Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ailee's Wedding Shawl: Design for Ficstitches Yarns Kit


Last week we revealed the various elements of our very first Ficstitches Yarns Kit Club, which we shipped out last month. So I finally get to share my contribution to the Kits: Ailee's Wedding Shawl.

This project represents a lot of firsts for me. My first time:

  • Taking inspiration from a character & setting in a story
  • Designing with Irish Roses 
  • Creating a design for a Kit Club
  • Drawing a stitch diagram in the round

I generally enjoy the challenge of working within just one skein. But I quickly realized that I needed more yarn for the ideas we had in mind to incorporate some of the types of crochet we found while researching what may have existed in the time period of our story. There just isn't a lot of crochet history as far back as colonial times, and what there is are mostly theories.

So, after two other nearly completed shawl designs and our writer making some changes to the story, I finally came up with the idea for this version. Although the type of crocheted lace known as "Irish Crochet" was developed later, I decided to start with a large Irish Rose at the center and work out from there. 

Our main character, Ailee Donaghue, is traveling to the New World from her homeland of Ireland, so I liked the idea of a modernized crochet interpretation of her shawl that is described in the story. Traditional Irish Crochet typically starts with a variety of separate flower and leaf motifs, all connected later with a network of chain loops. However, Ailee's Wedding Shawl begins with just a few Roses, then works the leaves directly into the lace, joining the flower motifs as you go.

I spent over a week experimenting with the stitches to get the effect I wanted. I poured through my stack of stitch dictionaries, combining a variety of stitch patterns in different ways until I was satisfied. I was certainly grateful that the Lilt Sock Yarn I used, from Black Trillium Fibres, was no worse for wear after so many times stitching and frogging.

When I'm designing something new, I tend to start with these dictionaries of stitch patterns, then inevitably tweak them to fit my ideas. In this case, I took my adjusted version of an Irish Rose pattern from one book, inserted it into the center of a leafy doily pattern from one of my Japanese diagram books, then changed the stitches between the leaves to chain loops, and worked out how to cut off the top of the doily to form a triangle. Finally, I looked to yet another book for edging ideas, trying several variations before I was satisfied! 

A long process, but I ended up with at least two other nearly completed designs that were developed along the way. Now that we have allowed for more yarn for future Ficstitches Yarns Kits, we can use one of my original shawl designs for one of next year's kits! Now that the kits have been shipped, the pattern is available on Ravelry, and we just started an online Crochet-Along in our Ficstitches Yarns Group for anyone working on it over the next couple of months. And if you are in the Vancouver/Portland area, we will be doing a Live CAL at Blizzard Yarn and Fiber starting July 31st. Join the fun!
"Mrs. Vance held up the shawl. It was a triangle of finely woven ivory linen with cheyne lace in pale thread worked around the edges and three large cheyne lace flowers attached at the mid-points. . . . All lace and frail linen, meant for show and splendor.”
Excerpt from Unraveling: The New World, Part One by C. Jane Reid
All Photos Copyright Guy Holtzman (except book cover)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fiber Fiction and Ficstitches Yarns

Or How My Obsession With Fiber Fiction Led To 
A Whole New Kind Of Crochet Kit Club!



Ever since I began designing crochet, everything in my life became about yarn (and my kids). Even the books I read for pleasure! Although there is only one fictional series specifically about Crochet, there are plenty of "Knit Fic" series. If you are into mysteries or romance there are several series out there for you. I found that, although I don't knit much, I enjoyed those series just as much, as they describe the fibers, yarns, and stitches, and sometimes give me ideas for my own projects. I even did a series of blog posts back in 2013 reviewing some of my favorites.

But this lack of crochet fiction seems to be a gap that is begging to be filled. So about the same time I discovered this Fiber Fiction Genre, I started dropping (not so subtle) hints in the ear of my good friend and neighbor, Carissa (a.k.a. C. Jane Reid). When we first met, she told me that she was a writer of historical fiction with some aspects of the paranormal, but she was not an "author" yet because she had not published a book yet.


When Monica and I started talking about starting a Crochet Kit Club with my patterns and her hooks, Carissa offered to help us. She LOVED the idea of a crochet kit club, and we knew we would need  her awesome organizational skills to manage and maintain a big project like this. But I wanted her to be able to contribute to the kit in some way, to really be a part of the team.

Some time last year she had told me about an idea she had for a contemporary crochet fiction story, and we brainstormed all sorts of directions the story (or possible series) could take. Inspiration struck when I asked Carissa to contribute a short story to each kit that could tie in to the pattern in some way.

We chatted more about the world she wanted to build for her contemporary crochet fiction stories, and came up with a series of short story ideas that could build the history of that world, to go with each kit. But we quickly realized that she is not so much a short story writer as a novel writer, when the "short story" for the first kit, decided to be a Novel.

We did have to do a little shuffling, but we made that story work for the first three kit clubs in 2015, and I did not even have to change the patterns I had planned very much to still fit the story. And we are having so much fun fitting the patterns and gifts for the Kit Club into the story! Next year we are again planning a series of short stories for each kit... but I am not counting on it, until she has actually completed the stories. The bonus of her writing longer stories is that we already have story ideas through 2017, moving from colonial times throughout various periods of history, which could go even longer if any more characters decide they need more room to tell their stories.

The best part of this process is helping my friend become a "published author". Carissa helped me publish my first book by editing it for me. I remember when we got the first printed copies she told me, "Your a published author now!" So, this year, instead of writing another book myself, I got to help one of my best friends be able to say the same thing!

Join us in our Ficstitches Yarns Ravelry Group this Friday, July 10th, for a Live Book Club Chat with author C. Jane Reid!

If you did not get our first kit, and want to check out C. Jane Reid's first story, you can buy the print copy or ebook. Our second Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit Club is available for Preorder this month so you can be among the first to get Part 2 of the Story.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Crafty Kids Review: Star Wars Thumb Doodles from Klutz


Two Thumbs Up for Star Wars Thumb Doodles!
"If you get me a new book like this every week or so, 
you will keep me busy for the whole summer!"
HOTH
Just 2 days after the start of Summer Break, I had to leave for a fiber festival. I picked up a couple of Klutz Activity Books for my kids to do while I was out of town for the long weekend. I chose the Klutz Star Wars Thumb Doodles Book Kit for my 9 year old son who loves paper crafts of all kinds. I gave him the kit before I headed out last week, and it was a hit!

The first thing Mr. G said when I arrived home after four days, "I made everything in the Star Wars book already! I want all the other Star Wars books! If you get me a new book like this every week or so, you will keep me busy for the whole summer...." The next day he admitted, "Well, this one might keep me entertained for a few weeks. I have to cover the whole box! But I REALLY want the Star Wars Folded Flyers one, so I can put those on the top the box!"

Good thing he has a birthday coming up in a few weeks! I love that Klutz has so many gender neutral craft kits. I am always on the hunt for craft kits that aren't all pink for my crafty son and Klutz has come out with so many great ones!

Mr. G's Thumb Doodle Tips:
Ewok Village

  • Read the instructions at the beginning to see the different types of finger prints used.
  • Make the characters on separate pieces of paper so you can cut them out and move them around and make scenes.
  • It is easier when they are not on the page in the book. 
  • If you mess up, you can just keep making it until you get them right. 
  • Once you've filled the book pages, you can make bigger scenes on cardboard or big sheets of paper.
  • Copy the pictures in the book to make a bigger background.
  • Used tacks to attach your thumb doodles, or use glue dots (removable ones will let you to move the characters around).
"This weekend I sat out on the front porch
and made these for hours and hours."
"I made 25 Clones! I accidentally cut the 
head off one, so I made it part of the battle."
"I can't believe I could make all these things with just 
ink pads, a 2-color pencil, and a black pen!"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What's New Wednesday: Twisted Cable Sundress

Have you seen my newest design in Crochet! Magazine's Spring 2015 issue? The Twisted Cable Sundress was originally designed for my daughter when she was just 2 years old, I am thrilled to see this pattern published, and in the long color-changing yarn from Lang that inspired the design! It was a long journey to see this one in print...

In the late summer of 2012, my friend Katherine and I decided we needed a Crafty Retreat. Our youngest kids were finally old enough to leave with dad for a few days, and she was expecting baby #3 just the next month. We looked around at options along the coast or perhaps an isolated cabin in the woods, both being rather convenient options living where we do. But she was going to be on-call for her midwifery business, so we could not go too far out of town.

So, we spent nearly a week staying in a hostel on Alberta St., right in the heart of Portland. We each brought along more projects than we would have time for, but wanted to be free to work on whatever struck our fancy. We brought yarn, hand-sewing projects, needlefelting supplies, fresh lavender to make wands, and even my spinning wheel. And yet we took many breaks to wander up and down Alberta to check out the craft supply store across the street, and a couple of nearby yarn shops.

We spent one afternoon at nearby Twisted, where I have taught a few crochet classes. I allowed myself to wander the store with the express purpose of finding a ball of yarn that inspired me to create something new. I was immediately drawn to this Lang Yarns Sol Degrade, cotton tape yarn, in my favorite shades of blues and greens.

I had recently finished my first articles and designs to be published in magazines, and was eager to design something new. I bought the first ball of yarn and sat down in the shop to play with it. I had been exploring the options of 'edgeless cables', and thought they would make a perfect neckline. The edgeless cables lend themselves perfectly to the curve of a neckline. I wanted to come up with something that would show off the long color changes of the yarn.

A little girl's sheath dress was perfect! And I had the perfect model (though you can see my daughter was grumpy on the day we got to take pics at the beach). I found that the thickness of the cotton tape made stitch increases more noticeable, and did not like the look for the body of the dress. Instead, I used gradually increasing hook size to create a gentle bell-shape, with occasional increases in the bottom section for added flare.

When Crochet! wanted to publish the design in this year's summer issue, I looked for a lighter weight long color changing yarn, that would not be quite as thick as the Sol Degrade. But in the end, we decided to stick with the original yarn that inspired the design. Afterall, the thicker 100% cotton yarn makes the perfect coverup to through on over a wet swimsuit!

Now I have the magazine sample back, in a larger size that will be perfect for the beach this summer!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Flock Together Shawl - New Class at Blizzard!

Next Saturday, we will be starting a brand new class at Blizzard Yarn and Fiber, in Vancouver, WA. This shawl was specially designed to work with the Birds of a Feather yarn from local dyer Alexandra's Crafts, which features 5 different weights and fibers of yarn that have been all dyed together, so they naturally coordinate.
Bottom Colorway was used in Sample
Irina at Blizzard has ordered a variety of colorways to choose from in this fun, unusual Art Yarn. Each hank includes partial skeins of 2 worsted weight yarns, 2 chunky/bulky weight yarns, and a full 400 yard skein of sport weight, to equal 700-900 yards of gorgeous color-coordinated yarns.
Check out some of the Craftwich Creations Hooks now sold at Blizzard!
I first saw Birds of a Feather when I met Alexandra at Pearl Fiber Arts during the Rose City Yarn Crawl a few years ago. I was intrigued by this collection of various yarns, and the challenge of developing a design that would work within a kit like this. I picked up my first hank of 'Birds' at Oregon Flock and Fiber the following year, and developed the Flock Together Shawl design last year. However, the shawl pattern will not be available for purchase until AFTER the class at Blizzard. So, you have to sign up for the class to be the first to get it!
My goal was to design a shawl that used basic crochet stitches and increases with the same size crochet hook throughout. Because each kit includes a somewhat different quantity of yarn, there are tips for making adjustments if you begin to run out of one type of yarn before completing the pattern. The result is a large, cozy, five-pointed shawl with solid stripes of the thicker yarns alternated with almost lacy sections of the finer weight yarns.
Call Blizzard to sign up for this awesome class today!
You can check out all the details below or on their website:

Description
Teacher: Laurinda Reddig Dates/Times: Saturdays, April 18th and 25th, 1pm-3pm Price: $50 Class description: Practice basic crochet stitches with various weights and textures of yarns as you work this five-pointed shawl. Learn how much to increase on each round to create a flat fabric with various heights of stitches from single crochets to treble crochets. The Flock Together Shawl was designed especially to use Alexandra’s Crafts Birds of a Feather yarn, which consists of five different yarns all dyed together in the same colorway. The different fibers of the yarn absorb the dye differently, giving different shades that all work together. Level of difficulty: Beginning to Intermediate Skills students must already know: Basic crochet skills recommended (ch, sc, dc) Pattern/Source: Provided in class Supplies needed: Alexandra’s Crafts Birds of a Feather Yarn, One Hank Size K hook or size to get gauge, stitch Markers

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dyers In Their Studios: Melanie of BlackTrillium Fibres

 
Rosaline Shawl in Lilt
for RCYC MCAL
This month, it is my pleasure to introduce Melanie Dilworth, the dyer behind Black Trillium Fibres, who will be providing the yarn for our very first Ficstitches Yarns Kit Club! I was introduced to Melanie's work when I was designing the Mystery Crochet-Along Shawl for the 2014 Rose City Yarn Crawl. They wanted us to use yarn from a local dyer for the sample, and I was really drawn to the rich tones of Black Trillium's colorways. I used two shades of her Lilt sock, a merino and mulberry silk blend, and loved it so much are using it for our first Kit Club kit.

During the yarn crawl this year, I connected with Melanie, and she invited us back to see her dye studio. We got to chat with her while she was working, taking recently dyed gradient skeins out of the oven, then hanging them to dry. All that before they are separated into smaller skeins for her gradient kits. So much work goes into one skein of hand-dyed yarn, I will let Melanie tell you all about it, in her own words....

Background
I’ve been dyeing more or less formally since August of 2008, but really started to get a sense of myself as a dyer later, in November 2008. A group of us started dyeing together for fun with a little bit of yarn from our stashes as well as some undyed yarn we bought from Louet. Most everyone was dyeing Louet Gems fingering weight at that time, and a number of other Oregon folks were starting up dyeing operations around the same time. It seemed like a good idea, so we took it outside in the warm Oregon early fall weather and made a family thing of it. I was the only one who really wanted to keep dyeing yarn, so we split things up and I officially took Black Trillium Fibres off on my own.
My personal background is as a Seattle-ite. I went to University of Washington, originally for biology and then later for English Literature and Literary Theory. However, when I started dyeing I was very much a stay-at-home mother and had no particular career path I was working toward.

I don’t consider my chemistry background at UW a special experience, and I certainly do not consider myself an artist. Having an active knowledge of Organic Chemistry has helped quite a lot, though, as a dyer. I feel confident in my knowledge of proper uses of dyes to create a finished product that will retain its color and fiber quality over time. What I’ve found most inherently informs my dyeing palette is color theory and the ways that dyes and various chemical influences work together to create certain effects on wool fibers. 


A little Lilt Love in Snapdragon and Iced Teal
Yarn
What sets me apart color-wise is what makes every dyer’s yarn unique: personality. 
There is so much room in the knitting world for dyers to express ourselves through
color, so as long as quality is there, beautiful colors and textures will always find an
audience.

Building a unique hand-dyed yarn from the ground up starts with where you get the yarn substrates. While there are a number of wholesalers in the US, none of them reliably sources superwash wool from within the US. My dyeing process requires superwash wool, which can then be blended (or not) with any number of interesting things and spun, plied and hanked at my specifications. I love the mill I work with because they’re a family owned company going back a number of generations, they’re extremely high quality and very smart in their business practices. They’re also constantly innovating, and while not everything they’re able to do works with my dyeing style, I know they’ll be around to supply my company with consistent yarns well into the future.

My dyeing style is fairly unique, and mathematically oriented. If I create a color I really like and want my stores to be able to reorder, I need to know exactly what went into the colorway and in what order it was applied. My gradient yarns, which are only available via blacktrilliumfibres.com because of their long processing time, are complex math because I want the transitions to be noticeable but logical. I also want there to be as little differences from one gradient batch to another, while also formulating and maintaining original dyestock recipes for each one.

The ultimate difference between buying yarn from myself or other hand dyers like me, and a machine-dyed yarn like Noro or Cascade, is that you’re supporting an individual’s livelihood rather than a manufacturing scheme. The handmade movement that really took up steam in 2009 and spawned the Maker Movement and the popularity of crowdfunding, built platforms such as Etsy and Kickstarter into household words is all about supporting what is good for the community. I work for myself, so what you pay for my yarn goes directly back into my community. I see it as my responsibility to make wise choices with the resources that have come my way, so I try to funnel what I can back into locally based organizations and companies, or to others that support their families in a similar way to mine.

Finding inspiration, choosing colors and naming them feels like a really organic process to me. I’ll often see something and think that it really needs its own color. A perfect example of this is Red Maple – as we were out walking one sunny afternoon the sun was shining right through the leaves on one of the dark red maple trees, and you could clearly see the green right through the red. That experience became a colorway that very evening. I think ultimately that means I’m channeling sources of inspiration from what speaks to me. Staying open in the moment, and being observant are really the two best ways I can think of to describe where my ideas come from.

Just The Facts
I have well over 250 repeatable regulars colors, 55 gradient colors, and a number of other varieties of things that don’t have names. I’ve pretty much lost count on the regulars (things like Hedwig, Nutmeg, Oz, etc) but some I’ve been dyeing since 2009 and they’re just as popular then as they are now.

I try to create several new sets of colors every year, as both a creative exercise and to expand my portfolio. I also work with a number of store owners to create colors for their needs, although I don’t create special order colors for individuals.

I use superwash wool bases, blended with things like silk, nylon and cashmere. All of my yarn substrates come from one mill in South America. My yarns are available on my own website, blacktrilliumfibres.com, as well as about 20 brick and mortar stores from Oregon to New York.

Personal
I think of myself as a purple person with a heavy dose of black (see my Black Trillium colorway, that’s pretty much me). However, my stash deviates heavily toward blue. I love wool and silk.

I learned to crochet when I was five, although my Gran didn’t teach me how to read charts. I learned to knit when I was 11, although it didn’t become something I did every day until I was in my late twenties. I’m self-taught in so many things (knitting, dyeing, sewing, music, quilting, wood working, gardening, etc) but spinning really took me for a drive. I had to sit down with an instructor to really get the concepts. I pretty much stink as a spinner, but it is a form of zen you can’t find anywhere else.

Link Up

http://blacktrilliumfibres.com/
https://www.facebook.com/BlackTrilliumFibres
https://twitter.com/BlackTrillium
https://instagram.com/blacktrilliumfibres/
https://www.pinterest.com/blacktrillium/
http://www.ravelry.com/groups/black-trillium-fibres
 
 


Most photos ©ReCrochetions, from my visit to Melanie's studio, and yarn for our kits. The first photo is from Black Trillium's Facebook page, and the Rosaline shawl photo is ©RCYC LLC.

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Introducing Ficstitches Yarns! A Crochet Kit Club with a Twist!


http://ficstitchesyarns.com/
 
I'm so excited to finally share the project I have been developing along with two of my equally creative, geeky friends, hook carver Monica Lowe and writer C. Jane Reid. We make a great team, with all of our various skills coming together to create an awesome, one-of-a-kind product, and I get to work with two of my best friends.

Over the past year, I have been working with indie dyers on my Dyers In Their Studios Series and Hooked On Hand Dyed Patterns. I have been profiling various hand dyers here on my blog, and publishing patterns on Ravelry using their yarns. This project led to branching into putting together kits with Monica, including her crochet hooks, my patterns, and locally dyed yarns. The kits have sold well at the craft shows where she sells her hooks, so we have decided to take them to the next level!


Ficstitches Yarns is a quarterly Kit Club launching April 1st (unless the April Fool gives us any surprises). In addition to hooks, my designs, gorgeous yarn, and other hand-made goodies, we are working with "speculative fiction" writer, C. Jane Reid, who is writing historical crochet fiction stories that tie the kits together. Making this truly a brand new kind of Crochet Kit Club! From the stories, to the design, to the surprise hand-made gifties, you will find an adventure in every package!

So, if you:
  • Loved "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" type stories as a kid
  • Like getting fluffy yarny goodness in the mail
  • Enjoy fun crochet projects that use mostly basic stitches, but provide tutorials for any unusual techniques
  • Adore hand-dyed yarn, or just want to try different fibers and weights
  • Enjoy the feel of long, hard wood in your hands - oops, er. hand carved hooks
  • Have been waiting for something new in crochet fiction
  • OR just want to support some awesome creative women in a new venture
Then this is the Crochet Kit Club for you!

But in order to be a part of the Adventure you have to preorder a kit!
Here's how it works:
  • Preorders will open every 3 months (April, July, and October for 2015)
  • One month needed for Hook-carving and Yarn-dyeing
  • Kit will ship the following month (June, September, and December)
Pre-orders for our First Kit Club will open on April 1st (and will be available through April, or until we sell out). Be sure to check out our Ficstitches Yarns Website, and join the mailing list to be notified as soon as the Kit Club opens!