Knit & Crochet Design Week, Day 1: Choose a stitch pattern and yarn

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(This post is part of my series for Knit and Crochet Design Week 2012.)

Designing a Simple Knit Beanie: Day 1

(Note to my readers who don’t knit: Even though my Design Week project is a knit, the steps I’ll walk through are common to knitting and crochet, and I’ll be offering up “crochet translations” throughout this series.)

Today’s Design Week theme is sketches.  I’m not much of an illustrator, in spite of the fact that my dad is a fine artist who had me drawing quite a bit as a child.  For that reason, I start very few design projects with sketching.  I usually go to my friends, the stitch guides, first.

(I have many more crochet stitch guides than knitting stitch guides.  You can read my reviews of crochet stitch guides here and here.)

The Yarn

For this project, though, I actually started out by choosing the yarn.

  • I am not sure if I will keep this hat or use it for a gift, so I looked for a machine washable yarn.  (I hate hand washing, but I’ll do it.  I’m not sure I could say the same about my unknown gift-recipient-to-be.)
  • I’m teaching my ongoing knitting class students how to design a beanie in the round using circular needles.  This hat-in-progress will be used for the next few weeks as a sample for this class.  I try not to teach too many techniques at once because people sometimes get overwhelmed.  Since this project isn’t about colorwork, I decided to pick one, solid color.
  • One of my goals is to Surmount the Stash in 2012, so I wanted a yarn from my own stash.  It was important for me not to run out of yarn during the project, so I looked for something close to a full skein.
  • Most of my students use medium weight yarns, so I wanted my yarn to be medium weight, too.

With these criteria in mind, I dug into my yarn stash and came up with this great skein of Spud and Chloe Sweater in Moonlight (7507).  (Side note: Yes, Sweater is one of my favorite yarns, and my design in the upcoming Fresh Designs in crochet (kids) book from Cooperative Press uses Sweater, too.)

Sometimes, I have a clear idea of who the finished project is for, and then I make more of an effort to pick yarn from a specific color family while keeping fiber preferences in mind.

 

The Stitch Patterns

I usually try to pick out at least three stitch patterns for a new project.  A stitch might be more fussy than what I’m looking for on a particular project, or might look weird with the yarn, or maybe is just way more attractive in the stitch guide photo than in real life!

For this project, I looked for stitches that were worked in one color and textured.

After a little browsing, I came up with three potential stitch patterns:

If my primary goal was to sell the pattern, I might also check out the pattern library on Ravelry at this point to see if there is a project of the same type (in this case, a hat) using a similar stitch pattern.  If I see something similar, I might choose a different stitch pattern to make my project more unique.

I know I’m a lazy swatcher, so I also made sure that all three stitches could be worked on the same swatch.

If you don’t have any stitch guides, you should get one.  (Ba dum dum.)  But seriously folks, there are two online resources I use like stitch guides.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my swatch.

 

To read other Day 1 posts from Knit and Crochet Design Week, visit FreshStitches.

Handmade Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Great Gifts for Yarncrafters

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Happy Thanksgiving!

In the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) signifies the official start of the holiday shopping season.  In the spirit of keeping the holidays a little more handmade and small business and a little less mass produced and corporate, I’m sharing several holiday gift guides today.

Great Gifts for Yarncrafters

There are so many great gifts out there for yarncrafters that I hardly know where to begin.

Books

Books are great gifts for yarncrafters, but with so many options out there, it can be hard to choose.

Kits

CRAFT magazine posted a Craft Kits gift guide for 2011.  Here are some of my favorites.

Double Drop Spindle Maple Wood Yarn Spinning Kit from Maine Woods Yarn & Fiber. (Image used with permission.)

Classes


Classes are so fun!  Not only can you learn new techniques and projects, but you get to meet more people who share your passion for knitting and crocheting.

Yarn

Most yarncrafters are always on the look out for new (and more) yarn.  Buying yarn for someone else can be daunting though.

  • Look for tips for color and yarn weight in their Ravelry project pages.
  • Or pick up something unique, like a handspun or hand dyed yarn, or something that isn’t available in their community, like small batch yarn ordered online.
  • Check Ravelry’s Black Friday Yarn Sale thread in Needlework on the Net for weekend sales.
  • I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to some wonderful yarns from several small companies this year.  You may want to check out A Stash AddictBitsy Knits, or Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen.  Other yarns that I’ve admired from a distance but haven’t yet tried include Candy SkeinFunky Monkey, and Swoon Fibers.
Emerald Forest colorway from A Stash Addict.
  • A gift certificate to a LYS is another option, if you are worried about making the final decision yourself.
  • And, of course, I wrote about my favorite yarns here if you are still looking for ideas.

Hooks and Needles

Crochet hooks and/or knitting needles make great gifts, especially if you pick out something special.

Show Your Appreciation

Making things by hand is a labor of love.  Show your appreciation with a set of This Took Forever woven labels from Sublime Stitching and maybe you’ll get a homemade gift in return :).

Wishlists

Does your favorite yarncrafter have a wishlist?  I rely on the Add to Amazon Wishlist browser button to keep my wishlist organized in one spot.  (Hint: If you are a yarncrafter hoping people will get you awesome holiday gifts, maybe you should do that, too! You can even add patterns from Ravelry so that non-members can see them from the pattern purchase page.)

Enjoy the last gift guide, and feel free to share your favorite gifts for yarncrafters in the comments!

Interview with Melissa Horozewski, author of Austentatious Crochet

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My interview today is with crochet designer Melissa Horozewski.  Melissa was nominated for the Crochet Liberation Front Flamie for Best New Designer in 2009,  and her work has been published by Crochet!, Crochet World, Inside Crochet, Interweave Crochet, and Leisure Arts.

Melissa is also the author of Austentatious Crochet: 36 Contemporary Designs from the World of Jane Austen, which was released last week and is already the top seller in new releases on Amazon.com.

Congratulations Melissa!

You may have noticed a recent interest in knitting patterns that are somehow related to classic British literature.  For example,  What Would Madame Defarge Knit?, was published in May by Cooperative Press and Jane Austen Knits is available now for pre-order through Interweave.  Melissa has introduced the same concept into crochet with her new book.  Melissa’s motto is “I cannot live without books or hooks,” and she is a big fan of Jane Austen.  Her favorite Austen book is Persuasion, with Pride and Prejudice a close second!  Melissa can be found at her website, Stitch Scene or on her Ravelry designer page.  All photos in this interview are from her new book and are used with Melissa’s permission.

Melissa Horozewski

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

Melissa: My sister and I were raised by a single mother, and each day after school, we would walk to the hair salon where she worked and spend at least 2 hours waiting in a tiny breakroom for her to finish her shift.  One day, a woman who would come in each week to have her hair set took pity on my sister and me.  She invited us to take crochet lessons from her.  Once a week, we would walk to her house after school, and sit at her highly polished dining room table learning to work with a hook and thread.  My first project was a heart doily that I entered in our county fair that year. The doily received a large purple grand champion ribbon and though I haven’t made another doily since, it got me hooked on crochet.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Melissa: In the late 80’s, when I was in my early teens, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of crochet garment patterns that were what I was looking for.  This was before the internet was in most households, and as I lived in a very rural area, the closet big box store was almost 2 hours away and a yarn store wasn’t even on my radar.  That’s when I started creating garments for myself, designing on the hook so to speak.

UC: You’re an avid reader and crafter.  Many crafters (like me!) struggle to find time for reading.  How do you balance your love of both hooks and books?

Melissa: Great question!  Our family is rather outside of the norms in the approach we take to life. We have always started getting our kids ready for bed at 7pm.  When they were younger, this included reading to them; as a result, even though they are now 9 and almost 15, they don’t balk at getting ready for bed at 7pm because they are avid readers, too!  This allows all of us to be in our beds by 8 at the latest and we all read for an hour or so.  My husband was not a reader when we married, but he is now.   So during the day, I hook and at night, I book.  But [while writing] Austentatious Crochet, it was difficult to stay as balanced in my approach to life, and to find time to read books that were not related to Austen research.

UC: Austentatious Crochet features 36 projects inspired by the work of Jane Austen.  What was the design process like for this book?

Melissa: Usually a stitch pattern inspires me, or a skein of yarn, but the process of designing for this book was sketches, followed by my finding what stitch pattern and yarn would produce the look I was envisioning for that design.  I have no shortage of ideas, but time to put them all into reality is difficult for me to find.  There were over 50 sketches that I painstakingly whittled down to 40 designs.  4 were not included because the pictures were not up to the level I was looking for.  But I can be very indecisive.  It was difficult for me to choose which of my designs would make it into the book.

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

Melissa: I have a rather large collection, so it is very hard to say, but probably Lily Chin’s Crochet Tips & Tricks: Shortcuts and Techniques Every Crocheter Should Know, as I used it again this week to learn how to make a duplicate stitch.  Anything to make my life easier, I am all over.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Melissa: Everywhere!  I have a large office box filled with scraps of paper, sketch sheets, and photos of design possibilities that may not see the light of day if I don’t find the time.  For example, I’ll be at a restaurant and see a woman wearing a shirt that perhaps has an open back with some sort of motif across the opening that I would love to translate into crochet, so I’ll sketch it on whatever paper I can scrounge out of my purse.  My kids have bemoaned the fact that in our vacation pictures is often a stray picture of carpeting in the hotel hallway as either the colorway or the motif struck me visually. When I come up with a book idea, or a creative name for a design to made sometime in the future, it all goes in the box.

UC: Has teaching and designing crochet patterns impacted your personal crafting?  If so, how?

Melissa: Most definitely.  My daughter complains that I never make anything for her anymore and she is right. I make what is commissioned in the size asked for.  Squeezing in time to make gifts for others  is difficult as well.  But I am slowly getting back to that and creating time for what I love to do versus what I consider to be a chore.

UC: Do you have any favorite crafts or book blogs/websites you’d like to share?

Melissa: The Republic of Pemberley is a huge resource for Jane Austen fans.  I always enjoy reading Dora Ohrenstein’s Crochet Insider as she travels quite a bit and covers international crochet, as well as crochet history.  I don’t have a lot of time to spend online unfortunately, which is sad as it is huge resource and mostly untapped for me.

UC: What goals do you have for the next year?

Melissa: Well, I want this year to be more than just about survival. As I did all the designs for Austentatious Crochet, all the writing, and all the production (hiring the photographer, models, stylists, scouting locations, etc.), it took a huge chunk of my time away from my family, so I have been scaling back.  I want to cultivate more relationships.  I need to become a better networker and delegater.  But even so, I would like to get more designs out there as I have so many ideas just sitting in ‘the box’, but unless I can learn to delegate, that is unlikely to happen. It all seems to come back to there are simply not enough hours in the day.  Don’t all of us mothers feel that way?

UC comment: I can’t speak as a mother, but I know I feel the same way!  Thanks so much, Melissa, for taking time from your schedule to stop by for an interview!

To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

F.O. Friday and I Love Yarn Day!

Happy Friday everyone!  I’ve been thinking for a while about how to celebrate I Love Yarn Day, since I first read about it on the Craft Yarn Council website.  The CYC has several suggestions about what to do to celebrate (and several projects from famous designers, too!).

My post for today is a celebration of my favorite yarns and also about yarncrafting for charity.  If you have been crocheting or knitting for any amount of time, you have probably found that we yarncrafters are a generous lot.  I even have some Finished Objects to share, in the form of charity crochet projects.

My Favorite Yarns

My current favorites are Cascade Eco Duo, Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love, Dream in Color Classy, Patons Classic Wool, and Spud and Chloe Sweater.

Top (from left to right): Eco Duo, Alpaca Love. Bottom (from left to right): Classy, Classic Wool (ombre) with Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool (solid), Sweater.

Cascade Eco Duo

Like most of the yarns on my list, I discovered this super soft yarn in my LYS, Knitty City.  As the name implies, Cascade Eco Duo is an eco-friendly yarn made of undyed baby alpaca (70%) and undyed Merino wool (30%).  Since it is undyed, it is offered in a relatively limited range of colors (mostly browns, blacks, whites – very gender neutral) and it is marled.  The softness is incredible and it is really nice to work with.  There is a kind of self-striping effect with most of the colors.  The one drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable, and since I hate handwashing, I only use this yarn for small accessories.

Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love

This is my favorite big box store yarn. Alpaca Love is also a wool (80%) and alpaca (20%) blend.  I love the feel of the yarn – a great combination of softness with firmness.  It comes in some very fun coordinated colors.  This yarn is very affordable (especially when purchased at Michaels using a coupon!).  The drawbacks for me are the handwashing issue again, and the limited color range.  I usually get around the handwashing issue by felting projects made with this yarn :).

Dream in Color Classy

Dream in Color Classy is another great yarn that I first tried out at Knitty City.  This yarn has recently made several appearances on the blog (in my crocodile stitch project and my yarn haul post).  Classy is a 100% superwash Merino wool yarn that is spun and hand dyed in the U.S.  The colors are variegated and are really fabulous.  The only drawback here for me is the cost, which means that I have to save it for slightly more special occasions.  At least there are 250 yards in each skein, which makes me feel a little less guilty when splurging!

Patons Classic Wool

Patons Classic Wool is another big box store yarn.  It is 100% wool and it is available in a great variety of colors, including both solids and ombres.  (A few colors are also available as tweeds.)  The  solids have 210 yards in each skein and are reasonably priced.  It isn’t the softest wool I’ve felt, but it isn’t scratchy, either.  It is a great, firm, workhorse yarn which doesn’t split.  The only real drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable.

Spud and Chloe Sweater

Sweater is probably the yarn in this group that I’ve worked with the most.  It is a blend of 55% superwash wool and 45% organic cotton.  I also found it at Knitty City 🙂 about a year ago.  I first picked up a skein of Turtle for a design submission which wasn’t accepted.  I loved the yarn so much that I submitted two more designs with it, which were both accepted.  The first was my Sunshine Blanket, published in the August, 2011 issue of Inside Crochet.  I am also in the middle of a top secret project using these colors for Cooperative Press‘s Fresh Designs Crochet (Kids) book, which should be published in 2012.  I honestly can’t think of any drawbacks to this yarn: the colors are great, it is machine washable, and it feels nice :).

You may have noticed that all of these yarns are worsted weight – yes, I am one of those American yarncrafters that prefers a heavier weight yarn!  You may have also noticed that all of these yarns are made with natural fibers.  I am by no means a “yarn snob” – I work with Red Heart Super Saver, too.  But recently, I have really tried to limit my purchasing of acrylic yarn.  I just don’t feel comfortable buying a yarn made from crude oil anymore.  This is my own personal choice as part of changes I’ve made in my life to be more environmentally conscious.  On the other hand, I can’t just let the existing acrylic yarn in my stash go to waste (that’s  not too eco-friendly either), and so that is where some of my charity crafting and experiments with freeform crochet come into play.

Charity Crafting

One great way to use up your stash while finding a home for some of your creations is through charity crafting.  I especially like to make items for infants and pets (because they are fast and cute, and because my very own special cat was adopted from the Humane Society).

I was inspired by the phrase “Think globally.  Act locally.” and decided to make up a list of local NYC charities that accept handmade donations.  I checked in with all of these organizations, and the list is current as of October, 2011.

Snuggles Project sites:

  • ASPCA, the first humane organization in the Western hemisphere, has a wishlist of donated items for their Manhattan adoption center which includes handmade bedding or toys.  Items can be dropped off during regular adoption hours.
  • Bideawee, the oldest no-kill animal humane organization in the U.S., welcomes Snuggles in any size for cats and dogs in its adoption center.  These can be delivered in person, or mailed to the attention of Lauren Bonanno at the Manhattan location.
  • S.A.V.E., a pet rescue organization in Queens, is looking for small or medium sized bedding.  Email the organization at savepetNY@aol.com to arrange pick up.

Knits for Infants is looking for hats, booties, sweaters, and blankets in soft, machine washable yarns for newborns and infants being treated at the North Central Bronx Hospital.  Having worked in the health care industry in the Bronx for years, I can say that families served by this hospital would really benefit from the donations.  They also accept yarn donations (no novelty yarns or “scratchy” yarns like Red Heart Super Saver, please).

For those of you who live in the U.S. outside of New York, some great organizations you might consider donating to are one of the organizations listed on the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation website (Oglala Sioux Tribe families and elders), Knit Your Bit through the National WW II Museum (scarves for veterans) and  The Red Scarf Project through Foster Care to Success (scarves for foster care students in college).  Internationally, you can find a participating animal shelter/pet rescue organization that accepts handmade donations through the Snuggles Project.  Of course, this is just a small sampling of organizations, and there are many more out there!

Finished Objects


Today, I’m showing off some of the projects that I’m donating to charity for I Love Yarn Day.

Six scarves for Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi, Inc. (LOWO).
Two scarves, a hat, and mittens for toddlers via Knits for Infants. I have two other hats in the works, too.
This is a close up of my snuggle for Bideawee. I plan to make a few more using scrap yarn (I doubt the doggies are too concerned about the colors).

My post yesterday was a reflection on my craft goals for the year, and I’m thinking that when I update them, I will add some charity crafting goals.  I used to donate a lot of projects to charity, and I would like to make more crocheted donations in the coming months.

For more finished objects, don’t forget to stop by Tami’s Amis!

A Final Word on Awesome Yarn

A few weeks ago, I won a giveaway from Danielle at A Stash Addicts Ramblings for my choice of sock yarn from her Jane & Michael Etsy shop.  This lovely skein arrived yesterday, just in time for I Love Yarn Day!

 

The colorway is called Emerald Forest.

 

(On a side note, I remember being totally confused by The Emerald Forest as a kid, since I was, of course, way too young to have any real sense of what the film was about!)

There’s a good chance that this may eventually transform itself into a gift for my mom.

Thanks, Danielle!

To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.