Announcing the Scraptastic Shawl(ette) with Crochet Button Spring Cleaning CAL!

blog Scraptastic CAL Button

If you’re like me, you are in a constant battle with your stash. My Scraptastic Shawlette with Crochet Button is the perfect stashbuster, and it can easily be resized from a small shawlette into a jumbo shawl. I made the sample with 500 yards of medium weight yarn, but you can use any type of yarn with an appropriate hook. The pattern is a customizable recipe and the crochet button ensures a fashionable closure, no matter how short or long it is!

CAL Details

The CAL officially kicks off today, on Friday, April 4, 2014, and will run through Sunday, May 11, 2014, which happens to be Mother’s Day in the U.S. You might even want to make a shawl(ette) for your Mom!

The CAL runs for 6 weeks not because the shawl(ette) takes so long to make (actually, I made the sample in one day), but because I want to give everyone a chance to finish and take pictures to enter the giveaway!

Ravelry members can go straight to this thread in the Underground Crafter group for chat during the CAL. Post a picture of your finished shawl(ette) there by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, May 11 for your chance to win some awesome crochet goodies. Each finished shawl(ette) pictured counts as one giveaway entry. If you use entirely stash yarn, I’ll even give you an extra entry to encourage some spring cleaning! If you’re not on Ravelry, you can share your picture on the Underground Crafter Facebook page or Tweet it to me at @ucrafter.

Please note that the pattern is available for 50% off through tonight at 11:59 p.m. Eastern with the coupon code on the pattern page here.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with! I’m making my next version with these two sock yarns that I received in swaps. The colors go great together, and I’m looking forward to having my own lightweight shawl in time for summer.

Stashbuster yarns

Let me know if you’re joining in – I’d love to see what you come up with!

2014 Sampler MKAL April Giveaway Sponsor: Bending Flow Designs Guest Post

blog MKAL logo supplies with sample block edit

You can find more information on the 2014 Sampler MKAL here, and can order the pattern here.  Join in any time for a fun project with great prizes!

This month’s giveaway sponsor is Bending Flow Designs (formerly known as Alchemic Viscera). Jesse sells blown glass and wire wrapped creations on Etsy.  In addition to the Etsy shop, Jesse can be found on the Alchemic Viscera Facebook page.

I asked Jesse to share a guest post today, so we could all learn a bit more about the creative process behind Bending Flow Designs and the origins of those glass knitting needles! All pictures are copyright Bending Flow Designs and are used with permission.

 

Riding the Glass Ship

Guest Post by Jesse W. from Bending Flow Designs

Glass Daisy by Bending Flow Designs

Glass Daisy by Bending Flow Designs.

How to begin to explain my journey into the world of glass is a feat in itself. One thing, though, that I can say is that journey has been an inspiring, enlightening, humbling, and an extremely engrossing experience. Art, sculpture, and creating has always been a part of my life. I have been creating and conjuring since I can remember. Whether it was weird paper sculptures constructed of used loose leaf paper and Elmer’s glue, skate ramps built of salvaged wood, or clothing and bags made of scrapped remnants from an upholstery factory my neighbors owned, I was always creating something. Most of the time it was out of some salvaged material, but the satisfaction of finishing a piece that was built from “garbage” and being able to wear it to school the next day kept my drive alive. I also loved that I was able to create something with my own hands and energy, and I could enjoy it or even use it throughout the day. I just kept creating; flitting from project to project, medium to medium. Eventually, after trying many different mediums (metals, textiles, ceramics, etc.), I came across the wondrous medium of glass and got on board the “glass ship.” From there on it’s a continuous story that keeps unraveling itself as my life goes on.

 

Glass Fish and Fishing Net by Bending Flow Designs

Glass fish in glass fishing net by Bending Flow Designs.

Throughout my journey on the “glass ship,” I have created many different things. Many of them custom orders, and all of them drawing inspiration and building confidence. Working with both hollow and solid glass forms, I started to build knowledge and explore the parameters. Doors just kept opening, and I kept discovering more and more of what was possible. Making the glass daisy and the fish in the fishing net pictured above have really helped show me how much I was able to push the limits of glass.

Custom Boulder & Fire Opal Sterling Silver Wire Wrap Pendant by Bending Flow Designs

Boulder and fire opal sterling silver wire wrap pendant by Bending Flow Designs.

My work does not trend towards an specific style. I just really like to create things that can be worn or are useful. I like to use mixed media for some of my pieces. Intricately wrapping them with wire to see how I can accentuate features. And sometimes not using glass at all, and just using metal and minerals. High energy and the relentlessly turning gears in my mind are constantly driving me to create. Everything that’s built is derived from that ruthless energy, and I have learned over time, not to fight it. If there’s a project that I don’t want to give my time to, but I have already conjured it up and started it; I found that it’s best to just go with the flow and stick it out. Some of my best work has resulted in this. This was how the glass knitting needles were born.

 

Custom Beach Glass and Sterling Silver Wire Wrap Pendant

Beach glass and sterling silver wire wrap pendant by Bending Flow Designs.

With all the different types of arts and crafts that I like to explore, I decided one day that I wanted to make myself a scarf. To challenge myself, I decided to try to knit this scarf. I do not have the most extensive background in knitting as I somewhat do with crocheting, so naturally all I had laying around the house were several different size crochet hooks. Though they are nice hooks, and have helped me along many times before, they were not going to aide me in my knitted scarf journey.

 

Tourmaline Aquamarine Ring

Tourmaline aquamarine ring by Bending Flow Designs.

 

That’s when it began. I started to search the house for long slender items that could substitute for knitting needles. Well, I tried chopsticks, pens, pencils, smooth pieces of drift wood; nothing worked.The diameters weren’t right with some, and the others weren’t long enough. I started to get frustrated, and wanted to quit even before I started. Then it dawned on me, I had piles of clear glass stock in my studio in whatever diameter I wanted. I ran down to my studio and made the first pair, let them cool, and started knitting with them. AMAZING! They were the smooth and exactly the length that I wanted them. They helped me so much with my project that I decided to make more of them, and share them with whomever was interested.

 

Black & White Glass Knitting Needles by Bending Flow Designs

Black and white glass knitting needles by Bending Flow Designs.

 

Since that point in time, I have been making more and more of them and selling them in stores around my town and in my Etsy shop, Bending Flow Designs. I have been getting great feedback on there design and function. I am going to continue to come up with more styles. I have several different styles of toppers now, but I enjoy getting custom orders from people because they open up my mind to new things.

Colorful Glass Knitting Needles by Bending Flow Designs

Colorful glass knitting needles by Bending Flow Designs.

Art, glass, and the process of creation has always been something that has intrigued me. I love the way that you become fully entranced by the beauty as you first see a piece that draws wonder, and audible ooohs and aaahs. The connecting energy between myself and the piece seems to be stronger when I am using it. I appreciate fine arts and the beauty that can send your mind swirling, but the appreciation that I get out of a piece of art that I am able to use everyday, and at the same time its upholding its own beauty is enchanting.

 

Giveaway

Glass Knitting Needles by Bending Flow Designs

Jesse will be providing the winner’s choice of a set of swirl top knitting needles in US Size 10 (6 mm) or US Size 11 (8 mm). The winner can also choose from a blue, green, red, purple, orange, yellow, or pink color blend in the swirl top.

To enter the giveaway, post a picture of any 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-A-Long sampler square you knit during April in the relevant spoiler thread on Ravelry by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.  (KAL participants who are not Ravelry members can instead share pictures with the Underground Crafter Facebook page or Tweet pictures to @ucrafter.)  Each square you share a picture of will count as one entry.  One winner will be chosen at random on or about May 3.

Blog tour book review: Fine Art of Crochet by Gwen Blakley Kinsler

Today, I’m excited to participate in the blog tour for The Fine Art of Crochet: Innovative Works from 20 Contemporary Artists by Gwen Blakley Kinsler. I had the pleasure of meeting Gwen online in 2011 when I interviewed her as part of my blog series, Getting Started as a Local Needlecrafts Teacher, and have since learned more about her many contributions to the crochet community (including founding the Crochet Guild of America). Gwen’s latest book is another way of sharing her love and support of the crochet community.

Fine Art of Crochet

The Fine Art of Crochet is an exploration of crochet’s role in contemporary fiber art. Gwen opens the book with an introduction exploring the development of art crochet since the 1960s. The book then continues with profiles of twenty contemporary artists:

The profiles, typically 3-5 pages long, generally include a brief biography, large pictures of several representative works featuring crochet, and quotes from the artist. Quotes from the artists may discuss the creative process, the significance or interpretation of particular pieces, inspiration, and/or crochet as a medium.

The book ends with a reference list of articles, books, and websites on crochet art, freeform crochet, and crochet history, as well as a note about Gwen and some pictures of her art crochet.

In The Fine Art of Crochet, Gwen does a great job of sharing her excitement about crochet in all forms along with insights about some of today’s most innovative crochet artists. The background information and quotes from the artists are delightful.

On the other hand, the formatting is a bit challenging. Sometimes, due to the relative font size, it’s difficult to distinguish clearly between caption and narrative text. Additionally, some of the text could have used another round of editing to help smooth out the transitions between the artists’ quotes, historical information, and Gwen’s analysis. While it’s great to have a more affordable book, a hardcover option would have been wonderful for those of us who are looking for the ultimate crochet art coffee table book.

Overall, I would highly recommend Gwen’s book. It’s the only book of it’s kind currently on the market, and the enthusiasm Gwen and the artists share for crochet is infectious. It’s wonderful to see all the possibilities of crochet that many of us who typically create functional pieces may want to explore, too.

 

 

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of The Fine Art of Crochet was provided by AuthorHouse.  Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Interview with Tamara Kelly from Moogly

I can’t believe the last day of March is already here! I had so much fun celebrating National Crochet Month, and I’m happy to end the festivities with an interview with crochet designer and blogger, Tamara Kelly.

You may know Tamara from her blog, Moogly, or from crocheting one of the more than 130 designs she has published since 2008. Besides her blog, you can also find her online on Ravelry (as tamarairene or on her designer page), on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on Twitter as @mooglyblog.

All photos are used with permission and are copyright Tamara Kelly unless otherwise noted.

Tamara Bio Photo 2013

Tamara Kelly. Photo (c) RSH Photography.

 

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet?

Tamara: I tried to teach myself in my early twenties from a pamphlet I’d picked up at a craft store – what a disaster! And it didn’t help that I’d decided on a super fuzzy chunky boucle and a Tunisian hook (not that I knew the difference). I set it aside, thinking crochet wasn’t for me, until a few years later. At that point I’d gained a baby, as well as a sister-in-law who’d been crocheting for years. She showed me how to chain and single crochet, and in those 5 minutes I was “hooked!” I taught myself the rest from a stitch dictionary, and crochet quickly became my favorite craft!

 

Rainbow in the Clouds Pillow

Rainbow in the Clouds Pillow.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Tamara: I made many projects from other people’s patterns, but I often found I was making my own changes and improvements. When I started doing commission crochet work, other crocheters asked me to share my patterns – and I found I liked the design side better! With designing, I get to crochet what I want, when I want it, and never have to make the same thing twice if I don’t want to.

 

Riley Cross Body Bag

Riley Cross Body Bag.

 

UC: You self-publish all of your work. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?

Tamara: The advantage is definitely control – I love being my own boss! All my deadlines are ones I set, and if I need to take a week off, or scrap an idea completely, or change directions, there’s no one telling me no. The challenge is not having a team – people to bounce ideas off of, people who are media and promotion experts. Luckily, I’ve been able to join a community of other crochet bloggers, and we support each other and help each other out.

 

Moroccan Midnight Cowl

Moroccan Midnight Cowl.  (Tamara also designed a matching pair of fingerless mitts and slouch hat.)

 

UC: You’ve undergone a few transformations online – from a mommy blogger, to a maker, to a designer/blogger. How did you make the decision to focus on designs, and then to offer your patterns free on your blog?

Tamara: I love new challenges, and I love being my own boss. When I tried mommy blogging, I got bored – it just wasn’t for me. When I started taking commission work, I loved getting paid for my hobby, but I didn’t love making the same things over and over again – and suddenly I had a whole bunch of bosses, with their own unique demands! When I design, I design for myself, for my kids, to my own tastes. I always love what I’m doing, and I think that that’s what comes through on the blog! I decided to make most of my patterns free, for several reasons. During the 10 years I spent crocheting as a hobby, free patterns were almost all I could afford. Additionally, I have a husband who works in the advertising field, so that model was familiar to me. By having ads on my blog, I’m able to provide free patterns, and give back to the community, while still earning a much needed income for my family – everybody wins! And that makes me happy.

 

Easter Lily

Easter Lily (November Lily).

 

UC: Do you see yourself primarily as a blogger, designer, or publisher, or do you wear all three hats equally?

Tamara: Definitely a blogger and a designer – and blogging and social media certainly take more actual hours of the day… but I’m always designing in the back of my head at the same time. I crochet in my sleep! Publishing is a side effect of running a blog I suppose, but it’s not something I think about too much. I just love putting together a great blog and fun patterns, and sharing them with others!

 

Circle of Love Afghan

Circle of Love Afghan.

 

UC: What tips or advice do you have for emerging crochet bloggers?

Tamara: Keep it positive, and be true to yourself and your own voice. Don’t worry too much about what will “sell” – share the things you love, and let that love show. Be generous with your time and talents, and find like-minded bloggers to network with. If you have a question, someone else has likely had it too!

 

Wavy Baby Blanket

Wavy Baby Blanket.

 

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?

Tamara: Hands down my favorites have to be my stitch dictionaries. I have big ones, little specialized ones, and I hope to get some Japanese ones soon! The Harmony Guides 300 Crochet Stitches Volume 6 is what taught me how to read a pattern, how to read charts, and what amazing things crochet can do! (UC comment: This is one of my favorites, too, because it is so thorough. I’m also a stitch dictionary junkie, and you can see my reviews of this book and 20+ other crochet stitch guides here.) It is sadly out of print, so I had my copy specially spiral bound to preserve it. I still use it regularly!

 

Magic Spike Mandala Square

Magic Spike Mandala Square.

 

UC: Are there any crafty websites/blogs you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Tamara: So many! Ravelry is a great go-to of course, as well as The Yarn Box and All Free Crochet. I visit dozens of other crochet blogs every week, including Stitch 11, Repeat Crafter Me, Petals to Picots, Fiber Flux, The Crochet Lounge… and so many more!

 

Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket

Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket.

 

UC: What plans do you have for the rest of 2014?

Tamara: There’s so many exciting things happening this year – not all of which I can talk about yet! I’m always planning new crochet and yarn related giveaways – and I love promoting small businesses that might be interested in giveaways, including other designers, indie yarn dyers, hook makers, you name it! Also in 2014, I’m leading the Moogly Afghan Crochet-a-Long, where we crochet a different 12″ square every 2 weeks from now until November – that will give us enough for a 4′ x 6′ afghan at the end of the year, and the month of December to put it all together in time for gift giving! It’s not too late to join up, and it’s all free. (UC comment: There’s an unofficial Moogly Afghan CAL 2014 group started by fans on Ravelry, too.)

 

Thanks for stopping by for an interview, Tamara! 

Scraptastic Shawlette with Crochet Button

I love swaps, even though (more often than not) they come into conflict with my desire to downsize my stash.  I’ve been participating, on and off, in the International Scarf Swap on Ravelry.  Recently, I joined in their Stashbuster Swap, which seemed perfect for me.  I needed to make a scarf (broadly interpreted) with stash yarn for my partner, and send along some other fun goodies in the package.

My partner loves purples, pinks, and blues, and prefers shawlettes.  She also expressed a preference for natural fibers.  I dug through my yarn collection, and came up with these three skeins of Cascade Yarns that seemed right up her alley.

blog Cascade Yarns Collage

From left to right: Cascade Yarns Longwood in Lavender, and Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in Mystic Purple and Pacific (or Spruce?).

All three yarns are superwash wool, so I thought combining them would make for easy washing.  But the thicknesses of the yarns are slightly different (the Longwood is a bit thicker), so I used two different crochet hooks to get a consistent gauge throughout.

blog Swap Shawlette 1

After just a few rows, I loved the way it was coming along.  Since only the Longwood was a full skein, and the other two were partial skeins leftover from these two projects, I knew I would probably not have enough yarn for a full shawl.

blog Swap Shawlette 2

I ended up with a really cute shawlette, but I wanted to add something special to make it easier to close up around the neck.  The granny clusters create wonderful eyelets that can serve as buttonholes, and I decided to crochet my own button.

blog Swap Shawlette 3

It’s a great embellishment, and I didn’t have all the stress of trying to find a matching button for a shawlette in 3 different colors.

blog Swap Shawlette 4

You can see that it’s pretty easy to close, and of course, my swap partner can adjust the closure to make the shawlette a perfect fit around her neck or shoulders.

blog Swap Shawlette 5

I released the pattern for the Scraptastic Shawlette with Crochet Button last night, and you can download it as a free Ravelry download through March with the coupon code NatCroMo14.  (You can also download my other four March crochet pattern releases for free this month using the same coupon code as part of my National Crochet Month celebration!)

I’m pretty excited that I kept my commitment of releasing a new pattern every week during (Inter)National Crochet Month, and I hope you are enjoying the patterns.

Edited to add: And, I forgot to mention that today is also the 3 year anniversary of the Underground Crafter blog! Welcome to any new readers, and thanks to my longtime readers for all your support!

Now, back to the part where swapping allows my stash to grow…

Here’s the swap package I received from my partner.

blog Stashbuster Swap

It’s incredible!  She is truly a packaging expert.  She folded the scarf she made me into the project bag she made (you can see it peaking out), and there was another skein of yarn in the mug!

blog Elann

So I finished off 3 skeins of yarn making the shawlette for her, and sent along an additional skein in the package.  She sent me 4 skeins, so I guess I’m right back where I started, in terms of stash.

Swap shawl detail

But now I have a beautiful scarf, knit in a lovely, (mostly) brown, natural fiber blend that I can wear throughout the spring!  The scarf I received, by the way, is the lovely Deep Purple Crescent Shaped Lace Shawlette or Scarf by Pam Jemelian. It’s super long, so I only took a picture of the edging detail. It’s very cozy!

Interview with crochet designer, Sarah Jane

I’m continuing the (Inter)National Crochet Month festivities today with an interview with Australian crochet designer, Sarah Jane.  I was first introduced to Sarah Jane when I saw her beautiful Frostberry Hat pattern during the Indie Design Gift-a-Long last fall.  (And, after reading through Sarah Jane’s pattern descriptions, I learned that we frequently share the same tech editor, Juanita Quinones, who I interviewed here.)

You can find Sarah Jane online on Ravelry (as SarahJaneDesigns or on her designer page), Etsy, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter as sjjack44.  All pictures in this interview are copyright Sarah Jane Designs and are used with permission.

 

Sarah Jane

Sarah Jane.

 

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet?

Sarah Jane (SJ): No one in my immediate family crocheted but Mum was always a knitter. Once, at a family function when I was about 4 or 5, I was completely fascinated by a great Aunt who was crocheting an intricate doily.  Amazingly she was blind! She was kind enough to take the time and show me the basic stitches and send me away with a hook and some yarn. After that I never stopped. Mum kept me in yarn and I used the same hook for years…

 

Acacia Cloche

Acacia Cloche pattern.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

SJ: I never learned to follow patterns until I was an adult, so I guess I was always designing. I saw a small ad on a yarn website here in Australia for crochet designers/testers and emailed them. They were kind enough to take on an inexperienced designer and I did some work for them. When I came across Ravelry in a pattern search, I decided it was a match made in heaven. I haven’t looked back since!

 

Perennial Bag

The Perennial Bag pattern.

 

UC: You primarily self-publish your designs. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?

SJ: For me there are some great advantages in self-publishing – the flexibility being the main one, as I have a large family. It’s great being able to set my own schedule. I also like having control over the final product and the look of the patterns.

The disadvantages for me are mainly promotional. I’m not very good at promoting myself, and this year I intend to focus on that more. I can be a bit scattered if I don’t set myself targets and goals, so I have to be careful to do this. Otherwise I end up with lots of WIPs and no written patterns.

I have submitted to a few magazines but so far without much success…maybe this year will be the one!

 

Frostberry Hat

Frostberry Hat pattern. (A matching Frostberry Cowl pattern is also available.)

 

UC: Most of your designs are hats, neckwear, and bags. What do you enjoy about these types of projects?

SJ: I like the smaller type projects for now because there is less of a time commitment involved. They are easier for me to complete while also looking after my family. My absolute favourites are hats. I love them, and here in Brisbane, where it’s often not cold enough for other crochet, you can always wear a hat! I would like to expand my range to include a few more garments in the future though.

 

Clio Hat and Cowl

Clio Hat and Cowl pattern.

 

UC: You also knit. Why did you choose to focus on crocheting for design?

SJ: While I love to knit, I am very slow so any knit designs would take me a year to complete. Crochet has always been my first love and I do feel that there are far more knit designers than crochet designers so I have chosen to focus on the crochet for now. I like to believe that I can offer something to enhance the crochet pattern market.

 

Serpensortia Hat

Serpensortia Hat pattern.

 

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?

SJ: Goodness, there are so many I don’t know how to pick! For inspiration though, I love magazines and will spend far too long looking at all the pretty pictures.

 

Asperous Hat and Cowl

Asperous Hat and Cowl pattern.

 

UC: Are there any crafty websites/blogs you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

SJ: Aside from yours, you mean :D ….

I spend a lot of time on Pinterest and Ravelry looking at all the pretty pictures.

 

Cottage Garden Beanie

Cottage Garden Beanie pattern.

 

UC: What are you planning for the rest of 2014?

SJ: I have quite a few designs in the works at the moment, it is always a busy time of the year for me as we are heading into winter here. I am lucky to have been given yarn support for a Steampunk themed collection so I am very excited for that and can’t wait to get it started!

 

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah Jane (and for the kind words about my blog!).  Best of luck with your upcoming designs!

Gerbera

This week, I’m releasing another square pattern inspired by the Spring Garden theme of Crochetville’s National Crochet Month Designer Blog Tour.  I’m sharing one new pattern a week during NatCroMo, and these new patterns are available as free Ravelry downloads through March with the coupon code NatCroMo14.

I call this square Gerbera.  Unlike the other 3 square patterns, it isn’t inspired by childhood memories but just my love of gerberas and daisies!

blog Gerbera blocked

I used Lion Bran Heartland in Shenandoah and Joshua Tree for this sample.  (As an aside, I love that these yarns are named after American landmarks and natural treasures.) I had some left after working on a big project, and I just loved the colors! I had to think about which yellow flower would look best in them – so I guess you could say the yarn inspired the block.

Download the pattern here.  Use the coupon code for the discount through March, 2014!

Review: Lazadas Blocking Wires

Recently, I was invited by astridl on Ravelry to review a set of blocking wires from her company, Lazadas. Since, like many crocheters, I have a love/hate relationship with blocking, I thought I’d share the review as part of my celebration of (Inter)National Crochet Month.

 

Blocking wires1

When the package arrived, I discovered that Lazadas Knitting Accessories is based in Israel.  Not to worry, as their products ship worldwide with a flat $5 fee.

Blocking wires2

The sets come in small packages with snap closures and handles.

Blocking wires3

The set package has a gusset so it can stand on its own.

Blocking wires4

I tried out the Mix Set, which includes four 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, three 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and 30 nickel plated T-pins.

There are three other sets available.  The Short Set includes ten 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, and is recommended for shawlettes, sleeves, sweaters, and cardigans.  The Long Set includes five 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and is recommended for stoles, big shawls, and baby blankets. Both sets include 30 nickel plated T-pins, and, like the Mix Set, are priced at $28.90.  The Deluxe Set includes ten 35″ (90 cm) blocking wires, five 70″ (180 cm) blocking wires, and 60 nickel plated T-pins and is priced at $56.

Blocking wires5

The wires are coiled and the package (wisely) advises you to carefully open them.

So… back to my love/hate relationship with blocking.  I only started blocking my crochet a few years ago when I started designing. As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer spray blocking. I don’t like my projects to get that “overblocked” look, so I generally avoid wet blocking and “killing” the fabric with steam. (If you’d like to try either of those methods, Tamara Kelly shares tutorials on wet blocking and steam blocking on the Moogly blog.)

blog Pineapples unblocked

To test out the wires, I chose this version of my Pineapples for Everyone Shawl pattern (available for free here in English and here in Italian).  This shawl is crocheted with SHOKAY Orient in Cerulean.  As you can tell from the pre-blocking picture above, it is a bit “squishy” looking and the pineapples aren’t very opened up.

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocking

Thankfully, simple instructions are included in the set as I’d never used blocking wires before.

In the past, I’ve applied seemingly endless amounts of pins across the edges of my projects. For this shawl, I used one 70″ (180 cm) wire for each side.  (If you look closely at the bottom of the picture above, you can see the excess of the wires sticking out.) With the wires, I could pin to shape just a few times and let the wires do their work.  I was also able to bend the wires on the bottom edges and pin them to allow the pineapples on the edges to fan out.

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocked

Here’s the shawl after blocking.  You can see that the edges are more defined, and it is less “squishy.”

blog SHOKAY Pineapples for Everyone blocked detail

The pineapples are completely opened up and they look great.

I have since used these wires to block several other projects, including two baby blankets, which I can’t share on the blog yet.  In each case, I found the process significantly easier than pin blocking alone, and the results were much neater looking.

I would highly recommend Lazadas Blocking Wires.  The package is small enough to be portable – with the gusset folded flat, it can easily flat.  At the same time, it stands up so you can find it on your shelf.  The wires are very flexible and easy to uncoil and recoil (carefully, that is).  The T-pins can easily be positioned so that they hold the wires in place. The instructions are straightforward and effective.

As for sizes, thus far, I have used the 70″ (180 cm) wires for everything except for squares/motifs.  I like having extra room on the edges, so the 35″ (90 cm) wires feel too short for most of my projects.  I have used the 35″ (90 cm) wires to block several squares at once.

I should also note that with one particularly fiddly blanket that I blocked, I needed more than the 30 pins in the set, so I used the quilting pins that I relied on previously to pin the rest of it.

If I were buying a set, I’d probably purchase the Long Set or the Deluxe Set, but if you mostly make smaller projects, the Short or Mix sets could work.  Thanks to the Lazadas Blocking Wires, I am now leaning much more closely towards a love/love relationship with blocking!

Edited to add: You can also find Lazadas on Etsy. The Etsy shop includes the blocking wire sets and other knitting accessories such as stitch markers, sock blockers, and needles.  (There are even a few crochet hooks.)

 

Full disclosure: A free Mix Set of blocking wires was provided by Lazadas.  Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Interview with (mostly) crochet designer, Anastacia Zittel a.k.a. anastaciaknits

As we pass the midway point of National Crochet Month, I’m excited to share an interview with indie designer, Anastacia Zittel, today.  Anastacia is active online as a blogger and on Ravelry, and you may have come across her as anastaciaknits.  She’s primarily a crochet designer, so I thought it appropriate to interview her during NatCroMo!

You can find Anastacia online on Ravelry (as anastaciaknits, on her designer page, in the Anastacia Knits Designs group, and in the Afghans & Blankets group, which she founded and co-moderates), in her Etsy shop, on her Facebook page, on Pinterest, and as @anastaciaknits on Twitter.

All photos in this post are used with permission and are copyright Anastacia Zittel unless otherwise noted.

 

Anastacia Zittel

Anastacia Zittel.

 

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

Amastacia Zittel (AZ): I remember learning as a little kid, like so many of us, from our mothers and grandmothers. I don’t really remember learning to crochet – both of my grandmothers were crafty (including knitting, crocheting and sewing), and dad’s family were especially crafty, and my mom made a lot of my clothes and toys growing up. I do remember moving and desperately wanting a new afghan for my new bedroom, and I couldn’t convince anyway on to make me one, so I went out and bought yarn and a hook and made myself an afghan – I was 14.

I got completely “hooked” and my grandmother started “lending” me patterns, which I wouldn’t return, and I quickly went from hooked to obsessed. Right around the same time, a church friend taught me to knit but it didn’t stick – I didn’t know that there were different methods and ways of knitting, I just knew I couldn’t knit. I kept trying though, and finally about ten years ago I just figured out how to do it on my own. Years after that, I realized that my style of knitting is different from any method I’ve ever seen – it’s sort of combo knitting but I do things backwards! It works for me.

 

Leafing for Spring

Leafing for Spring, a crochet wrap pattern by Anastacia.

 

UC: What was your original inspiration to start designing?

AZ: I always tweaked patterns – I couldn’t help myself, I always had to change things up! Around the time I was seriously crocheting, one of my grandmother’s developed Alzheimer’s. Part of me has always just wanted to honor the memory of her, sitting crocheting granny squares and ripples everywhere she went. I remember them hosting Bible study classes at their house, and even then, her crochet would be right by her side. So as corny as it may sound, I wanted my grandmother to be proud of me.  (UC comment: It doesn’t seem corny to me at all, Anastacia!  As I mentioned here, I started my crochet business for similar reasons.)

 

Triangle Trellis

Triangle Trellis, a crocheted shawl design by Anastacia, published in the Contrarian Shawls ebook.  Photo (c) Universal Yarn.

 

UC: You’re known online as “anastaciaknits” but most of your designs are in crochet. Tell us about how that came to be (both the name, and the focus on crochet designs).

AZ: I know, it’s crazy right? *laughs*. When Ravelry first started, I was big into knitting. I still really loved to crochet, but I was knitting pair after pair of socks. I’ve never been very creative when it comes to names (for years, my online name was zorrosmommy, named after my cat!). I like to use my name in profiles because it IS a unique name, so that’s why I came up with anastaciaknits. This was way before Ravelry offered pattern sales!

I had done some designing on my blog but had never really considered designing as a career, and by the time I realized I did want to design, I was already known as anastaciaknits & I didn’t want to change that. It’s frustrating sometimes because I get a lot of comments from people “Well I like your designs but I don’t knit!” Well, I don’t really design knit, either! But I feel it’s way too late to change my name now.

 

Around the Twist Log Cabin

Around the Twist Log Cabin, a knit blanket design by Anastacia.

 

UC: Though you have a range of designs, your patterns are mostly for shawls, scarves, and blankets. What do you enjoy about making those projects and designing those patterns?

AZ: I’ve always made a ton of afghans in my “personal” fiber arts – I make them mostly for charity and for fundraisers. I make a ton of scarves for charity, too, so it just seemed to fit that I design that stuff, too. The shawls were pretty much an accident! No seriously!

 

Scrap Shawl

Scrap Shawl, a customizable crochet pattern by Anastacia.

 

I was trying to design an afghan square for my first paid self published design, but my square wouldn’t turn into a square shape. I kept staring at it & realized I had a shawl started and I just kept going. The first design did really well and I started getting a lot of emails and PMs from people saying “I really like your shawl, but could you make a triangle shawl?” or “could you make one with more lace?” etc etc. Most of my shawl designs now are because someone specifically asked me to design it – often times it’s just a rough idea (like my Short Sands Shawl) and sometimes more specific – like the Scrap Shawl. There is so much endless variety that can be put into designing a shawl, and I’m just never ever bored designing and making them!

 

Anastacia Zittel Alzheimers blanket

Anastacia’s 2013 Alzheimer’s charity afghan.

 

UC: Every year you make an afghan and raise money for Alzheimer’s. How did that start?

AZ: As I mentioned, my grandmother had Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately a few years ago, my uncle at the age of 50 was also diagnosed with the disease. My cousin Adrienne started doing the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk and one year she happened to mention that she wasn’t raising as much money as she was hoping to. My mom and I started brainstorming so we came up with the idea of the afghan, and then Adrienne had some ideas and input, too.

I crochet an afghan that uses granny squares and ripples (my grandmother’s two favorite types of afghans to make) and uses predominately the color purple (the Alzheimer’s color) and we sell raffle tickets. Any amount will get you one ticket, but additional tickets are sold at $5 a piece. Last year, we had several additional items also added to our prize pool & I’m working on making this year’s raffle bigger and badder than ever! I’m really proud and honored to be a part of this, and we raised over $850 last year alone for Every Mile’s a Memory, Adrienne’s team.

 

Blueridge Shawl

Blueridge Shawl, a knit shawl pattern by Anastacia.

 

UC: Most of your designs are self-published (although you’ve been published in several yarn company collections and magazines, too). What do you see as the challenges and rewards of self-publishing? Do you plan to continue this ratio of self-published to externally published patterns?

AZ: I love self-publishing for a lot of reasons. As a professional, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but the number one reason for me, is I am really, really bad at deadlines – they stress me out really bad, and when I’m stressed, I do stupid things – like forget to check gauge and realize your whole afghan is weirdly disproportionate & you have to take apart 3 seams and frog the whole thing. (Yes, this happened very recently for a design I just finished last month for Love of Crochet magazine!).

 

Hawaiian Sea Glass Shawl

Hawaiian Sea Glass Shawl, a crochet design by Anastacia.

 

I also really, really like the control one has over one’s designs when you do everything yourself. When you are working for a yarn company, not only do you lose control over the yarn and the color, but the finished design may not look anything at all like the design that started in your head. But it’s a LOT of work, and a LOT of time to do it right, and there’s definitely a big learning curve. I was lucky in that I already worked hard at taking decent photos, and photography is a big part of self-designing, and there’s always room for a lot of improvement!

I will probably concentrate mostly of self-publishing in the future. I’d really like to work regularly for one or two smaller yarn companies – that’s really my big dream!

 

Julia Heliconian Shawl

Julia Heliconian Shawl, a crochet pattern by Anastacia.

 

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?

AZ: I have a HUGE pattern collection – though mostly vintage magazines. My favorite crochet book (besides stitch dictionaries) is the Woman’s Day Book of Granny Squares and Other Carry-Along Crochet – yes, that I got from my grandmother! Most of my first projects came from that book. I also love the The Ultimate Book of Scrap Afghans (from American School of Needlework that came out in 1999) – I’ve made a ton of charity afghans from that book!

 

Anastacias Scrap Afghan

Anastacia’s Scrap Afghan, a free crochet pattern by Anastacia (perfect for stashbusting!).

 

UC: Do you have any crafty websites you frequent for inspiration or community?

AZ: Pinterest! I spend way, way, way too much time on that site looking for inspiration! (UC comment: You can find Anastacia’s boards on Pinterest here.)

 

Thanks for stopping by, Anastacia!  I hope you break your fundraising record for the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk this year!

Readers, if Anastacia’s story has inspired you to donate, Anastacia contributes to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Coming Up Roses

This week, I’m sharing another square pattern inspired by the Spring Garden theme of Crochetville’s National Crochet Month Designer Blog Tour.  I started off the tour by sharing my Hydrangea Shrub granny square pattern, and last week, I released A Ray of Sunshine.  I’ll be releasing one square a week during NatCroMo, and the patterns are available as free Ravelry downloads through March with the coupon code NatCroMo14.

I call this square Coming Up Roses, and once again, it’s inspired by childhood memories at my maternal grandmother’s house.  Pink roses used to grow on the fence between her back yard and her neighbors’s yard.  I think the roses actually belonged to the neighbor, but sharing didn’t seem to be a problem.

I have to say that I also have some…thorny memories related to those roses (imagine climbing a fence with roses growing on it and you’ll have an idea).  But don’t worry, I focused on just the happy memories when designing this square!

blog Coming Up Roses

I made my version with stash yarn.  Download the pattern here for free through March 31, 2014.