Tag Archives: freshstitches

Book Review: Modern Baby Crochet

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.

NatCroMo13 in Review!

If you’re like me, you have been following along with many sepecial National Crochet Month features and may be behind on your blog reading.

Here’s a quick roundup of my NatCroMo13 posts.

Free Wednesday posts!

blog Rectangular Sampler angle view

Crochet Book Reviews

NatCroMo13 Book Collage

Crochet Hook Reviews

Favorite Online Crochet Resources

Interviews

Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL

Pineapples with Underground Crafter CAL

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week

 

Now, I’m off to recover from posting daily for a month!

A sneak peak

Next Wednesday, I’ll be participating in Crochetville‘s A Tour Through Crochet Country blog tour for National Crochet Month.  I’m working on something fun (and secret) to reveal next week, but until then, I can share a little progress picture.

Hmmm.  What might this be? :)
Hmmm. What might this be? :)

I had an awesome time at the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival last weekend.  My mom and I made it a “girls vacation” and enjoyed our first trip to Pittsburgh.

Our trip highlights included a visit to the Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol Museum

lunch at Church Brew Works (recommended by one of the students in my Saturday class)…

Taking a picture of my mom taking a picture in front of Church Brew Works.
Taking a picture of my mom taking a picture in front of Church Brew Works.

and walks and rides over many cool bridges.

Pittsburgh Bridges

The Festival was very fun.  My two classes were great – I met a lot of very friendly students and got to watch their swatches grow.  In the Marketplace, there were more vendors than I expected.  I bought some beautiful buttons from Melissa Jean and several shawl pins from Purdy Thangz.  I successfully avoided the temptation to buy more yarn, though I really struggled when passing the Stramba FarmJefferson Farms, and Wild Hare Fiber Studio booths.

I also got the chance to meet Stacey from FreshStitches in real life, but forgot to take a picture.

As far as reading, I just finished Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow. I received a free review copy through NetGalley and I enjoyed it so much that I just bought the next book in the series, Fly Into Fire.  I’m hoping  this book will continue my reading momentum.  My goal is to read 20 non-crafty books this year, and so far, I’ve only gotten through three.  (In fairness, I did start and then abandon a few books.)  Looks like I’ll be reading a whole lot in the summer…

I’m also looking for suggestions for a new blog reader now that Google Reader is going to shut down.  Although I’m not near tears like the person in the link, I am wondering how I’m going to organize the hundreds of blogs I follow.

For more Work in Progress Wednesday posts, visit Tami’s Amis.  For more Yarn Along posts, visit Small Things.

Favorite Online Crochet Resources: Tips and Tricks from FreshStitches

Every Saturday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite online crochet resources.  Today’s featured site is FreshStitches, my favorite source of tips and tricks for crochet and small (crafty) business.

I’m a huge fan of Stacey Trock, also known as FreshStitches.  I had the pleasure of interviewing her and participating in her blog tour for Crocheted Softies: 18 Adorable Animals from Around the World back in 2011.  I also had a blast working up my very first knitting pattern as part of her Knit and Crochet Design Week in 2012.  And I even made a rough and tumble version of her Lala the Panda pattern for my pre-school aged cousin.  (Stacey also happens to have an enormous giveaway going on through today at 6 p.m. Eastern time here.)

 

FreshStitches

 

Stacey’s blog is filled with wonderful pictures.  For amigurumi fans, there is a lot to enjoy as Stacey shares projects from her own patterns as well as tips and customer projects from CALs that she hosts.  And Stacey also shares her own projects, which include a range of crocheted and knit garments and accessories.

But the main reason I’m highlighting her blog today is because of the regular tips and tricks that Stacey shares with her readers.  Here are a few of my favorites for yarn crafts in general:

And a few of my favorites for crochet amigurumi:

This was tough!  Stacey has a lot of great amigurumi tips and tutorials to choose from on her blog.

Although she is an extremely busy lady with an active Facebook page and Ravelry group, classes on Craftsy, and is prepping for the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival next weekend, among other things, Stacey had a few minutes to answer some NatCroMo13 questions.

 
Underground Crafter (UC): Can you share a favorite crochet project with us?

Stacey: Oh, I don’t know if I could really pick a favorite, but I’ll pick a nice one…

From the time I was 12 years old, I entered my crochet in the county fair every summer. It was a lot of fun, and I really liked getting ribbons.

Then, when I was 17, I was waiting in line to submit my crochet pieces for the year. A supervisor came up to me and said that my work was so lovely… and asked if I wanted to do a demonstration!

I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited! So, I got booked in for a timeslot, and I spent a few hours crocheting at the fair.

I think it was the first time that I viewed my crocheting as something exciting and interesting. Before then, I just thought of it as something my mom and I did… it never occurred to me that other people didn’t!

Stacey Trock.
Stacey Trock demonstrating crochet at the county fair.

UC: What are your favorite types of crochet projects to make?

Stacey: I love making stuffed animals. They’re cute, they’re quick, and they make use of the best properties of crochet fabric. They benefit from the density that a crochet stitch can provide.

UC: What are your favorite websites for crochet-related content and community?
I’m in love with Ravelry. I spend a lot of time chatting in the forums, there!  I also love Kathryn Vercillo’s blog.  It’s full of really great crochet content & trends.  (UC comment: I guess great minds think alike because I highlighted Crochet Concupiscence last week as my favorite source of crochet news!)

 

Thanks Stacey, for stopping by, and for providing such wonderful content on your blog!

 

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?

 

2012 Year in Review: Exploring Ravelry

Although I’ve been a Ravelry member since December, 2007, I barely used it until 2011.  Last year, I finally started to browse Ravelry regularly for pattern searches and began to participate in several groups.  My Rav goal for 2012 was to use the notebook to track all of my projects.

Adding projects (and even taking pictures of them) eventually became like second nature for me.  Looking through my notebook, I discovered that I completed over 160 projects in 2012.  Before you congratulate me for being the most prolific crocheter/knitter in America, let me mention that number includes many, many small projects (like an individual granny square for charity).

I actually think tracking my projects helped me to complete more (if only because seeing all of those WIPs can be distressing), and it definitely encouraged me to take more pictures!  If you don’t already track your projects on Ravelry, I encourage you to start!

These are my 5 favorite completed 2012 projects using other designers’ patterns:

My first “magic loop” project – a hat for my dad.
Ravelry project page.  Pattern: A Hat Fit for a Fella by Shana Kreikemeier.

 

My first Bruges lace project – a scarf for one of my best friends.
Ravelry project page.  Pattern: Sparkling Wave Scarf by Tatyana Mirer.

 

 

Yoga socks for my mom.
Ravelry project page.  Pattern: Pilates Peds (Crochet Yoga Socks) by Pam Daley.

 

 

My first knit shawl (made during and after Hurricane Sandy).
Ravelry project page.  Pattern: Terribly Simple by Caitlin ffrench.

 

 

Super cute crochet slippers, made as a swap gifty.
Ravelry project page.  Pattern: Granny Slippers by Bernat designer.

 

 

And these are my 5 favorite completed 2012 projects using my own patterns:

The All Weather Cowl, which I’ve been wearing a lot lately.
Ravelry project page.  Free pattern available here.

 

 

The Sandworm’s Journey Beanie, my first knitting design, and a gift for my friend, JP.
Ravelry project page.  Free pattern available here.

By the way, JP proved herself very knitworthy by sending this email after opening her hat (which I was worried might be too small for her):

I love my new hat! It is perfect in every way!!!!! I love the color, cables, shape, size, etc…. PERFECT!!!!!

My very first infinity scarf/cowl.  Now I finally understand why everyone wears these – so warm!
Ravelry project page.  Pattern available for sale here.

 

 

My first Bruges lace design.
Ravelry project page.  Pattern available for sale here.

 

This hat is way cuter with the pom pom added.
Ravelry project page.  Free pattern available here.

 

 

And this last project, a combo of my own layout with the pattern of another designer…

The never ending New Orleans Saints themed double Irish Chain granny square bedspread for my little sister.
Ravelry project page.  Pattern: I used my own layout, but my granny square was a four round version of the Basic Granny Square by Julie A. Bolduc.

 

 

 

On a related note, I started using Ravelry’s stash feature after reading this great post by FreshStitches.  I definitely don’t have all of my stash listed, but it has helped me to sell some stash and also to keep track of my stashbusting efforts this year.

What’s your favorite Ravelry feature?

FO Friday and I Love Yarn Day!

I’m excited to be participating in another I Love Yarn Day on my blog!  To celebrate, I’m sharing some charity projects and showing off some of my recent yarn acquisitions.

Finished charity projects

I’ve been working on some charity projects with stash yarn for the Hats 4 the Homeless drive at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio.

Men's hat and child's hat.

I had plans for more creative (read: flashy) hats, but then I remembered these guidelines on the Bridge and Beyond blog about donating handmade hats to homeless people:

Choose colors that don’t show the dirt, that are appropriate for the group you’re donating too.  Wild colors, bold stripes aren’t a good choice for homeless people…  Homeless [people] don’t like to call attention to themselves with wild colors.  Dark colors work for everyone, kids, teens, women, and men.  Light colors limit who can benefit from your warm hat.

With that in mind, I pulled out the charcoal yarns and went work.  I made both hats very bulky and warm so they will provide a little extra protection in harsh weather.  I’m also planning to make some scarves before the drop off deadline.

Yummy yarn stuff

When I wrote my post for I Love Yarn Day last year, I was already thinking about thinning out my stash.  This year I’ve been participating in Surmount the Stash and I started my own Holiday Stashdown Challenge, and I’ve made a lot of progress towards reducing my stash and increasing the proportion of natural fibers in my collection.  I’m not even going to enter the I Love Yarn Day contest where you can win 365 skeins of yarn.  Last year, I wouldn’t have been able to pass it up.  So what changed?

One of my best friends and I took part in the 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge with Frugally Sustainable in January.  As New York natives working in the public/non-profit sector and watching prices rise astronomically, we are always worried about our finances.

My frugality is still a work in progress – there is much that I haven’t changed yet – but I have been pretty good about keeping a 30-Day List.  Last weekend was the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival and the New York City Yarn Crawl, and I’ve been planning for months to go wild.

The yarn and roving I bought at the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival.

From top to bottom: Yarn Monkey Productions SuperSaki in Aella and in Anastasia, Studio Donegal Soft Donegal in Charcoal and Dark Red, and Ivy Brambles Romantica Merino Lace in Night Sky and Hand Dyed Merino Roving in Harvest Festival.

I only had time to visit three of the ten yarn shops participating in the New York City Yarn Crawl last weekend.  (After all, I was in New Jersey for two days for the Festival!)

My first stop was (of course) my favorite NYC yarn shop, Knitty City, where I picked up two skeins of madelinetosh tosh vintage.

On Monday, I visited Downtown Yarns, my favorite stop for knitting needle shopping.

Believe it or not, I actually went there hoping they would have some super jumbo circulars, and I was not disappointed. (These are US size 50!)

I found this lovely skein of Dream in Color Everlasting Sock right next to the needles.

 

My final stop was The Yarn Company.  I’ve done a fair amount of browsing in the shop since it came under new ownership and the vibe is much better than it was in the past.  Other than a few skeins of sale yarn that I bought when ownership switched over, I had never found the “right” yarn for me when visiting.  It is in my neighborhood and I appreciate the work the new owners have put into rebuilding the store’s reputation, so I decided to stop by during the Yarn Crawl.  And I wasn’t disappointed when I found this lovely skein of Miss Babs Yowza-Whatta Skein! in Violets in the Grass.

Don't be fooled. This skein is 560 yards.

I have ideas for these yarns, but honestly, I almost never make exactly what I planned when I’m buying the yarn!  (Does this happen to anyone else?)  By the time I get through the things I’m making now and the projects I have deadlines for, I’ll be interested in making other things.  At least now that I started using Ravelry’s stash feature (thanks to this tutorial from FreshStitches), I can easily scan my stash before starting a new project.

For more I Love Yarn Day excitement, check out the inspiration webpagePinboards, and Facebook page, and follow @iloveyarnday or search #iloveyarnday on Twitter.  And for more Finished Objects, visit Tami’s Amis.

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

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Vanessa Laven

This post is part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series.

 

I’m thrilled to interview blogger Vanessa Laven today.  Vanessa was actually the first person I interviewed on my blog and I’m a regular read of her own wonderful blog, Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts.  Vanessa is also Cuban-American and from the NYC area, so I feel a strong connection to a lot of the stories that she shares about growing up and her family life.  In addition to her blog, you can find Vanessa online on Ravelry, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter.

Vanessa Laven in one of her knit cowls. (Click for blog post.)


Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to knit, crochet, and embroider?

Vanessa: My mother had taught me how to knit but it never really stuck, ditto for crocheting. I picked up the Klutz book about crochet and suddenly it clicked with me. I fell in love and I joined a Stitch n Bitch group. I decided to give knitting another try and this time my mom’s advice stuck. My sister, Maritza, taught me how to embroider when I was in the fourth grade but again, it never really stuck. My mom kept nagging me to not embroider all the time because it would ruin my eye sight, so I dropped it. In college, I bought Jenny Hart’s book and kit and this time it stuck. I embroidered a bunch of doodles on to a pair of old jeans and while it looked super cool, I never wore them after that. Plus my hands were killing me. I didn’t know at the time that I should have used a better needle!

 

Vanessa's multi-crafty Frida Kahlo doll. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You are multi-craftual. What is your favorite “go to” craft these days?

Vanessa: I find my knitting to be the most portable project, so it’s the one I do the most often. While I do like to crochet, I find that sometimes my crochet stitches end up coming undone if I try to tote it around with me. Plus, I have to look where I’m crocheting. I knit so much that I can do it by feel now, which has become a “party trick” of mine. I once managed to play Texas Hold ‘em Poker and knit at the same time. It was less impressive than it sounds because I really don’t know how to play poker all that well. Embroidery has become a sort of “in between projects” project, mostly because I tend to make much smaller pieces. Plus, it satisfies that part of me that still likes to color in coloring books.

 

Vanessa's Lily Owl. (Click for blog post.)

UC: We both have parents who were born and raised in Cuba.  Tell us a bit about your background and the crafting scene at that time.

Vanessa: I grew up in Union City, NJ. At one point, Union City was called “Havana on the Hudson” because we had more Cubans living here than in Havana. (UC comment: Yes, this is where most of my Cuban extended family lives!) When I was growing up, I would say that 98% of my classmates were Hispanic. We had a few Indian and Egyptian students but they were the exception rather than the rule. I don’t remember many people outside of my family crafting, but there were a few businesses advertising hand painted signs. My niece Olivia took a bunch of photos of these signs.

Apparently, most of them have been taken down. I love the look of the lettering but I’ve never really seen them outside of the greater NYC area.  (UC comment: Olivia has a great website of her own here.) 

My town does have an interesting crafty history. Starting in the late 1880s up until the 1990s, there were tons of embroidery factories. My parents worked a few, actually, particularly during the Viet Nam war. The factory they worked at made military insignias like company badges and rank stripes. They would take the big sheets of these home to cut out and got paid for so many that they cut.

My mom also worked in clothing factories. It’s where and how she learned to sew. My father was part of the book binder’s union thanks to one of the places he worked at. He later stopped factory work and became the superintendent of the buildings we lived in. He wasn’t the best handyman but I think part of him really enjoyed it. He used to build and set up model trains and also enjoyed photography, though he was terrible at it.

 

 

 

Vanessa's Featherweight Cardigan. (Click for blog post.)


UC: Tell us about your blog. How did you get started blogging?

Vanessa: My husband bought a “Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts” t-shirt for me and thought the name would make a great blog for me. I had just finished up chemo two months before and I needed an outlet. He encouraged me to blog about the things I made during treatment. I was really shy about it at first but I quickly dove in. I had a Live Journal account for years so the idea of blogging wasn’t new to me. I’m glad that I listened to hubby because I love to blog like this! It’s given me both an outlet and a sense of purpose which is what I needed especially so soon after being so sick. (UC comment: I’m glad you listened to him, too, because your blog has a really unique perspective to offer!)

 

Vanessa's hexipuffs. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You share some of your personal life, including your experience as a cancer survivor and posts about your family, on your blog.  A lot of crafty bloggers struggle with how much is enough/too much to share of your personal life.  How do you find the balance between being part of a community and maintaining your privacy?

Vanessa: I try to keep my personal stories focused on either crafting or cancer. With my cancer experience, I felt best to share the good, the bad and the really ugly because I wasn’t prepared for most of what happened. And if I felt that way, chances are good that someone else does and hopefully I can better prepare them.

I do share a lot about my family’s history partly because I think it’s a unique story, particularly how my parents met. And it’s the easiest way to share with the rest of my family since we’re all around the world at this point. Thanks to Facebook, lots of cousins and uncles (my father’s half brothers) are coming out of the woodwork and finding us. Most of them are still in Cuba but a few are in Miami and Venezuela. My mother’s family are in Cuba but do have internet access so it’s been nice to share with them as well. I’ve often thought about turning some of their stories into a novel, so I try to write those entries as creatively as possible. I also feel like everyone has a great story. Hopefully, I can encourage other people to put the tales of the past down on paper to preserve them. I do regret that I didn’t get more memories out of my father before he passed away.

 

Vanessa's Wurm Hat for Olivia. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting?  If so, how?

Vanessa: I’m not sure if I can say that there is a direct influence, but it certainly is a passive influence. Whenever I pick up my needles (be it to knit or sew or crochet) I feel like I’m part of the past. My mother remembers that her mother, sister, and later, her step-mother, would spend time making bobbin lace when they weren’t busy making clothing for the family. Her friends tell me that they were all taught to knit socks before they were taught the alphabet!  My parents didn’t have a lot of schooling (my mother left school around the 4th grade and my father the 6th) but they both learned trades. My mother’s was more domestic (making clothing for the family and housewares and how to cook) but my father was a cobbler. I think about them when I’m working away and I laugh. What today is considered “hip” and “novel” and “crafty” was, once upon a time, part of a normal education. I remember trying to sign up for Home Ec in High School only to be told that they changed the class format. It was now a parenting class for the girls (and boys) who were expecting. I’m very sad to hear that this isn’t something that was unique to my public school system. If we bring back these skills, I’m sure we’ll see an overall increase in math and reading scores. (UC comment: I agree, Vanessa. We use math all the time in the needlecrafts!)

 

 

Some of Vanessa's embroidery. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You recently moved to Hermitage, Tennessee from the Northeast.  What’s the crafting scene like down there?  Do you have any favorite spots to share?

Vanessa: I’ve noticed that quilting tends to be a lot more popular in the South. I’ve been able to find more fabric shops than local yarn stores. Also, the big box stores like Joann’s tend to rule. Since I’m not really a quilter, it’s been difficult for me to find my niche.

 

 

Vanessa's childhood kung-fu ID card. (Click for blog post.)

 

UC: One of the things that’s unique about your blog is your combination of needlecrafts with martial arts and self-defense.  (One of my favorite guest posts on your blog is by Packing Pretty.  Thanks for introducing me to someone who so stylishly conceals weapons for personal protection!)  Tell us about your interest in martial arts.

 

Vanessa: I started martial arts when I was in the first grade. My parents put me in ballet and I hated it. Then they tried tap dancing and I hated that, too. The last thing on their list was the kung-fu studio that was near. My brother had taken lessons with Sifu Vizzio and suggested that they sign me up. They did and I loved it! I was finally in training to become a Ninja Turtle. Unfortunately, I had to stop thanks to homework overload but I always carried that regret. I tried some other styles as an adult but it wasn’t the same. I missed Sifu and I missed Fu Jow Pai.

 

For me, martial arts helps me relax and focus on my goals. The philosophical aspect of it has also spoken deeply to me. I’m not sure I’ve discovered the meaning of life but it’s helped me really think about what I’m doing here. I come out of class feeling like I’ve honed both my body and my mind and I’ve got them working together.

UC: What are some of your favorite Spanish or English language craft blogs to share?
Vanessa: In Spanish, I love Che Crochet. She’s an Argintine crocheter and makes some really nice stuff. Of course, I also have to mention FreshStitches as an English crochet counterpart. Stacey’s designs are fun and really modern. Mighty Distractable also makes me feel better for having a thousand interests and a short attention span.

I also read Craftzine to keep up to date on the latest crafting news. And I love to listen to CraftLit while I’m busy. Heather Ordover is a great hostess and knitwear designer in her own right. She’ll be starting Jane Eyre (my favorite book), which has wonderful knitting references, in October. I think I’ll work on something lacey and fancy while I listen.

 

UC: What’s next for Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts?
Vanessa: I do have some pieces in the works of my own. I’m currently designing a cancer awareness hat that should be released in November. And I’ve got some more book reviews and tutorials in the pipeline so keep your eyes peeled in the next few weeks! I’m not quite sure what next year has in store for Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts, but I’m always open to suggestions.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story, Vanessa!

FO Friday: My first ever knitting pattern and an interview with Marsha Cunningham

I’m really excited to unveil my very first finished knitting pattern, the Sandworm’s Journey Beanie, today.  The pattern is part of a collection for charity to support the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar, so I thought it would be fitting to share an interview with Marsha Cunningham, the founder of the Knotty Knitters for Autism.  I’ll start with my interview and then share more details about the pattern.

The Knotty Knitters calendar features women of all ages posing tastefully au naturale with some of their handmade creations.  You can find the Knotty Knitters for Autism online on Facebook and Ravelry.  Marsha can be found on Ravelry as marshaknits or through her Etsy shop.

The Interview

Ms. September (Marsha Cunningham) from the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar.

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

Marsha: I got started knitting when I took a two week class at Rhodes Department Store in Tacoma,WA.  I was eleven years old.  My girlfriend was taking the class so my sister and I camped on.  I am the only one who continued and took it to the next level.

After that, there was no stopping me.  My next project was a V-neck sweater and then socks for my dad.  I didn’t know much about gauge then. I knit the socks on a #4 needle.  My dad wore them once, but they were too thick for his shoes.  They were really nice with cables.  I took to wearing them as sleep socks from the time I was about 13 to my second year of marriage when my husband asked me to quit wearing them to bed.  LOL.

 

Ms. May (Barbara Weber) and Fluffy from the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar, wearing Quincy by Jared Flood in Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick.

UC: You’re an active member of a local knitting group in Tacoma.  What is it like to be involved with a knitting group, and what suggestions do you have for people who are considering joining one?

Marsha: I belong to Tacoma Knitters and we meet every Wednesday from 2:30-4:00pm at Fibers, ETC.  It is an informal group.  We help out where necessary, show our projects, etc. We have lots of fun and lots of laughs.

We have one rule….no religion or politics!  (UC comment: I think this rule explains why you have lots of fun and laughs!)

 

The ladies of March (Liz Tekus, owner of Fine Points Yarn; Becca Smith, owner of bagsmith.com; and Susan Thompson, employee at both companies) from the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar, wrapped in a Big Stitch afghan.

UC: What is the inspiration behind the original Knotty Knitters for Autism calendar?

Marsha: My grandchildren, Mollee May and Josef Andrew, fraternal twins aged 9 were the inspiration for the calendar.  They both have autism. Mollee is mainstreamed in school as of last year at Skyline and Josef goes to a special class at Franklin elementary.  Mollee and Josef both manifest their symptoms differently.  Mollee still has “meltdowns” and a little echolalia (repeating words and sentences).  Josef does not speak although he is trying very hard.  He spins pieces of paper incessantly.  Both children tend to wander off if not watched continuously.

 

Ms. June (Zoe Weber) from the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar, wearing crocheted granny square shorts.

UC: Tell us about the process of finding designers and models to work with you for this year’s calendar.

Marsha: It was a little difficult find models for the calendar.  (UC comment: It takes a brave knitter or crocheter to bare all for charity!)  Some people say they will and then are no shows.  So this year, I planned for some extras and had just right amount.  The one requirement is that they be able to knit.  We met Becca Smith of the Bagsmith.com at STITCHES last year.  She brought 3 models with her.  Three are returning models, 1 is the granddaughter of another model, 1 is from the Puyallup Knitting Guild, and 2 are from Ravelry.

Designers were a whole lot easier to find.  I had met some on various knitting trips I had been on, some responded to the article in Yarn Market News, and some I just asked.  (UC comment: You can download the patterns donated to the Knotty Knitters here.)

 

 

Ms. October (Ola Leonard Kersely) from the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar, modeling an afghan she made to donate for auction.

UC: How can people help support the project?

Marsha: You can help support the project by purchasing a calendar and/or by purchasing raffle tickets for the afghan that Ms. October is wearing and that she knit.  (UC comment: You can purchase the pattern here for $20 + $5 shipping.  To purchase raffle tickets, which are $1 each or $5 for a book of six, email Marsha at marsha AT marshasells DOT com.  The drawing is scheduled for December 15, 2012.)

 

UC: What are your have any favorite crafty website/blogs to visit for knitting inspiration?

Marsha: I visit Ravelry every morning to view the new knit patterns and I get lots of emails from yarn stores.  I also subscribe to Vogue Knitting, Knit Simple, and Rowan magazines.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Marsha!

 

The Pattern

I read about the Knotty Knitter’s project in Yarn Market News last year, and I immediately contacted Marsha about contributing a pattern.  At the time, I had no idea what this pattern would be.  Oh, and I had never written a knitting pattern ;).  Marsha was very flexible and allowed the designers complete creative freedom in creating a pattern.  Although this freedom was wonderful, I was overwhelmed by all the ideas I was thinking up in my mind and I didn’t start on the project for months.

But then, March rolled around, and Stacey at FreshStitches announced Knit and Crochet Design Week.  Designing is usually an isolated experience for me, so I decided to try my hand at designing with moral support.  The first version of this design was born.

From the beginning, the stitch pattern reminded me of the trail of a sandworm, the creatures who feature so prominently in the Dune series by Frank Herbert.  The yarn I was using was a rich blue, like the eyes of the Fremen and Paul Muad’Dib, and so I called the project Kwisatz Haderach.  Ultimately, I wasn’t very satisfied with the decrease pattern and I ended up ripping back the project since it didn’t have an intended recipient.

In April, during Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, I uncovered this wonderful orange yarn in my stash.

I was inspired to restart the design, and the orange yarn allowed me to maintain my Dune theme because it’s the same color as the desert planet of Arrakis.  I finished the sample at the end of May, and shared it with the world in early June.  Not only am I able to share the pattern to support a great cause, but I got to use up some stash and finish a gift from my holiday crafting list early.

The finished hat, from the back.

You can download the PDF pattern for free from the Knotty Knitters website or Ravelry.  Even though the pattern is a freebie, I hope you will consider donating to the Knotty Knitters or another autism charity in your area.

For more finished objects, visit Tami’s Amis.

Holiday Stashdown Challenge – Week 13

(Join along with me any time if you need a head start or moral support for your holiday crafting.  You can read more details here.)

Well, I’ve added another finished project to my list since my last update, and (what a surprise) I’ve decided to make a few changes.

You may remember that I was swatching for a hat in Nude Ewe Ron for my dad’s partner.

This has been unraveled, but you get the idea.

I wasn’t too happy with any of the stitch patterns, so I was back to the drawing board.  And then, I won this awesome giveaway and got 10 balls of yarn.  This one started to look like a better fit.

Cascade 220 Superwash in Cordovan.

I’m not sure my dad’s partner could actually handle a handwash only yarn.  So now I’m going to get swatching with this yarn.

Also, I emailed my friend, JS, to ask about colors for winter accessories.  She says her favorites are orange, green, blue, and purple, but that pretty much anything will match her grey coat.  I feel I should make her a scarf, since I made a scarf for OB, and the three of us hang out together a lot.

A detail from the Bruges lace scarf I made for OB.

Perhaps, you can help me choose the yarn for JS’s scarf.  You see, back in May, a FreshStitches tutorial convinced me to use Ravelry’s stash feature, so I happen to have pictures of all these lovelies from my stash.

Austermann Step in 03.
Bitsy Knits Squoosh Superwash in Aquamarine.
Dream in Color Classy in Happy Forest.

 

Dream in Color Classy in Spring Tickle.
Prism Merino Mia in Moss.
Spud and Chloe Sweater in Moonlight.

Do you have any favorites?

[polldaddy poll=6445937]

 

Just to keep me on track, here’s where I stand with my lists:

The “Still to Make” List

1) My dad’s partner – I plan to start on that hat this week.

2) My grandpa – I need 12 more hexagon motifs to make his holiday stocking.

3 – 5 ) My grandma, my Aunt I, and my cousin MS – Scarves for the ladies?

6) My Uncle M – A hat.

7) JS, my crafting buddy – Her scarf will be made from one of these lovely stash yarns.

8 ) My sister – Still deciding what to make.

9) My mom – Something smallish.

10) MC, my special guy – Probably a charcoal hat.

 

The Finished List! (~826 yds from stash)

I’ve already finished five projects, and that feels very good!

1) Cabled hat for Dad – Cascade 220 Superwash (from stash) ~220 yds – A Hat Fit for a Fella pattern by Shana Kreikemeier

2) Cabled hat for JP – Malabrigo Rios (from stash) ~145 yds – my own design

3) Bruges lace scarf for OB – madelinetosh tosh sport (purchased at Knitty City for this project) – 270 yds – Sparkling Wave Scarf pattern by Tatyana Mirer

4) Ribbed beanie for cousin PR – Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick and Moda Dea Tweedle Dee (from stash) – 122 yds – my own design

5) Stuffed toy for little cousin, CJ – Caron One Pound in black and white (from stash) – 210 yds - Lala the Panda by Stacey Trock
6) Ribbed beanie for cousin MR - Moda Dea Tweedle Dee (from stash) – (129 yds) – my own design

 

The Maybe List

I will feel pretty awesome if I get to the folks on this list, but I’m not going to worry about it too much.  These are listed in order of priority.

  1. CG, my BFF from high school
  2. JM, another BFF from high school
  3. My cat
  4. Aunt K and Uncle T
  5. RP, colleague and work buddy for the last four years
  6. CA, my other colleague and work buddy for the last four years
  7. Mom’s dog
  8. Dad’s cat

Feel free to share your progress on your personal holiday gift making journey in the comments!