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 dying yarn?
About 7 years
• How did you get started dying?
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 dying?
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 dying 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.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Life Transitions and New Goals

My youngest child just started Kindergarten, so I am transitioning into a new phase of my life. For the first time in 5 1/2 years, both my children will be in school all day long. I began designing crochet in earnest in 2011. So, most of the time I have been home with my daughter, my focus has been split.
I am hoping now that I have an actual "work day", it will be easier to get things done without the constant interruptions that make everything take three times as long, so then I will have more time to enjoy the kids when they are home! Well, that's the goal anyway. I know it will take a few weeks to get used to this new reality, and figure out a schedule that makes time for everything I want to get done while still leaving flexibility for when the creative spark hits and cannot be denied.
Although I took this summer off from submitting new designs to magazines, etc, I have not really slowed down. This month we are preparing all of the various elements to ship our second Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit Club AND I am crocheting my sister's wedding dress!
More details about the dress and Ficstitches kit will be coming soon, as my other goal for this new phase of life is to schedule in more regular blogging. There are so many things I have not yet had time to write about and share, book reviews, new patterns, and so much more. I am looking forward to finally having the time to make time for writing as well as several other new business ventures I cannot wait to share with you. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dyers in Their Studios Profile - Lynette of DragynKnyts

This month, I am pleased to introduce Lynette Connors of DragynKnits, the yarn dyer for our second Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit Club (on sale all this month!). I believe I first met Lynette when she was working at Wooly Wag Tails Yarns, the closest LYS to my house. I always hoped she would be there when I stopped by the shop, as I knew she was one of the few employees who also crocheted, and was always interested in what I was working on.

Last year, when another great LYS was opening up, she contacted me about teaching crochet classes at Blizzard Yarn and Fibers, in Vancouver. I was glad to start teaching again at a yarn store on this side of the river (rather than going over to Portland where all the other LYSs are), and have continued teaching there. Meanwhile, Lynette has moved on to focus more fully on her dyeing, and we are excited to be a part of that!
Yarn Choices for Ficstitches Yarn Kit #2
·         How long have you been dyeing yarn?
I started dabbling in yarn dyeing about 6 or 7 years ago, just playing with koolaid on cheap yarn. It was just a fun project back then. Now, I’ve been dyeing seriously with acid dyes for about a year. I’ve been seriously selling fiber for about 9 months and yarn for about 5 months.
·         How did you get started dyeing?
When I started spinning and learning how yarn was made, and learning how to process fiber, I also started selling my carded mini art batts at crafts shows along with finished knitted goods. I found that every time people perused my little art batts at an event, their first question was, “Did you dye all the colors yourself?” It seemed like they felt it wasn’t as valuable if I bought pre dyed fiber and blended it. So I started experimenting with dyeing on fiber, and people started buying my braids and batts for spinning. Later I decided to add yarn when non spinners were jealous of the spinners’ pretty braids of top and were asking me to do yarn too.
·         What is your background?
I have an associates degree in pre-school education, but mostly I’ve been a stay at home mom, homeschooling my kids.
However, over the last seven years, I have either worked part time, helped in (for events, covering for absences, etc.), or taught knitting, crochet, rigid heddle weaving and spinning in four yarn shops. In some shops, I either designed, or managed, or both the class programs.
I design simple knitting patterns, both published and self-published for sale. Also I, along with a business partner, published Hooks & Needles Magazine (now Hooks & Needles Patternbook), a knitting and crochet magazine publication, for a year.
·         What makes your yarn special or unique?  
I create color combinations that appeal to me, and I can be a little weird. One of the reasons for dyeing is that I almost never found the colors I really wanted when shopping for yarns. The commercial dyers, and some indie dyers, follow the Pantone colors of the year to a great extent, which meant I was just seeing the same colors all around anytime I was shopping. I also really like to break the color wheel “rules”. Or tweak them a bit.
·         What is something interesting about your dying process that non-dyers might not know?
Non dyers might not know that yarns are designed, and that yarn dyeing is both art and science (and math!).
There are reasons that sock yarn is called sock yarn, and it isn’t just because it’s skinny. The type of fiber/s, the number of plies, the amount of twist, these are all conscious choices made by the yarn designer.
As an Indie dyer, I need to understand a yarn’s best, and most common use, and also its characteristics, before I design color combinations and choose dyes and dye methods for it. The same color dye on a high twist merino with nylon is going to look different on a lofty singles yarn made from polwarth wool. And, stripes look great on socks, but the same dye method on heavier yarn would look totally different when making a sweater. Also, making repeatable color ways means mixing dyes using math and science. It’s like a chemistry lab in the dye studio. It’s not just sprinkling dye powder into a pot of simmering yarn. We have to measure, consider pH levels, use chemicals to set or distribute dye, use heat at certain temperatures, etc.
·         How do you choose your colors and name your yarns?
Usually I’ll have an idea forming in my head sparked by some inspiration, and then go search it on Pinterest, or google images, just browsing images. Or sometimes I’ll look up definitions of inspiration words, or look them up in a thesaurus, and just soak up all the information and images. Then I’ll take my colored pencils and play with some random shading to see what sticks, and what goes together.
My yarns are named after some feature, aspect, folklore or fantasy of dragons and dragon lore, particularly Celtic dragons. Color names usually reflect the inspiration for the color or color line.
·         Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration can be found anywhere, and everywhere. Just use all your senses. I find it in nature, but also in music and other art, scents, foods, even on cereal boxes, in room designs, wedding color schemes, flower shop bouquets and even in fancy public restrooms. It can spark from dreams, or emotions, current events, etc.

·         How many colorways do you have?
Right now, about 30 for yarn and 16 or so for fiber, but I haven’t been selling very long. Many more are in planning and testing stages.
·         Do you create seasonal or special order colors?
Yes, I have done some and have plans for more.
·         How many and what types of bases do you use?
Fingering, 100% SW Merino, 2 ply
Sock, 80/20 SW Merino/Nylon, 3 ply, high twist
DK, 100% SW Merino, 3 ply
Worsted, 100% SW Merino, 4 ply
Worsted, 100% Targhee, 3 ply, very springy/lofty
Falkland, combed top
Corriedale Cross, combed top
Masham, combed top, grey base
Shetland, combed top, brown base
Cheviot, combed top
Mohair, locks
Silk, hankies
·         Where can we find your yarn? LYSs and online?
Currently, my yarn and fiber can be found at Pearl Fiber Arts in Portland, OR, Blizzard Yarn and Fiber in Vancouver, WA and Urban Wolves Fiber Arts in Vancouver, WA.
I will be starting to vend at fiber festivals, starting with Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival in The Dalles, OR on November 6-8, 2015, and I’m hoping to add an online storefront to my website before Thanksgiving 2015. I also hope to expand into additional LYS’s in the Pacific Northwest soon.
·         What are your favorite colors?
I don’t think I can pick a favorite color anymore. I love color as a whole, and especially I love putting colors together and seeing how they interact with each other. Every once in a while, I notice that I seem to have a color “mood”. Last year I went through a green mood, and then a burnt orange mood, and right now I seem to be stuck on “peacock” colors.
·         Favorite fibers?
I love Jacob and Shetland wools to spin, Masham to dye and spin, and merino yarn to knit and weave.
·         Do you crochet, knit, or spin? What came first?
Crochet, knit, spin, weave, and they happened in that order. These days, I’d rather spin than anything, if I have time for recreational fiber arts. Most of my knitting and weaving is samples for my yarn, as well as all my knitting pattern design. And of course, I spend the bulk of my fiber arts time dyeing.

·         Website?
·         Ravelry Group? No group yet, Ravelry name: DragynKnyts
·         Facebook?
·         Twitter? DragynKnyts, but I don’t currently attend to twitter. My facebook is set up to auto tweet.
·         Pinterest? I have many inspiration boards on Pinterest, for dyeing color inspiration and for knitting design inspiration, as well as other fiber related boards.

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)