Saturday, December 7, 2019

Some Thoughts on Light and Generosity

If you look at many past Decembers' respective posts here on the blog, you'll see a fairly consistent theme: light and gifts (and giving in general). Since this is the time of year for both of those themes, this is not so surprising.

It is also no secret that I have been intricately involved in the Indie Designer Gift-a-long for the last six years - the first and last year as just a participating designer (this year as well), and the middle years as both a participating designer and a group moderator, which does take up quite a bit of time (and to put it in some perspective for you: this year there are over 13,860 members in Ravelry's Indie Designer Gift-a-long group who have, collectively since November 26th at 8:00 pm EST when the GAL began, finished 490 projects - or on average since the end of the day yesterday, approximately 44 gifts per day. I know I personally have 3 ongoing projects in the GAL, two of which are gifts for others with deadlines, so the gift-making onslaught will only intensify over the next few weeks). To say this has become a DIY phenomenon is putting it mildly.

There are a few reasons why it has consistently grown over the last seven years - the general spirit of giving among makers, the ability of makers to interact freely with designers (many of whom also now, as a new tradition, make some number of their own gifts during the Gift-a-long and allow themselves this time to make other designers' designs, which is a real treat), and the ability of indie designers to come together one time during the year and support each other in a spirit of good will and professional camaraderie. In fact, in the words of the GAL's main administrator from just this year,

 " ... I want to reiterate that the spirit of the GAL is about promoting your fellow participating designers and not your own work."

So, given all that, imagine my surprise when I suggested, in a separate Ravelry forum, that for future years our annual pattern sale be extended just one day to incorporate Giving Tuesday, and was promptly bullied by a fellow designer for the suggestion. 
The bullying designer's take: since she did not view her design business as charity, and Giving Tuesday was all about giving to charity, she would greatly appreciate if I did not view her business in that light. My, my, my - a tad touchy, perhaps? While I certainly do not view my design business in a charity light, I do very much view my business in deeply personal terms - personal to me, and personal to all those who choose to purchase my designs and support my efforts. My following is small, but very, very loyal - and I take some satisfaction in the fact that over the last many years, I have gotten to know many of those who make projects from my designs on a personal basis. I really had to shake my head at the source of the criticism, because the designer in question has only published 3 new designs since 2017, while I have published over 30, both independently and via third party publishers of all sorts, despite all kinds of personal challenges. I will leave it to you, dear reader, to determine who is taking their design business more seriously.

When this online chastising occurred, I thought it might be good to do some digging on Giving Tuesday and the impulse behind its creation. Started by New York City's 92nd Street Y in 2012, it is "a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world." Furthermore, the non-profit's site goes on to state:

"In an era of global crisis and disconnection, we need new rituals to connect us. ... Giving Tuesday strives to build a world in which the catalytic power of generosity is at the heart of the society we build together ..."

Honestly, though Giving Tuesday may have morphed into a day which many now give to charities, its initial spirit is (I would argue) exactly in line with the spirit of the GAL. I'd go even farther in suggesting that, given the amazing number of makers and participating designers, the GAL is continuing to create a new ritual that connects the making community via generosity of all sorts, precisely what the Giving Tuesday founders had in mind. 

I am going to continue to do what I have always done: support my fellow indie designers during the GAL through purchases, making, and social media exposure of my completed projects. (I actually bought a record number of patterns this year - 14, and all with sales derived from my own designs, I am happy to report.) I sincerely hope the GAL administrator might see the light of and generous spirit in my request, and include Giving Tuesday in all subsequent GAL kick-off sale weeks.

And, of course, I will still be publishing (and selling for potential profit) my own designs ... no matter what. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

And The 2019 Indie Designer Gift-a-long Begins!

Just two days before U.S. Thanksgiving, yet we have so much to be thankful for right now - the Indie GAL has now officially kicked off for 2019 with the opening week sale!

Yes, my crafty maker friends. the code "giftalong2019" will get you 25% off of almost 290 designers' selected patterns (and 20 of mine are in the mix). 

More importantly, this is year seven of this gift-making-palooza, and so many participants look forward to these five weeks of making. There is such a sense of camaraderie, it truly is a wonderfully joyous event.

I hope everyone will consider shopping the sale (and just head over to and sign in - you cannot get out of the way of all the GAL activity) - not only will you be supporting independent designers and design, you'll also be doing good for the planet. Instant downloads = virtually no carbon footprint, no boxes or bags to think about disposing. This is one online alternative you can feel good about, and then make a gift for someone else and make them feel good.

'Tis the season to celebrate all the fa la la.

Finally, to provide everyone with a little visual appetite-whetting, I have once again curated a Pinterest board of almost all 280-some-odd designers' patterns on sale for the next week. While all of mine are sprinkled throughout the board, there are over 400 pins, so there should be something for everyone on your gift-making-worthy list. For all my designing friends - if you, by some small chance, do not see any of your designs on the board, it is because as of last night, you still had not revealed your sale bundle. There were only a few in that boat, so I am confident I still caught some of the best of this year's new GAL-eligible designs. Again, wait until you see the board - it is quite astonishingly lovely. 

So much talent - enjoy all the gift-making!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Time to Make Some (or All!) of The Things

Oh, my maker friends, it is that time of the year - November! Time for all the best food, best drink, and - most importantly - best making. It is a time we get ready for the annual gift-making-palooza known as the Indie GAL (and I am all ready to sign up once again as a participating designer), as well as perhaps make a thing or two or five for our very selves.

In the spirit of the last suggestion, I am hosting a fun CAL on my Instagram account for my latest design, featured in the December issue of Crochet Magazine - the Frosted Berries Shawl. Since this shawl was a collaboration between myself (the design) and Crochet Magazine's editor, Jackie Daugherty (the hand-dyed yarn), we are teaming up for this Instagram CAL. 

I will be, starting today, November 13th, posting weekly Wednesday updates, tips, and answering any questions makers have about the design. Crochet Magazine will be providing some prizes, the first of which will be given away right off the bat - an electronic copy of the magazine to one lucky winner. See the deets below and link to the post:

View this post on Instagram

Attention all my crafty maker friends! I am so thrilled to announce a festive maker a-long right here in my Instagram space. We will be working up my design, the Frosted Berries Shawl, made with hand-dyed yarn - thanks Jackie Daugherty, editor of @crochetworldmag - and featured in its current December issue. This shawl is so warm and cozy compliments of @berrocoyarn's Ultra Alpaca - it is the perfect project to work up during these upcoming cold winter evenings (and yes, the snow has already started to fall in some places!). * * To kick things off, I will be giving away a digital copy of the December issue of Crochet World Magazine to a lucky winner who wants to (hopefully) join us in our merry maker event. To be eligible, simply leave a comment on this post with potential color combinations you would use in your own Frosted Berries shawl between now and next Tuesday, November 19th, and do make certain you follow this account. I will pick and announce a winmer next Wednesday, November 20th, from all of the unique original comments received. (and this giveaway is not affiliated in any way with Instagram) * * Each Wednesday between now and December 18th, I will be here posting my own progress, as well as answer any questions makers might have. This shawl is a fun make, and the edging is technique-rich to keep everyone's interest. At the end of the a-long, I will be giving away two prize packages from all of the finished shawls. I will have more to say on the prizes a little later in the a+long. * * My goal between now and next Wednesday: get my own yarn and dye materials so I can attempt to dye my own yarn! #voiedevie #crochetinspiration #crochetersaroundtheworld #tunisiancrochet #indiedesigner
A post shared by Voie de Vie (@denisevoiedevie) on

I'll be picking a winner from all unique comments received between now and next Tuesday, November 19th, and I'll make a winning announcement with next Wednesday's Instagram post.

I hope to see some wonderful color combinations from makers out there, so start plotting your color choices. While Jackie dyed the jasmine rice colorway of squishy Berroco Ultra Alpaca, I am going to try my hand at a little home dying with a different base. Stay tuned for details next week ... as well as how I fare in this, my initial home dyeing foray.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

And Boom! A New Design is Out in the Crafty Wild

Well I may have all things personal book test on my mind, but I am reminded that I have also been busy with other third-party published designs - and the Crochet World blog today sneaked my shawl design featured in its upcoming December edition - the Frosted Berries Shawl.

This design started out with an idea to dye the yarn for it - from Jackie Daugherty, the magazine's editor. Using the winter white colorway of Berroco's Ultra Alpaca and Cushing's acid dyes, Jackie worked up these lovely hand-dyed skein (and you can, too - there's a whole article on the process in the issue!).The colorways turned out superbly, and it is squishy Ultra Alpaca - so the rest of the design process was a breeze. Not only is this shawl big and warm as all get-out for the upcoming winter season here in the northern hemisphere, but it is fun to work up. The main shawl body is an easy repeat with increase rows interspersed, and the show-stopping edge is a combination of regular and tunisian crochet, perfect for adventurous beginner tunisian crocheters.

I'll be announcing a little later (once the magazine actually hits newsstands at the end of the month) how you might be able to win a copy of it for your very self, so stay tuned. However, since this is slow fashion October, I hope you might consider a little hand-dyeing experiment of your own.

And keep those hooks at the ready to make yourself a great project with your beautiful brand-new hand-dyed yarn!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Slow Fashion October - A Solo Road?

Autumn Rustle, the most recent design of mine
published in September as part of a KnitCrate Kit
(yarn included). The single pattern is also available
in my Ravelry design store.
Well, everyone, it is already the beginning of October! Can you believe it? The season for all things pumpkin spice is upon us once again ... and also one of my favorite months the last four years running because of Karen Templer and Slow Fashion October.

However, this October is different. Karen meant for 2018 to be her last year focusing on slow fashion in October only, and I must admit not only did I miss the allusion to it at the time, but also I am slightly bummed. I thoroughly enjoyed our month-long deep dive into all things hand made and slow ... and my wardrobe reflects that deep dive. I have been out of my normal environment every day for a service project since the beginning of September, and I have managed to wear a major piece of clothing (mostly sweaters and cowls) each day. While my wardrobe is still in flux - I want to, of course, knit and crochet more clothing for myself - it is starting to more accurately reflect my mindset and commitment to slow fashion. It is a value I feel strongly about, so the fact that my actions are in line with the value makes me feel all kinds of good. There is no doubt that Karen's (among many others) emphasis over the last four years really was instrumental in my clothing evolution, and for that I owe her a true debt as well as a heartfelt thank you.

This lace topper is just one of the designs that
will be tested commencing next week.
This October will be slightly different for me - my focus is squarely on my upcoming book publication, including testing the designs within the book. If you are interested in being a tester on what will likely be the Mother Of All Pattern Tests, do drop me an email or connect with me on Ravelry (Rav ID Deniseworld).

In the meantime, I hope you will take this time of new, crisp beginnings to deeply dive into your own wardrobe. Make a commitment to pay attention to how materials are sourced for the things you wear, as well as all appropriate appreciation given to the labor it took to make the garments. If you are so inclined, start small and make an accessory or two for yourself. Take chances and be bold. The satisfaction you will feel at truly taking control over how you present yourself to the world, and not just merely picking up something quick that will most likely be tossed into the landfill, will make you never look back.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

What's New? An Open Letter to Peak Media Properties, LLC

The S-Curve Rug, my first design in the
2015 Interweave Crochet Home edition.

Dear Peak Media:

You are the “new” owner of many Interweave magazine titles, including Interweave Knits and Interweave Crochet. Purchased from F+W Media as a result of its early March, 2019 bankruptcy filing, you are also the owner of the online communities and other intellectual property associated with the titles. However, given that Terry O’Toole, the owner of Macanta Investments (the money behind Peak Media), was the chairman of the Board of Directors of the bankrupt F+W, Greg Osberg, the new CEO of Peak Media was the most recent (and interim) CEO at F+W, the sole editor posting knitting design calls was a former editor with an Interweave magazine title, and even Peak Media’s contracts administrator is the former contracts administrator for Interweave under F+W, I wonder, what, exactly, is new at Peak Media?

From your lack of clear communication with the design and maker communities, to your focus on padding your own bottom line (the only two avenues of electronic contact on Peak Media’s site are for advertising or media inquiries), this seems like business as usual at an F+W Media property – you know, the F+W that failed to listen to employees as it squandered millions in equity funding and imploded – the one that the former chairman of the Board is now in control of the investment money here at Peak Media Properties, LLC. If I was unsure of the exact posture of Peak Media, a recent email from you (addressed to “Dearest Contributor,” which elicited a hearty, ironic laugh from this recipient) made it abundantly clear: the communication stated it had good news – an expanded version of a program, in which I have no control over my intellectual property, and for which you provided absolutely no particulars, was in the works! Best of all, I had less than two weeks to opt out of all this good news. Wow. Insert so much additional hearty, ironic laughter right there.

Now, as an independent designer with 7+ years of design publishing (my own and with third parties), it would be easy for me to just let all this sit right here and marinate. However, as a proud female small (ok, micro!) business owner who has managed to survive the last almost eight years designing in a medium - yarn and textiles - that I have loved since childhood, I find it only fair to put out into the world how I might go about things in this “new” version of the F+W legacy. So … well … here goes nothing:

1. Please let Peak Media Properties, LLC find its humility muscle, like, yesterday.

2.  Once it finds such muscle, let it be flexed in the form of a DAMNED APOLOGY: to designers for squandering their good will and stomping on their intellectual property without any respect, and to the maker community at large for this lack of respect. I not-so-elegantly remind you that, if not for the collective intellectual property of the independent design community, there would be no publication foundation upon which Peak Media Properties, LLC could build.

3. Please publish this DAMNED APOLOGY not only in all of your publications, but also in your competitors’ publications. As I have stated previously elsewhere, we all rise and fall together. What you are doing right now, Peak Media, will have a ripple effect on the entire hand knit and crochet industry which, at its zenith, was a large portion of the income bread and butter at F+W.

4. Going forward, please be transparent in all communications with the design community. It is our intellectual property you wish to leverage for your own gain at, if the past is any indication, our direct expense. In case you were not aware, there is not one independent designer I know that can earn a living wage designing solely for third party publication. Not one. Yet, Peak Media personnel seem to be earning a living wage doing just one job.

5. Sort of in tandem with #4, and on the eve of the long U.S. Labor Day weekend, please pay a living wage for our designs, be transparent about that wage, and provide greater flexibility in sharing intellectual property rights with the independent design community. Interweave publishing titles provide compensation at the mid-to-lower end for independent designs and currently have some of the most restrictive intellectual property rights’ contract clauses in the industry.

At this point I sigh. When I first wrote about the bankruptcy, I was willing to keep an open mind, to see what would transpire, despite the fact that I am one of F+W's creditors (albeit a very small one - other designers were in for far more than me). I maintain that I, as an independent designer who erroneously believed in the good of being published in an Interweave publication, expected too little in the past. Not anymore.

Despite the above, Peak Media does have an incredible opportunity right here, right now. Start to rebuild the trust and good will that F+W eroded. It can be done. Don’t take a wait and see approach – seize the day! Truly lead the Interweave publishing titles you purchased to a brighter place where mutual respect might flourish instead of the muscular, opaque, and lop-sided approach of the past. That, of course, will take a significant amount of public courage and a willingness to think and do things differently.

As the organizational posture currently stands, I will not be creating submissions for any design calls issued by Peak Media titles. I genuinely need to see some deep, structural changes. I am happily close to self-publishing my second soft-cover publication, have third-party-published designs in the works, and consistently self-publish single designs. I have a small core of makers with which I regularly make garments and accessories, and to whom I am not only dedicated, but for whose support I am supremely grateful.  Nothing would make me happier than to augment the former with future designs published in titles run by a Peak Media that viewed me and my creativity as a respected partner and equal, not merely a “dear contributor.”

Very truly yours -

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Some Publishing Updates

Well, my maker friends, we are entering the last week of August, and with sunset times getting earlier each evening, as well as a slight nip in the night air, that almost-autumn feeling is upon us. To where has the summer gone? 

I have been so busy over the meaty summer months that I did not get the opportunity to post here on the blog, and considering the fact that I released the third sneak peek from my upcoming book, that is saying something. So, without further ado, here are most of the additional patterns from the third sneaked chapter of the book.

Watercolor Pops is thehe amazing crescent-shaped shawl, thanks to lovely colorways from A Hundred Ravens. Just two skeins of fingering weight yarn produces a shawl that easily stays on the shoulders or (my preferred way of wearing it) coiled around the neck cowl-like. The "pops" of lace in the body offset a rather linear stitch pattern which, with a final little bit o' lace at the edge, combine to produce an accessory that is feminine and graphically pleasing.

The necklaces and earrings are pieces in a series of jewelry designs all put together in the same chapter under the title "The Month of Jewelry." Each of the pieces appear throughout the book and are meant to be worn with other designs. I am definitely loving the mixed media approach to these jewelry designs. Researching the materials used was definitely a great guilt-free way to get in touch with my inner material girl.

I am about a month away from commencing the mother of all pattern tests for the designs in the book. I have so much to prepare between now and then, but if any readers are interested in testing some of the book's designs, definitely send email and I will be more than happy to add you to my tester list. Be aware that all patterns will be crochet, and there will be a good mix of accessories and garments, across a wide spectrum of sizes. 

This is, of course, my second self-published title. Self publishing is more important than ever to me, given this year's earlier F+W bankruptcy filing. We are coming to the end of the bankruptcy, and the relevant design magazines and related online resources in which I have intellectual property have been sold to Long Thread Media and Peak Media Properties. I will have more to say once the final bankruptcy dust has settled (because there are motions before the bankruptcy court that could have implications on the shared intellectual property rights I have with both new entities), but in the tentative first communications between both, Long Thread has been awesome, and Peak Media has been ... well ... just like it's predecessor, F+W. One wonders what, exactly, has changed? All I can do is sigh, shake my head, and pour my energies into my own book.

It is going to be a busy autumn of design publishing here at chez Voie de Vie, so I hope you'll be around to take a peek both at the new book, as well as a few single designs published by third parties, all due between now and the end of the year. 

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
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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!