WIP Wednesday – And baby makes four

Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for the Fall, 2011 KnitCircus PDF pattern collection by visiting this post.  I’ve reached over 100 Facebook fans, so I’ll be giving away two issues! And don’t forget that KnitCircus is hosting quite a few giveaways during the next few weeks on their blog, their Facebook page, and their Ravelry group.

This week I’m in major project planning mode.

Baby blankets are some of my favorite things to make – all the fun of making a blanket but with less work ;) and they actually tend to get used and loved.  One of MC’s best friends and his wife are expecting their second child.  They don’t have a registry up (do people do that for the second child?) but I remember that for their first child they had a strong preference for organics and cotton fibers.  I was contemplating making a variation of my sunshine blanket in one color.

The Sunshine blanket and pillow in Issue 20 (August, 2011) of Inside Crochet.

Another option would be a motif project.  They are just so much more portable and I do a lot of crocheting on the subway.  But if you survived my hexagon baby blanket project, you know I will complain plenty, even though it always ends up being worth it.  I love hexagons but squares are fun, too.  The third option is to use the same pattern I did for their first child, which was basically a large granny square.  A final option would be a one piece in stripes.  (A ripple, perhaps?)  I have really been wanting to use Biscuits and Jam‘s Random Stripe Generator since I learned about it through the Ravelry Afghans & Blankets group. For yarn, I was considering Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton.

Some gender neutral color possibilities from Blue Sky Alpacas.

What do you think?

Other projects in the works:

  • I have five pattern tests going on Ravelry.
  • I’m working on a crochet-a-long/crochet school idea for the fall, inspired by the Quilt Class 101 by Chasing Cottons.  If you’d like to join, I’m still taking ideas for subjects to cover :).

For more awesome WIP Wednesday posts, check out Tami’s Amis!

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Tunisian Crochet

(This post is part of my Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class series.  You can find my other posts in this series here.)

You may have noticed that for the last two weeks (this post and this post), I have not been posting any updates about my project.  I must confess that I could not sustain my interest in the filet crochet :(.  I thought that making a filet project using a phrase that I liked, rather than using an existing pattern, would keep me interested.  Since I haven’t finished the filet project, I’ve felt like I shouldn’t continue on to another chapter.

But I decided to re-read my initial post kicking off the project yesterday, looking for inspiration.  I realized that I must have anticipated my lack of persistence with certain techniques because I said

“So what I plan to do is work through each chapter with a project (large or small)…

For some techniques, I may just work up a swatch, and for others I have a large project planned.”

I’m glad I gave myself an “out” ;).

So today I’m moving on to Tunisian crochet, which is actually one of my favorite techniques. In Crochet Master Class, Julia Bryant is the featured crochet master.  She converted her first Tunisian project from an afghan pattern into a poncho because it was “too beautiful to be used as a blanket.”  That first experience inspired her to start designing, since there were limited patterns available for Tunisian crochet.  Although there has been much more interest in Tunisian crochet in the last few years, at times it still feels like the red-headed stepchild of crochet (no offense to red heads or step-children).

I’ll be teaching intro classes on Tunisian crochet at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival and the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival in September, so I’m focused on making class samples and writing up handouts.  I haven’t been able to take good pictures of my work since I’m staying indoors because of Irene but I will be starting up tests of the patterns I will be using in these classes in the next few days.  If you’re interested in helping out with a pattern test, let me know!

You can find more Year of Projects updates here.

How is your year of projects going?

You still have time to enter my giveaway for a Fall, 2011 PDF issue of KnitCircus in this post.  And don’t forget that KnitCircus is hosting quite a few giveaways during the next few weeks on their blog, their Facebook page, and their Ravelry group.

Review: Nuno Magazine

Recently, I learned about Nuno magazine through an interview with its creators on the Sew, Mama, Sew! blog.  I contacted Elizabeth at Nuno to request a review copy to feature on my blog.

If you’re a Gen X child of the ’80s/’90s like me, you probably have fond memories of awesome ‘zines from your teen years and early ’20s (as well as even more awesome memories of how you got your hands on these underground mags).  Nuno really evokes that DIY ‘zine feel – in a good way.  It doesn’t at all feel or look “polished” like other craft e-magazine such as KnitCircus or Tangled. This doesn’t mean that the magazine isn’t professionally presented and amazing eye candy, though!  Nuno is actually a real treat for the eyes and includes probably at least 60 full page color photographs in each issue that I’ve seen.

The cover of the current issue, Painted Dessert.

I would describe Nuno magazine as a self-contained art project with a collection of craft recipes included in its pages to inspire other artisans/readers.  This is in contrast to what you may be used to seeing in other craft magazines, which are typically structured around editorial features (e.g., reviews, “how to” articles) and project/pattern directions.  There is no advertising of any kind in Nuno, which adds to the art project feel.  Each issue has a theme (e.g., Forest, Shades of Gray) and includes lush photographs and illustrations highlighting the theme.  At various points, project pictures are injected.  Patterns and instructions are at the end of the magazine.

A knitting project from the Summer 2011 issue.

Nuno is entirely produced by just three contributors, who do all the writing, photography, and project design.  There is a clear emphasis on an eco-friendly lifestyle, with most projects made using upcycled or repurposed materials.  This leads to a certain consistency since most magazines have many voices with contributions from multiple designers and authors and an editor.  On the other hand, Nuno‘s project directions are rather informal and there doesn’t appear to be a style guide, so instructions are not always consistent from one issue to the next.  In other words, the artistic vision is obvious and uniform throughout each issue, but the project instructions are more casual and varied than you might expect from a magazine.

The cover of the Fall, 2010 issue, Forest.

There is also quite a range of craft projects, including sewing, knitting, crochet, paper crafts, painting, stamping, papier-mache, etc., in each issue.  At over 150 pages long, Nuno is quite a value for $5.

Wrist warmers from "reclaimed wool yarn" in the Forest issue.

So who would love Nuno magazine?  If you find inspiration from natural photography and artwork, if you are concerned about your carbon footprint, if you are a fan of the indie ‘zine ethos, if you enjoy reading on your computer/tablet, if you are proficient in (or enjoy making things in) a few different crafts, and/or you are the type of person who never follows a pattern exactly but likes to see one to get your creative juices flowing, you will probably really enjoy Nuno.  If you are a newbie and/or tend to follow patterns very exactly, you may find the instructions in Nuno a bit free flowing for your tastes.  Also, if you are someone who must have a physical copy, you will probably not like Nuno.  With over 150 pages of (mostly) full color, high resolution images, it would be impossible to print out cost efficiently at home.

If you are multi-craftual, I definitely recommend picking up a copy, especially if you are interested in that issue’s theme.  Thanks to the folks at Nuno for providing me with access to review copies of their Summer, 2011 and Fall, 2010 issues!


You still have time to enter my giveaway for a Fall, 2011 PDF issue of KnitCircus in this post.  And don’t forget that KnitCircus is hosting quite a few giveaways during the next few weeks on their blog, their Facebook page, and their Ravelry group.

F.O. Friday – Heart Hat

Over the weekend, I was really under the weather.  I basically stayed in bed all day Saturday until at some point I got bored.  I decided to pick up the beautiful Shetland yarn I won from the Chopped Tomatoes giveaway.  I had just posted my interview with Machelle Salmeen, the creative force behind Chopped Tomatoes, so the yarn was calling out to me.

Using the yarn, I worked up this hat with a heart shaped out of bobbles.  Then on Sunday, I took a short walk over to Riverside Park to take some pictures.  You know that feeling when you are still sick and even a block or two makes you feel unsteady on your feet and like you need to sleep for a few hours?  That’s the feeling I had taking these pictures :).

You can see the heart shape best in this picture.
I love this yarn!

I am not too sure that I love the final hat, but it definitely was a good project to keep me from getting cabin fever while I was sick.

Did you finish anything this week?  Check out Tami’s Amis for links to many other Finished Object Friday posts.

By the way, you still have time to enter my giveaway for a Fall, 2011 PDF issue of KnitCircus in this post.  And don’t forget that the magazine is hosting quite a few giveaways during the next few weeks on their blog, their Facebook page, and their Ravelry group.

Thursday craft goals update, week 17

Here I am, with my weekly update on my craft goals.  I’ve been under the weather for about a week and haven’t accomplished much.
The only things I’ve kept up with are blogging regularly (professional crafting goal #4) and working on samples for my classes that I’ll be teaching at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival and the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival in September.  I’m also working on my class plan for two classes I’ll be teaching at the John C. Campbell Folk School in November, 2012 since they need to get their instructor materials in to publish in their course catalog (professional crafting goal #5).
If you haven’t already done so, you may want to enter my giveaway for a PDF of the Fall, 2011 issue of KnitCircus!  I’m really thrilled to have my Quadrilateral broomstick lace shawl pattern published in this issue.  If you’re like me, and you love giveaways, you should also check out all the great ones KnitCircus is hosting in conjunction with this issue!  For more information, visit their blog, Facebook page, or Ravelry group.

WIP Wednesday – Patterns galore

This week, I took two big steps in my design career – I started pattern testing and I started my own group on Ravelry.  Let me backtrack a bit here first.  Since I started formally writing up my designs last year, I’ve had several patterns published in print magazines.

Stocking caps, in Crochet World's December, 2010 issue. Photo (c) House of White Birches
Snowball hat and keyhole scarf set, also in the December, 2010 issue of Crochet World. Photo (c) House of White Birches
The Sunshine blanket and pillow in Issue 20 (August, 2011) of Inside Crochet. Photo (c) Inside Crochet

Today marks the first day that I’ve had a pattern published in an online magazine.  I can finally share that my broomstick lace shawl, Quadrilateral, is included in the Fall, 2011 issue of Knitcircus. This is the top secret project I mentioned in these posts (#1, #2, #3) and which I can finally show you.

(c) KnitCircus
(c) KnitCircus

I love the way the outdoor photographs look.   The pictures really highlight the beauty of the yarn, Heather by the Schaefer Yarn Company in the Subtly Solid Botanicals Thistle colorway.  Working on Quadrilateral was my first opportunity to work with Schaefer Yarn, and I’m so glad Jaala Spiro (the editor of KnitCircus) recommended it!  The yarn is so lovely to work with and the colorway really highlights all of my favorite things about purple :).  The issue goes live today and I have the opportunity to give away PDFs of several issues.  But more about that later…

So my work in progress for this week is getting some patterns “up to snuff” for self-publication.  When you work with a publisher, they hire people to tech edit your designs, photograph your work, and layout the pattern.  (Often they also arrange for yarn support and handle the questions that readers have about your pattern, too!)  On the other hand, when you self-publish a pattern, you have two options.  You can just write up a pattern and publish it without testing, editing, or considering layout, or you can try to replicate all of the functions of the publishing company in addition to your own design work.

I’ve been teaching crochet since 2007, and I decided that I didn’t want to be one of the designers who just presents their work to the public, warts and all.  I didn’t want to be one of the designers that have people convinced they don’t know how to read patterns (when actually the pattern is full of errors).  So I hired a tech editor and when the patterns were returned to me, I started pattern testing.

I was lucky to find a great group on Ravelry called the Testing Pool.  Through this group I have found thirteen very nice crocheters who are each working on one or two of the three patterns I’m testing right now for a fall release.  Two of these patterns are in the Crochet: 100+ Patterns Throughout the Year: 2012 Day-to-Day Calendar and one has never been released.  The pattern tests are working great so far.  The testers have found typos, made suggestions for layout, and identified phrasing which could be unclear or confusing.

Managing all these tests on email has been a bit challenging, since I’m trying to link up (in my mind) people to their Ravelry IDs.  So I decided I would also start an Underground Crafter group on Ravelry.  This could be used for pattern testing, crochet a longs, info on upcoming classes, and other cool stuff that I have yet to imagine.

What are you working on this week?  Check out the other WIP Wednesday posts at Tami’s Amis!

The Giveaway

Here’s your chance to win a PDF of the patterns in the Fall, 2011 issue of KnitCircus!   This issue includes 27 crochet and knit patterns, as well as all of the other goodies KnitCircus is known for like recipes, articles, and reviews.  If you’re not familiar with KnitCircus, you should check it out.  Much of the content is available for free, and you can see awesome photos of each pattern before you make a choice about whether or not to buy an issue.  You can also buy individual patterns through their pattern shop.

You will have one week to enter this giveaway.  To enter,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, August 31, 2011.  Be sure to include your email address (which won’t be displayed) so I can contact you if you win.  (Please note that my comments are moderated, so if you are a new visitor, it will not appear immediately.)
  • For another chance to win, like the Underground Crafter Facebook page.  Then you can either post a comment on Facebook or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already like my Facebook page, you should post a comment for another chance to win.)  If my Facebook page has 100 fans by the deadline, I will give away a second PDF of the Fall, 2011 issue of KnitCircus, so feel free to share the link!
  • For another chance to win, share the link to this giveaway via Twitter, Facebook, or your blog.  Then post a comment here with the link to your Tweet or blog post, or leave a comment on my Facebook page so I will give you another entry.
  • To get my fledgling Ravelry group off the ground, I will also host a separate giveaway there for members.

Good luck!

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – another week without a project photo

Although you would never guess from my Year of Projects posts, I have actually been quite busy for the last two weeks.  I’m working on some samples for classes I’ll be teaching at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival (don’t forget to register by September 1) and the North Jersey Fiber Festival (register by September 20).  I have a few top secret design submissions in the works.  And, I just started my first ever pattern test on Ravelry for a self-published pattern!  I’m planning to test three patterns in the next few weeks.  If you’re interested in being a tester, let me know.

It looks like it will be at least another week before you will see my creations inspired by the talented artisans represented in Crochet Master Class.

How are your projects coming along this week?

In other news, I’m announcing the final winner from my week of giveaways celebrating my 100th blog post.

Don’t despair though, I’ll have another giveaway coming up this Wednesday when the Fall issue of Knitcircus goes live, featuring one of my patterns!

Without further ado…

Congratulations to Tink from Master of a Thousand Things, who is also participating in the Year of Projects.  You’ve won a copy of Crochet: 100+ Patterns Throughout the Year: 2012 Day-to-Day Calendar, which includes three of my patterns.  Thanks to everyone who entered!  Tink, I’ll be emailing you later today to get your mailing address.

Ultimate Book of Quilting Cross Stitch and Needlecraft Winner!

Today’s prize is the oddly named The Ultimate Book of Quilting Cross Stitch & Needlecraft, which is actually a comprehensive needlecrafts guide.

And the winner is…

Congratulations Keri from Yarn Dharma: Crochet is My Sanity, one of my own daily blog reads.  Please note that the book uses U.K. terminology when you are crocheting!

Thanks to everyone else who entered.  There is one last giveaway, ending tonight, so don’t forget to enter here.

Knitting supplies giveaway winner!

Today’s winner will receive a knitting supply kit including:

And the winner is…

Congratulations to Beth W!  I will be in touch via email to get your mailing address.  And thanks to everyone who entered.

There are two giveaways still open.  You can enter to win The Ultimate Book of Quilting Cross Stitch & Needlecraft by August 20 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time here, or enter to win Crochet: 100+ Patterns Throughout the Year: 2012 Day-to-Day Calendar by August 21 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time here.

An interview with Machelle Salmeen from Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen

I’m really excited to interview Machelle Salmeen from the Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen today.  I have actually been planning this interview since late June, but due to some bizarre email happenings, her responses just arrived this week.

I was first exposed to Machelle through Sew Mama Sew‘s May Giveaway Day.  You may remember that I was chaperoning a trip and was left for numerous hours in a room with internet access, so I actually visited every blog on the list.  I was immediately attracted to Machelle’s lovely yarns, and won a skein of Shetland Aran Weight Yarn.  More on that later…

Machelle worked for many years as an astrophysicist with Nobel Prize winner Russell Alan Hulse.  A chance meeting with actress Mercedes Ruehl in 2009 changed her life and she started the Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen.  Ok, none of that is true – but Machelle’s “About Me” page has not been updated and she said I should “make something up!” when writing her bio.

You can find Machelle and the Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen on the web on Ravelry (as choppedtomatoes and in the Chopped Tomatoes group), Twitter, Etsy, her website, and her blog.  Her patterns are available as Ravelry downloads or through her website here and here.

Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen is located in Cardiff.  The photos of Machelle and her products are used with her permission.

Machelle with her dog/super model.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting, crocheting, spinning, and dyeing yarn?

Machelle: Sometime, a very long time ago, my mother handed me a crochet hook and some pretty pink yarn. I didn’t think much of it as a 7-year old, except that when I crocheted my first project (pencil case), it seemed as though time stood still. From that point on, I was hooked (excuse the pun), and I haven’t been without a WIP since.

Knitting came a little later on when I was around 9, and I taught myself the basic stitches from photographs in an old German needlecraft book someone had given my mother. I didn’t progress any further than a moss stitch scarf until I was in my early twenties, when I discovered Ravelry and the mass of internet resources.

The internet is also responsible for my spinning ‘roots.’  I received a drop spindle kit around 2008 in a swap on Ravelry and a few months later I bought my first wheel. I don’t spin as much as I crochet and knit, mostly because I haven’t got the time these days, but it’s a nice craft to turn to when I want to relax. (UC comment: It always amazes me how profound the impact of internet swaps can be.  I’ve learned new techniques and explored new materials through the generosity of internet swappers!)

As for dyeing, I think I have always dyed fibres. As a youngster I used to tie-dye my shirts, and sometimes dad would allow me to dye his PJs. The dyeing learning curve really corresponded with my knitting one; I practised and experimented for a few years with different dyes and techniques (learnt more about knitting and wrote a few free patterns), gave hand-dyed wool away to friends and family for feedback (knitted gifts and accessories using my own designs to test them out), and finally, felt I reached the point where I was completely comfortable with my products, and began offering them to the public.

Handspun in Green on Greys from Chopped Tomatoes.

UC: You describe yourself as a “serial designer, food-lover, and green crusader.”  Tell me more about your green crusade.

Machelle: I’m what you might call a ‘closet crusader.’  I don’t blog about it much because I really don’t know where to start. To be honest with you, just reading that question caused an enormous gush of words to battle in my head! I have always tried to recycle, but the most important thing is re-USE and re-DUCE. I don’t want to turn this into a green lecture, but here are a few organisations that mean a lot to me: Pesticide Action Network-UKArtists Project Earth, and more locally Friends of the Earth Cymru.

Honour, a soft red with a hint of magenta colourway, part of the Desert Lands yarn collection.

UC: How did you decide to start your business?

Machelle: I love colours and dyeing yarn, and I couldn’t knit with all of it. So really, at the beginning, it was a way for me to fund my hobby. Since I launched, the range the responses I got were so positive that everything seemed to take on a life of its own and things just evolved into a beautiful business.

The Contempo pattern is available for download on Ravelry or through the Chopped Tomatoes website.

UC: Where do you find your creative inspiration?

Machelle: Everywhere. I know lots of people may give this answer when it comes to inspiration, but it’s because everything around you can be beautiful. I enjoy photography and I tend to extract colour palettes from photos that I have taken.

Dyeing and design are what I love and do with my life, so honestly, I find inspiration everywhere. I’m a very visual person; I love clean lines, well-decorated homes, and colourful clothes on children. I just grab my camera, shoot away, and then sit down and find something beautiful.

The lilac streaked teal colourway from the Atelier Abstracts collection.

UC: Do you have any favorite crafting blogs or websites to share?

Machelle: Apart from the obvious - Ravelry and Crochet Me - I would have to say I like How Can I Recycle This? I have a large reader list which I try and scan a few times a week, but I generally haven’t got the time to browse the internet unfortunately!

Thanks so much Machelle for taking the time to stop by for an interview.  Check out the Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen website for more yummy yarn pictures, and order some stuff if you are looking for awesome yarn!

And now for my review of my Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen yarn!  It took the yarn a few weeks to make its way across the pond, through customs, and into my hands after May Giveaway Day.  I was pleasantly surprised by the softness of the fiber.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has seen beautiful yarn on the internet and then has discovered that “in person” it is scratchy or splitty or otherwise unpleasant to work with. In contrast, this Shetland hank easily worked its way onto my swift and ball winder until it became this cute little yarn cake.

I also love the yarn’s texture.  It is one of those thick and thin type yarns which always work up in mysterious and beautiful ways.  The lovely colorway is sure to be a knock out.  I have a hat planned for this yarn, but as usual, I’m quite behind on my projects :).  I will definitely make something great to fully share the yarn’s beauty with the world.

Thanks again Machelle for hosting your giveaway back in May, stopping by for the interview, and for bringing such gorgeous yarns into the world!