing descriptions, or the actual design itself (figuring out what yarn is going to say what your design is saying, working out proportions and balance to get the effect you want, and picking stitch patterns and how to use them)

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

For adult stuff, Jenny F If only I had the time to knit it, I would love a shawl like Breezy Skies. For baby/kid stuff, Jenny WiebeThose are the cutest kid cardis ever!

And no, I didn't plan to choose two Jennys, they are just the two whose patterns I would knit if I had time.  Right now I don't even have time to knit all my own patterns, which is very sad; besides, I do get a lot of patterns designed and published, even if my knitting is mostly just swatching. :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Study in Neutrals

Hello, everyone – I thought a quick installment of Wardrobe Wednesday was in order.

This fairly easy-to-put-together outfit stars my Frosted Espresso Cardigan, a tan cami underneath, paired with a mushroom-colored suede skirt and some black suede booties. I must tell you I’ve already worn this ensemble and received some nice compliments. The cardi is so incredibly warm it’s actually more like an overcoat. I am amazed at the warmth of mohair + sock yarn! I made the sleeves rather long, and if I put my thumb in a lacy space a few inches from the end the sleeves almost act like fingerless mitts, which is great in colder outdoor weather. Inside, I just turn them up.

I must admit, I really love this outfit.

My Frosted Espresso Cardigan.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What Do Five Kids, a Working Farm, and Yarn Equal?

It's December 5th, folks. Just twenty days to Giftmas, even less to the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere. We're now into the gray, rainy dog days of winter here in the Pacific Northwest, so for my next designer interview, I went to the southern hemisphere - New Zealand, to be specific. This designer/indie dyer is still relatively new to the design world, and she is feeling the way most new-ish designers feel: like, am I really a designer? Can I actually do this? Of course, Holly has a farm and a menagerie of little children to make the brew oh-so-much-more interesting! So, grab a quick cup of your favorite beverage, and get to know Holly Stevens of Hollyberry Designs/Yarns, with the next installment of:

The Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire
with Designer and Indie Dyer Holly Stevens

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you started to design knitwear and dye yarn?
Before I started to dye and design I was still super busy being a mother to my 5 little people. We also have a farming business so I do the admin, calf rearing and often help with milking. It’s generally chaos in my house but I don’t think I would have it any other way. I have a bachelor of education in primary teaching and hope to one day get back into it but that won’t be until all of my wee birdies have left the stay at home nest and are at school themselves.

The adorable Chloe Slouch from Holly Stevens
  1. When was the moment you knew you wanted to become a designer?
To be completely honest I never thought I would. I remember not long after I had had my youngest, Grace, I mentioned to a friend who was great at improvising knitted fruit that I just didn’t think I could do it and following patterns instead of writing them was more me. After the years of baby brain started to clear I bought a lovely knitting magazine that included a pull out section about designing your own hat – it kind of spiraled out of control from there! I did get a bit of an “I told you that you could do it” message from my friend a while back!

  1. Please describe your personal knit design and dye philosophy?
I very much design and dye things that I love. I have a set of colourways that I did based on Game of thrones (which I love) - it was very popular and from then on I decided that I would dye based on my preferences - that way I would form my own style that was unique to me. I tend to lean towards darker and muted colourways but sometimes I pop out of my little box and do some brights. I went through a fluro range just recently and that was quite fun! As far as knits go having so many models at home to use makes it easy to check as I go that things are functional and the fit is correct. I design a lot on necessity based on what I or my kids need at the time.

An example of Hollyberry Yarns' gradient dying
  1. What is your greatest design memory?
It probably goes back to when I first started and I was doing my first garments, Toby and Gracie-pie, I did all the numbers first on my trusty excel sheet working out stitch counts and gauge and then started knitting. It felt like such an achievement and almost a light bulb moment to have all the numbers and maths translate into actual knitting that worked and fitted!

  1. If you could have dinner with any three designers, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?
Wow - that is a tricky question! I would love to meet up and pick the brains of Justyna Lorkowska and Georgie Hallam about kids knits. Oh, and definitely Andi Satterlund as I love all things vintage inspired and would love to chat to her about adult garments as one day I would love to try my hand at that - but I just don't feel confident enough quite yet!

  1. Thrower or picker?
A thrower most of the time, but I pick and throw if I am doing colourwork.

  1. It’s your last object to design (or dye). What is it, and what fiber/color do you use?
Oh definitely merino cashmere, it's my absolute favourite. I would love to wear it every day of the week (sometimes I do!) and it would HAVE to be red, a deep dark red, if it wasn’t I would not be very true to myself!

The Bobby Hoodie designed by Holly Stevens

  1. What trait do you most admire in designers?
The ability to be able to write the most complex and innovative design characteristics, some things that people come up with are truly amazing!

  1. What trait do you most detest in designers?
See answer 8! I am actually rather jealous of some of the things that people can design, I don’t feel like I'm quite there yet a lot of the time, but that comes with practice for me – a lot of people are amazing naturally. I have to try extremely hard to be above average haha!

  1. You are recommending a design gift in response to a friend’s inquiry. Other than your own designs (which are quite beautiful!), what would you recommend?
For an adult garment I would fully recommend Chuck by Andi Satterlund, I just made myself one and its such a quick knit and so versatile over skirts and dresses, I love it! I plan to make many for myself in lots of different colours.