Tag Archives: lion brand yarn studio

FO Friday: Brooklyn’s Baby Blanket

Way back in February, I learned my cousin had a newborn daughter via Facebook.  Her name is Brooklyn. (Yes, like me, my cousin was born in Brooklyn, but he hasn’t lived there for about 20 years).

I decided to make her a baby blanket using some stash yarn.  I started with the motif from Frankie Brown‘s Jelly Mould Blanket and some leftover Red Heart Super Saver in Candy Print, but I ran out of yarn after 14 squares.  The stiffness of the yarn was the perfect pairing with this pattern.

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Jelly Moulds through 2013-02-06

Since I didn’t have another complementary color in my stash, I thought it would be the perfect time to use my 20% off coupon to the Lion Brand Yarn Studio.  Once at the shop, I decided I wanted to go in a new direction, and instead of choosing more pink, I picked up three skeins of Vanna’s Choice in greens.  (I was feeling a bit spring-like at the time.)  Vanna’s Choice is much softer than the Red Heart, so it wasn’t as suited for the 3D shape of the Jelly Mould motif.

Jelly Mould and African Flower

At around the same time, Barbara from Made in K-Town released her African Flower Square Tutorial, and I decided to make 14 African Flower squares.  I had to make some adjustments, of course, to get the motifs to be the same size.

African Flower

And then, for good measure, I decided to make 14 (modified versions) of Ellen Gormley‘s Sunny Spread motifs.

Sunny Spread Row

I used a stash skein of Caron One Pound in white for all the borders, and joined each of the motifs in rows of 7.

Brooklyn Baby Blanket

I had a bit of a tough time taking pictures (thank you Central Park, for serving as a backdrop!), but I really like how the blanket came out.  It’s about 32 inches square, and I used about 990 yards of yarn (including about 530 yards of stash yarn!).

Brooklyn baby blanket folded

The whole project was much more improvised than my baby blankets usually are.  I guess you could say that the motifs came about organically.  And I used different techniques for joining the squares together to form rows, which helped to even out the slight differences in sizes.  I also used two different methods for joining the rows together (the green join is a very decorative v-stitch join, and the white join is a chain join).  These joins were inspired by ones I found in Robyn Chachula‘s Crochet Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia.

Brooklyn baby blanket 2

I think this means that my next blanket may be a bit more spontaneous!

For more finished objects, visit Tami’s Amis.

Interview with Johnny Vasquez from New Stitch a Day

Every Monday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be interviewing crocheters.  Today’s interview is with Johnny Vasquez, a crochet teacher.

As a crochet and knitting teacher, I’m constantly looking for online resources to share with my students so they have additional supports when I’m not around.  I can’t remember how I first came across New Stitch A Day, but I regularly refer my students (and my crocheting and knitting friends) to it.  Today I’m excited to share an interview with Johnny Vasquez, the Founder of Craftory Media.

I should mention that Johnny offered to use his technological abilities to set up a Skype video interview, but I wasn’t able to figure out scheduling on my end, so he was gracious enough to do a regular interview via email.

You can find Johnny one the New Stitch A Day website and blog, TwitterFacebook, and Ravelry group.  You can also find him online as JohnnyVasquez or on his designer page on Ravelry, at Fiberstory.tv, and at Yarn Nation (coming soon).  The pictures in this interview are used with his permission.

 

Johnny Vasquez.

Johnny Vasquez.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Johnny: My great grandmother was big into the fiber arts. She was a weaver, a spinner, knitter, and hand dyer. She’s gone now, but my dad still has her spinning wheel and loom.

My grandmother, on the other side of the family, worked as a seamstress for years and has been knitting and crocheting most of her life. I often got crocheted afghans for Christmas. But they were exactly what you would think they would be like: Red Heart scratchy yarn in horrible color combinations. Basically whatever colors were on sale at the local craft store.

The funny thing is, even though yarn craft was all around me, I never had an interest. I thought knitting and crochet was for old people.

Then I heard about this Kickstarter project by Rebecca Burgess. She wanted to source all of her clothing for a year from within 150 miles of her home. The idea was to be more connected to the people who are involved in making these garments that are so intimate to our lives.

She documented going to an organic farm to plant the indigo dyes, buying waste wool from a sheep stock rancher, and working with an old mill to process that into yarn. She took that yarn to a local knitwear designer and had it turned into a hat.  (UC comment: You can read more about Rebecca’s Fibershed Project on her website here.)

At that moment a light clicked in my head. Something about the story of how that hat was created really resonated with me. I decided I wanted to knit a sweater so I could be more connected to my clothing.

But first I needed to learn to knit. So I went Walmart, bought a teach yourself to knit kit, two balls (skeins I found out later) of Simply Soft, and the rest is history.

New Stitch a Day

UC: What inspired you to start teaching?
Johnny: I’ve been teaching in different capacities most of my life.

I started teaching bible study in Jr. High.

In high school, I directed plays and was section leader in choir. I also started an alumni chapter for a leadership program that had all of LA county as its jurisdiction.

In my college years, I was a substitute teacher and taught an after school drama program.

So I’ve led and taught for a long time. When I learned to knit and crochet, the transition was pretty natural.

Johnny juggling (or, is he just throwing the yarn in the air?).

Johnny juggling (or, is he just throwing the yarn in the air?).

UC: Why did you launch New Stitch a Day?
Johnny: That’s a LOOOONG story.

I was in Chicago at a yarn store called Loopy, and I was chatting with this lady about knitting. I had only been knitting about 6 weeks. She was looking at one of those perpetual knitting calendars and mentioned that it would be cool to knit one swatch a day for a year from the calendar and then turn it into a sampler afghan. I thought . . . “that would be cool . . .”

A few months later at Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a couple of stitch dictionaries. At the same time I had been following another blog called New Dress a Day. The girl who ran that site gave herself $1 a day to make a new piece of clothing out of stuff she got from the bargain bin at a local thrift store.

I thought that was a great project and I was reminded of that lady in Chicago and her stitch a day calendar. I figured it would be cool to do my own blog to help me become a better knitter and I would call it New Stitch a Day.

That thought festered in my mind for a few days, until I was trying to knit a particular stitch out of one of the books and I couldn’t figure out the instructions. I tried going online to find a video to help and there was none for that specific stitch.

I’ve been doing stuff with video since I was a pre-teen. When I was a freshman in high school, I made a short film instead of writing a final project in English. I’ve worked on a reality TV pilot, some short films, and an indie music video.

Light Bulb!

I knew I could put together better videos than a lot of what I was seeing and I had an HD camera in my iPhone. I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to put out a new video tutorial each day. But I’m also the kinda of person who thinks, sure, I can do a triathlon with three months of training. My ambition is often bigger than my ability.

Johnny's mustache cowl.

Johnny’s mustache cowl.

UC: Tell us about how it’s grown since then.
Johnny: I started doing 1 video knitting tutorial every Monday through Friday.

The first video took me 8hrs to complete. I got that down to about 4 hours per stitch, but for the first year and a half I never did get a stitch a day out.

Eventually I added one crochet stitch video on Saturdays, but that was pretty sporadic.

One day in the spring of 2011, my wife and I were in New York for work and we tweeted to the Lion Brand people that we wanted to visit their store, which also happened to be their offices. They said to let them know when we dropped by.

When we got there we were greeted by Jessica, who handled their social media at the time. She let me know they loved what we were doing and wanted to know how they could help. A few months later, they were our first official sponsor. They provided yarn and paid a small advertising fee to have their product featured in our videos.

That’s the first time I thought this could be a real business. By June, my wife was graciously working a couple part time jobs and both our parents helped out from time to time so I could work full-time on the site.

New Stitch A Day is a family affair.  Here's a yarn monster concept sketch by Johnny's brother, Donnie.

New Stitch A Day is a family affair. Here’s a yarn monster concept sketch by Johnny’s brother, Donnie.

By the next June, I was getting a bigger and bigger vision for what I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t have the man power to do it. My wife, Lacie, was pretty tired of living in CO where it was actually cold during the winter. So I convinced my brothers to help out. We sold pretty much everything we couldn’t fit in a couple suitcases and moved back to Los Angeles.

Today we put out 1 knitting and 1 crochet tutorial every Monday through Friday and it takes us about 2.5 from start to finish for each. And they’re completely free to watch. In fact, all of the more than 500 videos we’ve made so far are Creative Commons, so people can use them on their sites and even sell them in their patterns for free.

Yarn Craft Academy

One thing we started at the beginning of 2013 is our Yarn Craft Academy, which is our premium education classes. This is where we go in depth on topics like double knitting, Tunisian crochet, and making amiguriumi toys. The classes last between an hour to two hours and most come with two practice patterns to test out your new skills.

The coolest thing though, is we do a free version of every class about once a week. We do this through a live Ustream event and I actually get to interact with people all over the world in real time through the chat room. If they want to watch the class again, they can purchase a recording that has a bunch of bonus content. We also have an all you can eat option where people can pay per month to access all of our classes.

Another cool thing is everyone gets to vote on what classes we do next. Every couple of weeks we have a survey where we post 8 options for future classes. These come from suggestions from our audience in previous surveys. They pick their top 3 or 4 and we turn them into classes.

We’ve only been doing those for about 5 weeks, but we’ve had an average of 1,000 people register for each, often in as little as 36 hours.  (UC comment: That’s great news, Johnny.  It’s wonderful to see your site expanding.)

Check out Johnny's live free classes every week.

Check out Johnny’s live free classes every week.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?
Johnny: I actually don’t own a lot of crochet books. I have four and they’re all stitch dictionaries. My favorite of those is The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet.   (UC comment: My review of this book and an interview with author Margaret Hubert.) But Erika Knight recently put out a book called Simple Crocheting and I’m really eager to pick that up. Actually, I think I’m gonna order that as soon as I’m done with this interview . . .  (UC comment: My review here.)

Side Note: Erika Knight edited the Harmony Guides, which we use all the time for New Stitch a Day. I met her a couple weeks ago at TNNA. (UC comment: The National NeedleArts Association trade show.)  She’s super cool and very British. I love her sense of style, especially the neon pink tennis shoes she wore with her pant suits every day.

Johnny Vasquez in his MailChimp hat.

Johnny Vasquez in his MailChimp hat.

UC: What advice do you have for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
Johnny: Well, first, don’t call your site “(Something Random) a Day”. It’s a huge commitment and for the most part unnecessary. If I were to start again I’d call it knitting stitch weekly, or crochet stitch a week. There are advantages to posting content on a daily basis, but it’s very taxing if you’re doing it by yourself. I’m lucky to have an uber supportive wife and a brother who gets the vision.

Two: Building an email list is incredibly important to communicating with your audience. If you visit our site, we call people who join our email list VIPs and they get special benefits that random visitors to our site do not get. Things like free patterns, invites to live classes, special discounts, and contests and giveaways.

Email is really important to interacting with our community, so we have lots of opportunities to sign up on our site. If you don’t have an email list, it’s free to start one through MailChimp. (Disclaimer: MailChimp did give me an awesome crocheted monkey hat to say that.)

Three: Don’t be afraid to put stuff out there for free. And by free I mean people don’t pay you money for it. We give out free patterns all the time, but you have to be on our email list or share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest in order to download it (see Sidewinder free for an example).

Four: Community is essential to success.

If you’re a designer, feature some of the projects people have posted on Ravelry of your stuff in a monthly newsletter.

If you own a yarn store, pick a customer of the week and put them on your Facebook page.

If you blog, ask your audience who they want you to interview or what questions they want you to answer. Better yet, interview someone from your audience!

When people feel involved in your process they will help you succeed. We have rarely done advertising for New Stitch a Day but we’ve grown to almost 17,000 email subscribers through word of mouth because we make people feel like family.  (UC comment: Thanks for sharing these great suggestions, Johnny!)

Sign up for an early invite to Yarn Nation.

Sign up for an early invite to Yarn Nation.

UC: What is next for you and New Stitch a Day?

Johnny: For New Stitch a Day we’re working on a new year long Knit and Crochet a Long we call the New Stitch Afghan. We’re planning a monthly design contest where our subscribers have to use a stitch from our site to make a 12 x 12 inch afghan square. We’ll put three up for a vote on Facebook and the winner each month will win a prize of some sort from one of our sponsors. That should get started in late March.

But what I’m super excited about is our newest venture called Yarn Nation. This is going to be the heart of a new network of sites we’re developing for the yarn craft industry.

Want a sneak peak? Here’s some of the stuff we’ve got planned:

  • Fiberstory.TV – Interviews with People doing cool stuff with yarn
  • Yarn Tripper – A travel show for fiber enthusiasts
  • Knitting Helpline – A live Q&A show where you get your knitting and crochet questions answered by industry professionals (preview here)
  • Yarntreprenuer – Business advice for designers, yarn store owners, and fiber arts professionals of all kinds
  • Yarn Review Daily – Daily video product reviews
  • The Yarnist – a new kind of online magazine for yarn lovers.

Yarn Nation will be a community that connects these awesome sites together and will let you share your passion for yarn with people all over the world. You can sign up for a free invite by visiting YarnNation.

We’ve got some other cool stuff planned too, but I’ve already said too much!

If you want to become a New Stitch a Day VIP sign up for our email list and get free tutorials in your inbox every day plus a bunch of other cool stuff.

Thanks so much for having me! If you have any questions put them in the comments. I’d love to chat with you all!

 

Thank you for stopping by for an interview, Johnny, and for sharing such great resources online.  (Hint: New Stitch A Day will be featured this Sunday as one of my favorite online crochet resources.)

Vogue Knitting Live, Day 1

Yesterday, Vogue Knitting Live 2013 opened in New York.  If you’re in the New York area this weekend, you should stop by!  Here’s a quick wrap up of some of what I’ve seen so far.

Gallery

The gallery exhibits were being set up in the morning, and I had a chance to photograph most of them before it got too crowded.  Here are some of the highlights.  (And speaking of highlights, keep in mind that these photos were taken in dimly lit hotel corridors.)

Colorful Stitches had an awesome array of knit food displayed like a picnic table.  This bowl of cereal with a strawberry was my favorite!

Alyssa Ettinger is a ceramic artist with a studio in my native Brooklyn.  I love the soothing pastels of her work.

Rhonda Fargnoli‘s continuing education students at the Rhode Island School of Design created some beautiful designs with mill ends from Koigu.

I got to meet Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochi Land fame.  I’ve been an admirer of Anna’s work since I first saw it at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in 2011.  We’ll both be at the 9th Annual Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival in March.  (I’m teaching and she’s exhibiting.)

Adrian Kershaw is a crocheter and knitter working with upcycled VHS tapes as yarn.  Because her work is black and the lighting was so dim, the pictures don’t really convey the projects.  They’re pretty cool!

Carol MacDonald is a printmaker who makes prints, cards, and tags using her images from her knitting.

Edwina Sutherland is a fiber artist working primarily with needlefelting.  She shared her secret for successfully transporting her projects for display with me – wrap them in quilt batting.

And last – but certainly not least – was the crochet artist, Jo Hamilton.  I’ve seen her crochet portraits online and was really looking forward to seeing them in real life.  They are much cooler in person because there is much more texture and subtle color variations than a photo can convey.

Interview Teaser

I met with Danielle Chalson from Makewise Designs for a quick interview after lunch.   Until I publish it, I’ll just share this picture of Danielle’s enthusiastic smile.

Send your happy thoughts her way. She'll be working at the String booth at the Marketplace tomorrow!

The Marketplace

Apparently I wasn't the only one trying to get into the Marketplace when it opened.

With over 70 vendors, the Vogue Knitting Marketplace alone could take up many blog posts.  So I’ll just concentrate on the colleagues I visited and my purchases.

Kollabora's booth during set up.

I stopped by Kollabora‘s booth a few times to say hi and to see my samples on display.  Here’s a sneak peak of two of my upcoming crochet designs that they are debuting at Vogue Knitting Live.  (The patterns aren’t available yet.)

It was also cool to see two of my other designs featured in their ad in the program.

The patterns for the Givin’ Me Fever Pom Pom Hat (knit) and the Chevron Shell Cowl (crochet) are available as free downloads.

I also took a picture of their schedule so I can remember to stop by their events. With a program this packed, every reminder helps!

Then I got the chance to meet Shannon Okey (a.k.a. Knitgrrl) in person.  I have a pattern in one of the upcoming Cooperative Press Fresh Designs: Crochet books so we chatted about that briefly.  I somehow forgot to take a picture of Shannon, but here is a picture of the Cooperative Press booth :).I had a chance to check out Dishcloth Diva by Deb Buckingham in person.  It looked just as scrumptious as I thought it would!  (And I love that I can feel glamorous about making dishcloths!)

You may remember from Vogue Knitting Live last year that my first purchase was at the Kinokuniya booth.  Well, ever since I bought this awesome Japanese knitting stitch guide from Knitty City in the fall, I’ve realized that I don’t know nearly as much about knitting stitch symbols as I do about crochet stitch symbols, and I’ve been thinking about buying Clear & Simple Knitting Symbols.

A taste of the crochet selection at the Kinokuniya booth.

And then I saw the North Light Fibers booth.  I was drawn in because their tagline is “Block Island made,” and MC used to vacation in Block Island as a kid.  In addition to great natural fiber yarns, they sell these cozy alpaca socks.

After that, I saw a local vendor, the Long Island Livestock Company.

This chair from the Long Island Livestock Company booth is made from three spinning wheels from the 1930s.

I had a great chat with the owner and her husband, and I was drawn to their natural care products.

So what did I end up buying?

I bought a pair of cozy alpaca socks for MC, a book for me, and some handmade soap and lip butter from a local company.

You’re probably saying, “What?? No yarn??”  You know I’ve been working on stashbusting for the past 13 months.  I’m not sure if I’ll buy yarn at Vogue Knitting Live, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t on the first day.  I wanted the chance to look at everything and sleep on any potential yarn purchases…  Let’s see how I hold up today!