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DesigningVashti Update 2020

I’ll be blogging most days of this Great Quarantine of 2020. Some posts will be short check ins, all will be crochet related.

Newsletter Update

Vashti wears her crocheted angora "Orbit Halo" cowl in a stone-walled breakfast cafe in the old part of Paris
Lots of travel happened, more on that below. I’m sporting an angora Orbit Cowl at a cafe in old Paris (Le Marais district).

I sent out issue #100 of my crochet newsletter to over 8,000 subscribers on September 1, 2019. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed out on issue #101. I haven’t sent it yet. There was a big disruption in the newsletter-sending force. The service provider I’d used for nine years revamped their pricing for legacy accounts like mine. (I’d already been paying too much!)

I’ll be using a new email service provider starting with issue #101. I’m mulling the topic now. It’s thanks to this corona virus quarantine that I powered through the technical steps needed to switch to the new service.

Just before CGOA issued their call for teaching proposals (October 2019) I was updating early newsletters to republish on my blog. Here is a completed one: Issue #2, Stitch Equivalents. I tried a few blog templates, a few new swatches. I’m pleased with it.

What, only issue #2, you say? CGOA‘s teacher call came out while I was working on #3.

New Classes for CGOA

October was a blur of class topic testing, research, and photo optimizing. The submission process becomes arduous when the topics you submit are new ones. I had a lot. It’s so worth the extra effort. What crocheter doesn’t want new class topics to choose from?

I tapped into an endless fountain of new class topics, it seems. It took me by surprise. This was the bulk of October for ol’ Designing Vashti. Maybe I should expand the October update a bit and blog about this behind-the-scenes activity.

The grand outcome: CGOA’s Class Selection Committee chose seven topics. This means I’ll be teaching a class in every time slot of the conference. (Note that this summer’s conference will likely—not 100% certain yet—be postponed or canceled. The chance that by July it could commence as planned does look slim right now.)

Three views of a Parisian yarn shop: inside, outside, and my souvenir purchases with tote bag
The first of two yarn shops I visited in Paris. This one carried gorgeous locally dyed French yarns. I chose Mamy Factory’s cashmere Archiduchesse for my mom, partly because grandmothers on her side of my family are called Mamie.

Wow the Travel!

From November to January I was either traveling, or preparing for the next big trip, or recovering from jet lag. I didn’t recognize my life; I’m not a big traveler. Usually I do weekend road trips and one long distance domestic flight, at most (often to a conference).

Souvenir yarn and 3 crochet hooks (size 2mm, 2.5mm, and 7mm) from Phildar yarn shop in Paris
Souvenir purchases at the second yarn shop I found in Paris. It offered only Phildar yarns. These are my first Phildar crochet hooks. I chose 2 mm, 2.5 mm, and 7 mm.

November 2019 was all about Sedona, Arizona. It was work-related for my husband, and I fully enjoyed the resort room provided to us. It had a fireplace omg. There was a cool-looking pomegranate tree outside our window.

December was all about Paris, France. I love just being able to say that. It was an early surprise birthday present! My husband, son and I spent almost three weeks there. It was epic.

Crochet-wise, I expected to crochet a French market bag I designed, but didn’t get far enough on it. I did visit two delightful yarn shops where I bought yarns and crochet hooks made in France.

Imagine being in Paris when you find out which class topics you’ll be teaching in 2020. (I didn’t even know until a month before that I’d be going.) Not only does it alter the course of your days and months to find out whether your classes were picked for the conference. It also matters which and how many classes.

Some class topics take more preparation and testing than others. Others coordinate with each other so that prep for one also applies in some helpful way for another. A few are unique head trips that require gear-switching. One requires perfect text instructions, while another needs extreme close up photos or giant floor models. This is some of the stuff I thought about on the flight home.

Jetlag January

I began January blissfully jet-lagged and facing the big messy room I used for creating the topic proposals in October. Back then I’d closed the door on it until I knew which ones CGOA chose. Now I could clear away all the materials for classes that were not picked. That’s a perfect task while jet lagged.

I gave each chosen topic its own pocket folder. These seven pocket folders start out as in-bins. If I have a thought about what would work great for a topic’s class handout, I drop a note in its in-bin. If I see a relevant design in a magazine, I tear it out and toss it into an in-bin.

This update is almost complete: we’re at February now. That’s when I created this Mindbender Mobius class information page. February was a big prep month for two of my newest class topics: Tall Stitch Virtuosity and Return-Pass Hijinks. I remember it as full of eurekas. (I’m mulling whether any would make a good newsletter #101 topic.)

Aside from crochet, January and February were also about realizing it was time for us to move—to get our house ready to put on the market. I think the France trip helped give us the refreshed headspace to admit this and get going on it. We’ve lived here for 25 years so it’s a big change. We started renovating the kitchen…and…it’s still a construction zone. Just in time for a quarantine.

Quarantine Crocheting

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. I need to continue preparing to teach classes even if the event is postponed or canceled, but it feels weird. I need to share and connect with crocheters, especially everyone I’m used to seeing at conferences. My crochet inspiration is erratic. I wonder if that’s the case for you too, lately?

I’m just going to be blogging my quarantine crocheting. Please pop in and say hi. Check in directly at https://www.designingvashti.com/blog/ or subscribe to this blog, or to my newsletter. You could also sign up for alerts from my Facebook page or from my Twitter feed. I announce every new blog post in these places.

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Holiday Crochet Project Habits

This blog post is part of today’s newsletter issue #96. That issue has a storewide 25% off coupon code in it as a thank you to my subscribers. Look for it in your inbox later today. Also check your spam folder because this is a high-volume week for email. (Not a subscriber? It’s not too late.)

The clean, bold holiday template I used for issue #96 limits how I want to write, so here’s the rest of the story. This year I look at my holiday crochet project habits over the years. (By “holidays” I mean from Thanksgiving in the USA to New Years Day.)

Holiday Crochet Project Types

It turns out I look for about eight kinds of holiday crochet projects! Sounds like a lot but they usually overlap. I wonder if you are the same way? I’ve compressed my list into three in no special order.

Feel the Peace of the Season

Relaxing & rejuvenating holiday crochet projects of Decembers past (2011-2017)
Image #1. View full size.

Crochet is my go-to to relax and recharge, and it has been ever since I was nine years old. (When I learned how to do Transcendental Meditation, my first thought was, “This is like crocheting.”)

The crochet that replenishes me during the holidays is an instinctive thing and unique to each year. I loved looking back at these!

Clockwise from top left of image #1:

  • Big Hook Bucket of 2016 (I made three). Seeing it daily in my studio makes me happy.
  • Luckyslip Mitts of 2013: I just kept making ’em in all kinds of yarns, sizes, and stitch accents.
  • Antoinette Sparklescarf of 2011: The one shown is made with the same breathtaking yarn that inspired Starwirbel later. I made about ten and turned some into reusable gift wrapping ribbon.
  • Solstice Bangles of 2017. I really needed a lot of gem-like bling last year. Each was a tiny retreat: I got totally immersed for short moments because the materials were tricky, but each bangle was quick to complete.
  • Bling Bam Bangles of 2014: Took me by surprise. I wondered what it would be like to crochet Lotus yarn with a strand of sequined thread and I couldn’t stop. Very simple. A mindless, familiar rhythm.

Last-Minute Gift Making

I’m easily inspired by great new gift ideas to crochet, but I typically don’t have a sense of occasion until the last minute. (Fortunately crocheting smaller items is fun. They often become new designs instead of gifts though.) I greatly admire event planners and others who can plan ahead well, like those who have crochet gift lists they work through months ahead.

Last minute gift crocheting puts a burden on a crochet pattern to be easy to understand, and to call for no-fuss materials. It’s sort of like freelance crocheting for magazines in the sense that it’s tight deadline crochet.

If the item is a crowd pleaser, then it’s production crochet territory. Ideally the pattern is easy to memorize for make multiple items from it, efficiently (and still be fun).

Niche Crochet Gifts

Crochet patterns for niche gifts: no-fuss materials, easy pleasers.
Image #2, Niche Gifts. View full size.

Niche items are about specialized appeal and could be the perfect thing for someone. I focused on some in the newsletter: men, boys, teens, tweens, teachers, and mothers-in-law. These are the patterns shown clockwise from top left of image #2:

  • Expedient Cowl: Has trend appeal for teens and 20-somethings, including as a skirt! What makes it fast and easy enough is the super-bulky yarn, big hook size, and simple stitches.
  • Aran Rozsana cuff: Folk-boho jewelry trend. A mood boost to crochet with fingering or sport yarns and embroidery flosses because of the colors. Mostly single crochet (UK/AUS: dc).
  • Petticoat Cozy: Just a token gift item. It’s the double layer of lace that appeals to people. Same yarns as Aran Rozsana.
  • Frostyflakes: A really popular pattern and addictive to crochet! It has special appeal to women over 30. Use any yarn; I even made a bookmark with size 20 thread.
  • Gallon Friend: This curio is very niche. Make them for grade school and ESL school teachers, children, and for home cooks. I’ve always wanted to try a keychain size in thread!
  • Lucky Twist Mitts: One of the patterns that comes to mind for men. Has sizing for both sexes, same with Luckyslip Mitts.
  • Slip Slope: The scarf is a crowd pleaser and Google Trends tells me the boot cuffs are still trending high for younger folks! Also see the Lucky Twist Boot Cuff pattern in Ravelry.
  • Burly (center) and Burly Bias: The basic Burly scarf for men and boys, and the niche diagonal Tunisian necktie for the man who has everything. I love making the ice creamy one and like how it settles on my shoulders and frames my face.

Crochet Gifts for Mothers-in-Law

Seems oddly specific, doesn’t it? I’m surprised by the number of times someone has told me they used one of my patterns, or took one of my classes, specifically so that they could make the item for their mother-in-law. (My own mother-in-law wanted a white angora hat to keep her ears warm.) The mother-in-law patterns:

Hostess Gifts

Some Decembers I go to so many parties. A pile of small crocheted gifts on hand would be great. Maybe a sack or decoration for a wine bottle, to decorate the lid of fresh-spiced nuts, etc.

Last year I had extra Solstice Bangles to toss onto a wine bottle neck—so festive! And the hostess ends up with new bangles.

Trend-Inspired

I checked on this season’s knitwear trends and this is what I found:

  • Creative use of fringe remains a strong fashion trend. My first thought is the Starpath Scarf because at this time of year it’s easy to set it down and remember what you were doing when you get back to it. Also, no ends to weave in, no matter how many colors you use.
  • Giant yarns, stitches, and accessories. Burly and the Expedient Cowl in super-bulky yarn (see Image #2 above) are tame compared to what’s on the runway. A Q-Star Coverlet in bulky yarn would be a lavish winter blanket! Or rug/bath mat?
  • Asymmetry, and diagonal/multidirectional seams and surface grain. Hello, Burly Bias (see above).

Go Luxe!

Splurge-worthy for 2018: Doris Chan patterns, Vashti's investment patterns, yarns, hooks, and the new Delicate Crochet book
Image #3, Splurge-worthy. View full size.

The holidays is when I splurge and reinvest in my craft. I hope you also treat yourself or another crocheter. Beyond shopping and spending, to me it’s about using this time to crochet with my fanciest yarn stash and maybe break in some new crochet hooks.

Other years it has been about bling. This year I’m feeling very angora-luxe. I’ve been hoarding angora yarn for too long.

If someone asked me what they should get from my shop and money was no object for them (or they want to make the most of the coupon code in the newsletter), these come to my mind in no special order:

I wish for you the experience I aim to have with my 2018 holiday crochet projects: peace, cheer, inspiration, and warmth inside and out.

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Crochet Conference Wrap Up (with worksheet!)

The new CGOA Master's Program pin. I've earned two charms so far: Writer, and Fundamentals (because I wrote a few chapters of it).
I like this new pin for CGOA’s new Master’s Program (view full size image). These pins were given out on a special night at the conference. I earned the Writer charm for writing two sections of the Masters in Fundamentals.

 

Do you know what I do on the plane flight home from a conference? I fill out a simple worksheet.  It’s a nice way to reflect on everything.

I’ve done this since 2008. That’s at least ten conferences. (In some years CGOA had two conferences, a national and a regional. I’ve also attended a TNNA show here and there.) It has really come in handy so I’ve turned it into a PDF that you can download below for free.

Here’s the story on two of the six entry fields of the worksheet.

“What Got Crocheted?”

This is the first question. What it really means is “Of all the crochet supplies I packed, what did I actually get to?” Can you relate? Originally it was to help me be realistic about how many crochet projects and balls of yarn I need to stuff into my luggage! I know I’m not the only one who packs too much crochet for a trip LOL.

Nowadays I just plain enjoy reflecting on it. Sometimes I’ve even crocheted more rows on a project because I look forward to saying so on the worksheet, so it’s also motivational.

This year, what got crocheted is a swatch idea I’ve always wanted to try: to substitute the chains in a spiderweb pattern with love knots:

I also added so many more rounds to “Astrowirbel” during the 5.5 hour flight to Portland that I almost doubled its size.

“Goals Met & Unmet”

This part of the worksheet used to be more freelance minded, such as, “I finally sat down with X editor.” It has become much more, though. It’s a way to commemorate new friends I’ve made. It has also helped me see that a goal I started with wasn’t very realistic for the event, or as important in retrospect. Or, that I accomplished more than I realized while I was having so much fun.

This year, an unmet goal was to go out into Portland and see lots of roses, the Powell’s City of Books store that sounds amazing, a Peets coffeehouse, and get some supplies for my room. I was too busy teaching, or making sure I ate well between classes.

Some goals I met are: no typos in my class handouts (except a minor one in the Self-Healing Stitches class). I met and spent quality time with Dela Wilkins! I got to know CGOA’s new management company, a great group of people. I think they’re going to be a great fit with CGOA.

Post-Conference Worksheet PDF

Direct link to the PDF: Vashti’s Post-Conference Worksheet.

Keep it in mind for CGOA’s 25th Anniversary Conference July 10-13, 2019, in Manchester NH!

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New Angle on Diagonal Tunisian

A diagonal corner of the Four Peaks scarf.

I put off writing about the Tunisian on the Diagonal class because I kept feeling like I had nothing to say, but also too much! Here’s another paradox: I feel like I’ve been teaching this class since 2010 and yet I never have, exactly. How can all of this be true?

I figured it out after writing the section about its 2009 roots below. Crocheting Tunisian diagonally is a huge topic based upon simple and powerful principles. Vary one thing a little, factor in some momentum, and everything ends up dramatically different.

I’ve taught big sections of this. The 2018 class will be the master class. (It’s great for all skill levels, thanks to the “simple principles” part I just mentioned.)

For contrast, travel back to 2009 with me for a bit.

2009 Tunisian Increase Methods

Nine years ago my first diagonal crochet design happened: the Five Peaks Shawl prototype. (The pattern was published in 2010 in Interweave Crochet Magazine).

Left triangular swatch is starting to curl along one edge. Other triangle is symmetrical with nice drape.
Effect of the “squeeze-it-in” method shows in the left swatch. Not recommended for a shawl.

 There was almost nothing on diagonal Tunisian crochet from corner to corner, or “C2C”. With C2C you increase steadily along both row ends to widen, then decrease steadily until you end at the opposite corner.

The default increase method back then didn’t have a symmetrical, polished drape. I blogged about it (and the photo at right) in June 2009 because that’s when I was working out the increase method for the Five Peaks Shawl.

2009 Tunisian Hook Choices

Tunisian crochet hooks larger than size 6.0 mm (J) were scarce in any style and length, whether straight, flexible, double-ended, short, or long. When you found one, you put up with whatever its material, surface finish, and hook shape was. Remember that?

My options were either a long straight 6.5 mm (K) or a discontinued 9 mm (“M/N”) flexible hook from eBay. I needed a size between these two. Too bad!

Back then, publishers needed designers to use crochet hooks that were commonly available in stores. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to sell the Five Peaks pattern to a magazine. Fortunately, Tunisian hook choices were improving. Only three months later I blogged “Heaven is a Crochet Hook for Every Need”. Nowadays I keep a range of Tunisian hook sizes and lengths.

The Evolving Tunisian Crocheter

We Tunisian crocheters have been enjoying a renaissance for our craft! It had barely started in 2009. Back then, most crocheters still assumed the nature of Tunisian crochet was to be thick, kind of stiff, and with a stubborn curl. Not something that could cascade and swing from the shoulders like a waterfall, or look like a lacy weightless veil.

Each time I’ve taught a Tunisian crochet class since 2010, the students bring more skills and experience to the room. Newer Tunisian crocheters understand things faster. This became really noticeable around 2013. 

Five Peaks classes were the first I taught on diagonal Tunisian crochet. It was ahead of its time in 2009. Since then I’ve learned to start every Tunisian topic with a quick review of the relevant basics. People of all skill levels seem to welcome this. It seems to pull together and standardize the new things everyone is learning from different designers. 

For 2018 I’m excited to be starting out with a review of a different set of basics because when we crochet Tunisian on the diagonal, there are clues we can be looking for but may not recognize for awhile. Things may look wrong for awhile and yet be so, so right. 

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Color Pooling Developments

Some works in progress for the 2017 color pooling class.

The class material for Creative Planned Color Pooling changed me. In fact, it’s still changing me. I’ve adjusted its title to take new developments into account (more on that below).

I’d love to have taken a color pooling class like this years ago! In fact I’d rather learn it in a class than from a pattern or blog. The next time I teach this class: July 28, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. 

Crochet Rules, Questioned

Developing this topic changed me as a crocheter. It showed me what I take for granted about crochet how crochet works. I think it’s because for the first time, something else (the yarn’s color sequence) replaces crochet standards that have always worked for other kinds of crochet.

One ball of hand painted yarn, its colors intentionally "pooled" into two stitch patterns (popcorns and seed/moss/linen st) to create this "Florida Peaches Handbag"
These popcorn stitches vary but it doesn’t matter.

Here’s one: uniformly even stitches are beautiful. We aim to make uniform stitches to get a lovely, polished result, right? Beginners practice until they can be proud of how even their stitches are. Why would one question this?

When you’re intentionally pooling (I think of it as color directing), it’s the yarn’s colors that you aim to make uniform. The evenness of your stitches is second to that. A pretty distant second, which was shocking to me. Why? That brings me to a second way this class material changed me.

Primal Effect

On a bigger and more personal scale, my relationship to color changed! It was like watching my brain re-prioritize what it was seeing. My eyes rejoiced when the yarn’s next color stacked up the way I wanted it to. The stitches for making this happen became almost interchangeable. Even the stitch gauge could vary.

In other words, detecting a color pattern is riveting to the brain. (At least my brain. It feels primal.)

Especially when the pretty color pattern emerges from seemingly random chaos.

Especially when it’s like there’s a secret code in a multicolored ball of yarn and you’ve just cracked it.

The crochet stitch and gauge becomes a strategy: change the crocheting a bit to get a color to stick with the pattern and it works! The eye doesn’t see certain stitch irregularities. It’s too captivated by the color patterning. Also, the nearby stitches will adjust.

Recent Developments

Since my 2016 class, more crocheters have mostly been finding out from blogs about doing planned color pooling (a.k.a. intentional yarn pooling) with variegated craft store yarns. I’m seeing people make a cool argyle effect using the linen stitch (a.k.a. seed stitch, moss stitch, granite stitch): each row is [sc, ch 1, skip next st], and you crochet the sc of the next row into the ch-1 space of the completed row.

See this stitch in the colorful Aquarienne edging, Peaches handbag opening & handle, and Quailfeather. Accidental argyling happened with Barista. From a distance you can see a soft (but intentional!) argyle in this tweedy swatch and an argyle effect getting going in this swatch.

Colorful sock yarns custom dyed for my local yarn shop in coral reef colors.I came to this topic a completely different way, via hand dyed yarns. It’s easy to identify the dye techniques, such as hand painting and dip dyeing, because these yarns tend to be sold in the hank the dyer used, not wound into balls.

In these dyed hanks I saw “stitch games” because I’d already done other color-based and geeky experiments. For example,

  • When I learned from Marty Miller how hyperbolic crochet works (2006 or so), I crocheted her a hyperbolic coffee cozy secretly based on her birthdate.
  • A hand dyed yarn with a vivid yellow in it made me want to set it off with love knots. “Love Games” was the result.
  • I even sold a coffee cozy to a yarn company back in 2006 because I referred to it as a game.

Why “Creative Planned Color Pooling”?

Earlier versions of this class were “Stitch Games for Yarns With Short Color or Texture Changes” (2016 in Charleston SC) and “Stacked Color Pooling” (2017 in Mt. Pleasant IL). Planned pooling is becoming a recognizable term for more crocheters. I suspect that only seed stitch argyles come to mind for some. Also, some folks seem to think this is math based, but it doesn’t have to be. At all.

Creative is the important part of the new title because we’re still at the early stages of what is possible. There is way more to planned pooling than seed stitch argyles. What about lace and tall stitches? Shaping? Tunisian? I want crocheters to experience the possible! And of course to be changed by it.

The class resources page for this topic is updated as of 4/16/18.