Wednesday, August 29, 2018

On Databases and Building Community

On August 18th, Ravelry reached the 8,000,000 member milestone. For the eight years I have been blogging, I have been referencing my crafty life on Ravelry. To say it has touched many parts of my creative life would be a vast understatement.

Ravelry started out as, and continues to be at its heart, a big, whomping, database. While it has morphed into a place where many indie designers also sell patterns - that is its side hustle. I thought some historical numbers might be in order, taken from and inspired by the thread that monitored the countdown to the 8 million member mark. I also need to add that the watch commenced in May of this year, and I didn't check it out until July. Some historical Ravelry member numbers:
10,000: Sept 9, 2007
100,000: Mar 21, 2008
500,000: Nov 5, 2009
1 million: Nov 13, 2010
2 million: Feb 29, 2012
3 million: Mar 8, 2013
4 million: Feb 28, 2014
5 million: Feb 1, 2015
6 million: Feb 7, 2016
7 million: Mar 20, 2017
8 million: Aug 18, 2018

I am Raveler #389,797. I joined the database of awesomeness July 11, 2009. At that time, one had to request to be a member and then wait until a confirmation email was sent. As I recall, it took perhaps a day or so for it to come. I was not bothered by the wait, although I had no idea the degree to which my life would change with that simple confirmation. 

While writers have tried to understand and comment on the phenomenon that is Ravelry, the database gathers members together through, arguably, its most vital function - a keeper of member projects. As of this morning, Ravelry members have created 18,431,442 project pages. Yes, you read that correctly - over 18 million projects! That's a whole lotta yarn, folks. The database this morning also told me that 14,171,198 projects were actually completed, 2,087,967 projects were in progress, 421,668 projects were ripped apart (or more affectionally known as "frogged" in the yarny community), and a final 389,259 projects were officially in hibernation (a designation for projects that one just does not want to face, for a whole host of reasons). 

All Ravelers use the database differently. This is the beauty of Ravelry and its community - one can partake as much or as little as one wishes. I record (most) of my projects; I can get inconsistent about creating pages for design samples and, quite frankly, that's something I want to change so that I can more accurately record what I've made. Since I am also a designer, I create design pages for many of my designs (although designs published by third party publishers fall within that entity's purview to create). Design database pages, however, contain different information than project pages, and thus my willingness to get it together and add appropriate project pages. Project pages can be a wealth of information if the member kept (and is willing to share with the community) notes on project creation and completion. In fact, Ravelers can leave a mark indicating whether a project's notes were helpful. It is that type of feature that makes community-building so relevant and easy on Ravelry.

Those almost 500,000 frogged projects I noted above can also be a great resource for some Ravelers; however others (myself included), do not necessarily want to keep a record of things we've unraveled and/or otherwise taken apart, so of course there are a certain amount of deleted projects that after the initial page set-up, never get recorded in any category. 

My project page for The Festival
Shawl has been viewed almost
5,000 times and has helped at
least 20 Ravelry members.
Then there are times when designs leave and/or otherwise are retired from the database. One in particular, I learned this week, affects my own personal design history: the designer of the Festival Shawl, one of the first designs I worked on and the project page from which the design's sample originates, retired it, along with the rest of her designs, from Ravelry. This design, the pattern for which was a free download, was a crochet shawl favorite: 602 projects and found in an additional 1,849 queues. The only reason why I discovered the pattern had been retired was from a fellow Raveler who, through private message, wanted to know how to actually download it (which will no longer happen on Ravelry). I respect the designer's decision, but did try to keep the pattern alive by offering to host it on my design page (with design credit given to her, of course), but to no avail. While the designer was a little crabby with me, I do understand how difficult pattern support can be. I know you will be shocked: some people can be rather demanding. Given the extreme popularity of the design, I expect the designer received her fair share of unreasonable requests and comments. I am so sad to see it no longer available, and for anyone who downloaded it prior to its retirement from the database, I would urge you to make it in honor of the designer who worked so continuously to ensure its success. 

Nevertheless, even in design retirement from the database, Ravelry continues to build community. It doesn't get much better than that.

Well, perhaps at 10,000,000 members it may get better. I hope I am around to find out. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A New Article

I am so thrilled to finally be able to announce another of the projects I worked on earlier this year - my article on Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli for the latest edition of Knitting Traditions Magazine (the link will take you to the Interweave order page for both the digital and print editions).

This piece, while spanning most of their careers, focuses mainly on their early, formative years. It is a fascinating study - these two were far more alike than, I expect, each was ever willing to admit. Chanel always sniffed at hearing Schiaparelli's name (pronounced Skaparelli with a k sound) because, in my estimation based on comments attributed to Chanel, she thought Elsa an inferior seamstress/dressmaker. Of course, Chanel's sewing skills were incomparable, given where and how she received her own training, so Coco could indeed have accurately assessed Schiaparelli's technical skills. 

However, what Chanel never really gave Schiap (a shortened version that was always used) credit for was her incredible artistic talent. Both women had a radically different view of fashion during their time - diametrically opposed to each other as well as to the styles of the day. This article delves into the genesis of exactly where and how the seeds of each of their respective styles were planted. 

You will need to pick up a copy of the magazine in order to read my take on these two prodigious fashion talents. You will, additionally, be rewarded with other great articles as well as some seriously gorgeous designs. Knitting Traditions is always a feast for the eyes as well as the creative soul, so I would urge you to check out this year's edition. (And, for the record, I have an article in last year's edition as well on the first female to receive a pilot's license, so if you're into reading about kick-ass women ... )

Monday, August 13, 2018

Maker Tutorial: Tunisian Crochet Ribbing as Accent

As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I am a big lover of tunisian crochet (and you can read several of my former blog posts on the subject right here)

In this maker tutorial (a form of which was published a few years ago in a crochet e-zine), I’d like to introduce a different approach to utilizing tunisian crochet: using it in just a portion of a crochet design. There are times when I see how tunisian crochet can be beautifully incorporated into a design, namely as an edging treatment. It’s a great way for those crafters who may be new to the technique to gain some valuable skills practice while at the same time working up an attractive project.

I particularly like tunisian crochet as an alternative crochet ribbing technique. Tunisian crochet knit and purl stitches behave differently than either their knit ribbing or other crochet ribbing counterparts (the latter two approaches provide stretch; the former does not), but the look of ribbing created with these stitches mimics knit ribbing (at least on the right side of the fabric). Tunisian knit and purl stitches provide a wonderful counterpoint to crochet lace created with a traditional crochet hook. My Seasonal Mist Poncho design highlights that contrast beautifully, and I’m going to use the poncho’s design as my backdrop to demonstrate how to work tunisian crochet knit and purl stitches as an edging to lace that’s already been completed with a traditional crochet hook.
Copied and printed directly from the
design's pattern, symbols created and
copyright owned by yours truly.

Initially, for those who like to use charts, to the right you will find the individual tunisian crochet edging stitches’ symbols. You will notice each stitch is comprised of two symbols, the top symbol which is common to all three. This is because tunisian crochet rows consist of a forward and backward “pass” on the same side of the fabric. The bottom symbol represents the forward pass; the top symbol represents the backward pass.

Now let’s see how this looks when creating the poncho’s  bottom edging.   

1.       The initial bottom edging rows, using a traditional crochet hook, have been completed and the project is on the rs with the tunisian crochet hook in the first loop (which acts as the first stitch).

      2.     Begin working the forward pass of the first row (here in a different color for viewing ease) which in tunisian crochet is usually all tunisian simple stitch. Note all the stitches remain on the hook.

     3.       The completed forward pass of the first row.

4.    Complete the backward pass of the first row, which is simply yarn over the hook, through the first lp on the hook, and then *yarn over the hook and through the next two loops on the hook, repeting from * across the remainder of the row. The photo at right shows the completed backward pass of the first row, and I have picked up the lighter colorway for the second row's forward pass so you can better see what the stitches will look like. For the tunisian purl stitch, pull the working yarn to the front of the work and to the right of the stitch to be worked, then place the hook from right to left in the next front vertical bar.

       5.      Yarn over the hook, and pull through the first loop on the hook.


      6.       Here is the first completed purl stitch. Note that the yarn is again in the front of the work, to the right of the next purl stitch to be worked.

      7.       The first two purl stitches are completed, and the first knit stitch is about to be worked. Note that the working yarn is now in the back of the work, and the hook has been inserted from front to back between the vertical bars.


                 8.       Here is the first completed knit stitch.

      9.  The forward pass of the first row of tunisian crochet knit 2, purl 2. Even at this early stage, you can see the pattern forming, with the purl stitches’ yarn in front visibly displayed by the lighter colored yarn.

     10.  The requisite number of tunisian crochet rows 
     have been completed, and now it is time to bind off. 
     Again, I am using a contrasting color 
     yarn for viewing ease.

      11.   Work each stitch keeping in the purl 2, knit 2 pattern, but instead of pulling through only one loop on the hook, pull through both loops on the hook during the bind off row, so that there is always only one loop on the hook. Here, I am about to bind off the first purl stitch in the row.

12.   Approximately two-thirds of the bind-off row is 
completed here; note that there is only one loop on 
the hook.

13.   Here is the completed tunisian crochet edging. You can see the lovely rib pattern on the right side of the fabric.


       14.   And, finally, here is what it looks like on the edging of the sample poncho. The right side of the fabric is at the left, and the back of the fabric is shown folded over. And if you are rather observant, you will note that I photographed the poncho on my model with the wrong side of the fabric showing. It's actually a fun twist; while I personally really love the ribbing on the right side, there's nothing stopping makers from wearing this any which way they choose!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Coastal Crochet - Book Review

The cover of Coastal Crochet. All book photos by Anne Podlesak, used
with kind permission of the author.
Coastal Crochet
Author: Karen Whooley
Various Formats; 95 pages; 8.5 x 11
Publisher: Occhi Blu Press (2018)
ISBN: 978-0-9723232-4-6
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9723232-6-0
Language: English

I attended (for a single day) the recently held Chainlink Conference, the annual crochet event organized by the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA). This was my first attendance at this particular event (I have, in the past, attended a few Vogue Knitting events as well as the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival - photos from both which you can view here on the blog). 

It was a whirlwind afternoon, with a lot of meeting. During my walk through the marketplace (which was almost at the end of the day), I managed to say hello to Karen Whooley. Local to the Puget Sound just like myself and a self-publisher (also just like myself), I was quite open in my willingness to review her latest, sophomore self-published effort Coastal Crochet.

As an author who has worked on each and every aspect of a self-published book, I know exactly how much effort publishing one's own title entails. While Whooley managed to assemble a well-seasoned team to help her, ultimately things always rest with the author in this type of publishing, so my hat is off to Karen for a strong second effort.

This is a clean, straight forward assembly of 12 (mostly) summer designs utilizing all of the colors found at the shore. I love her choice for the cover (the design is Storm; that stitch pattern is fantastic, and I think its provenance can be traced to Robyn Chachula's Crochet Stitches). I have included photos here of my favorite designs from the collection. 

Deep Blue Sea
Deep Blue Sea is not only a unique shape - trapezoid from a beginning half-circle - but is an excellent pairing of stitch and yarn. The same thing holds for Shoreline - I love the colorway used to highlight stones along the shore, and graphic black and grays are always a winner with me. Coastline is a cross between a poncho and a pullover - it is a fresh garment shape and in the soft beige/gray green of the Anzula Fiber yarn used, this design is very striking.

Two other garments and six additional accessories round out this collection that Whooley places within her love for the western coastline of the United States. She also spends a fair amount of her introduction going over her favorite seaside places along said coast. Because I also know the lay of the land here in the west, I was a little surprised when I kept flipping pages and noticed that all of the designs were photographed in front of a fresh water lake. Karen acknowledges this at the end of the book, and I expect there is a fun (or at least memorable) story involved in the reason for this. That is, sometimes, the way self-publishing goes.

Whooley includes charts and schematics in her written instructions for each design, so crafters can choose the method that best works with their making style. I personally would rate all of these designs suitable for intermediate crocheters; Karen describes these designs as being suitable for anyone "who is comfortable with the basic crochet stitches." Several of these designs do incorporate shaping (and some of it unique), so if someone has yet to make a garment, a few could fit the bill in this collection (especially Coastline and Mist, which are very forgiving). While the cover tank isn't too difficult in terms of shaping, its stitch pattern rests on post stitches which can be a challenge for someone comfortable only with basic crochet stitches. I think sometimes designers (and I have, in the past, been guilty of this) give makers all kinds of technique and stitch credit when, in fact, that credit might be just a tad aspirational. A maker's desire can, however, overcome a lack of experience with a stitch or technique.

In the end, this is a well-rounded collection with something for most crocheters. If you are looking for some pretty designs to span the end of summer into early fall, I can surely recommend the designs in Coastal Crochet. They should keep a hooker happily making through well past the end of summer.