Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Stitches West Book Signings this Weekend!

Fresh from a trip to Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat last weekend, I am now busy packing for my next roadtrip: Stitches West in Santa Clara, CA. I will be doing Book Signings at the Yarn Barn of Kansas booth on Saturday the 21st at 2pm and Sunday the 22nd at 12pm. We will have copies of all three of my books, Reversible Color Crochet and ReCrochetions Presents: Rowan's Learn to Crochet Sampler (Left-Handed and Right-Handed editions).

This will be my first Stitches, so I am looking forward to checking one of the few big yarn shows on the West Coast, especially the marketplace. As we drive (well, whenever I'm not actually driving) I will be finishing up some samples of designs I've done for several of the yarn companies that have booths at this event, including Colinette (from Wales) and Spincycle (local dyers who I profiled here last month).

Perhaps when I return I'll manage to write a post about both events. Madrona was really great for connecting with local dyers, designers, and teachers (mostly knitters and spinners). But I know Stitches is a much larger event, so it will be a totally different experience.

So, if you are in the Santa Clara area, or coming to Stitches, I hope to see you there! If you have one of my books, bring it for me to sign! Now back to packing, before I go pick up my travelmate Monica Lowe (of Craftwich Creations) from the train station, so we can leave bright and early tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

WNW: Textured Waves Shawl

What's New Wednesday

I had a lot of fun working up the Textured Waves Shawl in the new Spring Issue of Crochet! Magazine. The design was inspired by a stitch pattern I found in a Japanese Stitch guide I picked up at Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle last spring.

Although I often start with inspiration from a stitch dictionary, the stitch pattern seldom stays the same as I play with the stitches. I was intrigued by the changing stitch heights combined with rows of front and back post single crochets.

The post stitch rows create ridges between the waves and are alternated front and back so there are ridges on every other wave on both sides. By skipping every other stitch to create the dips in the waves, you get the open lacy look of a 'feather and fan' pattern.

Although it is worked in fingering weight yarn, this is a very quick project to work up, on a nice big J (6.00mm) hook. The hand dyed Jitterbug yarn I used for the sample comes from Colinette Yarns, in Wales.

I have had the pleasure of doing a lot of designs with Colinette yarns lately, and just LOVE the rich, multi-tonal colors they have. Jitterbug seems to be spun a little more densely than some fingering weight yarns, so a different yarn may give you even more drape. But I tend to wear my shawls more as scarves, wrapped around my neck, and have been enjoying wearing this sample when I head out on a cold evening.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Learn To Crochet Sampler Classes at Blizzard!

Do you know the basics of crochet, but want to expand your knowledge of stitches and pattern reading? Want to learn to "read your stitches" so you can fix mistakes?

This month I started teaching an ongoing class series at Blizzard Yarns and Fibers in Vancouver, WA. Each week we are making one square from the Sampler in my first book, ReCrochetions Presents: Rowan's Learn to Crochet Sampler.
The goal with this book was to include all of the various things that commonly come up in crochet patterns, with a focus on the various insertion points. I have a great class of 6 regular students (plus a few drop ins). In January, we learned everything from the basic chain to basic stitches (single, half double, and double crochets). Tonight we will be branching out into shells.
But there are still a few spots open in the class for the coming months! If you already know the basic stitches, sign up for the next session in February, to learn:

Look for Blizzard's brand new sign
at Fourth Plain and Andresen!
Week 1: Waves - Treble Crochet and Working in Back Loop Only
Week 2: Chevrons - Increases & Decreases
Week 3: Crosshatches – 3-Double Crochet Shells and Working in Chain-2 Spaces
Week 4: Katherine Wheels -- Combining Shells and Clusters

Sign up for all 4 classes each month for $80, or pick and choose the stitches you want to learn for $25 per class.
Hope you can join us! And if you are not in the area, check out my book and give the Sampler a try on your own! (remember there's a left-handed edition too!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dyers In Their Studios: Rachel and Kate of Spincycle

This month, I am excited to introduce Rachel and Kate of Spincycle Yarns. They are another local indie dyer, out of the Seattle Washington area. I have had the honor of meeting them at several local fiber events, including Urban Craft Uprising, just last month. And am having fun working up TWO different patterns which will be available soon on Ravelry (between the holidays and crocheting party favors for my daughter's 5th birthday, it's been a slow month!).

Spincycle yarns really stand out because rather than dying after the fiber has been spun, the "Spinsters" (as they call themselves) create yarn that is "dyed in the wool". Dying the wool first makes it possible to create yarns with nice long color changes as well as a barber-pole effect that gives it a very distinctive look. I will let Rachel explain more about how they dye their yarns and fibers, and where they get their inspiration...
How long have you been dying yarn?
We started working together as Spincycle Yarns ten years ago this coming Easter! Before that, we were both doing a bit of dyeing on opposite coasts.
How did you get started dying?
I (oh hi! ...this is Rachel!) started dyeing with plants and lichens when I was living off the grid in North Carolina, circa 2002. I was just starting to learn about fibers. I actually got into dyeing and drop spindling a couple of years before I ever learned to knit. Kate is the offspring of ex-hippie homesteaders and grew up with a spinning wheel in the corner of her living room.  After hearing romantic stories of buying a fleece straight from a farm, spinning in the grease as your hands gets sticky and birds lift your hair out of your eyes and magical squirrels hand you fresh bobbins, she bought roving and acid dye and went to town.  Mixed results of course, but she learned a lot.
What is your background?
Both of us are completely self-taught dyers and spinners. We developed our respective styles before we met, and since then have strongly influenced each other. It might have been nice at some point to have gotten a bit of proper fiber education, but then again, we credit our DIY approach as being the reason our yarns are unique.
Do you have any special experience with art or science that influences your dying?
I (Rachel here, still… in the name of full disclosure, I do most of the “words” and Kate mostly does the “numbers.” When I have to deal with the financial things, I usually goof something. Kate is a notorious misspeller. We are perfect together. So anyway...) have a degree in geology. I don’t use it now, but I think that in some indirect way, the tremendous amount of time I spent outdoors in different places gave me an appreciation for the colors of nature. Even though we use nontoxic synthetic dyes rather than natural dyes, we have a subtle hand for blending and combining and are constantly influenced by nature. As for Kate, she is greatly influenced by Wu Tang.

Your Yarn
What makes your yarn special or unique?
We started out as a handspinnery. For most of the years we’ve existed as Spincycle Yarns, we were making every skein by hand on our wheels. When we decided to expand and work with a mill, we insisted that the yarns maintain the look of handspun. That is, we retained the rustic thick-and-thin look to our aran singles, the slow color changes of our 2-ply sport, and so on. We still make the Feral line by handspinning and the Knit Fast, Die Young line is all hand-plied. If we feel like the yarn would be compromised by being millspun, we go back to our trusty old spinning wheels!
Can you explain how ‘dyed in the wool’ is different from most other hand dyed yarns?
Dyed In The Wool is just that; the fiber is dyed before it’s spun. (The other method is to work with an already spun yarn by dip-dyeing or hand-painting, resulting in a very different look from a yarn dyed in the wool.) Our color shifts are loooooooong and gradual. And unpredictable. Every skein is different, even from the same dyelot. All the hues of the colorway will be there, but the order in which they repeat, the lengths of the repeats, even the in-between colors that happen in the blending are all one-of-a-kind. And especially with a 2-ply yarn like DyedIn The Wool or Knit Fast, Die Young, the possibilities of combinations are endless. And, by the way, all of our yarns are dyed in the wool, not just the eponymous line!
What is something interesting about your dyeing process that non-dyers might not know?
Our process is not the easiest way to dye yarns! But we stick to it because the yarn we produce is so unlike everything else out there. We just built a new dye kitchen this year, and it’s been awesome. We now have two huge propane stoves and two 15+ gallon dyepots, which is about all one spinster can handle at a time. We are very meticulous about our colorways (and we have our own colorways that we’ve perfected… we never get into each other’s recipes!) but it all happens very fast because we are working at the high end of the temperature range. Again, it’s our DIY techniques at work again, but we have a specific look we’re going for and we like the control that high temperature gives us, even if it isn’t a very forgiving method. It’s kind of exciting, though!
How do you choose your colors and name your yarns?
Oh, this question… Hah! Well, we listen to a lot of music while we dye, so many names are from songs. In fact, every yarn from the line of Knit Fast, Die Young has the name of a hip-hop or rap song. We’re also suckers for a good turn of phrase, double entendre, or just a little naughty implication. A few of our favorites are Burning Sensation, Venus in Furs and The Saddest Place.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. We are constantly on the lookout for color combinations. We take a lot of pictures. Tear pages out of our magazines where there’s a nice combination. It’s everywhere.

Just The Facts
How many colorways do you have?
Without stopping to count the pages in our handy colorway Rolodex (yep, that’s right, keeping in real, 1980’s style), I’d guess upwards of sixty.
Do you create seasonal or special order colors?
Absolutely! We’ve done lots of custom colorways for shops and individuals. The yarn stores of Portland in particular seem to be quite keen on custom colorways, probably because it’s such a lush and inspiring environment down there.
How many and what types of bases do you use?
We currently use Bluefaced Leicester as well as an American wool blend that includes the absolutely luxe breed Rambouillet.
Where do your yarn bases come from?
The BFL is from the UK; all the rest is domestic, from the USA! We are slowly shifting to 100% domestic, though.
Where can we find your yarn? LYSs and online?
We have a lovely website, at . And there are lots of LYSs that carry us, the names and locations of which you can find on our website. And we are always at StitchesWest, as well as some of the Vogue Knitting Live events.

What are your favorite colors? All.
Favorite fibers?
Our American wool blend is amazing. Soft, bouncy, light, yum. We also have a source for maybe the best kid mohair grown in the US, which we use in our Feral line.
Do you crochet, knit, or spin? What came first?
We are hanging our heads as we admit that we are both terrible crocheters. We can knit just about anything, and, of course, we can spin in our sleep thanks to years and years of handspinning.

Link Up
Ravelry Group? Rav profile: spincycleyarns      Rav group: knit with spincycle yarns
Twitter? spincycleyarns
Instagram? spincycleyarns

All Photos © Spincycle Yarns

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

WNW: Woven Ottoman

What's New Wednesday: Woven Ottoman

Have you picked up Interweave Crochet's HOME special issue? It is still available on newsstands and through their website! There are so many great designs in this issue, you will be inspired to add a little crochet style all over your home!

For the past couple of years I have been seeing large crocheted and knitted poof-type pillows in stores, and have been dying to make one myself. When I saw Interweave was doing a Home issue, I knew this was the perfect chance to explore this idea.

I started with some chunky weight cotton yarn from my stash, and began playing with textured stitches. I wanted a stitch pattern that would give a little texture and interest, but provide a solid enough fabric so you cannot see what is inside. This can be a bit of a challenge when working with a chunky weight yarn. But I settled on this cable-type pattern (I like me some cables), with a background of single crochets worked as you as you go.

I wanted to use smooth stitches for the top and bottom, and was really pleased with how the spiral star look formed as I worked them.

The big challenge was how to stuff the ottoman. I have looked at large pillows and dog pillows, debating what would work best. But I wanted something that would be easy for magazine readers to find. In the end I went to IKEA for some basic square, white pillow forms. However, stacking square pillows in a round shape did not work well, even after pushing in the corners to make it more rounded.

So, I dove into my stash of quilt batting, and rolled some up tight to create a more solid core. Then I arranged the square pillows upright around the core, to create an ottoman that is soft, but will not squish down flat if you rest your feet on it. Although if you plan to sit on it, you may want to add even more batting, or find a pillow form the right shape and stuff it even more. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year! - Planner for 2015

With the coming of the new year, I am inspired by seeing so many creative friends posting their Personalized Paper Planners for 2015. I have carried a Paper Calendar Planner ever since I was in high school. One Friday I double booked myself to play with the Marching Band at a football game and perform with my church theater group, and used a planner ever since.

When nearly everyone got PDAs to keep track of schedules and contacts in the '90s, I actually got a paper planner binder with a pocket at the front for the PDA. I never could totally give up the paper, even with smartphones. I even had printable pages so I could make my own custom pages to add to my planner.

Heather Zoppetti, an awesome knitwear designer and author of Everyday Lace (Interweave/F&W 2014), uses lots of colorful pens with these customizable planners from Arc. I need to check these out! Although I am not sure how well the large rings will work for us lefties, I love the idea of printing pages to meet my needs.

All above pics courtesy of Heather Zoppetti, digitalnabi on Instagram
Rebecca Velazquez, another talented friend who designs both crochet and knit, starts each year with a basic graph ruled Composition Book, and truly makes it her own with stickers and scrapbook paper. Creating her own organizational system from scratch. This may be more than I'm up for, but it is the ultimate in personalization.

Pics from Rebecca Velasquez of RV Designs
After seeing Heather and Rebecca's photos, I did a little search on Facebook for #planneraddict, and found lots more inspiration. Since I used to do a lot more scrapbooking in my previous life, I do have a rather huge stash of stickers, papers, and fancy pens. I even used to collect stickers with phrases, many inspirational ones that will be perfect for a planner.

The whole personalizing thing is new to me but I think it's totally fun that custom decorating planners seems to have become a 'thing'. I still have 6 months left of the planner I currently use and works well for me. So, I will start with decorating the rest of this one, and begin looking for the next one. I'm LOVING this trend and am ready to raid my old scrapbooking stash. Guess I'll start with these awesome yarn themed stickers that came with the current issue of Simply Crochet magazine.

My own planner, soon to be made more colorful!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tour Tuesday: Book Signing and Classes at Blizzard

I have one more book signing on my Reversible Color Crochet Book Tour for this year. This Saturday, December 13, 11am to 1pm, I will be at Blizzard Yarn and Fiber in Vancouver Washington. Blizzard is a brand new yarn store located on the Northwest corner of Fourth Plain and Andresen near the Vancouver mall, and will be teaching later that afternoon!

This shop is tucked away behind a dentist office, a quilt shop, and a couple other building so it may be a little hard to find. But well worth it! They have already expanded their shop, nearly doubling the space, and allowing plenty of room for tons of gorgeous yarn, as well as events and classes. I have taught a couple of fun classes at the shop so far, and really enjoy the community they are creating in this new shop!

Come on down this Saturday to check out the Full Trunk Show of blankets from my new book (before I give some away for Christmas presents - shh!). Blizzard carries both my new book Reversible Color Crochet, and for less experienced crocheters, my first book Rowan's Learn to Crochet Sampler (right- and left-handed editions). They will have copies available for signing on Saturday morning. This is also a great time to sign up for one of my upcoming classes based on BOTH my books! Keep an eye on the Blizzard Website for updates on future classes, including an on-going Learn To Crochet Sampler Class starting in January!!

I am looking forward to teaching my first 2-part Introduction to Reversible Intarsia Class at Blizzard on Saturday, December 13th and 20th, 2pm to 5pm. I am excited to try this 6-hour class in a 2-week format, giving students a week between the two sessions to practice and process all they are learning. Although the stitches used in the class are basic, this format will give your fingers time to learn the subtle new movements required to create completely reversible designs in crochet!
Coaster made in Into to Reversible Intarsia Class