Tag Archives: charity

Interview with Frankie Brown

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!

It’s National Crochet Month!

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!

Interview with Danielle Chalson of Makewise Designs

Today, I’m very excited to share an interview that has been very long in the making.  Back in January, I was at Vogue Knitting Live in New York (posts here, here, and here), and I had the chance to spend some time with Danielle Chalson.   Danielle is a (mostly) knitting (with “a smidge of crochet”) designer.  You may know her as Makewise Designs.  Danielle can be found online on Ravelry (as makewise, on her designer page, and in the Makewise Designs group), her website, and Twitter.

(As a side note, this interview has taken so long to write up that I can no longer say that both Danielle and I live in New York City – since our interview, she has relocated to Long Island.  On the other hand, now I can share that her Mackinac Tank pattern made the cover of the summer issue of Knitscene!)

Danielle has generously shared a coupon code for any of her self-published patterns with my readers!  (Read on for more details.)  All pictures of Makewise Designs patterns are used with Danielle’s permission.

Me (left) with Danielle Chalson at Vogue Knitting Live.  (Forgive our super close up self-portrait!)
Me (left) with Danielle Chalson at Vogue Knitting Live. (Forgive our super close up picture – I have short arms!)

Underground Crafter (UC): Can you tell me first how you got started knitting?
Danielle: Growing up, my mom always knew how to knit and crochet, and I started doing it all the time, but I wasn’t really all that interested.

When I went to college, I lived in a dorm that had a community setting, and one of the people in my dorm wanted to do the Warm Up America program where you knit blanket blocks and then they’re sewn together for charity and donated. For some reason, at 20, all of the sudden I wanted to learn how to make these blanket blocks, whereas I’d never wanted to do it before. So, she taught me garter, stockinette, whatever. I don’t know why, but the fabric started growing off the needles and it was like magic. I thought to myself, “All of these wasted years!”

Agnes Shaped Scarf

The Agnes Shaped Scarf pattern.

UC: Well, you have the (knitting) genes, obviously.

Danielle: Exactly. It just started from there, so it’s been going on 15 years at this point.

UC: Did your mom get mad that she wasn’t the one who taught you, or was she like, “Finally, you’ve taken it on!”

Danielle: No, just the opposite. She was thrilled. She still does quite a bit of knitting and crochet. Since then, she’s taught me how to crochet. She’s totally embraced it and we love to share tips, share things we’ve learned, and have a conversations with each other in that language that only two knitters are going to understand, like “I moved that ssk…” and people are just like, “What are they talking about?”

Corinne Blanket

The Corinne Blanket, one of Danielle’s crochet designs.

UC: That’s awesome, now you guys have a secret language. How did you get started designing?

Danielle: I love to follow other people’s patterns. I love to see other people’s creative processes. At some point a switch just flipped and I thought, I’m looking for this thing, I didn’t find it anywhere, I didn’t find it on Ravelry (which is probably a representative sample of the knitting universe, at this point). I just thought, “Well, I’ve taken a lot of math, I know how stockinette behaves and garter.” There’s certainly still a lot of trial and error involved, but I thought why don’t I just try it?

I’m definitely kind of a Type A person, kind of I’ll do it myself, self-starter kind of person so I gave it a whirl. I gave it a shot and tried it and it was that same rush that I felt the first time [knitting]. Oh my gosh, the fabric, it’s growing off these needles, and now there’s that extra element of, and, it’s working out the way I expected in my head.”

Nor'Easter Cowl

The Nor’Easter Cowl pattern.

UC: And that doesn’t always happen. You left out the part where you have to tear out the thing…

Danielle: Well, I’m trying to glaze over those parts! I actually just was working on a design where the downside of being a Type A rears its head. Take it out, take it out, to the point where I think one of the most important things that any really successful designer has captured is not only knowing themselves, but knowing their style and knowing when to stop designing a piece. Don’t keep designing, and don’t over design it. You don’t need to add that one more textural element, it doesn’t need that second lace pattern. What you’ve done is what should stay. It’s the editing process – that’s what I call it in my head.

UC: Where you keep out those extra pieces that are overkill.

Danielle: RIght. So when you look at something by Debbie Bliss or Jared Flood or Hannah Fettig (who’s one of my big favorites), lots of times you can look at their pieces and know that’s one of their designs because their internal editing is so strong. So for me, this internal editing is what I find the most challenging obstacle. When is it exactly what I have pictured in my head? Have I tried to overdesign it? Does it need to be that complicated? That type of thing is tough. That’s the learning curve for me.

Knitscene Cover Mackinac Tank

Danielle’s Mackinac Tank, on the cover of the Summer, 2013 issue of Knitscene.  Photo (c) Interweave.

UC: Related to that, I’ve noticed that your designs are primarily self-published or though some branch of Interweave. I’m wondering if that’s a conscious decision or did it just work out that way based on where you’ve submitted?

Danielle: I think it’s a blend. Self-publishing, a lot of designers will tell you, has a liberating aspect at the end. You miss that deadline, something comes up – personal nature or professional (your day job) nature – then you bump your publishing deadline a week, that’s life.

For me, I am a good deadline person, I’m a good time manager, I always have been, so I wanted to reach out for that third-party publication recognition and also wanted to challenge myself in that way to be working with a reputable publication, work with the yarn that they’ve chosen on their timeline. Working with Interweave, I’m just really familiar with their publications. I’ve long loved Knit Scene, one of my very favorite magazines, so I think I was specifically targeting them. I really wanted to part of that family because I love their style, their ethos, their way of expressing themselves.

UC: You could see yourself fitting into their publications.

Danielle: Yeah, I think so.

Belle Epoque Scarf and Wrap

The Belle Epoque Scarf and Wrap pattern.

UC: So what was that like the first time you have your printed pattern in one of their publications? Did you frame it on the wall?

Danielle: When you get something published in their magazines, they send you a copy of the magazine, but then they also send you copies of pages that were not inserted in the magazine – printed copies – so I put those in plastic sleeves because… Type A.

UC: That’s really nice of them. A lot of publishers don’t do that.

Danielle: So you get the bound copy and then you get the flat copy as well. But it wasn’t so much seeing it in print as it was getting that email from the editor saying that they would love to take the design and put it in.

The first time that happened to me, I think I looked at the email and thought, “This is a hoax!” Or, “Wait a minute, they didn’t mean to send this to me.” There’s that moment of self-doubt, and then your second thought is “Oooh, that is so cool!” My very first design for Interweave was for Interweave Knits and it was pillows. They were wool, bulky gauge, and I had to do it in July. It was a little bit of a steamy process, but it worked out.

Courchevel Beret

The Courchevel Beret pattern.

UC: Do you have knitting books, for your own collection, or do you do everything online?

Danielle: When I need technical resources from the technical planning/pattern writing side of things, I much prefer written resources. I like to have them out in front of me. Obviously, stitch dictionaries. Interweave has a lot of publications that include charts for sweater sizing in different yarn gauges.

When I have the time to knit anything, other than what I’m hopefully designing for myself, I love online PDFs because I can keep them all in one place. The wealth of choices is overwhelming so I try to balance between the two, but I find that if I need a technical resource, I need it printed out.

Kinokuniya booth

Danielle and I bonded over our love of the Kinokinuya bookstore booth at VK Live.

UC: I know people think it is weird when you publish your patterns online that you don’t personally do everything online, but I feel the same way. For patterns, it’s one thing, but I want a tangible thing I can flip back and forth. Do you have any favorite stitch guides or books in your collection that you always go back to?

Danielle: You probably hear this a lot, but I love Kinokinuya, the Japanese bookstore that’s exhibiting here at VK Live. I love Japanese stitch dictionaries. I find that they include a lot of complex patterns, and sometimes I think my designing tends more towards simplicity, so sometimes I use those stitch patterns as a jumping off point and then I think, “Could I take out an element? Can I thin that idea out?” Because their patterns have cables, lace, and bobbles all in one stitch pattern, but maybe I just want the lace.

Lots of times, nothing ever comes of that brainstorming, but at the same time, I think it’s instructive. If I do want to edit that stitch pattern, how am I going to do it? If I take that cable out, what’s going to happen to the gauge and what’s going to happen to the texture? I think you can never get enough of that. I think it’s just like an established designer saying if you want to learn about designing and learn about the business, the best thing you can do is read patterns. Read other people’s patterns. Some people are going to shape that shoulder with a bind off and then seam that edge. Some designers are going to shape that shoulder with short rows and then do a three needle bind off. Why do you choose between them? Does it depend on the fabric, does it depend on the shape, does it depend on the style?

Integral Shawl

The Integral Shawl pattern.

UC: Speaking of the Japanese stitch guides, do you have a preference for written patterns or charted patterns? Some people seem very committed to one or the other.

Danielle: I think that goes to my inherent way of learning, which is to write things down. I retain things better if I write it down myself. For me, written instructions make more sense to me than charts lots of times.

UC: So if you see it in the Japanese stitch guide, you’re writing it down for yourself.

Danielle: Often. And even, look at the chart, decipher what I think is happening in the chart, knit, and write it down at the same time – because even if I successfully translate it from the chart into actual knitting, a week later, I’ll forget half of what I did. I’m looking at it saying, “How did I manage this?”

Integral Shawlette

The Integral Shawlette, which Danielle wore to Vogue Knitting Live.

UC: While you’re here at Vogue Knitting Live, what exciting things are you planning to do?

Danielle: I took a seaming class with John Brinegar – I think a refresher course is always valuable. I’m taking a steeking class this afternoon with Ragga Eiríksdóttir. I’ve never done it, and she’s teaching it in the round. Usually for me, knitting in the round is greater than or equal to knitting flat, so I’m going to try that. Tomorrow, I’m going to work for the String Yarns booth all day because I used to work for them.

Ripened Scarf

Ripened Scarf, one of Danielle’s free patterns.

UC: Do you have any exciting yarn store employee stories to share, or can you talk about how that influenced you as a designer?

Danielle: I think the influence is huge because you’re looking at different yarns from different manufacturers. On your feet, you need to know the gauge; the construction of the yarn – is it plied, is it a chainette, is it a single ply; you need to know how it blocks; how to treat it after it’s been knitted; what the construction of the ply is – 2 ply, 4 ply, 6 ply. It just exposes you to the entire world of options. So if you are comfortable working with a smooth Merino superwash, you don’t always spring to a Shetland wool option. You think it’s scratchy or something like that. But the upside of Shetland is it’s incredibly hard wearing and durable with really reliable gauge.

I think it broadens your horizons, it shows you what the options are, and it is really a good education into what you need to know as a designer. If you get into a third-party publication, they’re going to send you the yarn that they’d like you to work with it, and it might not be something you’re familiar with. You need to be able to look at it and say, “Oh, I see it has this construction, these many plies, these care instructions…”

Winterberries Hat Fitted Cowl and Fingerless Mitts

The Winterberries Hat, Fitted Cowl, and Fingerless Mitts Set.

UC: And even on proposals, you can say, I’m looking for an x type of yarn because you have that background knowledge.

Danielle: Yes, I think it isn’t just what comes in so you’re prepared to work with it, but exactly like you said, it also informs your choices of when you even make a submission, to a magazine or something you want to produce yourself. You make that educated decision about this design really isn’t good for a single ply yarn. I really need a plied yarn for this.

UC: That’s great. A lot of people just learn that through arduous trial and error, and you got paid to get that experience!

Danielle: And I got to touch a lot of really nice yarn, too.

UC: String has a fancy collection!

Danielle: Yes, the beautiful cashmere that comes in from Italy is amazing.

Sugarplums Blanket

The Sugarplums Blanket pattern.

UC: What’s next on the horizon for you?

Danielle: I have some publications coming up this year for different outlets, and that’s really exciting. I always try to blog about anything that I’ve done that’s new. I try to expose a little bit of the thought process behind it – the inspiration, or a spot where I struggled – because I think that designing, even for somebody who is really experienced, is so much of a journey. I mean, sure, there’s a lightening strike of inspiration from time to time, but it’s also a very measured, thoughtful, mechanical process of needle selection, yarn selection, seamed, or unseamed, lace, texture, and that type of thing, and that’s what keeps me so excited about it still.

There is so much to learn and I frankly think I’ll never learn it all. Somebody will always know more than you about a specific thing, but it’s that excitement of learning it and trying to make myself better, while at the same time producing something with my own two hands that at the end of the day, I can actually hold it and touch it. That’s what’s most gratifying.

Danielle has offered a 20% discount on her self-published designs for my readers through midnight Eastern time on Saturday, July 20, 2013.  Just use the code MAKEWISE in her Ravelry shop or on her website.

Thanks, Danielle, for taking the time for the interview, and for sharing the coupon code!

The end of an era

Tubby in the window 2013-05-14.jpg

My longtime kitty friend, Yin (also known as Mr. Tubby), was quite sick for the past few weeks and departed this world for the next early Wednesday morning.  This is a recent picture MC snapped of Mr. Tubby, resting in his favorite window spot, surrounded by handmade goodies because he was feeling a little chilly.

I have so many fond memories of Yin and his brother Yang, who passed back in 2009.  The past few days without Mr. Tubby’s cheerful presence have been tough.

Yin and Yang, back in 2004.
Yin (back) and Yang (front) in 2004.

I’m grateful to the staff at Manhattan Cat Specialists, who took compassionate care of Yin in his final few weeks.

I also want to thank the wonderful staff and volunteers at the Humane Society of New York, who introduced me to these two furry gentlemen back in 2000.  I’m planning a donation in their memories soon, and if you’d like to contribute, all profits from the sale of my 30 Purrfect Stitches for Pet Blankets ebook will be included in my donation.  The ebook includes a variety of crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches that are perfect for pet charity blankets (and other projects, too).  The Humane Society operates an adoption center and free and low-cost vet care, among other services.

I’ll be slowly returning to regular blogging during the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I encourage you to hug your furry friends a little bit closer.

Year of Projects, Year 2: Charity washcloths and other updates

YOP2 This post is part of

It’s been ages since I posted a Year of Projects update, but I have been working towards several of my goals for this year.

Scrappy mitred square washcloths.
Scrappy mitered square washcloths.

My latest series of quick projects has been to make mitered square washcloths for the April Crochetlist charity challenge, which will benefit Mothers and Infants Striving for Success.

You may remember that mitered squares (also known as domino knitting) were on my original list of new (to me) knitting things, and I learned the basics for making them from Modular Mix: 12 Knitted Mitered Squares to Mix & Match by Edie Eckman late last year.  Since then, I’ve been exploring Domino Knitting by Vivian Hoxbro and have picked up the formula.

Making these washcloths has been a fun way to use up stash.  I’m currently working on a jumbo square, where I cast on 109 stitches to start.

MISS washcloth 2 in progress

I’ve also made some progress on another new (to me) knitting skill, which is entrelac.  Once again, a book has been my guide.  This time, it’s Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting by Rosemary Drysdale.

Entrelac 3 rowsThis swatch will probably eventually turn into a block for charity, too, and then I will make a new one in cotton for this washcloth challenge.

And I also finished hosting my second crochet-a-long of the year in the Underground Crafter Ravelry group.  (We’re now voting on the pattern for the next CAL, which will start in May.)  I made a striped version of my Pineapples for Everyone Shawl.

Pineapples for Everyone stripes on couch

I’m not sure yet if I can claim that this will be a project for me.  I like it a lot, but it seems to be telling me it might end up as a gift.  Or maybe it’s just because I haven’t taken a picture wearing it, so it doesn’t quite seem mine yet…

For more Year of Projects updates, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.

Blogiversary and A Tour Through Crochet Country!

Today marks my two year blogiversary, and I’m one of the stops on A Tour Through Crochet Country!  If you haven’t been following along, this is a wonderful blog tour organized by Crochetville.  The tour features over 50 Associate Professional or Professional members of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA).

If you’re new here, welcome!  I’m a crochet (and knitting) teacher, designer, and blogger.  In addition to sharing my own projects and news on my blog, I also do a lot of interviews (I’ve even won a few awards) and book reviews.  I’m really honored to be part of A Tour Through Crochet Country.  To celebrate National Crochet Month and my blogiversary, I’ll be sharing a free pattern and a coupon code today.  But first I’d like to talk about how important the CGOA has been to me.

As many of my regular readers know, my grandmother taught me to crochet.  After she passed away in 2007, I didn’t have any important people in my real life to talk with about crochet.  Through my membership in CGOA and my involvement in the CGOA Professionals listerv, I’ve had the chance to virtually meet many wonderful crocheters who share the same passion for the hook as I do.

Me and my grandparents, at about the age when I learned to crochet.
Me and my grandparents, at about the age when I learned to crochet.

Back in 2009, I had the honor of being introduced to a wonderful mentor, Mary E. Nolfi, through the CGOA mentoring program.  When I was first exploring design, Mary guided and encouraged me.  Her primer is a great intro for aspiring crochet designers.  I still remember my excitement at emailing her when my first designs were selected for publication.   I’m also grateful to Michelle Maks, yesterday’s stop on the the tour, for taking a chance on me when she was the editor of Crochet World.  I’m thrilled to have another mentor, Marty Miller (March 13′s stop on the tour), who is helping me explore tech editing.

Now I’m paying it forward by volunteering to write book reviews for the CGOA newsletter and blog, and by serving as a mentor to another designer.

My first designs, published in Crochet World in 2010.

And, of course, CGOA membership has other benefits, even if you aren’t a professional (or aspiring professional) in the industry.  You get a subscription to Crochet! magazine and discounts at national retailers as well as on CGOA educational offerings.  You can also participate in your local chapter.  (I’ve been a member of the NYC Crochet Guild for years and in addition to great monthly meetings where I can hang out with fellow crocheters, they also offer classes and local discounts.)

I’d like give a shout out to a some other CGOA members I’ve met (in real life or virtually) who have been very helpful to me in the past few years.

Vashti Braha (interview) has taught me so much through her Crochet Inspirations newsletter, which has also inspired me to keep experimenting! Kim Guzman (interview) is so generous with her knowledge online and is a great teaching author.  Juanita Quinones (interview) is a wonderful tech editor that is volunteering on the Home work project on Ravelry, which is giving a second life to vintage designs.  Mary Beth Temple (interview) is a very strong advocate for crochet and has been a professional inspiration.  Charles Voth (a.k.a. Stitch Stud) (interview) is a talented – and nice! – designer and tech editor who always shares so much of his knowledge with his fellow hookers online.

If you’ve made it this far, your probably asking yourself, “Didn’t she promise a freebie?  And a coupon code?”

Charity Crochet for Project Night Night – The Rectangular Sampler Blanket

Early in my career, I worked for an organization that provided temporary housing for hundreds of homeless families, so the tour’s featured charity, Project Night Night, is really close to my heart.  I wanted to create a project that was beautiful to look at but also fun to make.

blog Rectangular Sampler angle view

The Rectangular Sampler is a variation on the traditional granny square that incorporates a stitch sampler to keep things interesting.  There’s a granny rectangle, an alternating v-stitch, staggered puff stitches, and a fun edging.

blog Rectangular Sampler flat

Download the Rectangular Sampler Blanket PDF Pattern

(You can also find the pattern on Ravelry or Craftsy.)  This makes a great stroller blanket or play mat, or even a baby or comfort blanket.  I plan to donate my sample to Project Night Night, and I hope you’ll consider making one to donate to Project Night Night or a local children’s charity.
Rectangular Sampler V st detail

I crocheted the sample with Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in Pacific, Cordovan, and Alaska Sky.  None of these pictures really do justice to the Alaska Sky, which is a pale, sky blue.  I like using non-traditional colors for children’s blankets because I think it gives them a longer life cycle when they can be displayed in more settings.

blog Rectangular Sampler on chair

Coupon Code

To celebrate National Crochet Month and my blogiversary, I’d like to spread the love by sharing a coupon code for my Ravelry shop.  Use coupon code NatCroMo13 for a 25% discount on any pattern through April 1, 2013.  Thanks for your support of independent designers!

Besides here on my blog and on Ravelry, you can also find me on Etsy, Facebook, Goodreads, Kollabora, Pinterest, and Twitter.

And now back to a A Tour Through Crochet Country

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the tour.  I’ve actually had the pleasure of interviewing several of the CGOA pros on this list, so I’ve also included the links to those interviews below.  I hope you will stop by and check out all the posts (and tutorials, giveaways, and discounts) the other participants have to offer.  Enjoy the rest of National Crochet Month, and don’t forget to enter my current blog giveaways here and here.

March 1 Shelby Allaho

March 2 Ellen Gormley (interview) and Nancy Nehring

March 3 Phyllis Serbes and Mona Muhammad

March 4 Amy O’Neill Houck and Akua Hope

March 5 Mary Jane Hall and Lindsey Stephens (interview)

March 6 Edie Eckman and Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby

March 7 Jennifer Cirka and Annette Stewart

March 8 Andrea Graciarena and LeAnna Lyons

March 9 Dawn Cogger and Angela Whisnant

March 10 Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten and Renee Rodgers

March 11 Joy Prescott and Donna Childs

March 12 Pam Daley and Deb Burger

March 13 Tammy Hildebrand and Marty Miller

March 14 Jocelyn Sass and Jennifer E Ryan

March 15 Andee Graves and Kimberly McAlindin

March 16 Laurinda Reddig

March 17 Brenda Bourg and Susan Lowman for CGOA

March 18 Rhonda Davis and Tammy Hildebrand for CGOA

March 19 Julie Oparka and Cari Clement for CGOA

March 20 April Garwood and Mary Colucci for CGOA

March 21 Alaina Klug

March 22 Erin Boland and Jenny King

March 23 Margaret Hubert (interview) and Jane Rimmer for CGOA

March 24 Bonnie Barker and Marcy Smith for CGOA

March 25 Kim Guzman (interview) and Susan Huxley (interview)

March 26 Susan Lowman and Michele Maks

March 27 me! and Brenda Stratton

March 28 Kathy White and Lori Carlson

March 29 Amy Shelton (interview) and Donna Hulka

March 30 Linda Dean and Kristin Dragos

March 31 Karen CK Ballard and Gwen Blakley-Kinser (interview)

 

Year of Projects, Year 2: New Year, New List

After reviewing my progress in last week’s post, I decided to revise my list for the last half of the Year of Projects.  This may not seem as ambitious as my original list, but for right now it works for me.

I’ve been purposely vague about the exact numbers of projects, etc. because I would like to keep my Year of Projects participation fun and not obligatory!

So without further ado, here’s my new list.

1) Continue to reduce my yarn stash and track my yarn consumption.  I’m an active member of the Surmount the Stash group on Ravelry, but I’m always looking for new ways of tracking my yardage.  I started using KnitMeter yesterday, and I think this will be quite helpful.  I’ve already learned a lot from entering the projects I completed (and didn’t unravel) in 2012!

My goal is to have one less plastic bin of yarn by the end of 2013, so I guess I should be about halfway there by the end of the Year of Projects.  I have no idea what that represents in yardage!

2) Make more projects for myself.  I never seem to focus enough on projects for myself.  I’d like to make myself a pair of crocheted socks and a full winter accessories set (hat, scarf/cowl, and mittens or convertible gloves).  If I could do this by the end of June, I’d be pretty pleased with myself.

3) Learn at least one (hopefully more) new (to me) knitting technique or skill.  Some options I’ve been thinking about are entrelac, efficient use of DPNs (the horror!), circular knitting that starts with a small amount of stitches and increases rather than a large amount of stitches and decreases (like some of the great motifs from Knitting in Circles), and more advanced cast on, bind off, or colorwork methods.

4) Host at least 2 CALs or KALs in my Ravelry group.  I had a lot of fun with the Ripple Mania CAL last year and the Chubby Sheep CAL going on now in the Underground Crafter group.  I’d like to be more organized about how I approach these, though.  Maybe I might even write up a mystery project for a fall CAL…?

5) Donate crocheted (or knitted) projects to charity.  Crochetlist is a Yahoo group that I’ve been involved with on and off for years.  I’ll be hosting the September challenge this year (pet blankets for Bideawee again), and I’d like to donate my own projects to at least one of the other challenges.

Some possible projects are

  • Cotton washcloths and hand towels (a great way to use up some cotton stash) due at the end of April for Mothers and Infants Striving for Success (MISS Inc.), a shelter for women and children.
  • 6″ squares (and I think we all know that I love to make grannies) for Casting Off the Cold  by the beginning of June.  But I’m not sure about the cost of shipping to Canada…

I could also participate in a charity drive through the New York City Crochet Guild or to send some 8″ squares to Sandy for Bridge and Beyond.  And I’m actually hoping to find a charity that accepts crocheted toys.  I know that I can look charities up on Bev’s Charity Links or Lion Brand’s Charity Connection, but if anyone has a suggestion of a US based charity that accepts crocheted toys that don’t need to be made in any particular colors, please let me know!

 

Right now, this list seems incredibly ambitious since I have two samples due next Friday, another one due at the end of the month, and I’ve just volunteered to help out Crochet Happy with her January CAL.  But I’m sure once February arrives, I’ll be amazed at the small size of my list.  I can always add more things to it if need be!

For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.

Year of Projects, Year 2: Return

It’s been a while since I shared a Year of Projects post, but as the year comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on my crafty accomplishments in 2012 and planning for 2013.  I’ve definitely missed the camaraderie of participating in YOP so I thought I would ease myself back into posting on a semi-regular, if not weekly, basis.

All this week, I’ve been sharing year in review posts, so it only seemed natural to share an update on my initial YOP Year 2 goals.

Completed

Crochet 52 granny squares for charity. While I didn’t actually crochet that many squares since July, I mailed off 60 squares to Afghan Squares for Pine Ridge on Thursday.  I’ll likely make more for one of the 2013 Crochetlist charity challenges.

Design my own Bruges lace pattern.  This was one of my early YOP finishes.  The pattern, Visit to the Kantcentrum, is available for download here and I’ll be teaching a Sunday afternoon Bruges Lace Basics class at the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival in March.

Try domino (modular) knitting.  I did get a chance to play around with mitered squares while working on my review of Modular Mix: 12 Knitted Mitered Squares to Mix & Match by Edie Eckman.  (You can check out my review here for a chance to win a copy.)

My first domino knitting project.

Design a crochet lace shawl pattern or recipe for my DC 37 crochet class students.  This was actually one of my early finishes.  I can’t share pictures… yet.

Abandoned

Knit my first complete pair of socks.  I think this project was my epic fail of 2012.  I’m feeling pretty convinced that knitting socks is not for me, and my first serious attempt at sock knitting became one of my frogged projects of 2012.  If I do revise my YOP goals, I may add a crocheted socks project.

The two little balls were my gauge swatches. The two bigger balls were for my two-at-a-time socks.

Timeline adjusted

Make my mom a special bedspread for her milestone birthday.  Unfortunately, I’ve had to put this project aside.  I have a very large secret project due on February 1st, and I can’t imagine wanting to complete a bedspread right after that in time for my mom’s birthday.  I already talked to my sister about it and decided this bedspread will be a Christmas 2013 gift to my mom.

In progress

Learn to spin.  My first tentative drop spindling has whet my appetite, and I’m hoping to dive in more deeply in 2013.

My first attempt on the drop spindle.

No progress

Learn overlay crochet.  

Create my own hairpin lace pattern.  

Try double knitting.

Make a small project inspired by Pop Knitting: Bold Motifs Using Color & Stitch.

Learn knit entrelac.

 

 

If I plan to continue with YOP updates on a semi-regular basis, I’ll definitely need to review my list and decide what to keep and what to change.  I’ve been thinking a lot about my general crafty goals for 2013, and I’d like YOP to fit in with my overall goals rather than being another set of goals.

For more YOP updates, visit Come Blog A Long on Ravelry.

2012 Year in Review: Charity projects and crafting for a cause

This year, I donated more projects and patterns to charity (and causes) than I have for quite a long time.

I started off 2012 by making 6″ granny squares.  I sent off 40 to Binky Patrol in May as part of the Crochetlist charity challenge.

26 6" granny squares.

In June, I hosted the charity challenge for Crochetlist on behalf of Bideawee‘s Manhattan Adoption Center.  I created a pattern e-book, 30 Purrfect Stitches for Pet Blankets, and I donate all of the profits from its sale to animal welfare organizations.  So far, I’ve raised over $180 for Bideawee and the Humane Society of New York!

I also collected about 70 pet blankets for Bideawee.

In August, my very first knitting pattern was published in support of the 2013 Knotty Knitters for Autism calendar.  You can read my interview with Marsha Cunningham, the organizer, here, and download the free pattern here.  (And calendars are still available for sale here.)

In the fall, I made two hats and also donated a scarf to the Hats 4 the Homeless drive hosted by Lion Brand Yarn Studio.

The Studio's November window was all about crafting for charity.

This year, I made a strong effort to destash.  In addition to using up yarn for new charity projects, this also meant rummaging through my bins for existing projects and yarn to donate.  In September, I donated a bunch of yarn to the Roosevelt Yarnies and Knitters and Crocheters Care.

And in December, I mailed off 6 hats, 5 scarves, and 2 cowls I crocheted in years gone by to the Oyate Teca Project, a charity I found through the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation.  I also included this wool scarf I made in 2012.

I sent out a very big bear I crocheted in 2008 to a drive for the children of Newtown, CT that I read about on FreshStitches.

I’m not sure why I crocheted an enormous bear (other than because I wanted to try out the pattern at the time), but I’m hopeful that he’s found a better home than squished into a plastic bin in my apartment.

I also packed up 60 (!) granny squares to send to Afghan Squares for Pine Ridge.  These included the charity squares I made as part of the second Year of Projects and a bunch of squares I found hiding in a yarn bin during the summer.  I will mail these out by the end of the week.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up this much charity crafting next year (especially since a many of my donations were actually crocheted years ago), but I’m glad I was able to help out this much in 2012.

I also started a Pinterest board of charities that accept handmade donations, in case you are looking for places to donate.

Do you have a favorite crochet or knit charity or charity project?

 

Year of Projects, Year 2: A quickie

I’m sharing a quickie post today because I’m running out to meet my mom and join the lines of New York City shoppers preparing for Hurricane Sandy.  Public schools are closed tomorrow, but I haven’t heard about the colleges yet, so I may or may not be going in to work.  I hope everyone in the storm’s path remains safe over the next few days.

On a lighter note, I did make one charity square this morning.

This is the Dog Rose from Granny Squares: Over 25 Creative Ways to Crochet the Classic Pattern by Stephanie Gohr, Melanie Sturm, and Barbara Wilder.  (I’ll be reviewing this book soon, by the way.)  I haven’t woven in the ends because many of the charities ask that you don’t – it seems that some people just “knot and cut” and to make sure your ends are woven in sturdily, the charities ask you to leave the yarn tails hanging.  It doesn’t make for a neat photo, though.

For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Bl0g-a-long on Ravelry.

 

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and  CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.