Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Grahame's Gorget - New Pattern!

"I recalled the way the armor seemed to flow from head to neck to shoulders, like a mantle or a monk’s cowl, but close, protective. Thick. And an image began to form in my head about that sort of thing in wool." - Unraveling: The New World, Part Three by C. Jane Reid

My design for our third and final Ficstitches Yarns Kit Club of 2015, Grahame's Gorget, was inspired by the piece of armor that protects the neck, called a "gorget". When faced with the need to protect her husband from an unknown threat which seems to attack neck and be repelled by wool, our heroine, Ailee, finds a quick way to turn the wool fleece she has into a protective garment.

By spinning a very thick yarn (like the super bulky Dredz yarn from Abstract Fiber included in Kit #3), she was able to quickly make a dense fabric to fit around the neck. Using short rows allowed me to to add width around the shoulders while keeping the neck more snug, . I like the idea that as a novice stitcher, the finished garment looks a little lumpy, as if she added and lost stitches a little randomly as she worked. But once you lay it out, you realize that the increases are quite intentional, creating an unusual shape that is easy to wear.

Since crochet was not commonly known in the colonial time period of our stories, I have been experimenting with various stitches that look a little more like knit, by inserting into various insertion points. If you have tried any of my edgeless crocheted cables, you will be familiar with inserting in the "lower-bar" of the stitch. If not, the pattern includes a photo tutorial showing where to insert your hook, and I will be adding more thorough tutorials here on my blog very soon.

For this kit, I got the chance to make the leather closures, inspired by harness straps in the story. With the chunky yarn and large hook, it will be easy to slide various types of closure between the stitches so you can wear the cowl open at the shoulder or the front. Additional suggestions for buttons or seaming are also included in the pattern, to give crocheters options to really make it their own.

If you haven't already, don't miss out on our first Kit Club of 2016, available for Preorders, This Week Only! This next kit will include a stand-alone story following one of the characters introduced in Ailee's story, which you don't want to miss!

The pattern for Grahame's Gorget is also now available on Ravelry. The pattern will also be one of 9 patterns inspired by Ailee's story, coming out end of February 2016!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Homespun Heroes…Party Time Again!

I always take the week off before each of my kids birthdays from work crafts, to focus on making favors and decorations for their parties. This week I find myself making another batch of superhero capes, this time for my daughter's 6th. She's been running around with capes for the past few months, left from the batch I made for her brother's party when he turned five (5 1/2 years ago). So, I'm using the same pattern (saved from that first party) to make capes again, this time with stretch velvet and bias tape at the top to keep from stretching.

But in looking back at what I did for G's party, I found an entire blog post I wrote back then and never posted. I always meant to add more links to resources and pictures. But, today I figured I would share that post, and you can find lots of pics of my first Superhero Party on my original party post.

From August 2010:
There are so many great ideas online for Super Hero parties I wanted to share some of the ones we used (now that I have more pictures). I was amused to find that even Tory Spelling did a superhero theme for her son’s birthday. I began to think it has all been done before. Griffin helped me choose which activities he wanted to do, filled the goody bags, piñata, and even helped me bake and decorate his birthday cake, a chocolate cake with yellow frosting and a red Super G symbol.

For once I started shopping early for party supplies. I hit the stores the week after the 4th and found tableware & decorations on clearance. What is more superhero than red and blue stars? I hit the $Tree and Party City early as well, after checking prices on Oriental Trading Company (my usual go to for party supplies and themed favors), and did not end up ordering anything.

I caught a great sale on Satin fabric at Joane’s for the capes. I knew it would be easier to have all one color, but I loved the idea of kids running around in all different colored capes. So I bought enough of 6 different colors to make 4 capes in each. I decided I would make 24 capes, assume I would have leftovers, and sell the extras as Design Your Own Superhero Kits on Etsy (if I ever open my store).

Next I made a pattern by folding one of Griffin’s capes in half and tracing a similar shape onto foamcore. My sister and I bought a serger a couple of years ago, but we never got it working right. I managed to break the needles the first time out. Turns out regular sewing machine needles do not work in a serger. Who knew? Once we got the serger running I made the 24 capes in just a couple days, and now I am pretty darn comfortable using the machine.

I got some great ideas from Ambrosia Girl’s blog including a mask pattern and source for adhesive felt. I used plastic to make stencils of her mask patterns for Griffin to trace onto sheets of stiff felt (which I found on clearance at Michaels).
I was racking my brain on how to make sturdy Training Manuals the kids could take with them to each station. My sister designed the pages for me. But I was really excited when, inspired by the Vancouver Recycled Arts Festival, I came up with a great recycled cover for the manuals. I sell bras and just could not bring myself to throw out the large pile of plastic packages I have accumulated. I realized that the creases on the packaging would be perfect for folding the manuals open, and I could bind them with binder clips from the office supply store.

Our piñata was also entirely recycled. Awhile back Griffin saw a Spiderman piñata in a store. I told him we could make something similar. But the more I thought about it, I did not think we wanted the kids bashing in Spiderman’s head! So we decided to make Venom (much simpler to paint I might add). I had picked up a couple of extra large balloons to make it with at $tree. But when those popped in the prickly grass, I found an old balloon I was able to untie and blow up to make a perfect piñata. Earlier in the summer Griffin made a piñata at Spanish camp, and the teacher suggested using just plain old starch (in the blue bottle) which worked perfectly.

Other moms have told me that I had better be careful, or I will have to keep making his parties bigger and better each year. But when asked, Griffin still says his favorite birthday party so far was “the one where we chased the ladybugs,” when he turned two. I was just glad that when we were pulling up to yet another birthday party at JJ Jump last spring he said, “I want to have my party at home!” So I will make it as fun as I can as long as he wants his parties at home.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Dyers In Their Studios - Sarah of Bumblebirch

This month I am excited to introduce Sarah Kurth of Bumblebirch. Sarah was actually the dyer who gave me the idea for this whole series of Dyers In Their Studios Profiles! When I met her during the Rose City Yarn Crawl a couple of years ago, she suggested that some time I could come out and see her dye studio. We still have not managed to get together in her studio in Portland, but I she just happened to have the perfect yarn for our next Ficstitches Yarns Kit Club (on sale this month). The mystery accessory design for this kit required more than the average 400+ yards of most skeins of fingering weight yarn. Bumblebirch's Glen yarn not only comes in a giant 600 yard skein, but with 20% silk, it's a absolute dream to work with!
Glen yarn in Mushroom and Blackberry
Now, let's get to know a little more about Sarah...

How long have you been dyeing yarn?
About 7 years. Sometimes I feel like an amateur! There's always something new to learn, which is really fun.
How did you get started dyeing?
A friend sent me a swap kit that included bare yarn from KnitPicks and some packets of Kool-aid. It's so easy because the Kool-aid has the dye and the mordant all in the packet. The colors are fun and bright, and it smells great!
What is your background?
I have an architecture degree from Cal Poly. I learned how to be a creative problem solver, and how to meld my artistic side with my logical side. Most of my practical work experience is in office administration, so it's helpful for running my own business.
Do you have any special experience with art or science that influences your dyeing?
My schooling included design concepts and how to apply them to physical things, including experiential spaces. Color theory was only a small part and I mainly work on intuition and experimentation when developing colorways. Working in the architecture studio setting for 6 years, I naturally developed my own work process and it affects my operations today.
What makes your yarn special or unique?
Every skein is unique. The kettle-dye process ensures the dye absorbs slightly unevenly, which means the resulting yarn will look watercolor-y when crafted into a fabric. I choose each yarn base carefully: it must be soft, bouncy, and create a sturdy, heirloom-quality garment when knitted or crocheted.
What is something interesting about your dyeing process that non-dyers might not know?
You might not know that I use organic dyes and mordant. The whole dyeing process takes about 4-5 days from start to finish. First, the yarn gets tied up to prevent tangling. Then has to soak in a mordant bath before being dyed. It cooks for several hours in the dyebath and must cool completely before being spin-dried, usually overnight. It gets hung up to air-dry in a cedar-lined drying room for another 2 days, then gets twisted up and labeled. In total, I handle each skein at least 6 times throughout the process. My hands and all the imperfections they create along the way (measuring dye, squeezing out excess water, submerging yarn in the dyebath, gentle stirring, etc.) are integral to my tonal colorways.
How do you choose your colors and name your yarns?
Portland has some spectacular plant life, everywhere from the International Rose Test Gardens to city parks to my neighbors' backyards. There is no shortage of inspiration around me as I venture out for a hike or stay home to work on my own little plot of land. Sometimes I accidentally make a cool colorway and just have to stare at it for awhile and wait for a name to pop into my head.
Where do you find inspiration?
Mostly in the natural world. You'll notice that most of my colorways are earthy. I developed the bright ones over a summer when I spent a lot of time in my garden. We sowed some wildflower mix all around the edges of the vegetable garden and were surprised with a wide variety of bright colors and textures that summer (and the one afterward).
Like me, Sarah is a mom and has her own little helper to lend a hand.
How many colorways do you have?
There are currently 24 colorways in my classic collection.
Do you create seasonal or special order colors?
I do, and it's so much fun! Often a store will commission an exclusive, limited-edition colorway. I also like playing around with colors and making some seasonal limited editions. These are mostly variegated colorways.
How many and what types of bases do you use?
There are currently 6 standard bases in the Bumblebirch collection, all superwash Merino and superwash Merino blends, ranging from lace to worsted. They are all exceptionally soft, strong, and consistent. I also introduced the seasonal Vernacular base this year, which is 100% domestic wool, grown and milled regionally. In 2015 it was 100% Cormo wool. In 2016 it will be Cormo blended with another regional wool so I'll have much more of it to dye. Keep your eye out for it!
Where do your yarn bases come from?
The classic bases are from a mill in South America, where Merino wool is plentiful. The Vernacular base is from small farms in the Pacific Northwest.
Where can we find your yarn? LYSs and online?
You can find a selection of my yarn and limited edition runs in my online store on my website, bumblebirch.com. There you can also find a list of retailers throughout the US.
What are your favorite colors?
I love gray, green, blue, and warm, earthy colors too.
Favorite fibers?
I love a lot of soft wools and am especially in love with anything blended with silk. Merino/silk, BFL/silk, Alpaca/silk—I love it all!
Do you crochet, knit, or spin? What came first?
I learned to knit first, when I was a child, and picked it up for good in my mid-twenties. I also taught myself some very basic crochet stitches so I could work edgings and flat circles when needed. I recently had a spinning lesson and decided not to start that hobby until I'm retired! I also just started weaving on a small hand loom last month and it's very addicting.
Anything else you would like to share?
I encourage everyone to try dyeing their own yarn, at least once. There's something magical about the process and all the labor that goes into it, and you get a completely unique product in the end, which is very satisfying.

Find Bumblebirch on Sarah's WebsiteRavelry GroupFacebookTwitter
and Instagram!
(all photos courtesy of Sarah Kurth)
Happy New Year to All! We are looking forward to another great year of yarny goodness here on ReCrochetions and Ficstitches Yarns!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dyers In Their Studios Profile -- Susan of Abstract Fiber

I am pleased to feature Susan Stambaugh from Abstract Fiber. We are ecstatic to get to feature her Dredz yarn in the next Ficstitches Yarns Kit Club. My friend Monica first picked up a skein of this luscious super bulky yarn at a show last year and whipped up a quick project, raving about the colors and softness.
Susan with her "right hand woman" Karen at one
of the many Fiber Shows where you can find them.
Last February, at Madrona, I got to see their yarns and meet Susan myself, and kept running into her at nearly every fiber event I went to this year. I picked up a skein of Dredz to experiment with during the Rose City Yarn Crawl, and started discussing colors with Susan for a potential kit club at Black Sheep Gathering. 

Let's learn more about Susan and Abstract Fibers...

Dredz in Cascade and Mousse
for our next Kit Club!
• How long have you been dyeing yarn?
About 7 years
• How did you get started dyeing?
It all started with quilting thread. I learned to dye thread then later applied what I knew to fiber and then yarn. I was spinning and my favorite dyer retired. I figured I needed to dye my own to make up for the loss.
• What is your background?
I studied computers in college and worked for Chevron for about 20 years. After I left corporate life I started quilting. That's where I learned about color.
• Do you have any special experience with art or science that influences your dyeing?
Not really. I suppose my inability to draw or sculpt left me with the abstract. I've always loved rich colors.

Your Yarn
• What makes your yarn special or unique?
I think it's the color palate. I often use a touch of complimentary or contrasting color. The colors are also very rich and vibrant.
• What is something interesting about your dyeing process that non-dyers might not know?
We use a process called cold pour dyeing. We lay the yarn out on a table and paint it with squirt bottles. Then we wrap it up and steam it to set the dye. It allows us a lot of control of the colors.
• How do you choose your colors and name your yarns?
The colors are a palate that pleases me. The colorways come through a variety of ways. Some are simply from playing with colors, sometimes an image or theme inspire a colorway. We have a lot of booze names. Wine, beer, cider, cocktails... and Northwest names.
• Where do you find inspiration?
Nature, photos, works of art, fashion.

Just The Facts
• How many colorways do you have? More than 100
• Do you create seasonal or special order colors? Yes. Sometimes we make special colors for clubs or yarn crawls. Seasons inspire colors but we offer most year round.
• How many and what types of bases do you use? Lots. 12 or more yarns and at least that many fibers.
• Where do your yarn bases come from? Wholesale suppliers. The fibers are sourced from around the globe and milled in several different countries.
• Where can we find your yarn? LYSs and online? Yes. Both. As well as at many fiber festivals and in our home studio.

• What are your favorite colors? Chartreuse, red, red orange.
• Favorite fibers? Silk. Cashmere. Merino. Yak.
• Do you crochet, knit, or spin? What came first? Knitting then spinning. Crochet confuses me.
• Anything else you would like to share? I love to cook and have two Portuguese Water Dogs.

Link Up with Abstract Fiber On Their:
• Facebook
• Ravelry 

Most photos ©Abstract Fiber, except for Dredz photos ©ReCrochetions

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cadha's Celtic Capelet - New Pattern!

Designed for Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit Club #2.
 "The capelet was as rich of green as my skirts, and I noticed with some envy the fanciful Celtic knot work stitched on the back. It looked warm, and I wished I had the skill to make one for myself. Perhaps she could teach me.” ~ Excerpt from Unraveling: The New World, Part Two by C. Jane Reid

A red hood was one of the first designs we discussed when C. Jane Reid and I began brainstorming story and design ideas for the Ficstitches Yarns Kit Clubs. She spoke of creatures, animals who don't act quite like animals... "like the wolf in Red Riding Hood." The stories have changed as she develops them further, but the idea of a "red hood" stayed with me.
A modern interpretation of the short traveling cape worn by Grahame's aunt in Part 2 of our story, Cadha's Celtic Capelet is worked in one continuous piece of half double crochets in worsted weight yarn, from the point of the hood down to the bottom edge. Inspired by the Celtic Knotwork of Cadha’s homeland, the Eternal Knot cable pattern on the back has no beginning or end, connecting one’s destiny bound by time and change, just as Ailee and Grahame discover their own destinies and how they are intertwined. 
Representing the interweaving and ever-changing spiritual path, the Eternal Knot expresses boundless wisdom and compassion. The Trinity Knot used for the button loop is another endless knot pattern, originally designed to represent the Mother, Maiden and Crone. This seems particularly appropriate as Ailee is learning her way from Cadha.
As Ailee hopes to learn to make her own capelet, without the complex cablework, I wanted to include three variations for this patterns to adapt to crocheters of all experience levels. One can choose between a capelet with a hood, an easier version without the cable, or a collar rather than a hood.

Cadha's Celtic Capelet is now available for purchase on Ravelry. Be sure to check out all the other goodies that were included in Kit Club #2. And don't miss the chance to Preorder your very own Kit Club #3 in the month of October!

Top 2 pics ©Guy Holtzman, my awesome new brother in law and photographer. We plan to get more model shots soon, once we've all recovered from their wedding last week, which I crocheted the dress for.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tutorial Tuesday:Reverse Slip Knot

Reverse Slip Knot (alternative to Magic Circle)

Here is the first of several new tutorials I will be posting as resources for the pattern being sent out with our latest Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit Club. Don't miss out on the next kit available in October!

The Reverse Slip Knot can be used as an alternative when the Magic Circle (or adjustable loop) is called for in a pattern. Just remember that the first chain is your adjustable ring, so you may need to add one chain to the beginning if you start with a Reverse Slip Knot instead. Find Left-handed Tutorial HERE.

Making a Reverse Slip Knot Tutorial
 1.     Form loop, insert hook, yo short end.

2.     Pull loop of short end through with hook.

3.     Pull short end to tighten knot .

4.     Pull tight on hook.

Working Into a Reverse Slip Knot Tutorial
1.     Insert hook into farthest chain from hook, under 2 loops of chain.

2.    Work all indicated stitches of first round into that first chain.
3.    Pull short end to tighten Reverse Slip Knot and close hole.

For a long time, almost all patterns worked in the round used a Chain Circle, but this technique tends to leave a hole in the middle. This is likely because crochet was first developed for making lace, which is intended to have holes. But who wants a hole in the middle of a hat? Using the “Magic Circle” avoids this hole, by working stitches into a loop of yarn wrapped twice around your fingers which can be pulled tight after you are done working all of your stitches into the center of the loop.

Above is an alternative (which I originally learned as the “Magic Circle”) can be formed by simply working a Reverse Slip Knot. Rather than having the adjustable side of your slip knot attached to your skein of yarn, you will pull through the shorter tail, so you can pull the loop tight by simply pulling that end. There are a few different ways to work the Magic Circle. If you would like to try the more standard way of doing it, check out Moogly's Magic Circle Tutorial.

Tutorial Tuesday:Reverse Slip Knot - LH

Reverse Slip Knot - Left-Handed

(alternative to Magic Circle) 

Here is the first of several new tutorials I will be posting as resources for the being pattern sent out with our latest Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit Club. Don't miss out on the next kit available in October!

I use the Reverse Slip Knot as an alternative when the Magic Circle (or adjustable loop) is called for in a pattern. Just remember that the first chain is your adjustable ring, so you may need to add one chain to the beginning if you start with a Reverse Slip Knot instead. Find Right-handed Tutorial HERE.

Making a Reverse Slip Knot Tutorial
 1.     Form loop, insert hook, yo short end.

2.     Pull loop of short end through with hook.

3.     Pull short end to tighten knot .

4.     Pull tight on hook.

Working Into a Reverse Slip Knot Tutorial
1.     Insert hook into farthest chain from hook, under 2 loops of chain.


2.    Work all indicated stitches of first round into that first chain.

3.    Pull short end to tighten Reverse Slip Knot and close hole.

For more info about this way of starting a project, check out the Right-handed Tutorial.