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A Crochet Class in a Vest

The first corner of a hanky-hem love knot mesh vest in spring sunshine.
View full size image.

Want to see what I’m working on? This will be Flowerfall, a hanky-hem waterfall vest that I can wear when I teach 21st Century Love Knot Adventures this July in Portland, Oregon. I’m now two-thirds done.

Several Class Skills in a Vest

I’m designing Flowerfall to be a visual aid for several skill levels. I’ll also be adding the pattern to my shop for those who can’t attend the class.

Love Knot Beginner Skills

Another view of this diamond mesh would be the love knot sections of Lovelace. (It’s so iconic that the stitch is synonymous with the mesh in some how-to sources from the 1800’s to now.) Then, compare it with the Electra Wrap’s triangular love knot mesh.

For Students With a Bit of Experience

  • How to increase and decrease this mesh, and add picots as one way to finish the edges as you go.
  • The when, why, and the how-to: making love knots with slip stitches instead of single crochets (UK: dc).
  • My new favorite way to keep love knots from loosening later if the yarn is slippery.
  • A new way to crochet into love knots that I recommend for a project like this one.

For Those With More Experience

  • How to do corner to corner (C-2-C) love knot mesh in which you start in one corner and end in the opposite one.
  • How to sprinkle in other stitches with the classic love knot mesh to create lacy new stitch patterns!

Multi-Purpose Visual Aids = Ideal

This is my seventh year shipping teaching aids across the USA for crochet classes. I teach four to six different topics per event. Visual aids are everything! I always end up with a lot of crochet items to ship.

In the past few years I’ve started designing class items that combine several points of information in one. Not only do I cut down on the shipping this way, it’s a fun design challenge. I also love coming up with how a design for one class topic can double or triple as a visual aid for other topics I’m also teaching.

Self-Healing Stitch Alert

An example of this is I’ll be adding armholes to Flowerfall by cutting them open. Know what this means? It’ll also be a great visual aid for the Self Healing Stitches and How to Cut Them class! I might even bring it to the Tunisian on the Diagonal class if I don’t make a Tunisian one in time. Even though Flowerfall isn’t Tunisian, it’s an example of an easy shape to crochet from corner to corner in any stitch. (Flowerfall is even relevant to my slip stitch classes. It’s the first design I’ve done with slip stitch love knots.)

I’ll post again about this design so that you can see its modified diamond shape, how its armholes happen, and different ways to wear it. I’m smitten ? . Flowerfall’s Flickr album has three photos so far.

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Crochet Mini Skirt Hem Tests

Crochet mini skirt in dark grey "Carbonite" Lotus yarn color: 2 lacy and 2 solid hem tests

I’m working on a crochet mini skirt! The last time I crocheted a mini skirt was in 2006 for Crochet! Magazine (March 2007 issue). Today I completed the third and fourth ideas I have for a decorative hem.

Finally a Crochet Mini Skirt for Fall!

It may be a trendy item this year, but every fall I want a crochet mini skirt to wear with leggings and boots. This dark grey is a perfect neutral color for me.

I’m calling this design Carbonite after the name of this newest color of our Lotus yarn.

Crochet Stitches for Skirts

My goal was a solid stitch pattern with a brocade-like texture and a nice drape.

Does the stitch pattern look familiar? It’s a modified “Catherine Wheel”, a.k.a. “sunburst stitch”. This popular crochet stitch pattern is often used for thick wool scarves and afghans. I tweaked it a bit to prevent gaps that commonly happen between the tall stitches of the “wheels”.

I have a few more idea for hems I’d like to try but I don’t want them to slow me down too much. Each time I try a hem idea, I block it, let it dry, style and photograph it. Then I have to edit each photo a bit so that the tones and light levels match ok. I take each photo on a different day and time of day. A few were taken during Hurricane Hermine!

Next I’ll make decisions about the waistband.

This Carbonite crochet mini skirt design has a Ravelry project page that you can check to see more updates.

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Hand Chaining, a Straddler of Worlds

Hand chaining is when you crochet chain stitches with your hands and fingers instead of with a crochet hook. It’s also called finger crocheting. Hand chaining is so easy! Kindergartners do it. It’s a popular way to crochet trendy necklace-scarves with fancy yarns in under 30 minutes.

Trendy Hand Chaining Trendy Necklace Scarves long
Love it! “Poseidon Scarf Kit” at loopymango.com

You might have learned hand chaining as a child in kindergarten, at camp, or from a babysitter. It’s often taught as a stand alone activity rather than as an introduction to the larger world of crochet, knot tying, or knitting. I don’t even remember how I learned it. I just already knew how by the time I officially learned how to crochet with a hook at the age of nine.

For the next blog post I viewed several videos that show how to do hand chaining as a crocheter, a knitter, or a knot tyer. It left me with a new way of thinking about the origins of crochet.

Not Just for Beginners

Hand chaining is so fun to do that even experienced crocheters are at risk of getting “hooked” (if they remember to try it). It’s often forgotten as a crochet method even though it offers nuanced control over unusual yarn combinations for edgy, artsy effects. I get new, deeper insights into simple stitches when I hand crochet them, thanks to the intimate, tactile experience of crocheting.

Hand chaining a special subset of crochet that merits a closer look than it usually gets.

Hand Chaining vs. Hook Chaining

Hand chaining (finger crocheting) loosely and tightly in 3 different fibers: sain cord, wool tube yarn, suede lacing.
Hand Chaining loosely vs. tightly. L to R: Satin cord, wool knit tube yarn, suede lacing.

Hand chaining cuts out the middleman (er, the crochet hook). This is perfect for crochet beginners! Learning to use a new tool with yarn loops for the first time takes the focus off of the stitch. Shouldn’t getting to know a stitch be the most important part of learning to crochet? Especially when that stitch—the chain stitch— is the foundational core of all crochet? I think so.

The crochet hook is the one central tool of crochet. When researchers encounter an unfamiliar fabric, they consider the tool used to create it. An item made with a crochet hook is usually classified as crocheted. I wonder how hand-chained items are classified.

Earliest Crochet Roots?

Hand chaining straddles two worlds: Crochet, and Knot Tying. The same basic crochet stitches can be made with hand chaining as with a crochet hook: Chain Stitch, Slip Stitch, and Single Crochet. (Other stitches are more of a struggle without a hook.) The fingers or the whole hand simply take the place of the crochet hook. Perhaps hand chaining came first, at least in some early cultures, and the crochet hook evolved to substitute for hands and fingers.

Among knot tying aficionados, hand chaining is called many other things: Drummer Boy’s Sinnet, Zipper Sinnet, Monkey Braid, Sea Chains, Chain Knots, Caterpillar Sinnet, and Daisy Chains. Boys and men may have encountered hand chaining via knot tying. Some practical uses among knot tyers include:

  1. To quickly neaten long lengths of rope or electrical wire for storage. (To this linked video, a commenter added, “This is used by riggers [who set up e.g. the ceiling on stages for rock concerts] as a cool way of shortening and storing several long ropes in a hurry.”)
  2. Launder climbing rope so that it can be easily machine washed, allowed to dry, and then “unzipped” for use afterwards.
  3. Watch James Dean absent-mindedly finger crochet with a rope while doing an interview in 1955! (Video starts as the camera is about to pan down to the rope he’s holding.)

-:———:-

Even if you already know how to crochet, I think Chain Stitch In Depth and other posts about crochet basics offer some new ways to think about our most basic and important crochet stitch of all, the Chain Stitch.

Updated November 2018. It’s part of an experimental blog post series: Vashti’s How to Crochet Book. Next post: Hand Chaining How-To’s.
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DesigningVashti Lotus Yarn: Magazine Gallery

Two new crochet top patterns by Doris Chan and two by Jennifer Ryan (an Irish knot wrap and a multicolored tote)

Our Yarn in the Magazines!

Crochet pattern magazines have been awesome for DesigningVashti Lotus Yarn. It’s like getting a surprise Valentine each time I hear that a designer or magazine editor has chosen to use it for a design.

Patterns for the designs you see above are published in the following crochet magazines, listed as shown from left to right:

  1. Interweave Crochet, Spring 2015: Sapphire Sweater. Designer: Doris Chan.
  2. Crochet! Magazine, Spring 2015: Harmony Bamboo Tank. Designer Doris Chan.
  3. Crochet! Magazine, Summer 2015: Féileacán Shawl. Designer Jennifer E. Ryan.
  4. Crochet! Magazine, Spring 2015: Fabric Fusion Tote. Designer Jennifer E. Ryan.

It’s a slow and steady roll out, and that’s good. Here’s why. Crochet designers started requesting DesigningVashti Lotus yarn to swatch with in 2014. A designer has two professional directions to go with a swatch:

1) Create a design proposal with it.

Designers submit their proposals when a magazine editor sends out a call for designs. These calls go out several months in advance of a magazine issue’s publication, especially the print magazines. For example, a call for winter designs might go out in the spring. A digital-only magazine can sometimes have faster production times than print magazines, but speed isn’t everything. There’s nothing like holding a print magazine in your hands or rolling it up in your tote and dashing out the door. I leisurely page through mine several times and save them all.

2) Self publish the design online as a downloadable pattern.

This can be in Ravelry or on one’s own site, for example. Doris Chan and I both tried to get indie (self published) patterns out quickly for our Lotus yarn this way. It’s often the fastest route, depending on the design and the designer.

DesigningVashti Lotus Patterns & Project Galleries

As a designer and also as a yarn company owner, I think a combination of digital and print magazine designs, and quick pattern downloads, is perfect support for a young yarn.

A Young Yarn Design-Wise

As I’ve journaled over at another blog, our yarn celebrated its first birthday a few months ago. I have to remind myself that it’s still a new one, considering that many of the those first months of its life happen behind the scenes. Designs for it are being swatched, submitted, written and edited, photo styled, etc.

Shortening the Lead Time

Yarn companies can sometimes shorten this lead time. The yarn company might be able to get a small advance shipment of a new yarn. Then they get it into the hands of a few designers as soon as possible. This way, the designers can be:

  • Answering calls for designs with swatches of it
  • Crocheting up complete projects for photo styling, or for industry trade show displays.

I experienced this as a designer a few times back when I worked primarily with magazines and yarn companies. It was exciting. One brand-new yarn didn’t even have a label yet!  The color was whatever the company could get a hold of quickly. Sometimes it was also a little confusing. For example, the design was accepted—great!—but the yarn took longer to ship from the mill than expected. The production deadlines had to be readjusted and squeezed in. Occasionally a design contract had to be deferred, or canceled, or a different yarn substituted at the last minute.

After these experiences, when I hear from magazine staff that they’ve chosen to include our yarn in a future issue, I immediately ship it to the lucky designer!

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Crochet Cable Boot Cuff Pattern in Progress

Lucky Twist Bootslip folded over boot top

New Crochet Cable Boot Cuff Pattern!

The Lucky Twist Boot Cuff in action!

A few days ago I sent out issue #65 of my Crochet Inspirations newsletter: “Mock Cables in Slip Stitch Crochet.” I’m getting questions from readers about the dark brown crochet cable boot cuff photo (shown below). I crocheted that one in November 2012. The gray striped one is fresh off the hook.

The 2012 brown one is actually a prototype of the new crochet slip stitch Lucky Twist Mitts. It’s my newest downloadable pattern. A matching Lucky Twist crochet cable boot cuff pattern is almost finished.

Update: The boot cuff pattern is done!

The early brown Lucky Twist swatch helped me test lots of things. For example, how stretchy the limp five-ply merino yarn would be as a mitt (not enough). How much to taper the ribbed edge with short rows. I wondered about the speckled dyeing and overall dark brown tones.

As I mentioned in the newsletter, I had to dramatically brighten these photos just so that the cabled stitch textures would show up! So in real life I’d need to be standing in full sunshine to see the cabled surface texture in a dark brown yarn. The short amber color flecks are pretty, but they distract a bit from the cables.

First swatch of Lucky Twists Boot Cuffs pattern

This was also the first boot cuff prototype I’d ever crocheted. So I learned about:

  • Finished dimensions for a good crochet cable boot cuff pattern.
  • Stitch surface textures and yarn colors that show up well on that area of the body. (Lighter colors help.)
  • Should one or both edges of a boot cuff taper? (I prefer it tapered at one end only.)
  • How much yarn and time does it take to crochet boot cuffs? (About as long as crocheting just 14 inches of a scarf!)
  • Thickness of yarn and of stitches that fit inside the boot top. (Medium weight yarn seems fine for the boots I own.)
  • Folded, unfolded, scrunched. All ways are fun!

Crochet Boot Cuffs, 2012 and beyond

Back in 2012, crochet boot cuffs were such a new trend that they might have just been a one-season fad. That November I traveled to northern Illinois to teach a crochet retreat. It was a boot-wearing opportunity that I don’t often get here in Florida.

It was in Illinois that I started the brown crochet cable boot cuff pattern prototype. I’d be able to test how much warmth they add, and if I enjoy wearing them.

I discovered that crochet boot cuffs feel great! I wore them over dark tights with skirts. They stayed put. I enjoyed wearing them all ways – scrunched, folded over the boot, and unfolded. Down low into the boot or up near the knee. I did find that I wanted longer ones that covered more of my legs for warmth.