Review: Lazadas Blocking Wires
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Posted by Underground Crafter on March 19, 2014 | Short Link

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.

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Interview with (mostly) crochet designer, Anastacia Zittel a.k.a. anastaciaknits
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Posted by Underground Crafter on March 17, 2014 | Short Link

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.

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Coming Up Roses
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Posted by Underground Crafter on March 14, 2014 | Short Link

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.

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Book Review: Modern Baby Crochet
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Posted by Underground Crafter on March 12, 2014 | Short Link

I’m continuing my celebration of National Crochet Month with a review of a new book by one of my favorite crochet personalities, Stacey Trock. (You can find my interview with Stacey here, as part of her blog tour for Crocheted Softies: 18 Adorable Animals from around the World, and a mini interview here, as part of last year’s NatCroMo festivities.)

 

modern-baby-crochet

Modern Baby Crochet: Patterns for Decorating, Playing, and Snuggling by Stacey Trock is a book of patterns featuring contemporary colors and designs for baby decor.

Stacey opens the book with an Introduction that explains her approach.

I focused on the hub of baby life: the nursery. I wanted to create a book of baby designs that would suit any modern nursery, whimsical and adorable, both with a chic twist.

She moves on to the Getting Started section. Here, Stacey explores how to choose an appropriate yarn for a baby project, how to properly measure gauge (and why you should), finding the right crochet hook for you, and the other supplies needed for projects in this book.  In this section, she introduces several inset boxes with tips that are featured throughout the book.

The next section, Anatomy of a Stitch, identifies the major components of crochet stitches (front and back loop and post) with illustrations and swatches showing the different looks created when you crochet into different parts of the stitch.  The Crochet Stitches section includes written and illustrated instructions for the slip knot, chain, slip stitch, single crochet, double crochet, front and back post double crochet, and several decreases.  Stacey also includes her instructions for a bobble that doesn’t leave a hole in the crochet fabric.

The Additional Techniques section includes written and illustrated instructions for several other important techniques used in the patterns: changing colors, working in the round, surface crochet, finishing off, weaving in ends, and 3 different assembling methods.

The book then moves onto the patterns, which are organized into color themes: Bold and Bright, Pretty In Pastel, and Naturally Neutral.  Each theme includes 5-7 patterns.

The book includes 21 patterns in total.

  • Skill level: 3 beginner, 13 easy, 4 intermediate, 1 experienced.
  • Project types: 7 blankets, 4 toys, 3 pillows, 2 floor mats/rugs, 2 mobiles, and 1 pouf, 1 bunting, and 1 set of bookends.

The patterns are clearly written and include explicit assembly instructions, including how to stuff and join toys and how to line rugs and mats.  My favorite patterns are the Mondrian-Inspired Afghan, the Funky Argyle Afghan,  the Asymmetrical Circles Blanket, and the Colorful Wiggle Pillow.

The next section, Finishing and Care, thoroughly explains the advantages of blocking, and provides instructions on how and when in the project’s life it should be blocked.  (This section is also referred to in the instructions for any pattern that is meant to be blocked.)  It also discusses appropriate cleaning of the various project types in the book.  Useful Information includes a chart of standard yarn weights, skill level descriptions, and metric conversions.  Abbreviations and Glossary provides a list of the US crochet abbreviation terminology used in the book and a list of links to resources including yarns, hooks, and notions used in the various projects.  The book ends with acknowledgements and more information about Stacey.

The book includes only US pattern abbreviations with no stitch symbols.  I reviewed an e-reader preview of the book, but it is available in paperback, too.  It focuses on illustrations rather than photo tutorials for explaining stitches and other techniques, which some crocheters may find harder to follow.

Overall, I think Stacey achieved her goal of creating patterns that would provide contemporary and whimsical feel for a nursery.  Many of the patterns can be used in other settings, as well.  Most of the patterns are simple enough for an advanced beginner, and the detailed instructions would help a patient beginner to work through the more complex patterns.  Many of the projects would interest more advanced crocheters as well.  However, as with all pattern collections, your enjoyment will be based on whether you can find enough patterns to suit your style.  Ravelry members can see all of the patterns on the book’s source page, here, and Stacey also has a video trailer of the projects available here.

I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars for a crocheter who enjoys making projects for baby, or crocheters who are looking for home decor projects in contemporary colors.

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of Modern Baby Crochet was provided by Martingale & Co.  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.

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Interview with me on The Solopreneur Life!
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Posted by Underground Crafter on March 11, 2014 | Short Link

What better way to celebrate NatCroMo than to spread the word about crochet?  Today, Larry Keltto at The Solopreneur Life shared an interview with me as part of his “How I Made My First $10,000″ series.

 

solopreneurs life

 

You can find the interview, about my experience starting and growing Underground Crafter part-time, here.  You can also follow Larry’s blog to read great tips for aspiring or existing solopreneurs!  (And, if you are wondering what the heck a solopreneur is, Larry shares his definition here.)

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Interview with Frankie Brown
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Posted by Underground Crafter on March 10, 2014 | Short Link

Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with Frankie Brown.  Frankie is a multi-craftual designer.  I first discovered Frankie’s work last year when I used her Jelly Mould Blanket motif in a baby blanket I made for my newborn cousin. After doing a little digging on her designer page, I realized that I had was already familiar with several of her designs (especially the Ten Stitch Blanket) through other blogs that I follow.

Frankie offers all of her self-published crochet and knitting patterns as free downloads through her Ravelry designer page.  She asks her fans to contribute to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation, and, to date, over 600 of her supporters have contributed over £7,000 (over $12,000)!  Frankie is known as rosemily on Ravelry, where she also co-moderates the Frankie’s Knitted Stuff group.

All pictures are copyright Frankie Brown and are used with permission.
Country Rose by Frankie Brown
Country Rose, a crochet blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.

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

Frankie: All the women in my family (and some of the men, too) knitted, crocheted, and sewed, so it was inevitable that I would, too. One of my earliest memories is my Mum teaching me to knit at the age of three. It was a pink square and I don’t think I actually knitted much of it. Later, I would be allowed to do the occasional row in my Mum’s or my Granny’s knitting. As I grew up, I would knit a lot with my Granny, who was probably the keenest knitter in the family, but it was my Great Aunt who taught me to crochet. I made endless giant granny square blankets, using random wool.

 

Treat Bag by Frankie Brown

Treat Bag knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Frankie: I was a member of the Knitting and Crochet Guild, which invited submissions for its quarterly magazine.  They would have a theme for each issue and these themes caught my imagination. The first thing I designed for them was a knitted ammonite for the ‘Sea’ theme and then the Ten Stitch Blanket. Mostly I interpreted the themes literally so I knitted a pile of holes for Holes and little people for Bodies (Bendy Bodies).  This was where I developed my taste for quirky knitting.

 

Woodland Wreath by Frankie Brown

Woodland Wreath knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Frankie: Most of my inspiration comes from things with straight lines: ironwork, tiles, things with patterns worked into them. I’m also a quilter and I’ve interpreted various patchwork blocks in knitting. I love Mathematical shapes and patterns, spirals, flexagons, tessallations. This leads on to origami which has been the starting point for various designs. Many of my patterns are worked in garter stitch which lends itself well to straight lines and angles. As well as shapes, I also love playing with colour and here I am inspired by just about everything I see. Often, I will get a colour scheme from fabric but the colours for one of my blankets came from a packet of tea. If all else fails, I use the colours of the rainbow.

 

Apple Core Blanket by Frankie Brown

Apple Core Blanket, a patchwork inspired knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: All of your Ravelry patterns are available for free, but you ask people to donate to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation. Tell us what was behind your decision to offer all of your patterns for free, why you chose this particular charity, and how you feel this has worked out.

Frankie: When my Mum died, I thought about how she had used her creative talents throughout her life to raise money for various charities and I decided I wanted to do that, too. This coincided with me joining Ravelry and finding that people were already talking about the Ten Stitch Blanket. I chose to raise money for the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation as a friend’s son was born with biliary atresia and I have seen how this has affected them and also the help they have received from the charity. To be honest, most people that download my patterns don’t donate, but those that do are very generous and as more people find my patterns and they grow in popularity so the charity gets more money. I think the fact that my designs are free has also helped to spread the word about them. Many people have also used my patterns to knit things to help other charities, something which really pleases me. To be honest, even if nobody ever donated, I think I would still want my patterns to be free. I like sharing new ideas, just as you would tell a friend when you’d found something exciting, I like to share my discoveries with as many people as possible.

 

Jelly Mould Blanket by Frankie Brown

Jelly Mould Blanket, a crochet pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: Most of your patterns are self-published. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

Frankie: Really, I only see the advantages of self-publishing. I can design what I want, when I want and in my own time. I have control over how my pattern looks and I do my own proof-reading so there are less likely to be mistakes. I also really love the feedback that I get through Ravelry.  I’ve learnt how to write more clearly and the importance of good photos from people telling me when they get stuck on one of my patterns. Seeing what is popular also gives me ideas for new designs and I particularly enjoy the community that is building up on my Ravelry group, Frankie’s Knitted Stuff.

 

School Tweed by Frankie Brown

School Tweed, a knit pattern by Frankie Brown, available in the Tea Cozies 2 collection.

 

UC: You also have patterns in three collections by the Guild of Master Craftsman. How did you become involved with these projects?

Frankie: This happened at about the same time that I was writing for the Knitting and Crochet Guild. There was a competition in Knitting magazine for tea cosy patterns so I entered one year, then the next, then they had a coffee cosy competition … The books feature their favourite patterns from these competitions. The most exciting thing about these books for me was seeing my designs professionally photographed – they look so grown-up!

 

Big Dots Little Dots by Frankie Brown

Big Dots, Little Dots crochet blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

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

Frankie: The books that I use most as practical tools are the Barbara Walker treasuries and Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book. I also love any books with a historical slant and collect Victorian knitting books. My favourites though are the Elizabeth Zimmermann books; I read those again and again. What she does is encourage you to play with your knitting and see what happens and that’s what I do.

 

Wheels within Wheels by Frankie Brown

Wheels Within Wheels crochet motif pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

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

Frankie: This is a tricky question.  You’re talking to the woman whose mobile phone is so old, it can’t even take photos, and who refuses to have a Facebook page. Ravelry is the only craft site that I use regularly, and although I enjoy chatting to people on my group there, that’s enough for me. I read various blogs for relaxation but none of them have much to do with knitting.

 

Double Spinning Star by Frankie Brown

Double Spinning Star, a patchwork inspired knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: Do you have any future plans you’d like to share?

Frankie: I would like to write a book one day. I have in mind something that would show how to knit all sorts of shapes and textures, illustrating each one with a few simple patterns. That way, knitters could use it as a starting point to design their own projects. Most of my designs are based on really simple ideas and it would be good to share those with others.

 

Squares on a Roll Blanket by Frankie Brown

Squares on the Roll knit blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts, Frankie.  We’re looking forward to seeing that book – it sounds great!

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A Ray of Sunshine
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Posted by Underground Crafter on March 7, 2014 | Short Link

It’s been a very cold winter here in the Northeast.  Yesterday, temperatures were in the teens!  But March is National Crochet Month, and this year’s Crochetville Designer Blog Tour has a Spring Garden theme.  I kicked off the tour by sharing my Hydrangea Shrub granny square pattern, and then the dreary weather inspired me to design some more spring-themed grannies.  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 pattern A Ray of Sunshine.  My maternal grandmother, who taught me to crochet, had a small strip of garden in her mostly concrete backyard.  She often grew sunflowers back there, and as a child I remember them often being taller than me!  I loved running up and down on the angled metal cellar door as a kid, and the sunflowers were the first thing I would see as I slid/ran down.  Sunflowers always brighten my day, and I hope this block does the same for you!

A Ray of Sunshine small

I used some leftover yarns to crochet the square.  I had a lot of fun making the petals.

Yesterday, while going through my neglected blog reader, I came across a Moogly tutorial for wet blocking crochet squares.  I usually spray block, so I thought I’d try it out on this square.  I was able to spread out the petals a bit more.

blog A Ray of Sunshine wet blocked

For this particular block, I can’t decide which version I prefer.  What do you think?  I’m wondering how I should block the next square I make!

Download the pattern here for free through March 31, 2014.

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Interview with Viola E. Sutanto, Author of Packaging Your Crafts & Giveaway
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Posted by Underground Crafter on March 5, 2014 | Short Link

Today I’m sharing an interview with Viola E. Sutanto, a graphic artist and product designer. Viola’s new book, Packaging Your Crafts: Creative Ideas for Crafters, Artists, Bakers, & Moreexplores different materials and techniques that can be used to design pretty packaging for your handmade goodies. Using artisan profiles, tutorials, and plenty of pictures, she shares a ton of packaging inspiration with her readers. (In addition to the interview, I’ll be offering a giveaway for the book, courtesy of Lark Crafts, so read on for more details.)

Viola can be found online at the MAIKA website, and on FacebookInstagramPinterest, and as @MaikaGoods on Twitter. All photos are from Packaging Your Crafts and are used with permission.

 

Interview

Viola Sutanto

Viola Sutanto.

Underground Crafter (UC): Tell us about your businesses, chewing the cud and MAIKA. What inspired you to launch them?

Viola: When I first started my studio (chewing the cud), I was working on mostly branding and identity projects, but since then, the studio has evolved into a creative space and our services encompass brand strategy, product development in addition to graphic design. There was a need to differentiate the service business with our own product line, hence the MAIKA brand was born. As the parent company, chewing the cud will continue to evolve and expand in terms of the services and products it will bring to market, but at the heart of every project, I hope it will remain true to being a sustainable and creative think tank.

Designing Your Packaging

Printed fabric drawstring bag by Soma Intimates.

 

UC: You come from a long line of entrepreneurs. What did you learn from growing up around entrepreneurs, and how did it motivate you to become one yourself?

Viola: Trust your gut and take calculated risks. Timing is everything. Know that it’s ok to fail. That’s how you learn. These are all qualities I learnt (and am still learning), growing up around entrepreneurs. Watching them fail, get up and try again is truly inspiring. As inspiring as watching and learning from their successes.

Working with eco friendly fabrics

Hand-printed market bag with kraft card, hang tag by Nicole James, Yardage Designs.

 

UC: You recently published your first book, Packaging Your Crafts. What was the development process like for this book?

Viola: Like the saying goes, it takes a village. The team at RotoVision and Lark Crafts were instrumental in solidifying the book concept, and providing continual support throughout the process. It was fun to work together with my husband (also a designer) on the tutorials. He shot all the photos for the tutorials, and it was great fun collaborating with him.

 

UC: Why do you think packaging is so important for artisans and crafters?

Viola: Presentation is key. It can enhance the perceived value of your product and ultimately, your brand.

 

UC: What tips can you share for crocheters and knitters who are packaging their (often unusually shaped) projects as gifts?

Viola: Fabric packaging options such as cloth wraps or bags work well for unusually-shaped items. Boxes are also a great option as the item is protected, and makes wrapping that much easier. If the item is “fragile”, wrap it with tissue or papers first, before inserting into the box. All of these packaging materials can easily be embellished using stamps or stencils (see tutorials in the book) so they are “gift-ready”. Even adding a simple element like a pretty hangtag makes the item immediately more personal and gift-like.

Designing Your Packaging 3

Fabric bags by Amie Nilsson, Merino Kids.

 

UC: What crafts do you personally enjoy? How did you learn/get started?

Viola: There isn’t really a specific craft per say. I enjoy working with ink, paper and fabrics, and have a lifelong love affair with hand-lettering. But I have a 3-year-old daughter, so these days, many of our craft projects involve fishing household items out of our recycling bin and making something “creative” out of them. Monsters, rainbows, fairies, castles… you name them. I’ve been tagging these projects on Instagram with #lifewitha3yearold.

Designing your packaging 2

Inkjet-printed kraft bellyband by Christopher MacManus, Bittle & Burley.

 

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

Viola: Honestly, with time being a scarcity these days, I rarely visit blogs anymore. However, I will own up to the guilty pleasure of browsing on Pinterest for some eye candy!

Ribbons

Fabric bundles tied with ribbon.

 

UC: What’s next for you?

Viola: This year, my goal is to keep building the MAIKA brand and expanding the product line. Other client projects include consulting on store design and strategy, and product development. On the personal front, we are moving to a new house, so I’ve been happily working on designing our new nest. Let’s just say, making home decor decisions with a partner who is also a designer is no easy feat!

 

Giveaway

Packaging Your Crafts

Are you ready to win your copy of Packaging Your Crafts: Creative Ideas for Crafters, Artists, Bakers, & More, courtesy of Lark Crafts? This giveaway is open to all readers with an email address. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.

To enter:

  • Tell me about a craft project you’re working on, or one you’ve already given away, that needs (or could have used) packaging ideas.
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter or Pinterest, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or your blog. (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner of will be chosen at random on or about Thursday, May 15, 2014.

Good luck!

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Interview with Pauline Turner
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Posted by Underground Crafter on March 3, 2014 | Short Link

I’m excited to share an interview with Pauline Turner today as part of National Crochet Month.  Pauline is a multi-craftual artisan, designer, author, and teacher.  I was first introduced to Pauline’s work in the early 2000s when I read How to Crochet as I was learning how to (finally) read crochet patterns.  Since then, I’ve learned more about her incredible work.

You can find Pauline online via her websites, Crochet Design and the International School of Awareness.  She is also on LinkedIn and has a Ravelry designer page.

All photos are copyright Pauline Turner and used with permission.

 

Pauline Turner

Pauline Turner, wearing a design composed entirely of triangles.

 

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

Pauline: I reluctantly learnt to crochet almost 40 years ago. I was teaching 41 other crafts and did not wish to learn something else.  (UC comment: You can read more about Pauline’s introduction to crochet in this feature in her own words from Crochet Insider.)

 

Polish Star Stitch

The Polish Star stitch.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing and writing about crochet?

Pauline: The reason for learning was because my Principle and Head of Department at the Lancaster and Morecambe College of Further Education, where I was a full-time lecturer of crafts and allied subjects, insisted I taught crochet at the end of that year.

 

Zip insertion

A close of up the zip insertion on the cable hooded jacket from Finishing Techniques for Crochet: Give Your Crochet That Professional Look.

 

UC: Does your experience as a crochet teacher influence your designing or writing?

Pauline: Absolutely – in every way. To my surprise, I discovered I could incorporate crochet into all 41 of the other crafts I was tutoring. This in turn led me to produce innovatory mixed media designs and also to write about crochet from a traditional/historical point of view in order to fill in the gaps that were missing in those early days. Then eventually this led me to start my own business, Crochet Design.

 

pauline crocheting ice cream

A younger Pauline, crocheting with ice cream.

 

UC: What was the development process like for Finishing Techniques for Crochet?

Pauline: The Beginner’s Guide to Crochet, published by Search Press, which I wrote some eight years ago, has been extraordinarily popular and is in the process of being re-printed again in a different, very useable, format. There was a need for a publication that showed all the little tips and tricks that would help potential crochet designers to produce professional finishes. Anova Books suggested I produced the material for such a book in the form of Finishing Techniques for Crochet: Give Your Crochet That Professional Look. Anova is part of a group that includes the publishers Collins and Brown and also Batsford, two publishers I had previously written for with my Crocheted Lace and How to Crochet books.

The contract for this book was signed, the lead time was doable, yarn was sponsored by Rowan, and the rest was ‘eyes down, fingers flying on keyboard and with hooks’. To complete the deadline time, two outside crochet workers were asked to crochet and check the patterns of two projects. I went to London to be there as a consultant during the shoot.

 

Surface crochet collage

An early example of Pauline’s surface crochet collages.

 

UC: Tell us about the International Diploma in Crochet.

Pauline: Originally a distance learning course in three parts for crochet was devised during a brief spell when crochet was popular. I worked with Lancashire County Education Authority in course planning for adult education and they liked the format of this course but were dubious as to whether it was viable.

In 1983, the Diploma in Crochet was born for teaching crochet (Part I), designing and writing patterns for crochet (Part II), and for original creative crochet in the shape of art and sculptures as well as haute couture (Part III).  As the diploma course became more widely spread, recognised, and accepted, it attracted people from around the world and became the International Diploma in Crochet.

I did try to get my Diploma in Crochet course validated by an examining body but they all wanted me to lower the standard. The pass mark is 80% (a credit or distinction level in other courses).

There is no time limit as the course as been devised for people living in a real world with a real life. The bi-monthly newsletter keeps student interest – a necessity when learning alone. There is no starting time, and no time for the conclusion. Crochet Design needs to know if student has left the course. (We tend to prompt every 9-12 months to clear files.)

The take up of the course was slow because it was never advertised. It became known only by word of mouth. However, as more people realised its incredible content and high standard, the take-up began to gain momentum. Existing students were asked to work commercially in different fields and they in turn were subliminally advertising the course. Once I had qualified teachers who could assess Part I students, it was possible for Crochet Design to advertise the course overtly. Therefore, in the last three years, Crochet Design has enrolled an exponential number of students

 

mandalaA crocheted mandala in a ring, using textured yarns.

 

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?

Pauline: This is an impossible question as different books become my favourites for different reasons.

Whatever I am working with will link me to favourite skilled authors, many whom I have met and therefore know that particular area of expertise I can rely on to confirm, deny, or consolidate what it is I am producing. Ironically, I only look at my books if I get a question about something one of them contains.

 

freeform crochet

A freeform crochet piece.

 

UC: Do you regularly visit any crochet blogs/websites for inspiration or community?

Pauline: Not as regularly as I would like. When the office is relatively in order and I have finished a project, I will browse the net for a couple of hours usually to catch up with magazines, CGOA, and student blogs. The difficulty with the net and myself is the time it can eat away when I know I have other deadlines looming. I do not visit these for inspiration, as I take my inspiration from nature and the people I meet even at airports and on trains. I cannot say I have never been inspired by something on the web but writing this, I am hard pressed to know when or what.

 

plant pot crochet

A crocheted plant pot with flowers.

UC: How did you become involved with the International School of Awareness?

Pauline: Ah, now isn’t that a pearl of a question? It happened without any personal intention, but just followed a series of events. During my crochet workshops, people commented they felt better by just being there. Others commented I had an incredible heat in my hands when I assisted them with their crochet and they were not feeling too well. Another frequently unsolicited comment was how I brought the best out in people. Apparently, I was able to succinctly encapsulate the reason or source of what was happening to them and with that awareness they could resolve the situation – this was not only with their craft but with their life.

My ability to use the seventh sense enabled be more aware of what was happening globally, in the atmosphere and environment. Without my knowledge, this ability was becoming known to the point where I was invited by businessmen and therapists abroad, to teach them how to develop their seventh sense. This happened before the turn of the century and the tools I shared with them were ones that had been designed for what would happen after 2012. Through these stages, the International School of Awareness came into being.

 

machine knit with crochet yoke

A machine knit design with a crocheted yoke.

 

UC: Do you have any upcoming classes or projects you’d like to share? (Dear readers, please note that I was quite delayed in posting this interview and these events have already passed.)

Pauline: On 20th October 2013, there is a celebration of the 30 years existence of the International Diploma in Crochet. I felt it was an achievement that deserved to be celebrated for all the sake of all students, past and present, who exist all around the world. It is also an acknowledgement to the supporters throughout the years who believed in its value.

This is an historic event which began in Morecambe, Lancashire UK, and is the reason the chosen venue is the Platform, Morecambe in recognition of Morecambe’s role in Crochet Design. Crochet Design has always resided in Morecambe and is the home base of the Diploma. Just some of what will be happening will be a 30 year ‘story board’. The Mayor of Lancaster will be present to close the event and also present the prizes to the competition winners. The editor of Inside Crochet magazine will open the even and hand the well-earned awards to a full graduate from Northern Ireland, plus certificates to students who have recently completed Part I and Part II. There will be ‘to- die-for’ displays of students work, along with trading tables. In the morning, children will add their stitches to a ‘Playtime on the spot’ collage. Everyone is welcome. The crochet competition will be judged on the previous day and there is more time to take in entries.  (UC comment: You can download a PDF report of the celebration, including winners of the competition, here: International Diploma in Crochet Report.)

Higham Hall near Cockermouth, Cumbria, UK features a residential 4-day course twice a year which I am tutor of, and the next one in January is on textured crochet. In February I will be giving a talk and taking a workshop with the Berkshire Spinners, Weavers & Dyers.

 

Readers, Pauline has shared this revised list of upcoming events, since I was so delayed in posting the initial interview.

  • 21 to 23 March: H&H Trade Exhibition in Cologne where I have been invited to demonstrate the beautiful hooks and knitting needles made by Tulip in Japan.
  • 26 & 27 April: Wonderwool Wales where I will be exhibiting. I will also be taking a woolschool on buttons and one on Tunisian pouches for mobiles etc. Also Helen Jordan (Thread of Life) will have a stand selling a large variety of tools for crochet.
  • 23 to 26 June: At Higham Hall, I will be tutoring a residential course on the ‘Creative Appeal of Crochet” focusing on colour, texture and combining both techniques and mixed media.
  • 27 & 28 June: Woolfest Cumbria, where once again you can come and talk to me on my stand.
  • “Teaching Methods” workshops 2014. The whole course is in 4 parts.  The four parts are being combined over two days on 23rd and 24th August 2014 to allow those from further afield to attend, even to combine it with a summer break with family and friends. The weekend costs £150 but excludes lunch.

 

Thanks so much for sharing this interview with us, Pauline, and for your patience.  We appreciate all you have done to advance the art and craft of crochet!

 

 

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It’s National Crochet Month!
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Posted by Underground Crafter on March 1, 2014 | Short Link

I’m thrilled to be participating in the Crochetville National Crochet Month Designer Blog Tour for the second year in a row.

NatCroMo2014Button

This month, I plan to highlight crochet on my blog by sharing interviews with crochet designers, reviews of crochet books, and introducing several new crochet patterns.  (For my own sanity, I won’t repeat last year’s daily NatCroMo blogging though!)

I think all of my regular readers know that crochet is my favorite craft.  (Ssshh, don’t tell the knitting – it could get jealous!)  My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 9 years old, but I didn’t learn to read patterns until I was 27.  One of my first attempts at pattern reading was inspired by my desire to crochet a granny square.  (I learned using Julie A. Bolduc‘s Basic Granny Square.)

The theme of this year’s NatCroMo blog tour is Spring Garden, and since granny squares were my original inspiration for learning to read patterns (which eventually led me into designing), I thought I’d introduce a new motif pattern today.

Hydrangea Shrub edit

I call this 6″ (15 cm) square the Hydrangea Shrub.  When I was growing up, my grandmother’s neighbor had delightful, multi-colored hydrangea shrubs in her front yard.  I loved looking at them as I walked up to my grandmother’s house, and ever since, hydrangeas always remind me of spring.

Hydrangea shrubs

I took pictures of those hydrangeas in the small park adjacent to the American Museum of Natural History.  I love all the vibrant and pastel colors you can find hydrangeas in.

To crochet the Hydrangea Shrub square, you’ll use basic crochet stitches (the chain, double crochet, and single crochet); working in rounds; increasing; joining new colors; and bullions, crossed stitches, and post stitches.  Written instructions for the last three stitches are provided in the pattern.

Download this pattern free with coupon code NatCroMo14 through March!

Halos of Hope

Halos of Hope is the featured charity for the blog tour.  They provide volunteer-crafted hats to cancer centers around the country.   If you’d like to crochet some hats for your local center, you can find recommended patterns here.

Enjoy the rest of the tour, and happy crocheting!

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